Bocas del Toro is an island chain located off the Caribbean side of Panama. Arguably one of the best surf spots in Panama, it draws in tons of surfers every year. Bocas has great surf, great snorkeling, a good party vibe, and lots of places to eat and sleep. Bocas is home to a wide variety of waves and is good for many different types of surfers. With so many different waves it helps to have a little guidance. Follow our Bocas surf guide bellow to help locate the best surf in Bocas del Toro.
BEST TIME TO GO: The surf season in Bocas is December to April, with December and January being the most consistent and largest waves. The rainy season of July often brings with it another big swell for the month. In July the surf is good and way less crowded. The waves in Bocas are getting more popular, so be prepared for a line-up during peek months. Since Bocas Town is a party town, a lot of people don’t get into the water until 9 or 10 AM. Plus, from town they need to find a cab or water taxi to take them to the breaks. If you want uncrowded waves in the most popular spots, you will need to be in the water early – say 6 AM.
Nomad Surf: Isla Colon
Nomad is the perfect place to stay if you want to roll out of bed and directly into the waves. Many of our serious surfers come back each year to take advantage of huge un-crowded waves when everyone from town is just waking up or struggling to find transportation out here. The most popular surf breaks on Isla Colon are located within walking distance to Nomad.
Paunch (10 minute walk from Nomad): Playa Paunch is not quite your typical beach – with no sand to lay on and reef all along the ocean floor that makes it impossible to walk or swim. However, it redeems itself with it’s surf. This is arguably the best surf break in Bocas del Toro. When the swell is small, it’s an easy wave to surf but getting in and out of the water is hard because you need to find a way through the reef. On big swells, only good surfers should attempt to surf there. This can be a good place for improving your surf skills, if it’s a small day, anywhere between 2 to 5 feet – just wear booties or expect for your feet to get shredded. There are also strong rip tides here and certain current channels that will take you out and in of the surf break. Only confident and knowledgeable swimmers should try to surf here, regardless of swell size.
Dumpers (20 minute walk from Nomad): Dumpers is a left point break that has really sharp, shallow reef. It is located just to the left of Paunch. It’s more of a local spot, so keep that in mind. Also, the wave isn’t always super consistent, but when it hits, it hits fast and hard.
Bluff (40 minute walk from Nomad): Playa Bluff is the biggest beach on Colón. The beach itself is over 5 miles in length and it feels like you could keep walking on it forever. However, Playa Bluff is NOT a swimming beach. The waves crash in only 3 feet of water – so extremely close to the shore. These waves are heavy and powerful and the buffer zone is generally right where people get in to just wade around or play in the water. The rip tides and currents here are also very aggressive and so it is easy to get swept out to sea. A handful of tourists drown here each year. If you are a good surfer and the swell is smaller, then you could go for a surf at Bluff. However, Bluff is known as a board breaker since the waves are crashing pretty much directly onto the sand of the sea floor. I would only surf at Bluff is you are at least an intermediate level surfer. However, because it is a fast closing out beach break, Bluff is an amazing place for body boarders.
Black Rock: Black Rock is perfect for beginners because it is a super soft, foamy wave that never gets steep. It’s a mountain that just crumbles so it’s good for long boards and beginners. You need to have a boat driver drop you off at the spot, so you should feel comfortable being in deep water. It can get a bit crowded because lots of beginners and boats are going there all day. It’s a reef break, but deep reef, and is both left and right handed (although the right hand is more consistent).
Punta Carenero: This is the most famous spot in Bocas and still one of the best surf breaks in Bocas Del Toro. The wave is really long and splits at some point, so the crowd gets spread out at least. However, you still need to be prepared to fight for your spot on a crowded day. This is a left hand point break that barrels. The paddle out can be pretty difficult and long, with sharp reef all the way in and out. This spot is for intermediate and advanced surfers, not beginners.
Wizard Beach: Wizard is hard to get to. It’s on the far side of Bastimentos, and you have to walk across the island via a trail from Old Bank to access the beach. There is no accommodation on Wizard Beach, so you will have to walk over with your board about 45 minutes. You won’t find a crowd here, but the walk can be long. Unfortunately, the waves are pretty inconsistent and you should try to go in the early morning. The rip tides here are very strong. It’s not the best place to surf but will definitely be the least crowded.
Red Frog Beach: Pretty much the exact same conditions as Wizard Beach. Slightly better because there are accommodations on Red Frog. This way you can wake up in your hotel/hostel and go out for a quick surf or check and see what it looks like. You don’t need to walk anywhere with your board, you can just go straight out of your room.