Now that Panama has reopened her borders and eased quarantine restrictions, I’m reminding myself of all the reasons this little isthmus is such an appealing place to spend time.
One of its greatest attractions is its long Pacific coastline… onto which crash some of the world’s best surfing waves.
I don’t surf myself, but my son has recently taken up the sport, and several of our staff, if they’re honest, will tell you that the real reason they’re in Panama is for its surf breaks. Not only are they world class, but, in spots, it’s possible for the surfer in Panama to have professional competition-worthy waves all to him (or her) self.
The southeast coast of the Azuero Peninsula, especially Playa Venao, gets most of the attention from surfers who make their way to Panama. These waves have been the location for several Billabong tournaments. In other words, they’re not for beginners.
The place to start if you’re giving surfing a try for the first time is the City Beaches west of Panama City. The swells are smaller and less intimidating, the available accommodation for those who are spending more than a day at the beach is not as rustic as in the out-of-the-way spots on the Azuero Peninsula, and there are surf schools to help you get your bearings.
The surfing along this stretch of coast is at its most exciting April through June, when the offshore winds kick up consistent swells. November to April, the dry season, “summer,” in Panama parlance, which we’re entering now, the winds are generally lighter, the waves calmer.
If you’re a surfing neophyte, a good place to start is Playa El Palmar, outside the town of San Carlos, about 10 kilometers west of Coronado. Because it’s only about an hour-and-a-half from Panama City, this is a popular place and can get crowded on weekends and holidays. Weekdays, though, you won’t find much competition for the waves here.
If you’ve never been on a surf board before, head first to Panama Surf School. For US$60 you can arrange a private two-hour lesson with a pro who will help you get up and dropping into the faces in no time.
Then, when you’re ready to venture off on your own, here are the six best surf breaks in Panama’s City Beaches area:
Frente El Palmar:
Playa Rio Mar:
See you at the beach!
Founding Publisher, Live and Invest Overseas