Ahhh Panama, one of Central America’s top surfing destinations boasting year-round tropical waters, a laid-back pace of life, and every type of wave you could ever imagine. While Central America is known mostly for its playful beaches, there’s much more to the country than that, from a-frame reefs and right-hand points to beginner-friendly bays and hollow beach break–Panama has it all. In this post, we dive into everything you need to know for surfing in Panama; from where to stay, where to surf, and how to get around…
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Best Time of Year to Surf in Panama
Panama has two distinct surfing seasons, wet and dry. Typically, the best waves happen on the Pacific coast during the wet season. (April to October). This is when the largest swells hit the coast from deep in the South Pacific and light up the best Pacific breaks.
However, what many don’t know is that Panama has some of its best surfing on the Caribbean coast. You’ll need to head here between January and March for the bets swells, which aren’t frequent, but this is where Bocas Del Toro is, where if you time it right, you can luck into one of the best beach breaks in Latin America, or if you bring your a-game, a harrowing slab called Silverbacks.
Best Surf Spots in Panama
Across Panama’s 1500-mile-strong coastline, there are a number of different surf spots, and the best place to go will depend on your ability and the waves you like to surf.
Veraguas is an area on the Pacific side of Panama. The area is littered with epic surf setups. Most notably around the town of Santa Catalina, with a fun right-point break called La Punta, and a beginner-friendly beach break just down the road. (One of the best beginner surf spots in Panama).
There’s also another wave named Morrillo, a super consistent break that sucks any swell in, meaning in season or even out of it, you can always find something to surf.
Bocas Del Toro
The jewel in the crown of surfing in Panama, and one of my favorite surf breaks in the world. Bocas, comprises a group of islands, just off the coast of Panama. The islands are beautiful, boasting some amazing and intriguing surf spots. From the thumping beach break at Bluff Beach to the death-defying slab, Silverbacks, there’s some serious power here!
But if that doesn’t tickle you, there’s a handful of fun left reefs and other more mellow beach breaks in the area,. The town is also vibrant and alive with backpacker/party vibes. Read the full breakdown of surfing in Bocas Del Toro.
One of the closest surfing areas to Panama City itself. White sand and a long stretch of beach are just a short drive from the hecticness of Panama City. Check out El Palmar and Chame.
Pedasi is another wave-rich area on Panama’s Pacific coast. Check out Playa Venao, a wicked little surf town with consistent beach breaks and a popular destination for backpackers and traveling surfers. Here you ‘’’ll find any number of hostels, restaurants, and bars.
Getting to Panama
You can find flights to Panama City from most places in North America. Copa Airlines is the main carrier and Panama City is a major connecting point in Latin America, so you can always find affordable flights.
You’ve got a few options for getting around in Panama. If you’re on a budget, check out BusBud as buses are common throughout the country, Just be ready for some long sweaty journeys as things almost always take longer than anticipated. However, they are cheap and do the job if you’re on a budget surf trip!
You can also hire a car if you feel comfortable driving in the country. You can pick cars up fairly cheaply from Panama City Airport and then head off to chase waves. Just watch the traffic, the wildlife, and poor roads at times.
You can also fly around Panama, for example, if you’re chasing a swell from the city to Bocas, the quickest and easiest way by far is to hop on a domestic flight.
Where to Stay?
Spanish by the Sea
La Choza Playa Venao
For $13 per night, close to all the surfing action at Playa Venao, you’ll be hard-pushed to find anywhere cheaper and better located than La Choza. With shared and private rooms on offer, free wifi, garden, terrace and kitchen, you’ve got all the trappings of a budget friendly surf hostel.
In the main surf towns, you’ll find a scattering of affordable surf hostels. If you’re in Bocas Del Toro check out Skully’s House. You’ll be able to walk to Paunch one of the best surf breaks in the area. Dorm rooms and porivates available, kitchen, bar and restaurant on site. Good wifi and ocean views!
Selina Playa Venao
Tips for Surfing in Panama
The crowds in the country’s main surf towns are thick, I mean who can blame everyone right? Flocking to a country with many spoils of waves and tropical climes. As always, respect the locals.
Although not a huge country, much of Panama is covered in dense mountainous jungles, which means getting around takes longer than you think. Especially by road. For instance, Bocas Del Toro (you can fly), takes a long drive, or a series of buses, taxis, and boat rides just to get there. Throw in a slower pace of life, makes things even slower!
It’s no doubt that Panama is established as a go-to world-renowned surf destination. With waves and surf setups for all abilities, you really can’t go wrong. For more information on surfing in Panama, throw me a comment below.