The travel books all label Panama as the undiscovered gem of Central America. It remains to be seen how long the title “undiscovered” will apply, so catch the waves before it becomes crowded.
The country with a canal offers great waves, good food, and the availability of modern accommodations. And you don’t have to be a cargo ship to benefit from the slim geography of Panama. If you time your trip right, you can catch overlapping surf seasons in November and drive to the best swell on either side of the country. But be forewarned: if you don’t like the heat, stay out of Panama.
No matter the season, the lowlands are hot. And if you are working up a sweat on your way to a spot, don’t expect to cool off a whole lot in the ocean. The water is usually in the mid 80’s while the air is near 90. Panama can also be pretty wet with high humidity and a long rainy season.
For the majority of the country, a May to November winter is rainy. This is the best surf season for the Pacific side. On the Caribbean side, the surf peaks twice. The main season on the east coast is during the regional wet season in the months between December and March. Surfing on the Caribbean then makes a resurgence when weather fronts clash in June and July. Keep in mind that, while the waves are bigger and more consistent during peak seasons, good waves can be found year-round on the Pacific and during storms on the east coast.
As with all foreign travel, a little caution is necessary. When in Panama, be aware that the Colon area, according to the U.S. State Department, is a “high crime” region. And the Darien Province near the Colombian border is a dangerous place. Outside of these two areas, crime in Panama is no worse than in your average American city. So if you don’t mind some heat and rain and can stay out of two sketchy areas, then Panama is worth a visit before the place hits Costa Rica status.
Be sure to check out Santa Catalina. Pro competitions are common on its massive and perfect barrels.
Panama Surf Breaks