“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”
- Henry Miller
Panama is a place, just like any other, yet what you come to find there is what separates the experience. There’s nothing revolutionary that I will tell you Panama has that anywhere else doesn’t, but there is a combination of forces that shape the totality of your trip that will come to separate it from the rest.
Simplicity is the defining characteristic of a trip to Panama, and the first breath of air you breathe when reaching your destination will echo such a sentiment.
We started our trip like many others, in Panama City. There was a hesitant disappointment upon the first reveal of the country. Too much of home was prevalent. America had surely made its mark. We came to find that the first experience of the image we created in our mind of what Panama would be, wouldn’t come till later and we would spend hours chasing it down the Pan-American highway.
I was traveling with my friend, and fellow avid surfer, Baker. Both of us from Colorado, and both of us using a trip to Panama to search for, and ride as many waves as possible; seeing as our inability to do so at home would allow us to cherish whatever we could find to quench our thirst while away. We had no plans upon landing in Panama City, only a few destinations in mind. We figured we would check the swell and head to whatever beach was looking strong and closest to our path. This trip was an experience of ultimate freedom.
It was a few hours down the road running away from civilization until the surroundings began to be a rush of beautiful pictures flashing before our eyes. Playa Venao was in our sights and our pick for a first destination. After five and a half hours of driving and a continuance of awe at the pastoral beauty, we came around a corner and down a hill and experienced that image we had built up in our heads and so often longed for. Stop one, of our journey.
We had heard of a beachfront hotel that catered to surfers and planned to make it our first stop. Stunned by the beauty and the calming elegance of this tiny village of hotels, we spotted the beach and Beach Break Surf Camp. Baker was so excited to get in the water he barely could pause to talk. We decided to check out prices and availability having booked nothing upon our arrival. A walk through made us scream inside at the utter beauty and a realization that a place like this simply existed
Two corridors of rooms flowed down to the beach with a meadow of grass between them; hammocks hung from pillars outside every door. Just before you reached the sand, a pool appeared, and to the left a restaurant that I could envision myself sinking endless post surf beers and dancing off into a sunset of happiness. I didn't want to leave from the moment I arrived. Baker decided it would be a good idea to check out the other nearby hostels and come to find the cheapest option, as our goal was only to surf as much as possible for as cheap as possible. Yet we came to see it wasn't worth it and our first stop would be our last.
Beach Break Surf Camp became a home to us within a few hours of arriving. We met Carla, who helped us book our room and made sure we were set up with everything we needed. Upon unloading our boards, Tom and Brent the surf school instructors came to chat with us, and we received info about the break and tides to guide us into our first session. John, the manager, said Hello before leaving to go to the city and we chatted about our shared lives in the states and Colorado. Before we could even unpack, we had a community around us happy to see us, help us, and enjoy this exceptional place with us.
It was during our time here at Beach Break that we would come to recognize the simplicity of life that Panama offered. This idea is nothing new when you think of beach towns, but there is something in the air in Panama and Playa Venao that harnesses a community of affection towards this vision.
Our trip through Panama would lead us from Venao to Morillo, and down the road to Guanico and Cambutal, all places that harbor their own independence but together have a lasting effect on your journey. On ours, we spent five days in Venao and at Beach Break before we decided to leave and see what else was out there. It was while we were gone that I came to realize how special and unique Beach Break indeed was.
The staff represents the diversity and complexion of the world, the guests add to the variety, and you end up enjoying yourself in a mystical kingdom and melting pot of the world you tried to escape but find a new appreciation for it because a place like this has the ability to exist.
Beach Break Surf Camp is a surfers dream. You walk from your room to the main peak in a minute and have an indeterminate amount of opportunity to catch as many waves as you please, on a wave that makes the good days great and allows the bad days to still be fun.
A community is what I would call Beach Break. Its leader, Erez, Is the mythical pioneer leading the way and fostering an environment built to bring like-minded people from every corner of the world together to enjoy the pleasure of riding waves. It becomes an escape to the joy of what you came to find, and it allows you to live in that space. The destination becomes what you were looking for rather than a place you are.
Upon returning home to the states and the landlocked land of Colorado, I find myself awakening in my dreams to the warm morning air, casually walking down the corridor barefoot in my bathing suit, checking the morning surf, grabbing a coffee from the bar, drinking it while reading my book, grabbing my board and walking out. Never to be disappointed in a day of surf. I then wake up back in my bed in Colorado, knowing that all I have to do to live in that dream, is jump on another flight and book another room in Playa Venao at Beach Break Surf Camp.