Panama can easily be overshadowed by its neighbor Costa Rica when it comes to surfing.
Although the surf scene here is not as established and marketed for tourism, it makes Panama the perfect surf destination for those itching for an adventure and wanting to search for the perfect wave.
The eco life in Panama is 3 times larger than the United States, so you can imagine the natural views this place has to offer to those looking for beautiful scenery.
The water is blue and ready for people who want to snorkel or scuba dive, unless it’s been rainy, and makes surfing here even better.
Surfing in Panama
Surfing in Panama is unique compared to other countries in Central America because of the plethora of surf spots that have not been popularized yet.
There is little to no information about surf spots here, including very few surf cameras.
This helps the spots not be as crowded, but many do not know the roads and directions to them when they come to visit. Surfing is an adventure here.
You can drive around looking for a spot that seems appealing to surf and you may not ever know the name of the spot that you loved so much.
I suggest befriending a local or hiring a surf guide to show you around the spots.
Waves in Panama
The waves in Panama can get very big and gnarly but then there are times when they are perfect for beginner to intermediate surfers.
There are many rock and reef breaks with hazards to watch out for.
During the wet season, May to January, be mindful that the surf will be much bigger during that time of the year.
Dry season is typically a better time of the year to visit if you are looking to scuba, snorkel, swim, or learn to surf.
Every spot breaks different in this country, it just depends on what side you are on and which spot you are at.
Later on in this article, I will break down some of the top surf spots including the best conditions to surf for each one.
Surf Culture in Panama
This country has a surf community that absolutely thrives with long roots of history, family, and friendships. The people of Panama are welcoming to visitors and surfers as long as you are kind and respectful to them in and out of the water.
Gear Needed to Surf Panama
When it comes to surf suit gear while surfing in Panama, you don’t need any cold water gear.
The highest water temperature is usually in June and stays an average of 84 degrees fahrenheit.
The lowest water temperature is usually in February and stays an average of 80 degrees fahrenheit. Pack your bikinis and boardshorts and leave the wetsuits at home because you won’t need them!
I do personally suggest packing a rash guard or surf suit (if you are a woman) that have long sleeves for some extra sun protection in the hot UV rays. Nobody likes surfing while being sunburnt!
Top 5 Surf Spots in Panama
Bocas del Torro region: “Silverbacks”
Silverbacks is a reef break that is one of the most consistent spots in the Bocas del Torro region.
The ideal conditions for the spot is a NE swell with SW winds.
The waves are typically rights and the tide does not really matter, it’s surfable at every point in the cycle.
Silverbacks is more popular for intermediate to advanced surfers during the wet season when the waves are bigger, but it is beginner friendly when the waves are smaller during the dry season, making Silverbacks a spot for surfers of all levels.
The crowd is never too bad.
Bocas del Torro region: “Playa Bluff”
One of the most popular spots to surf in Bocas del Torro, Bluff is a beach break located on a sandbar.
This break is fine for surfers of all levels depending on the size of the wave.
Even though the spot is very popular for Bocas del Torro, there’s usually not too big of a crowd on it. Since it is a beachbreak, there are both rights and lefts, which makes this spot great for everyone.
The best swell is a NE swell and a SW wind paired with it.
Colón region: “Maria Chiquita”
This reef break is one of the most fun breaks in the Colón region.
Maria Chiquita breaks best on a NE swell paired with S winds.
The reef has both right and left waves, making a spot desirable for anyone itching for a surf!
Gulf of Panama region: “El Palmer”
Palmer is a great spot for surfers of all experience.
It is best during a medium tide pushing high so that there is more of a push for this rock-bottomed break.
The waves are rights and work best with a SSW swell paired with NW winds. The break itself is absolutely beautiful!
Veraguas region: “Playa Santa Catalina”
Saving the best for last, this surf spot is very well known and is a crucial part of Panama’s surfing industry and culture.
This break works best at medium tide pushing high, only surf low tide if you are more experienced and are able to surf more fast-paced and hollow waves.
Considered one of the best surf spots in Panama, this reef break has both lefts and rights, mostly rights though, for all surfers wanting to enjoy it.
The best swell direction is a SW or S swell with N winds. The crowd is a little bigger here on those perfect days, but most will say that it is worth it!
What to Do in Panama When Waves Are Flat
Panama is one of the most beautiful countries in Central America. With thriving ecosystems and beautiful water, Panama attracts those looking to submerge themselves in nature’s beauty and blue waters.
Land and water exploration including hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, climbing, and more are the main nature activities that draw people all across the world to here.
Panama has a long history and special culture which you can experience all over.
There are many museums and landmarks that you can explore if you are a history junkie looking to learn more about the people and the country. If you love city life, Panama City is the place for you.
With skyscrapers and unique architecture, you will find nightlife, food, and culture deep in this city.
Panama Surf Guide
Panama has everything to offer for the perfect surf trip. Go off the grid and explore nature and hidden waves or experience the popular places that make Panama so well known and loved.
You will be talking about this trip for the rest of your life, I will promise you that!