Panama Surf Spots & Information

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.

Find a Panama surf school.

Panama Surf Breaks


Punta Rocas

Surf Location Pacific
Best Swell Direction South, Southwest, West
Best Tide Rising
Best Wind Direction East, Northeast, or None
Best Surf Season May-November
Wave Quality Famous and consistent waves usually break left, but can go both ways
The Surfers Can get crowded on the weekends and during holidays
Boards Shortboard, fish, funboard, longboard
Paddle Out Moderately difficult
Skill Level Intermediate to Advanced
Bottom Rocks
Watch Out For… Alligators near river mouths, fishing lines, rocks
Water Condition Clean
 

Playa Santa Catalina

Surf Location Pacific
Best Swell Direction South, Southwest
Best Tide Medium to high. Low tide is not safe to surf on.
Best Wind Direction East, Northeast
Best Surf Season May-November
Wave Quality Considered by many to be the best break in Central America. Santa Catalina produces up to 20-foot high perfect tubes.
The Surfers Very consistent spot, with very consistent crowds. Watch for the locals.
Boards Big wave shortboard, shortboard, longboard
Paddle Out Difficult
Skill Level Intermediate to Advanced
Bottom Rock reef
Watch Out For… Sharp reef, alligators, stonefish, urchins, sea lice
Water Condition Clean

Playa Santa Catalina, Panama - Surf Video

 

 

Bluff

Surf Location Carribean: Bocas de Toro on Isla Colon
Best Swell Direction North, Northwest, West, Northeast
Best Tide Any
Best Wind Direction West, Southwest, South, East
Best Surf Season December-March, June-July
Wave Quality This is a world-class and consistent wave for expert surfers who can handle a fast, powerful, and hollow wave
The Surfers Not many people are usually out here
Boards Big wave board, shortboard
Paddle Out Moderate to difficult
Skill Level Advanced
Bottom Sand
Watch Out For… Mosquitos, urchins, undertow
Water Condition Clean
 

Dumper

Surf Location Carribean: Bocas de Toro on Isla Colon
Best Swell Direction Northwest, Northeast
Best Tide Any
Best Wind Direction West
Best Surf Season December-March, June-July
Wave Quality This is not the most consistent wave in Panama, but when it breaks the right is perfect and the tubes are awesome.
The Surfers
Boards Shortboard, longboard
Paddle Out Moderate
Skill Level Intermediate to Advanced
Bottom Reef
Watch Out For… Mosquitos, shallow spots with a sharp reef below, urchins, undertow
Water Condition Clean
 

Nestles

Surf Location Morro Negrita, Pacific: On the Island Silva about 30 minutes from the surf camp in Morro Negrita
Best Swell Direction West, Southwest, South
Best Tide Mid and High
Best Wind Direction Southeast, East, Northeast
Best Surf Season May to November
Wave Quality Very consistent right break is powerful and steep. On larger sizes the wave is hollow.
The Surfers Remote location and boat-only access keeps most people away, empty lineups are common
Boards Shortboard, longboard
Paddle Out Difficult, especially outside the channel
Skill Level Advanced
Bottom Reef
Watch Out For… Rocks and reef
Water Condition Clean
 

P Land

Surf Location Morro Negrita, Pacific: On the Island Silva about 30 minutes from the surf camp in Morro Negrita
Best Swell Direction Southwest
Best Tide Mid and High
Best Wind Direction West
Best Surf Season May to November
Wave Quality Very consistent left is powerful, hollow, and fast. Usually a few feet overhead.
The Surfers Limited access keeps the numbers low on the water
Boards Big wave shortboard
Paddle Out Impossible, need a boat
Skill Level Intermediate to Advanced
Bottom Reef
Watch Out For… Rocks and reef, shallow spots at low tide, and broken boards
Water Condition Clean
 

The Point

Surf Location Morro Negrita: accessible only by boat
Best Swell Direction Southwest
Best Tide Low and Mid
Best Wind Direction Northeast
Best Surf Season May to November
Wave Quality This point-break wave is a fast and hollow left
The Surfers Empty lineups
Boards Shortboard, fish, funboard, longboard
Paddle Out Boat access only
Skill Level Advanced
Bottom Reef
Watch Out For… Rocks
 

Cambutal

Surf Location Pacific: In the middle of absolutely nowhere on the middle of the Pacific coast where the land juts out
Best Swell Direction North, Northwest
Best Tide All
Best Wind Direction Northwest
Best Surf Season May to November
Wave Quality Cambutal is consistent but the lack of anything nearby keeps the crowds from coming. If you are up for a journey, some powerful and hollow lefts and rights on empty waves await.
The Surfers None
Boards Shortboard, funboard, longboard, fish, big wave gun
Paddle Out Moderate to difficult depending on the swell
Skill Level Intermediate
Bottom Rocks
Watch Out For… Rocks, sharks
Water Condition Clean
 
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