The Azuero Peninsula (the large chunk of land that juts into the Pacific Ocean on Panama’s southern coast) is a popular escape for locals but often overlooked by visitors who head to the Caribbean archipelagos instead. The truth is that it has some of Panama’s finest beaches and offers a host of family-friendly activities, from surfing and snorkelling to zip-lining over rainforests and releasing baby turtles into the ocean. Here’s my guide!
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Things to do in / near Pedasi with kids
Located on the Pacific side of Panama, in the south-eastern corner of the Azuero Peninsula is the sleepy fishing village of Pedasi. The laid-back town is small (it can be covered by foot in around 10 minutes) and is set about 2.5km inland from the coast (roughly 5 minutes by car). Although it remains a little off the beaten path for international tourists, it is becoming an increasingly popular weekend spot for local city dwellers as well as with expats seeking The Good Life. Over recent years a number of cafes, bakeries and restaurants have sprung up to meet this growing demand. It even has a little international school.
1. Hit the beach
Although the town of Pedasi itself is pretty, most visitors are lured by its undeveloped coastline. The nearest beaches to Pedasi are Playa El Arenal and Playa Toro, both are approx. 2km from the town. Playa El Arenal is where all the boats depart to Isla Iguana (see below) and Playa Toro is a popular surfing spot.
2. Go snorkelling off Isla Iguana
The tiny Isla Iguana is located around 8km off shore on the eastern coast of the peninsula (approx 20 minutes by boat). Named after the numerous black iguanas that skirt its shores, the green waters surrounding the island are some of the clearest I have encountered in Panama. Needless to say, the snorkelling here is excellent.
Boats will most likely drop you on Playa El Cirial but apparently it is also possible to access a second beach – Playa El Faro – via a short path. There is no development on the island and so you should bring all food, water, shade with you. If you stay at Casa Lajagua (see where to stay below) owners, April and Craig can put together a lunch box for you and the family, together with sun umbrellas and deck chairs. Most civilised!
3. Catch dinner for the family!
The Auero Peninsula is often referred to as the ‘tuna coast’ and offers some of the best saltwater fishing in the country. My husband spent half a day out at sea and had the best fishing experience of his life! He came back with a beautiful yellow-fin tuna and a grouper. The owners of our B&B (see Casa Lajagua below) called in a local chef to prepare it for us. It was without a doubt the best tuna experience I’ve had as well! The rest we put on ice and took back with us to Panama City the next day.
4. Learn to surf at Playa Venao
One of the best places to take surfing lessons is at Playa Venao. Located 25km (approx 30 mins by car) south-west of Pedasi, the grey and yellow sands flank an undeveloped coastline. The gentle waves that roll into the bay are suitable for beginners and there are a number of surf schools that cater to all levels.
We stuck to boogie boards (hired through Casa Laagua – see below) and did our own thing. If you want surfing lessons you could try contacting tricosurfschool [at] gmail.com. If anyone has any first-hand experience of Trico Surf School or others at Playa Venao, please leave a comment below.
Sat metres back from the beach is Hotel Sitio, a large, open-aired chiringuito that serves good food with plenty of fresh seafood options.
5. Zip over the rainforest canopy at Cañas
If you continue west from Playa Venao for 10km (approx 20 minutes by car) you’ll reach Cañas, a tiny town known for its wildlife reserve. The spit of land (‘Isla Cañas) that runs parallel to the shore attracts as many as five species of sea turtle.
In the lush hills that hug this strip of coastline is Cañas Jungle Adventure, a wonderful zip-line course that my children loved. Comprising eight cables spanning a total of three kilometres (including the longest cable in Panama), two rappels, a suspension bridge and a Tarzan swing, it’s a fun way of exploring the jungle with kids.
Our children were 8 and 7 years at the time and were strapped to the guides (minimum age is 5 years).
6. Unwind in Cambutal
Located 50km west (1 hour by car) of Cañas and 80km (over 1.5 hours) from Pedasi, the tiny fishing village of Cambutal is one of the peninsula’s best kept secrets. Popular with yoga enthusiasts and families looking to escape the crowds, Cambutal is one the most enchanting spots on Panama’s Pacific coast. You can read my guide to Cambutal with kids here.
7. Release baby turtles
One of the most memorable experiences we had in Panama was releasing baby turtles in Cambutal. The turtle hatching season runs from July to January and the non-profit organisation, Tortguias, leads weekly tours which involve safely transferring baby turtles from the hatchery to the ocean. You can read more about this experience here.
When we stayed in Pedasi, we wanted to do a turtle-watching night tour to Isla Cañas but sadly ran out of time. Another family that were staying in the same B&B as us went on one and had a great time. They booked their night tour through Daniel +507 67180032.
8. Commission a fish!
During our stay in Pedasi, my husband spotted a carved wooden fish hanging on the wall of our B&B and asked the owners where they got it from. They told us it had been made by a local artist and helped us track him down. He didn’t have any ready-made ones to hand but said he could make one before we left. Sure enough, he returned 24 hours later with this beauty! You can contact the artist through April and Craig at Casa Lajagua as he had lost his phone at the time and I couldn’t take his number. (I confess I have also forgotten his name which is terrible!)
Where to stay in Pedasi
Pedasi: Casa Lajagua, Pedasi (stayed here, and recommend! Will post a full review soon!)
http://hotelpedasi.com/ (haven’t stay here)
http://www.villacamillapanama.com (haven’t stay here)
If you have have any personal recommendations, I’d love to hear them!
How to get to Pedasi
Air: Air Panama flies three times a week (Weds, Fri, Sun) from Marcos A Gelabert Airport (PAC), Panama City’s domestic airport in Albrook to Pedasi Airport (PDM)
Bus: Buses run from Panama City’s Albrook Terminal and stop in Chitre and / or Las Tablas. Here you need to change to another bus or take a taxi to continue the 1 hour (from Chitre) or 40 minute (from Las Tablas) journey.
Car: Allow around 5 hours to drive to Pedasi from Panama City. The highway leg takes around 2.5 to 3 hours. From the turn off it’s about 30 minutes to Chitre, and a further 1 hour to Pedasi.
Good to know: There are a couple of ATMs in town although they are known to run out of cash at times. Come prepared! There is also a gas station, a mini mart and a laundry.
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