Located on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, Pedasi is a small but charming village. It takes only about fifteen minutes to walk the town center in its entirety. A slow stroll will take you down clean, well-preserved streets, and past locals that still say a warm hello to passersby, both gringos and Panamanians alike. But though central Pedasi boasts a sleepy air, the greater Pedasi area is full of things to do, including world-renowned fishing, surfing, and snorkeling.
Perhaps the best reason to include Pedasi on your bucket list though is its convenient location near five beautiful—and diverse—beaches. Here’s a glimpse at the areas sandy gems:
Playa del Toro
A long, golden-sand beach, Playa del Toro is one of the closet beaches to the town of Pedasi, easily accessible on bicycle. The road down to Playa del Toro is beautiful itself, winding through green countryside. Once you’re at the beach you won’t find that much there. No resorts or beachfront bars here. It’s a great place to go for a long walk and escape the heat with a gentle swim.
Playa El Lagarto
This beach is famous locally for its great body boarding breaks. Some of the locals who practice here have even made it to international body boarding competitions. El Lagarto is located on the path just before El Toro, just ten minutes down a dirt road. There’s one sign leading to the beach, but all the locals will happily direct you there with a wave and a smile.
Playa Arenal admittedly isn’t the most beautiful of the surrounding beaches, but it does have a lot of local flavor. This is where the fishermen start and end each day, and there is typically plenty of local activity and laughter. Note that boats to Isla Iguana depart from this beach.
The crown jewel of all of Pedasi’s neighboring beaches, the protected island refuge Isla Iguana is aptly named for the black iguanas that can usually be spotted sunbathing on the sand. Isla Iguana isn’t the cheapest day trip—a boat ride will cost around $70 (for up to 8 people) and admission to the island is $10 per person (for tourists). But at a mere 8 kilometers off the coast, the island is a must-see for its crystal-clear water, white sand beaches, mangrove forests, abundant snorkeling and isolated vibe.
There are two beaches on the island, both easily accessible via a short hiking path that connects the two. Most boats will drop you off at ‘Playa El Cirial’; be sure to visit the other beach, Playita El Faro for more seclusion and better snorkeling.
There’s no development on the island, so be sure to bring your own equipment and food. Also be on the lookout for dolphins and occasionally whales that frequent the water between the mainland and the island!
Playa Venao is about 30 minutes to an hours’ drive from the center of Pedasi, but apt surfers will want to make the trek—Playa Venao reputedly has the best beach break in all of Panama, with consistent medium to high waves. The bus is inconsistent, but a taxi will only set you back $25 each way. Alternatively you can always try hitchhiking, the mode of transportation I actually used to arrive at Playa Venao myself. There’s a quaint open-air restaurant on Playa Venao, as well as a handful of hotels and hostels.
Pedasi’s popularity is only likely to grow as news of the gem spreads, but for now, the town remains a charming getaway outside Panama City. Let’s hope it stays that way for a bit longer.
To Arrive: Buses depart from Panama City to Las Tablas regularly throughout the day. From Las Tablas you can catch a bus or taxi to Pedasi. You’ll find a handful of small hotels off the main road once in town. I recommend Casita Margarita, a quaint bed and breakfast and popular expat hangout spot.
Which beach sounds like the one you would enjoy most?