The last few mornings have been the perfect warm-up for the incoming swell. Despite a few late nights, wandering up and down the beach, visiting the neighboring bars at Selina and Las Barcas, glassy, offshore conditions at 2-3 feet have made each 6 am wake up well worth it. Over the past few weeks, I feel as if I have gotten to know the break at Playa Venao intimately. I’ve become increasingly familiar with each peak and have ridden virtually every type of board in all sorts of conditions. The forecast for the next few days looks near perfect. Needless to say, I am stoked for my remaining time in Venao.
With the surf forecast for the next few days being near flawless, I figured if I wanted to do anything out of the water, today would be the day. So, I set off down the beach to find the trail leading to the nearby waterfall in the hillside. Unhurriedly, I marched down the coast towards the nearby trailhead, my feet sinking into the coarse sand with every step.
The total trek, including the stretch of the beach, could not have been more than 3 miles. But as usual, my lack of preparation made things a tad more difficult than necessary. As it turns out, when trekking in the jungle dense hills of Panama, shoes, not flip-flops, are ideal footwear. I spent the majority of the hike there, and the hike back for that matter, sliding in the mud.
Despite my footwear choice, the hike to the waterfall was astonishing. The rich greens of the jungle, the allure of the tropical flowers, and the sounds of the wildlife left me completely enthralled. When I finally climbed the last hill to reach the falls, I stopped in my tracks when I heard rustling from above. To my astonishment, a family of nearly a dozen Spider Monkeys was dangling from a tree directly overhead. I watched closely, as the family migrated from one tree to another.
When my new friends were out of sight, I continued my exploration of the waterfall. I began at the first pool at the base of the falls but was quickly distracted by the beckoning of a rock wall that looked to be incredibly well situated for climbing. I navigated up the rock face next to the falls, slowly sliding my hands and feet into a variety of well-positioned holds. I soon found myself in a new pool, this one a bit smaller in circumference, but much deeper. I repeated the before mentioned process, climbing a bit higher, and all of the sudden I was in a third pool. One last time, I hoisted myself out of the water and onto the rock face to summit the top of the falls. Once I stood above the three cascading levels, I noticed the stream leads further into a more secluded wooded area. I followed the water, walking delicately along the rocks, upstream and found a much smaller secluded waterfall. I have no doubt in my mind that a large number of people visit that waterfall every year, but I doubt very many of them climb the waterfall and walk upstream to discover the miniature waterfall one hundred or so meters behind it. This new waterfall lacked in size and fierceness compared to one downstream. But, the virgin landscape, untainted by the eyes of copious of tourists, made up for it with divine tranquility.