Region: Azuero Peninsula, Los Santos Province
Closest Airport: Justiniano Montenegro (located in Pedasí)
Altitude: 0 ft (0 m)
Average Temperature: 80º F (27º C)
Pedasí (pronounced ¨peh-da-SEE¨) is the gateway to the Tuna Coast, located at the southern portion of Panama´s Azuero Peninsula, and surrounded by clean Pacific waters. Both an adventure destination for avid fisherman and local pescador hangout, big game fishing pioneers have been successful in catching marlin, wahoo, sailfish, grouper, rooster and yellow-fin tuna for decades in this area. Today, Azuero’s Pedasí is much more than a fraternal reference to a world-class fishing location: it embodies a lifestyle. Pedasí and Azuero combine a stronghold community of farmers and cowboys, bohemian surfers and fishermen, and adventurous expats and entrepreneurs.
This tranquil town of about 2000 people is spread out along a pristine location of endless uninhabited beaches, mountains, rivers, villages, rolling hills and exotic trees. The hard working locals form an essential part of Pedasí culture, as they tend to their farming, fishing and traditional furniture making trades that put Pedasí on the map. Walk the old colonial streets of Pedasí to immerse yourself in Panama’s ¨interior¨ way of life (¨el interior¨ is the common word for ¨countryside¨ in Panama). Homes around the town’s central plaza are generally one-story and have wide porches in which locals, especially the old-timers, generally spend their time outside in the very rocking chairs that they or their ancestors made. Pedasieños are notoriously friendly and open. They are proud makers of the country’s polleras and known for their annual November parade and festivals. Time feels slow and relaxed. Town life is centered around this main plaza, a pleasantly walkable area. The rest of Pedasí’s 2000 people live spread out in small communities, dotting hillsides, and also beaches where they keep with their families’ legacy: fishing.
The infusion of expats in this region also makes Pedasí life interesting: retirees looking for a beachside retreat, real estate pioneers, young couples looking to be entrepreneurs in a laid-back environment. This blend of North Americans, Spaniards, Italians, Israelis and more also happens to be the majority of owners of restaurants, hotels and tour-based activities in the area. Most expats have integrated into the community, providing a pleasant community lifestyle. With a town as tiny as Pedasí, you’ll definitely meet at least a few expats who swapped their lives from abroad to this fishing town, giving you another insight into this area.
And what is the draw? Pedasí is really a beautiful location- pristine and quiet- with many activities to offer. Head out for deep sea fishing tours, day excursions to the white sand beaches of Isla Iguana (as shown in the above photo) or surf the 5-ft overhead waves of Playa Venao. Grab a book and head out to a secluded beach. Enjoy whale and turtle migrations, horseback riding, paddle boarding, vinyasa yoga, a tour of Varela & Sons rum factory, local cuisine and scuba diving. Or just sit back: listen to the area’s howler monkeys and sounds of tropical wildlife, enjoy the vast starlit summertime sky, and watch the large cruise and container ships migrate to and from the Panama Canal. This is the place to relax.
Attractions & Places to See
Pedasí is a calming location, reflected by the quiet lifestyle of its inhabitants and natural beauty. Take a drive through the rolling farmlands, waving to friendly locals, to Pedasí’s coast: this is Panama’s best fishing location. Observe the birds that hug the water due to the region’s abundance of fish, the boats dotting the distance, the seasoned fisherman bringing in their catch. Decide to embark on a fishing adventure yourself: known as the Gateway to the ¨Tuna Coast,¨ the waters don’t disappoint.
