It took exactly three seconds after arriving at the Selina Hostel in Playa Venao, Panama to realize that I had made a great accommodation choice. In this Selina Playa Venao review, I’ll give you all the details about this impressive beach hostel to help you plan your next trip.
About Selina Hostels
Selina was founded by three friends living in Pedasi, Panama. They were avid travelers and dreamed of building a new kind of accommodation experience that blended travel, work, play, and connection.
The first Selina was opened in 2014 right here in Playa Venao, Panama! Yep, this is the first-ever Selina! Since then they have expanded to over 70 locations around the world and continue to grow.
It’s hard to explain Selina in a few words. At face value, Selina is a beautifully designed, modern, and down-to-earth accommodation option. Selina Hostels are usually located near the beach, in the jungle, or in a city. Each property has dorms for budget travelers, suites for luxury travelers, and a bit of everything else in between.
But Selina is much more than a place to stay while traveling. Many locations offer co-working spaces on the property, making this a great option for longer-term travelers and digital nomads.
Every day, there are activities and events for guests to participate in, but even if you just spent the day hanging out around the pool, you’d be pretty happy.
I’ll talk about this later in the post, but during my stay at Selina, they offered Yoga, cooking classes, jogging club on the beach, farm tours, and Latin dancing night… all over the course of one weekend. You definitely won’t be bored at Selina.
And there’s more than just great activities! The people at Selina work hard to create a family atmosphere among the travelers, community, and staff at each location. You can feel that sense of connection in the energy of the place, and honestly, we didn’t want to leave.
About Playa Venao, Panama
There’s a reason the founders of Selina chose Playa Venao as their first location. Playa Venao is an idyllic stretch of beach on the Pacific coast of Panama.
The main reason people come to Venao is for surfing. The shape of the bay means that you can find easy beginner waves on one side and more advanced waves on the other, making this a great place to learn to surf or improve your existing skills.
The community in Venao is small and mostly consists of hotels and restaurants for visitors. There’s one quiet street with a convenience store, laundromat, and surf shop.
Getting here takes about 5 hours from Panama City by local bus or shuttle, but you won’t mind the commute once you see the perfect stretch of beach in front of you, nearly deserted.
Getting to Selina Playa Venao Panama
Even though Playa Venao is remote, getting there is pretty simple. Selina offers a shuttle service between its other Panama locations, so you can catch a ride from Bocas Del Toro, Pedasi, or Panama City easily.
My partner Alex and I took the shuttle from Panama City. We met at the Selina location in Panama City at 7:30 am, loaded up the van with our fellow travelers, and began the journey toward Playa Venao. The shuttle from Panama City to Playa Venao costs $40 per person.
First Impressions of the Selina Playa Venao Hostel in Panama
My first impression of Selina was that I was walking into an oasis! After a bumpy drive on a remote road, we turned into a sandy parking lot at the entry of the property. Beyond the reception area, all I could see were lush tropical plants lining the walkway and glimpses of brightly colored cottages.
After checking in, we walked through the property to get our bearings. I peeked into the circular coworking space and practically drooled. Alex made a beeline for the beach to see what the waves were doing.
I walked along the zig-zag pathway toward the sound of reggae music and blenders mixing up Pina Coladas while admiring the tropical flowers the size of my hand. I promise I’m not making this up, but a butterfly danced about just overhead.
Down at the beach area, there were a few dozen people relaxing in hammocks and sunbeds but it didn’t feel crowded. Kids and dogs played in the sand, couples sipped drinks in the pool, and a handful of travelers posted up in bean bag chairs under the shaded hangout area with books.
A bartender waved at me as I stood there taking it all in and I walked over. He introduced himself, gave me a high five, and brought me a $2 beer, all while doing a little dance in time with the music.
Room Choices at Selina Playa Venao Review
When I think of a typical hostel room, I imagine rows of bunk beds. At the Selina Hostel Playa Venao Panama, you’ll find more variety.
Dorm Room with Bunk Beds
At the Selina Playa Venao Hostel, you can choose from 6, 8, 10, and 12-bed dorm rooms. These rooms come with bunk beds, lockers, individual lamps, and storage shelves for each bunk. There is a shared bathroom and air-conditioning in each room.
This was the option we stayed in at Selina because they were just so dang cute! There are 12 glamping tents on the property and each has a large double bed and a locker inside. The tent itself can also lock and the bed is covered by a mosquito net.
There are fans in the tents and a shared bathroom and shower area. The tents are a great way to get closer to nature and save a bit of money on accommodation.
Micro Rooms and Standard Rooms
Micro rooms are smaller versions of the standard rooms. These rooms have air conditioning, a double bed, and more privacy. The bathroom with the micro room is shared.
The Selina hotel Playa Venao also has standard rooms with queen-sized beds and private bathrooms. They have air conditioning, privacy, and more space than any of the options listed above.
Family Rooms and Suites
Selina also offers quadruple rooms with two twin beds and a set of bunk beds – perfect for families or groups of friends traveling together.
If you’re really looking for an upgrade, you can choose a suite. These large rooms have air conditioning, private bathrooms, and a comfortable seating area. Some even have balconies.
Amenities and Facilities at Selina Venao Panama
The Selina Playa Venao does a great job of making sure guests have everything they need. The amenities and facilities include:
- Beachfront lounge chairs and beach access
- Swimming pool
- Restaurant and bar on site
- Covered hang out area on the beach
- Surf shop and surfboard rental
- Coworking space
- Shared community kitchen and fridges for preparing your own food
- Laundry service (for a fee)
The only thing you don’t have at Selina that would be handy is an ATM. In fact, there isn’t an ATM in the town of Playa Venao at the time I’m writing this. Most places are cash-only so you’ll need cash on your trip.
