You have a few options to get here, depending on your appetite for budget, duration, etc. Here’s a list from most to least expensive.
- Charter helicopter: ~$3000. Door-to-door from Panama City to Playa Venao in ~70 minutes. The most scenic option for sure. The trip will total around $3000-3500 as the prices range [4-seater (R66)] ~$1250/hour, [2-seater] ~$900/hour (you pay 2.5-3 hours for the round-trip flight even if only flying one-way).
- Charter plane: ~$2300. From Albrook Airport (Panama City) to Pedasi Airport in about 35 minutes. The Kodiak can seat about 8 persons + pilot, about 1200 lbs. ~$1300 each way and you need to pay roundtrip even if flying one way. If you need the plane to wait, the extra charge is usually ~$80/hour. From Pedasi, you will need either a hotel shuttle for pickup, rent a car in Pedasi, or hire a taxi ($20 to Venao).
- Taxi/Private Car : Ranges $200-$300 one way from PC to Venao. The drive is about 4.5 hours. See below for options
- √√√ Commercial flight to Chitre : ~$150 RT (per person if traveling in a group of 2). Fly into Chitre (flights $113 RT), then take a taxi ($45-60) or connect on minibuses. See below for options to get from Chitre to Venao.
- √√√ Car Rental: ~$50. You can rent a car in Panama City for as low as ~$25/day (I believe daily rates are as low as $6/day but you are required to purchase insurance at $17/day). You can also rent a pocket WiFi for $15/day (Thrifty). If you’re only driving one-way, be careful as a drop-off fee applies ($145 +7% tax).
- √√ Shuttle : $40 one-way, runs M-W-F (from Venao), T-Th-Sa (to Venao) leaving early in the morning. Book with Venao Tours +507-6274-3222.
- Drive : $20 for a tank of gas. If you own a car, drive! I use about 3/4 tank for the round-trip. Directions below.
- Bus : $15 one-way. There are hourly buses to either Chitre or Las Tablas for $10. From Chitre/LT you can catch a taxi ($45-50 from Chitre, ~$35-40 from LT) or connect to a minibus ($5). Detailed directions here on how to get from Chitre/LT to Venao.
Drive (rent a car or share a ride)
Grab some company to share the 4.5 hour journey and split the $20 for the roundtrip cost of gas, load up on some groceries along the way, and enjoy the idyllic route!
Fly, then car
If you don’t have money to splurge on a chopper (1h 15 min), flying to Chitre will get you there the fastest, at roughly 2 hours (flight 30 min + taxi 1h 40 min). ~$130 for 1 person, on-way (less if you book as a RT and split the cab). One drawback is that your luggage is capped at 14 kg (check-in), 4kg (hand baggage)
Departing Panama City … skip to the relevant sections
* The flights to Chitre (Aeropuerto Alonso Valderrama) are in either 12-seater or 50-seater planes based on demand, and are basically twice a day.* * Usually full so book in advance* as low as $113 (*Varies with fuel surcharge)* INFANTS (0-2) fly free, KIDS (2+) charged same as adults* available at the Chitre Airport (Thrifty desk is located inside airport)* Tel: 316-9000. Parking available at airport. Airport closes at 6pm but gates are open 24 hours.
From Panama City to Chitre
|Panama City, Albrook (PAC) – Chitre (CTD)|
From Chitre to Panama City
|Chitre (CTD) – Panama City, Albrook (PAC)|
|Econo Plus (one-way)||$44.99||$32.90||$77.89|
|Econo Plus (roundtrip)||$89.98||$55.10||$145.08|
*TIP: Save $11 BY BOOKING ROUNDTRIP!
(as of Mar 2018)
361 KM 4.5 – 5 HOURS
From Panama City
Head south on Avenida Balboa toward Casco Viejo.
After the underpass, follow the road and veer left passing the fish market on your left (Cinta Costera 2).
At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit towards the big, wide road, which will take you out of Panama City and merge with Carretera Panamericana (Pan-Am Highway). Cross over the Bridge of the Americas.
Stay on the Carretera Panamericana for about 200 km until you reach Divisa (~should be around 2.5-3 hours).
