Panama is becoming popular with tourists and visitors for its rustic beaches and big waves. While we’re not Costa Rica (with its more sophisticated luxury resorts and established beach communities), there’s actually a lot of options when it comes to beach & water sports in Panama. Today’s post focuses on surfing in Panama.
Surfing in Panama
Surfing is obviously the most popular water sport in Panama. And if surfing is your thing, then the Pacific Ocean coast is your obvious choice. For those new to surfing, check out El Palmar or Coronado on the Pacific Ocean to get in some beginner lessons at low tide. There’s a great little school in El Palmar called Panama Surf School. The owner, Flor Villarreal is from Argentina originally but has been in Panama for many years, and has a solid business for those wanting to learn the surfing thing. I personally took lessons from Flor – both my husband and I did – six years ago, when she was first getting going. Now, she has a bunch of teachers who work with her and they’ve grown from a tiny enterprise to a more professional one. Beginner surfers should always take lessons at Low Tide, to ensure that they are learning in the lowest waves possible. If you’re taking from Panama Surf School, you’ll probably start out at El Palmar beach, which is also popular with locals.
Kite Surfing in Panama
I’ve never personally kite surfed but I did surf behind a boat on the lakes where I grew up, and it was no easy thing. The only place I know of to learn or practice your kite surfing in Panama is Punta Chame, on the Pacific Coast. Because of geography of the bay there, the wind and the beach there make a perfect combination for this specific sport. NitroCity is the hottest place to learn to kite surf in Panama. I haven’t taken lessons there personally – in fact, I’ve only been to Punta Chame before NitroCity existed, but it must be good, because I keep hearing about it. Even Justin Bieber went there on his recent trip to Panama!
Best Beaches for Advanced Surfing in Panama
Playa Venao – about four hours from the city of Panama if you drive, and less than an hour flight – is one of the best beaches for advanced surfers. It’s also very popular with locals, who have been going there all their lives. El Palmar Point – there are actually two points in El Palmar at high tide that are fantastic for advanced surfers. This is the same beach as where the beginners learn (at low tide), but high tide brings a completely different set of waves further to the East and West of the beginner beach.
Surfing on Panama’s Caribbean Coast
Reef surfing is very popular on Panama’s Caribbean coast, but it’s also a tad more difficult to get to (than Panama’s Pacific coast beaches). However, the water is gorgeous and more clear, so the experience is very different. Many of our friends have gone reef surfing in and around the Bocas del Toro region of Panama, along the Costa Rica coast. The best website I could find with specifics on the beaches there and what it’s like was done by Island Path Panama. Here’ll you find great descriptions of the various locations in Bocas del Toro for surfing, as well what the water is like.
Surf Equipment & Surf Lessons in Panama
Yes, you can buy good equipment in Panama for surfing, no worries. You can also bring your own with you, if you’re just visiting or vacationing in Panama, but if that’s the case, be sure to check with your airline as to the additional costs and size restrictions.
If you don’t have your own equipment, there’s plenty of surfboards to rent while you’re learning. You do NOT need a wetsuit to surf in Panama.
You are in the Tropics, so the water temperature is warm. You will notice that the water on the Pacific side is cooler than the Caribbean.
For surf lessons, plan to pay anywhere from $30-$60 for a 90-minute to two-hour lesson. The price variation depends on if you’re at a more remote beach or one that has a big hotel on it. (More tourists, the higher the price.)
Otherwise, have fun while you are surfing in Panama! It’s one of the most fun things you can do on the beach here in the Tropics, so whether you’re new to it or advanced, you’ll find there’s somewhere in Panama that will give you just the waves you’re looking for.
I’ll cover other beach & water sports in Panama in a future post.