At the bottom of Central America, Panama winds and weaves between the powerful Pacific Ocean and the electric blue Caribbean for a combined 1,547 miles of dualling coastlines. Between the Caribbean and the Pacific coasts, Panama possesses dozens of world-class waves that each break in warm, tropical water. To say that Panama is a surfer’s paradise would be a vast understatement. If you’ve already visited our Costa Rica surf school and want to take your surf travels to new heights, head down to Panama. To find out where and when to surf in Panama, continue reading below for The Safari Surf Guide to Where to Surf in Panama.
Where to Surf in Panama: Pacific Coast
Panama’s Pacific coastline stretches for nearly 1,000 miles and is home to some of the country’s most pristine beaches and best waves. Panama’s Pacific coast sees year-round swell, but swell season technically falls during the Rainy Season, June to September. During this stretch, experienced surfers will find a plethora of high-quality surf breaks, especially on Panama’s more exposed south-facing coastline. During the Dry Season, from October to May, surfers can expect smaller swell with clean winds for much of the day. While there are plenty of places to surf on the Pacific side of the country, three areas stand out as the main surf hubs of the region.
Playa Venao is a charming, up-and-coming coastal town north of Panama City. The wave at Playa Venao is ideal for surfers of all skill levels. Due to the beach’s crescent shape, there’s always a protected beginner wave to surf at Playa Venao, even when the middle of the cove is pumping overhead. Beyond the surf, Playa Venao has plenty to do out of the water with nearby jungle hikes, a booming food scene for such a small town, and lively nightlife.
Santa Catalina is home to Panama’s best right-hand point break. The wave at Santa Catalina works best during the swell season, and is best suited for intermediate to advanced surfers, thanks to the sharp volcanic reef shelf that sits dubiously below the water’s surface. Santa Catalina is also one of Central America’s best dive towns. Just an hour-long boat ride from Santa Catalina will take you to Coiba Island, a national park and island system where marine life flourishes. Santa Catalina is a favorite diving spot for divers seeking whale sharks.
Located just east of Playa Venao, Cambutal offers traveling surfers the chance to surf in Panama amongst the undisturbed wilderness. Cambutal is a quality beach break surrounded by jungle. The break at Cambutal is well-suited for surfers of all levels.
Where to Surf in Panama: Caribbean Coast
Like other Caribbean wave hubs, Puerto Rico and Barbados, Panama’s Caribbean breaks best during the northern hemisphere winter. Surfing the Caribbean is a surreal experience. The tropical waters of Panama’s Caribbean islands are truly out of this world.
Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is a small archipelago off Panama’s Caribbean coast. The island is home to several world-class reef passes that work best during the Dry Season (October-May) when North American winter storms produce viable swell in the Caribbean. The waves at Bocas del Toro are ideal for intermediate to advanced surfers because most waves break over coral reefs. Traveling and surfing in Bocas del Toro is a unique experience where surfers travel between islands by water taxi to find waves. Beyond surfing, Bocas del Toro has a vibrant nightlife, healthy coral for diving and snorkeling, and the surreal tropical beauty that’s usually associated with the Caribbean, complete with white sand beaches, vibrant blue water, and palm trees overhead.
Surf in Panama with Safari Surf. Located in Playa Venao, our Panama surf school gives you everything you need to have the surf trip of a lifetime, from industry-leading instruction to the best lodging in the area.