You may or may not have yet heard about Panama’s surfing scene, perhaps because the country has so much going for it and neighboring countries have been the object of much hype in this regard. However, Panama is emerging as a hip, new surfing destination after the 2011 ISA World Surfing Games were held at Panama’s Venao Beach. (Our Island Interns were there for all the action, read about it here!)
While it’s hard to catch a wave in Costa Rica with so many surfers fighting for them on overcrowded beaches, it’s refreshing to know that Panama’s excellent breaks are still relatively unknown. It’s still the kind of place where you can go to a remote beach and surf the waves with your buddies. For those who speak ‘surf,’ Panama’s diverse coastline includes point breaks, beach breaks, hollow tubes, and long peelers. Kowabunga, dude!
The beaches here are also more accessible thanks to better roads than you’ll find in Costa Rica and many other destinations. If you’ve ever trundled down a pothole-ridden dirt road that had your teeth begging for mercy, you know what I speak of. You can check out the spots on your own or hire a local company to show you around. One of the best sources of local information on Panama’s surf scene is Panamasurftours.com. They can also arrange custom surf itineraries.
So what are some of the region’s best surf spots? Several of these are located on the islands off the coast in the Golfo de Chiriqui. Coiba has some amazing surf breaks on its southwest side, though the breaks there are hard to get to, so few people have surfed them. Another option is Isla Montuosa, a small island on the opposite side of Hannibal Bank from Coiba. It has a good right rock bottom point with solid waves, and the waves are consistent. It’s not uncommon to see 25-foot faces on big swells, and the waves here are rarely under 6 feet.
Some surf spots are easily accessible, like Playa Las Lajas near Isla Palenque, and La Barqueta near David, which has beach bottom breaks. Looking to get off the beaten path? Head to Punta Burica, the northernmost point in Panama, on the border with Costa Rica. You’ll need a 4×4 or boat to get there. The breaks are about two hours’ drive along the coast from Puerto Armuelles. There are about four left points that break along the point, for long, tubing rides. It easily catches swells, as it’s a promontory that juts out into the Pacific ocean. The waves here are said to be better than the well-known break in Pavones, Costa Rica, and you’ll likely have it all to yourself. It’s a remote location and there are no local accommodations, so going out here means bringing your own food and shelter.
Panama has miles and miles of coastline and very little of it has been explored, let alone surfed. Have at it, dude!