The Azuero Peninsula also has some of the best beaches. Surf at popular Playa Venao, boogie board at the local’s favorite beaches, and ride to a few interesting islands featuring iguanas, turtles and hermit crabs. Learn the stories about how one island was used for target practice in WWII, and now is the happy home of a wildlife reserve. Catch the right time of year and you could be in luck to see humpback whales, who come to the warm waters to breed and give birth. Hear the whoop of howler monkeys at dawn and dusk, claiming their patch of land in the monkey world. Wildlife is teeming in the jungle that surrounds you. This is Pedasí, and its beautiful outdoors are its primary attractions:
- Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge
- Playa Venao: prime spot for surfing, great beginner beach
- Isla Cañas Wildlife Refuge
- Playa Cambutal
- Mountain Oria Arriba
Activities & Things to Do
Pedasí is well-known as a fishing hotspot, but the area has much more to offer. The area is perfect for taking a road trip with the windows down and exploring. See what’s beyond those cattle farms and grassy hills: take a dirt road down to the coast. Time is slow in Pedasí. Find the Prince of Liechtenstein’s house and the quaint bakery Paris Hilton once dined at. Boutique shop in town, enjoy a Swedish massage and visit expat hangouts. When planning your days here, do yourself just one favor: plan for enough time to truly relax and enjoy this pleasant experience in Panama’s heartland. Here’s a peek at the many activities you can explore while in Pedasí:
- Whale Watching (July-October)
- Deep Sea Fishing
- Bird & Wildlife Watching
- Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
- Stand Up Paddle Boarding
- Horseback Riding
- Turtle Nesting (October-November)
- Real Estate Hunting
- Rum Factory Tour
Restaurants and Nightlife
Pedasí has a handful of reliable restaurants in town for breakfast, lunch and dinner, both locally owned and also by expats. Most of the hotel restaurants in and around Pedasí are open for all meals, and can even personalize your dinner by cooking your catch of the day. Fish is obviously fresh and in abundance on local menus, but there are also a few great places for ribs, burgers and wings. The small town has a few key bakeries, juice shop and is actually great for Italian food. Reservations are recommended at a few of the restaurants as tables can be limited. Also ask in your hotel which restaurants are open (Mondays and Tuesdays are popular days for a few key places to close. This site/app can also give you a constantly updated list of recommended dishes (Spanish only):
¨Nightlife¨ is quiet: this is a town that truly prefers to rise with the sun. Smiley’s Restaurant is a favorite expat hangout, and on Tuesdays and Fridays there is normally live music (you can feel free to join in!). They also have a great TV for watching any sort of sports games any day of the week, lunch or dinner. Hotel Pedasito is also a popular hangout for playing board games, chatting and hanging out on the porch. Not far away, Playa Venao also has a few dinner spots that convert into fun hangouts. For clubs, bars and casinos, Las Tablas and Chitré would be your prime locations.
Amenities & Infrastructure
Pedasí is a small but growing town. It has all the basics you would expect in any growing tourist location, but is limited in variety.
Public transportation: Taxis are few and far between. It’s best to have a phone number on hand of a reliable driver for pick-up if you’re hanging out around town and need a lift.
Public amenities: Ask nicely for a fountain or restroom in the shops in town and beachside, or make a small purchase/donation if you are in need of facilities.
Shopping: For supermarkets, there are now a few small stores in town that will get you by (meat, toiletries, fruits/veggies, liquor, etc.). For large purchases, consider doing a major shop in Panama City or Chitré before you arrive.
There are also a few, cute and new boutique shops as well as two places to get swimwear and surf gear (one owned by surfer Sonia ¨Pucha¨ Garcia and the other by an Israeli duo with a local Kitesurfing School). There are also a few souvenir shops with artwork, Panama hats, mola purses, jewelry, etc. for purchase right in the town plaza.
ATMs: There are two 24/7 ATMs right in the center of town: Banco Nacional and Caja de Ahorros. Be prepared: sometimes the ATM can run out of cash.
Gas stations: Yes: there are three full-service gas stations along Pedasí’s main strip.
WiFi or Internet cafés: Wifi is available in most restaurants in town, and most definitely in all hotels. There are also two reputable Internet Cafés in the two center (one even serves ice cream).
Cell Phone Reception: Fairly reliable reception (spotty in some beachy areas)
Restaurants: Several local and expat-owned lovely places to eat. Please ask your hotel for recommendations as some restaurants are closed on certain days (mostly Mondays and Tuesdays). This site/app can also give you a constantly updated list of ratings and recommended dishes in Pedasí restaurants. (Spanish only).
Nearest medical facilities: There is a small health center (Centro de Salud) in town with a few English-speaking doctors. Although small, service is normally immediate, attentive and well-equipped for minor needs. For most emergencies, there is a public hospital in Las Tablas (40 minutes away) and also Chitré (1.5 hours away), as well as private clinics in both cities. If extensive care is needed in Panama City, transfers by air can be privately arranged.