Hello from Panama! We arrived back at our “Slice of Heaven” in late September, just in time to prepare for spending the month of October in an apartment on the beach in Playa Venao. We’ve visited the area many times over the years,and it’s definitely a “happy place” for the both of us. Below is a shot of a Google Map to show the location from our “Slice of Heaven”. The grey route is the one we took the first time, and due to the condition of the road, we took the blue route from then on.
The tagline for El Sitio Resort is “Difficult Roads Often Lead to Beautiful Places.” This photo is just an example of a “minor” road hazard that was marked with a couple of plastic jugs. The potholes were so frequent and so large on this road, that you could literally break an axle if you weren’t careful. A normal 45 minute trip took us more than an hour and a half on the grey route.
The blue route shown on the map is a bit longer, but the road is much better (at least until the last 15 – 20 minutes or so) and the scenery is absolutely spectacular. I find myself saying over and over again that photos don’t do justice to the breath-taking vistas of Panama, but here’s a few shots I took along the drive.
El Sitio Village
We visited the El Sitio in April of this year when we celebrated our wedding anniversary. That’s when we fell in love with the Resort and decided to spend the entire month of October there.
Minerva aka “Mini”
We were very fortunate to meet Minerva, who was working behind the front desk when we checked in. She became such an integral part of the good times we had that we became fast friends. We enjoyed her company over drinks and a couple of dinners followed by playing Uno (although she quickly learned to watch Jimmy closely – he cheats!) Below is a photo of us all during her visit to the “Slice of Heaven”, a week or so after we left Venao.
I “Heart” Venao
I spent a lot of time walking the beach, looking for seashells. I simply can’t describe the beauty of this black-sand cove on the Pacific ocean. It only took 3 or 4 days for me to measure time by the tides, instead of a watch. The hermit crabs are abundant, as are a wide variety of seashells, driftwood and oddly shaped, but gorgeous rocks. According to my fitness tracker, I walked an average of 2.5 miles nearly everyday. The first photo is a seashell fragment I found the very first day. It was indeed an omen – I found three more rocks/shells shaped like hearts….and I do “heart” Venao. The starfish was alive, so I just took the photo and put it back in the ocean.
Friends Made Our Time Even More Enjoyable
We had a few visitors during the month. William Jaen and his family spent one night with us. It’s hard to believe how much fun we managed to pack into just one day with this awesome family. We are fortunate to have become good friends, despite the fact they don’t speak much English and we don’t speak much Spanish 🙂 We enjoyed playing dominoes (even though Jimmy managed to cheat just a little!) as well as some pool time, and beach time. The Resort offers free horseback rides on the beach to kids on Saturdays, so “Princess” got to enjoy her very first horseback ride (although the only photo I took turned out too blurry to include here).
Our good friend, Lin Clark from Laughlin, Nevada, visited us for a week. She and her late husband, Bruce Clark, had planned this vacation before Bruce passed in June. I’m so glad she decided to not cancel her trip. Jim and I both really enjoyed her visit. She and I did a lot of catching up, talking and soul searching…mostly during our daily walks on the beach. We also had our share of great food, adult beverages and catching Jimmy cheating …once again…this time at Uno.
Places to Stay in Venao
Playa Venao has several places to stay, ranging from a couple of multi-star high-end resorts, to a couple of surfer hostels. The photos below are of the pool and lounge area of Blue Venao, one of the higher-end offerings. They sell homes, condos and apartments starting around $250,000.
And then there are even more “eclectic” places to stay…
One of the many highlights of the month was watching Jimmy surf. Thanks (again) to Minerva helping us coordinate the effort, Jimmy actually went surfing one day. The surfing instructor for the resort, Fufo, was very good-natured about helping out, and he really made Jimmy’s big day great!
Here’s video proof!
Of course, we had sooooo much fun, that we permanently documented our time on the beach with tattoos. I got the palm trees, Jimmy got the Venao “pineapple” and Lin got a dragonfly. Again, thanks to Minerva, a very talented tattoo artist named “Chokey” came to the apartment and worked his magic on us there, in comfort.
Of course, the majority of our time together in Venao was spent simply relaxing, reading and spending quiet time together. Below are a few photos that exemplify the “vibe” of the vacation.
September and October are the high season for whale watching and sea turtles. Jim swears he saw a whale in the Cove, but none of the rest of us at the Beach Bar saw it, except perhaps the bartender, Jason. Jason usually got a kick out of supporting Jimmy’s stories. Did I mention Jason doesn’t speak English? Whenever Jim would start on a new story, Jason would just nod, smile and swear the story was true (in Spanish).
Neither Jim nor I saw any turtles while we were in Venao. However, Minerva had several different experiences during our stay. She was nice enough to send me videos below. I’m so sorry I missed seeing these amazing creatures! The residents of Venao go to great lengths to protect both the mama turtles, the nests and particularly the baby turtles, once they hatch. When the eggs hatch, the babies normally find their way to the ocean instinctively, navigating by moonlight when it’s visible. When it’s not so bright, the babies are easily disoriented, particularly with the artificial lights around the resort.
And Finally….The Food
There are several restaurants, both right on the beach and in the surrounding area. Over the course of the month, we visited most of them. It was a toss up deciding on a favorite. The restaurant at El Sitio was superb, again highlighted by the outstanding service. Then of course the burgers at the Gavilan were off the hook delicious…but so enormous they were more than large enough to share.
And then there were fish scales…a delicious delicacy, at least according to Minerva. They’re supposed to be similar to pork rinds, but since never having been a fan of pork rinds, I can’t say. I can say that they tasted just exactly like I expected fried fish scales to taste. Meals continue to be an adventure for us here in Panama.
We had such a great time in our month on the beach that we both came back several pounds heavier, but tanned, tattooed and very relaxed. Now I’m working on various displays of seashells, including a new wall hanging for my sister Marsha.
We are settling back into the life routine in our “Slice of Heaven”. We’ve not ever been in Panama during the holidays and are very much looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year here in our adopted country. Stay tuned for more posts!