Surfing Panama - A Surfer's Paradise
Surfing Panama - A Surfer's Paradise
Panama links Central America to South America, officially called the Republic of Panama. 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 various surf breaks to accommodate your style.
Panama is still a 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.
Panama has started gaining popularity among surfers worldwide but is still an excellent surf travel destination and is nowhere as crowded as its northern neighbor Costa Rica.
Here's A Quick Guide Of What You Can Find On This Blog:
- Caribbean Ocean (Isla Bocas del Toro)
- Pacific Ocean
- Panama City
- Los Santos: Pedasi / Tonosi
- Chiriqui: Islas
- Chiriqui: David
Advantages of Surfing in Panama
Panama's roads are 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 perfect, and buses and taxis are readily available from the international airport.
Panama is also one of the safest places in the world.
Panama is also one of the safest places in the world.
In general, you can surf, roam the streets, party, or shop carefree at any time, day or night. Panama also has an excellent communications system, so you can quickly call your girlfriend, family, or business back home at any time without any hassle.
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 September and November.
Panama Surf Spots Chart
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: Surfline Surf Forecast.
On the Caribbean side, the surf breaks are all spread out around the islands of Bocas del Toro, Bastimentos , and Carenero. You can get to the breaks on the main island by taxi, and to the breaks on Bastimentos Carenero by boat taxi.
You don't have to worry about tides for these spots since the Caribbean ocean does not have much fluctuation in the wave. One of the most famous sites in 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 various surf breaks. The best surf period is from December through March, which is the dry season.
- Consistent Swell
- Quality and Powerful Surf
- A Tropical Surfing Experience
A short clip of Panama waves
Watch this video and get to see what Panama waves offer.
Starting from the beaches in Darien's province, 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 cleaning it up. Also, there must be a massive swell for these spots to break.
Los Santos: Pedasi / Tonosi
The province of Los Santos has some of the best surf in Panama, 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 through Tonosi to the end of the road at Cambutal. There are dozens of unexplored beaches in this area.
Ready to go tropical? Watch this short clip of Panama waves.
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 excellent surf. These islands are very remote, and generally, only those who have access by sailboat or yacht can get to them.
However, some tour operators 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 sailfish.
Most of the big fishing charter yachts in Central America go there to fish. The surf breaks are relatively unexplored.
Chiriqui: Islas Panama
The city of David has several worth mentioning spots, and they get the same swell direction of Chiriqui Islands and the Peninsula waves. This area is also relatively unexplored.
Getting in Panama
International flights arrive at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City. Services come 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 Jose, 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 it's impossible to do so from Colombia due to security concerns. Instead, backpackers are increasingly booking passages by boat.
Where to Stay in Panama
Hotel Oasis Panama
Hotel Oasis Panama
Hotel Oasis is located on Carenero 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 than the hotel's scheduled check-in time because their flights arrived first.
Jose and his wife (the owners) are accommodating 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, essential, or maybe even rustic type of place. The food is excellent! Cooked by Luis and assisted by his wife, daughters, and grandchildren.
The restaurant also offers a delicious breakfast, including pineapple pancakes and a decent cup of coffee. The rooms, like I said, are pretty rustic. Nice and clean but necessary, 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 dock's dining room over the water. The owner's son is also available to take you out on boat trips at your convenience.
There is no ATM on Isla Bastimentos so stop in Isla Colon before you get there.
Hotel Villa Romana Panama
Hotel Villa Romana is an oceanfront hotel in Puerto Escondido (Pedasi), Panama. Pictures just don't do it justice. It's a 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 a fantastic 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 accommodating and friendly. Nothing is too much trouble for them, and 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 in Panama
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 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 entertaining, 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, 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 at night. They are an Argentinian grill, but the steak is thin and overcooked from what I can tell from the reviews.
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 a 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.
2018 Update: The Sea Monkey is ready to expand!
Click here to help.
Surf Camps in Panama
Morro Negrito Surf Camp
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 beautiful place for almost anyone to go. The surf breaks range from a beginner level to a professional level.
Oasis Surf Camp Panama
Oasis Surf Camp
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 and beach picnics and offers beginners the best spot to practice surf lessons.
"La Punta", which breaks 0.5km offshore, has a sharp lava reef and is as powerful as it is dangerous.
Bocas Surf School
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 sound 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 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 and Hotel
Beach Break Surf Camp and Hotel is located beachfront 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 beachfront accommodations;
- Abundant fishing straight from the shoreline;
- Full quiver of rental boards to choose from.
Riomar Surf Camp Panama
Riomar Surf Camp
RMSC is located at Playa Rio Mar in San Carlos, Panama, 1 hour from Panama City. In this Panama region, there are more than 18 different surf spots within a 20 minute drive from our camp RMSC.
RMSC is a great starting point for a surfing trip in the uncrowded waves of Central America. The beach break is a 2-minute walk, and the right end breaks a 10-minute walk.