Surfing Panama – A Surfers Paradise
Panama links Central America to South America, officially called the Republic of Panama (more here from wikipedia).
Panama has some of the best surf breaks in all of Central America. Whether you like point breaks, beach breaks, hollow tubes, or long peelers, Panama has a variety of surf breaks to accommodate your style.
Panama is still virgin and you can catch most of the best surf spots by yourself with your buddies. Few people know about its surfing potential, which is a big plus for surfers who visit.[box type=”info”] Panama has started gaining popularity among the surfers around the globe but is still a wonderful surf travel destination and is nowhere as crowded as its northern neighbor Costa Rica.[/box]
Advantages of Surfing in Panama
Panama’s roads are of the best in Central and South America, with 4 lane highways all over the country for quick access to the surf breaks. The transportation system is very good, and buses and taxis are readily available from the international airport.
Panama is also one of the safest places in the world. In general, you can surf, roam the streets, party, or shop care free, at any time day or night.
Panama also has an excellent communications system so you can easily call your girlfriend, family or business back home at any time without any hassle. You can even rent a cellular phone for your surf trip, so you can be always in communication.
Panama’s hospitals are of the best in Central America, so in the event that you got beatings on the rocks or reef while surfing (God Forbid), you can be guaranteed that you will be assisted by well-trained health care professionals.
Panama is still inexpensive. At the beaches, you can generally get a great meal for under $4, and budget hotels range from $20 to $50 per room per night, depending on your style. Bus transportation can cost anywhere from $0.30 to $15 depending on where you are going.
Best time to Surf in Panama
The Pacific side is best in the months between April and November. The Caribbean side is best between December and March, but can get swells any time of the year except the time between September and November.
Panama Surf Spots Chart
Panama Surf Spots
The Surf spots in Panama are scattered across the Caribbean Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Panama City, Los Santos, Veraguas, Chiriqui.
Let’s check the forecast right now . . .
On the Caribbean side the surf breaks are all spread out around the islands of Bocas del Toro, Bastimientos and Carenero. You can get to the breaks on the main island by taxi, and to the breaks on Bastimientos Carenero by boat taxi. You don’t have to worry about tides for these spots since the Caribbean ocean does not have much fluctuation of tide. One of the most famous spots is Bocas del Toro.
Isla Bocas del Toro
The islands of Bocas del Toro on the northern Caribbean side of Panama have some of the best surfing in Panama, with a wide variety of surf breaks. The best surf period is from December through March which is dry season.
- Consistent Swell
- Quality and Powerful Surf
- A Tropical Surfing Experience
Bocas del Toro has great surf spots for everyone from Beginner to Advanced skill levels and there are places to surf alone without much crowd.
Pacific Ocean Panama
Starting from the beaches in the province of Darien, travel along the coast through Panama City, then the Panama Bay Area beaches, then the Peninsula area of Los Santos and finally the provinces of Veraguas and Chiriqui. The Pacific side has so many beach breaks which would suit all skill levels.
Panama City has a few different surf breaks, however, it is not hugely recommended due to the city pollution that has gone into the ocean and the government is in the process of cleaning it up. Also, there must be a really big swell for these spots to break.
Los Santos: Pedasi / Tonosi
The province of Los Santos has some of the best surf in Panama, as it is located out on the peninsula of Panama. That is the part of Panama that looks like a boot that sticks out in the Pacific ocean.
To get there, you go down the Pan American highway, then take a left at Divisa, then go through Chitre, then through Las Tablas, then to Pedasi. At Pedasi, the beaches begin, and run all the way through Tonosi to the end of the road at Cambutal. There are dozens of unexplored beaches in this area.
The province of Veraguas has some of the best surf known to Panama and Central America for that matter. This is the area around the back (west) side of the Peninsula. The main breaks are all close to the town of Santa Catalina.
The province of Chiriqui has several islands in the Pacific that have really good surf. These islands are very remote and generally only those who have access by sail boat or yacht can get to them. However, there are some tour operators that offer specialized tours to these exclusive surf locations.
There is also excellent fishing in this area, and there is one particular spot in the area called “Hannibal Bank” that is world-famous for catching marlin and sail fish. Most of the big fishing charter yachts in Central America go there to fish. The surf breaks are relatively unexplored.
The city of David has several spots that are worth mentioning and they get the same swell direction of Chiriqui Islands and the Peninsula waves. This area is also relatively unexplored.
Getting There Panama
International flights arrive at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City. Services arrive daily from the US (most are routed through Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston or Miami) and other Central and South American cities; KLM and Iberia fly from Amsterdam and Madrid, respectively. Flights from San José, in neighboring Costa Rica, often stop in David before continuing on to Panama City. The recently upgraded airport in David is expected to see direct international flights from and to the US at some point.
You can cross into Panama by land from Costa Rica, but due to security concerns it’s not possible to do so from Colombia. Instead, backpackers are increasingly booking passages by boat.
Where To Stay in Panama Surf Trip
Hotel Oasis Panama
Hotel Oasis is located on Caranero Island just a $1 water taxi ride away from the main island. It has been described as the cleanest place in town. The staff seems to be super friendly and accommodating.
One couple missed breakfast by 30 minutes and they still insisted on feeding them and giving them coffee.
A few other reviewers said that they had been able to check in way earlier then the hotel’s scheduled check in time because their flights arrived early.
Jose and his wife (the owners) are very helpful and will go out of their way to make your stay enjoyable. They know every tour guide in town by name and will hook you up with the best deal they can. All rooms come with A/C and cable TV.
The rooms with balconies and hammocks are $10 more per night but totally worth it since they’re right on the water. They also have an outdoor deck area above the water to chill and read a book. No toiletries are provided other than soap so bring your own shampoo! And make sure you bring a lot of dollar bills. No not for the strip club this time 😉 for the water taxi rides back and forth. Oh and the hotel only takes cash as well so hit up an ATM on your way there.
