About Vista Cañas Nature & Book Retreat

about vista cañas

For the benefit of US.

After driving the circumference of Panamá in late 2016 in search of our future home, my partner and I fell madly in love with the slice of the Azuero Peninsula that includes Playa Venao, Cañas and the quaint town of Pedasi. The area checked every single one of our boxes—surfing, TREES, monkeys, TREES, a laid back vibe, a (relatively) dry climate, and TREES. It is truly a natural wonderland—without the crowds or hefty price tag.

When my partner and walked onto the future site of the Vista Cañas Nature & Book Retreat, I knew that if I truly wanted to live a life without regrets, I had to buy the property and start creating the sanctuary that has lived in my heart for many years.

In early 2018, I purchased two plots of land—one for our future home and one for Vista Cañas.

There have been moments where I really wanted to call Vista Cañas a “Human Sanctuary,” because, at the very heart of it, that’s what it will be. Just like endangered elephants need a safe place to save them from extinction, we humans need the same. Unfortunately, those I ask for opinions thought it sounded creepy so I played it safe and opted for “Nature and Book Retreat.” 🤣

Nature and books have always grounded me when I feel like society is sucking the soul outta me. Ultimately, the name matters much less than the intention, which is to offer a space where you can feel and find humanity, kindness and gentleness.

There will also be a well stocked library of books, several Kindles, numerous strategically placed hammocks, and a fellow book lover who adores meaningful conversation.

You can read more my vision for Vista Cañas here—A Nature Retreat to Feed Your Soul. Hopefully, you will find exactly what your soul needs during your stay.

The process of the retreat transforming from vision to reality is not going to be a quick one—because life moves slower in Panamá and we need some time to make this major transition—but, it is well underway! My best guest is that we’ll begin welcoming guests in 2021.

In the meantime, I will be exploring all the nooks and crannies of the area at every opportunity and sharing my discoveries in the Things to Do section and Playa Venao blog!

This is a shared journey! Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss an update AND the opportunity to be one of the very first guests to read a book with the mesmerizing sound of waves and howling monkeys in the background.

about cañas & playa venao

The mountainside where the Vista Cañas Retreat will some day be perched is located halfway between the tiny community of Cañas and the popular surf community of Playa Venao.

This section of the Azuero peninsula offers a variety of landscapes, fascinating wildlife and abundant activities—mountains, jungle, farmland, monkeys, birds, beaches, surfing, fishing, hiking and more.


Cañas is a “corregimiento”—the smallest administrative subdivision—in the district of Tonosí and the province of Los Santos along the southern tip of the Azuero Peninsula. It’s population has hovered above and below 1,000 over the last several decades. Don’t blink as you drive through it or you might miss the two fondas (outdoor restaurants) and tiny market.

Cañas’ claim to fame is Isla de Cañas, a national reserve with a 14 kilometer stretch of beach that is the seasonal nesting ground of the Olive Ridley sea turtle. Although not technically an island, getting there does require the help of locals in boats. When the season hits, a guided tour of the mangrove and turtle nesting grounds is a must.

Playa Venao

About 10 kilometers up the road in the direction of Pedasi is the surf “town” of Playa Venao. At its center is a three kilometer long crescent-shaped sandy beach that offers some of the best surfing on the Azuero Peninsula. The waves are bigger in the center and calmer on the outer edges making it an ideal surfing spot for all skill levels—and the perfect place to boogie board, SUP and wind surf.

Playa Venao is a peaceful haven in this crazy world—even at its busiest, it’s blissfully uncrowded. It is home to a small eco resort, a few hostels, several restaurants and shops, and a handful of boutique hotels.

A trip to the grocery store requires a drive (or bus ride) to the quaint town of Pedasi, 34 kilometers down the road.

You can read more about Playa Venao in my Playa Venao Guide.

Those who will stay at Vista Cañas will have access to two virtually private beaches—Playa Madroño and Playa Raya—known for their surfing, lack of crowds, and natural beauty.

about the owner

Janet Doré
(AKA The Wandering Ex-Housewife)

I’m a lifelong Californian—raised in the north and educated in the south. During my 33 year hiatus in San Diego, I married, raised two kids, found myself while wandering the world, divorced, fled the burbs, incorporated, and committed to hitting my twilight years without regrets and with no shortage of fascinating stories.

My life has been a dot-to-dot journey that has led me to this mountain on Panamá’s Azuero Peninsula. Along the way, I managed to excavate my authentic self under layers upon layers of other people’s beliefs, developed a fierce passion for wandering the world and an insatiable hunger for nature, discovered that I cannot breathe in the typical American life, and eventually knew that my destiny was to create a sanctuary that would feed peoples’ souls.

I look forward to the day when you can join me at my little nature and book retreat!


Janet & Ken, Partners in Adventure

Follow our expat journey at #OPERATIONEXPAT!

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