Stay in the RIGHT lane as there will be a sharp turnoff on the right side (easy to miss) with a big sign/arrow that says “Veraguas / Herrera / Los Santos“.
You are now on the Carretera Nacional!
Continue on Carretera Nacional through Chitre (30km). Bypass Chitre by turning Right onto Via Circunvalacion as you enter the city (It’s a circular turn-off onto a brand new well-lit highway).
Continue 5km along the curve until you hit the main intersection in Chitre (by Banco Nacional. the first set of traffic lights). Turn right onto Carretera Nacional and continue onto Las Tablas. There will be a few roundabouts on the way but basically all roads lead to Las Tablas – keep going straight.
Once in Las Tablas, take a left onto Calle de Circunvalacion (the first big traffic light as you enter the town – it’s the intersection w/ a Terpel and a car repair shop on the corners). Follow the Circunvalacion until you get to a stop sign.
Take a left onto Carretera Nacional (2km, at the Stop sign). Then it’s a straight shot on Carretera Nacional straight to Playa Venao, passing through Pedasi on the way!
More comfortable: Private shuttle transports door-to-door for $40. ~5 hours
More economical: Requires 2 transfers and the trip can take 6.5+ hours. Prices from $14.
6-10-seater private shuttles that operate daily. Wifi onboard, deliveries arranged. Venao Tours 6274-3222.
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: Panama to Venao at 6:30am
Sunday: Minimum of 5 passengers
Private Car / Taxi
A comfortable way to travel on your own schedule is to hire your own private car. Drivers typically charge $200-300 for a one-way trip, with some discount for roundtrips.
- Juan Thompson, $180/ one-way, $250/roundtrip (SUV): 6869-2800
- Algis $200/one-way: 6406-2409
- Venao Tours (shuttle up to 5 passengers). $230/one-way to Panama City, $250 to Tocumen. 6274-3222
- Dani Wiesel 6615-4258
Your journey will start at the bus terminal located next to Albrook Mall in Panama City.
Ticket counters will appear on the left as you enter the bus terminal. The terminal will be packed with people. Porters are sometimes available for a few dollars but hard to locate.
Locate the ticket counter for Chitre or Las Tablas. They’re located near each other. The rough schedule is below, but this changes by season (the Las Tablas bus schedule is online), and the bus can leave earlier or later depending on occupancy. Generally they leave every hour.
(Las Tablas is located closer to Venao, so is the natural choice as a connection. Chitre is a large city with all the bells and whistles. Because this adds a connection to your trip, you might as well spend a few days visiting the rum factory or the interior of the Azuero Peninsula.)
Tickets cost about $10. With ticket in hand, head to the rotary area. In the entrance of the rotary, you will need either a metro card or 10 cents to get through the turnstile. Have small change ready and give it to the man checking tickets (He won’t have change).
The buses have their destinations printed on their window shield. The porter will take your bags to stow beneath the bus. If you have unusual sized luggage or boxes, they may charge you a few bucks extra for stowage.
Once on board, the driver will check tickets right before departure.
The rest stop is a great place to grab some local souvenirs and some fried food.
(To Panama) First Bus: 1:30am, Last Bus: 6pm, leaving every ~1 hour
Duration: 3.5 hours
|FROM PC||TO PC|
Chitre Bus Terminal
* Bus to Panama City, Las Tablas, Santiago, and everywhere else.
* Located on the big new paved highway, Via Circunvalacion (near AutoCentro, Super Xtra, Novey, Spiegel). 996-6426
* TRANSPORTE TUASA Tel. (507) 996-5619 (Chitre)
* TRANSPORTE INAZUN Tel. (507) 996-1794 (Chitre)
To/From Las Tablas
(To Panama) First Bus: 2am, Last Bus: 5:30pm, leaving every 1-2 hours
Duration: 4 hours
|FROM PC||TO PC|
None of the taxis have meters, so you ask the price when you board. In the countryside, people are honest and drivers don’t rip you off all that often, but you can negotiate prices to a certain degree. Here’s a sample fare chart and list of cab companies.
Taxi Nuevo Milenio 996-6676
Taxi Tableao 994-6615
Taxi Santa Liberada 994-6236 / 994-9493
Taxi Super Centro Rosa 994-8533