Hotel Caribbean View Panama
Hotel Caribbean View is located on Isla Bastimentos. It’s more of an affordable, basic or maybe even rustic type of place. The food is excellent! Cooked by Luis and assisted by his wife, daughters and grandchildren.
In one of the reviews one person stated that it was “The best Lobster I’ve had in Central America” and she was from Maine so that says a lot. The lobsters even arrive in the same boat as you. The restaurant also offers a very good breakfast including pineapple pancakes and a decent cup of coffee.
The rooms like I said are pretty rustic. Nice and clean but basic and the bathroom was described as small and dark. All of the rooms come with A/C and free WiFi. When you’re ready to head to the main island you can grab a water taxi right from the dining room on dock over the water.
The owner’s son is also available to take you out on boat trips at our convenience. There is no ATM on Isla Bastimentos so stop in Isla Colon before you get there.
Hotel Villa Romana Panama Surf Trip
Hotel Villa Romana is an oceanfront hotel in Puerto Escondido (Pedasi), Panama. Pictures just don’t do it justice it’s a very beautiful hotel as the reviewers on tripadvisor.com said over and over again.
They have 21 Ocean view suites that are simple yet comfortable. A nice pool with a separate shallow pool for the kids and chairs under wooden framed covered vines so they don’t get sunburnt.
Villa Romana has an amazing restaurant that has a 180 degree view of the ocean and you might even see some whales pass by if you are there just after whale season starts.
Jessica the manager and Anna are very helpful and friendly. Nothing is too much trouble for them. They have cool night shows and even a children’s mini disco! Reviewer tip: Look for discounts or deals before you book you just might luck out.
Where to Eat Panama Surf Trip
Capitan Caribe is a food truck located in Bocas Town. Don’t let the term “food truck” scare you off though.
The Captain Caribe burger is described as being the “Best burger in all of Central and South America!” and their burritos are even better! Luigi the chef and the rest of the crew are really fun, friendly guys that love their job.
The food is super delicious, affordable and made with fresh and local ingredients. They even have vegetarian options that aren’t listed on the menu if you just ask.
There’s outdoor seating or you can just order it to go and take it back to your hotel. Just make sure you get there before 7 or else the lines will be crazy long or they might even run out of food. Try the Bocas Love Smoothie while you’re there too!
Los Pibes located in Santa Catalina is open for dinner and late night. They are an Argentinian grill but from what I can tell from the reviews the steak is thin and overcooked.
The burgers and fish on the other hand are outstanding! The Chimichurri sauce is so good you’ll ask for seconds and they serve yummy sangria and have great wine.
Don’t expect anything fancy, this is a laid back place with smashed surfboards for decor. Great place to go with your surf bros when you want a good burger. Oh and they don’t take credit cards so bring cash.
The Sea Monkey Restaurant and Bar
The Sea Monkey is located in Isla Bastimentos just a 10 minute water taxi ride from Bocas Town. It’s one of the highest recommended places I’ve seen in Panama and for good reason.
Ryan and Stacey are the owners and are some of the most friendly welcoming people you will ever meet. They treat each guest like royalty.
They have a very user-friendly menu varying from International, Fusion, Mexican and Asian dishes. Try the “famous” ravioli and curry while you’re there.
The only complaints I’ve seen were they should have “finely chopped the salad more” and “the portions should have been bigger cause it was so good I would’ve eaten it all again”. Enjoy some fun cocktails under the fairy lights while listening to music at this very yummy yet affordable establishment.
Surf Camps in Panama
Located on a pristine island off the Pacific coast of Panama, you will have wave after wave to just you and your friends. Multiple islands surround Morro Negrito and each one provides its own unique wave.
From fast hollow point breaks to sand bottom beach breaks, everything is covered. Morro Negrito surf camp is a wonderful place for almost anyone to go. The surf breaks range from a beginner level to a professional level.
Oasis Surf Camp Panama
Oasis is sheltered by coconut palms and other shade trees, on the long sandy beach of Playa Estero.
This public beach is great for families, beach picnics, and offers the best spot for beginners to practice surf lessons. “La Punta”, which breaks 0.5km offshore, has a sharp lava reef and is as powerful as it is dangerous.
Surfcamp Guanico Inc.
Bocas Surf School Panama
Bocas Surf School is located in the thriving island town of Boca del Toro. The warm waters and numerous surf breaks provide the perfect environment to experience a full range of surfing curriculum.
BSS has established courses and can also custom design a course for individuals, couples, families or groups. Manuel the instructor is very patient, speaks perfect English and is 100% dedicated to getting you up and surfing.
He always knows where to get good waves even if the other surf schools are closed he’ll take you in his own boat to get there. If you decide to stay in the hostel which is very very clean and not a party hostel at all but only a 5 minute walk to midtown where all the parties are they’ll give you $5 off your surf lesson.
Beach Break Surf Camp Panama
Beach Break Surf Camp and Hotel is located beach front in the beautiful bay of Playa Venao.
- Safe and consistent sand bottom surf break in front of the surf camp;
- World class wave something for every level of surfer;
- Clean and Comfortable beach front accommodations;
- Abundant fishing straight from the shoreline;
- Full quiver of rental boards to choose from.
Riomar Surf Camp Panama
RMSC is located at Playa Rio Mar in the town of San Carlos, Panama, 1 hour from Panama City. In this region of Panama,there are more than 18 different surf spots within 20 minute drive from our camp RMSC.
RMSC is a great starting point for surfing trip in the uncrowded waves of Central America. The beach break is a 2 minute walk and the right point break a 10 minute walk.