The only way to get cash is to take the Selina shuttle into Pedasi which takes about 40 minutes and costs $8 round trip.
If you plan to stay in Playa Venao for a long time, you can also do your grocery shopping at the supermarket in Pedasi since the mini-mart in Venao has a limited selection.
Selina Restaurant Playa Venao
The restaurant on the Selina property is open all day and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can choose to have breakfast included in your booking or order off the regular menu.
We ate here several times and always enjoyed our food. They had enough veggie-friendly options to keep me happy and even though the menu is smaller, each item is prepared with love.
The prices at the restaurant were standard for Playa Venao. We could get a local beer for $2 USD, a cappuccino for $2.50 USD, a small plate or starter for $6 USD, and a full meal for $10 – $12 USD.
Some nights, they had meal specials for a discount. For example, one evening Selina offered a family-style “meet and eat” dinner that served huge portions of rice, chicken, veggies, salad, and potatoes. This was a fun way to meet other guests and eat until our pants hardly fit anymore.
Atmosphere and Activities
After I booked my stay in the Selina Playa Venao, I downloaded the Selina App. In the App, I could see a schedule of events and activities going on during my stay. I was immediately blown away by how much there was to choose from!
From Yoga to guided meditations, cocktail-making classes to arts and crafts, there were tons of things going on at Selina!
Playa Venao Beach
Selina is located right on Playa Venao Beach. You can get to the ocean in just a few steps. With a mix of black and white sand, deep blue water, and palm trees for days, this little crescent of paradise is pretty much all you’ll ever need.
The Selina Surf Club Playa Venao is located right on the property, making it easy to roll out of bed, rent a board, and walk down to the beach.
Playa Venao surf is perfect for surfers of all levels. Venao is a beach break and the shape of the shore means there are easier beginner waves on one side and more advanced waves on the other.
You can take surfing lessons for $40 a lesson, or just rent a board for $20/day. If you book the board for several days, the rate goes down. I got my board for 3 days and paid $45.
There is a guided yoga practice every evening on the covered beach patio. These classes cost $5/person and Selina provides mats so you don’t need to worry about bringing your own.
A good yoga session was the perfect way to end the day after “discovering” new surfing muscles.
Friday and Saturday Night Parties
When I was reading the Selina Playa Venao Panama reviews online, I was a bit nervous that there would be an intense party atmosphere. Some reviews mentioned loud music until 3:00 am that made it difficult to sleep, but I’m happy to report that this wasn’t a big problem for us.
There was music and dancing in the bar area on the weekends, but it wasn’t so loud that we couldn’t sleep. We were in the tent area and we could hear some music, especially on Saturday night, but it wasn’t excessive. That said, the tents are farther from the bar than some of the other rooms.
It’s possible that the music could be more disruptive depending on where you’re staying, but I was so exhausted from surfing that I was out like a light regardless. If you don’t want to be disturbed by the Friday and Saturday night festivities, it’s a good idea to bring a set of earplugs in case you’re staying in one of the closest rooms.
Atmosphere of the Selina Playa Venao Panama
I enjoyed the laid-back, surfer atmosphere of the Selina Playa Venao.
Since Selinas are technically hostels, I figured the clientele would be mostly younger backpackers. There’s nothing wrong with that (I’ve rocked the backpacker life myself quite a bit!), but the guests were actually much more diverse. It was fun meeting people from all walks of life during my stay.
There were surfers of all ages and ability levels, retirees, families with small children, solo travelers, couples celebrating anniversaries, and of course, a handful of backpackers.
Another thing that was fun about the overall atmosphere was that this Selina was pet-friendly. There were dogs and cats hanging out with the guests who were clearly all living their best beachy lives.
I met people from all over the world, befriended about 13 new dog buddies, and definitely managed to relax my “Type-A” tendencies a bit. Relaxation and chill were top priorities, and Selina happily obliged.
Coworking Space at Selina Playa Venao
If you work remotely or travel as a digital nomad, you’re probably wondering about the Selina Playa Venao Coworking Space. The coworking space is located right at the front of the property, a short walk away from the bar and beach activities. This meant it was peaceful and quiet all day.
The air-conditioned co-working space had six individual desks with comfortable desk chairs, a couch, an assortment of armchairs, a long table for collaborating, a meeting room, and one skype/phone call booth. The room is circular with windows on all sides, so you’ll get plenty of natural light.
Here are some stats about the WiFi when I was there in January of 2020. I tested the speeds using speedtest.net in the evening when I was the only one in the coworking space.
- Ping: 7 ms
- Download Speed: 18.64 mbps
- Upload Speed: 18.05 mbps
The internet was extremely quick and reliable every time I used it. Even when the power went out one afternoon, the generator kept the internet running which I really appreciated. The Selina Coworking Space was peaceful, stylish, and welcoming.
When I was there, the Selina hostel Venao Beach coworking space was open from 8:00 am until 11:00 pm. It was free to use if you sign up for a Selina Luna Nueva Membership using the Selina App.
(Note that in some other Selina locations, you’ll need to pay a separate fee to use the coworking space)
Is Selina a Good Value for the Money?
It’s true that a Selina hostel will set you back a bit more than your typical backpacker hostel, but for me, it was worth it.
Considering the beachfront location, abundance of activities, and top-notch coworking space all within a few steps, the Selina Playa Venao is easily one of the best hotels in Playa Venao Panama.
In the future, if I’m visiting a location that has a Selina, I know where I’ll be staying. As I explore more of Panama in the upcoming weeks, I’m excited to see some more Selina properties and share them with you here.