When planning your next surf trip, Bocas del Toro should be on your radar. This little slice of Caribbean paradise is home a wide array of waves. From reef breaks to heaving beach breaks Bocas del Toro is a spot with a lot to offer to a traveling surfer. Bocas is located in the North West Caribbean coast of Panama, and home to beautiful scenery, amazing beaches, and some of the best surf in Panama.
Bocas del Toro offers two seasons for surf. The main season from December to April offers a variety of wave heights. But the surf typically stays in the head high range and can get up to double overhead. The mini season consists of July and August and is known for its medium sized conditions, and more perfect tropical weather. The winds tend to come more out of the mountains and are favorable for many breaks in Bocas del Toro. The islands can get crowded with people around the holidays and into beginning of the year, but many of them are not surfers. It isn’t as crowded as you would think. With so many breaks to choose from, the Bocas del Toro islands is a place you can score un-crowded sessions, if you are willing to put in the effort. There are many untapped spots that are hard to access and or require specific conditions. Sometimes you can get lucky, but for the rest of us there are guides to help with reaching to these gems.
Where to Surf
There are 3 main islands that offer reefs breaks, point breaks and a couple pumping beach breaks. And while there are lots more waves than the ones listed below, here are some of the most popular- if you want to know the rest you’re going to have to come down and find out for yourself.
The Main Island of Isla Colon has a few great waves to choose from.
Paunch is a fun reef break with 3 different peaks and rights and lefts. This break can be accessed by land or sea. Best ways to get there would be boat as the reef is covered with urchins, but if your up for a rock dance, it can be accessed by land, and with a little bit of luck you can make it out unscratched.
As for beach breaks on isla Colon you won’t find many, but Playa Bluff is all you need. Bluff is a very hollow fast and tubular wave that breaks in very shallow sand about 10 yards from the beach. It is a very good wave but should only be left to the expert and kamikaze surfers. Bluff likes to break a lot of surfboards and people can often find themselves in a bad spot, causing injury to neck and back.
Isla Carenero, home to the famous Carenero point break is the small island located between Isla Bastimentos and Isla Colon. Carenero has a outside left reef that is a very good wave for experienced surfers. The wave has a steep drop and sometimes a very nice tube over some living reef. The inside of Carenero has another left reef that can be very fast and offer some awesome sections for surfers to lay down some pocket turns and gets very speedy. This part of the wave is also over a very alive and shallow reef, so be careful going too far inside with your body and board.
Black Rock Point is a fun wave for anyone trying to better their surf ability or just learning the ropes. It is a favorite of the surf schools here in Bocas del Toro to take people to learn or someone who surf only a few times a year. Even though it breaks over reef, the wave is deep and offers a channel on both sides for easy access to the peak and a place to catch your breath in between waves.
Located on Isla Bastimentos Wizard Beach offers up some fun Caribbean crystal clear beach break waves in a jungle setting. These waves are fun when the surf is smaller. Further down Isla Bastimentos there is Red Frog Beach which also has a fun beach break out back that can get very fun when the conditions are right. If all the other spots are looking rough Red Frog can offer some cover and be cleaner option.
Where to Stay and Surf
There are several options for accommodations that are surfer friendly, here are a selected few that are among the best in Bocas del Toro.
Walk to the Surf
Hotel Tierra Verde is located on Isla Carenero, with amazing Caribbean views outside the front yard. It is walking distance to Carenero Point and Black Rock. They offer a large upstairs 2-bedroom suite, a great option for a 4-person group. It is also only a 2-minute boat ride from Bocas Town, and has a beautiful beach with clear water right out front. A must if you stay on Carenero, ask for the owner and surfer Cookie Evans- he will point you in the right direction for surf or a good time.
The Ultimate Surf Resort
Red Frog Bungalows is a surfers delight. This eco-ocean retreat offers private Balinese style teak bungalows set in the jungle on Red Frog Beach. Red Frog Bungalows is an all inclusive surf retreat. They have a team of surf guides and boats to get you to the right place at the right time. With access from the backside of Isla Bastimentos Red Frog guides can take clients anywhere in the Bocas area and beyond depending if the swells are right. This isn’t your average surf camp- Red Frog Bungalows has professional guides, a chef planning meals and a staff to cater most needs. The camp is solar powered and runs off of a generator for the small amount of time at night. The Owner and operator Scott Balogh has spent over 10 years dialing in the conditions for Bocas del Toro and is a wealth of surf expertise. In recent years many WCT surfers like Dusty Payne, Yadin Nichol have depended on Red Frog for their ability to get people to the right place at the right time.
Surf Schools in Bocas del Toro
When traveling to Bocas del Toro and not a very seasoned surfer you may want to consider lessons. If you have surfed but maybe not in waves of consequence having a guide on hand may be your best option.
Here are three surf schools all located in Bocas del Toro.
Mono Loco Surf School is located in the heart of Bocas Town across from the park. Mono Loco Surf school gets its name after its owner and founder Juan David Issac. He is truly a crazy monkey. Mono Loco is the only BSA/ISA certified surf school in all of Panama. They have a very wide selection of surfboards ranging from long boards to Short boards and also some high performance boards from Hayden Shapes and Channel Island. Mono Loco offers lessons and also a surf shuttle to the breaks on Isla Colon.
Escuela del Mar is another option for a surf school here in Bocas del Toro. Escuela del Mar rents boards of all sizes. They are located in Bocas Town right across from the Police station and also offer skateboard and GoPro rentals. Most days Escuela Del Mar offers 2 lessons a day, one in the AM and one in the PM depending on conditions.
La Buga Surf School is another option for a surf school here in Bocas del Toro. Its located on the main road in Bocas Town right next to Bocas Sailing. La Buga Surf school has the best fleet of boats here in Bocas. They do rentals and lessons daily.
Remember when traveling to Bocas del Toro (or anywhere else in the world) to treat everyone with respect in the lineup, especially the locals. Also know your limits- the waves can get very heavy here and break over live coral and rocks at a lot of the breaks. If you aren’t sure, take a surf lesson or hire a local guide. It will save you or maybe someone else from getting very injured.
Written by Daniel Jorgensen. Content and travel writer living in Bocas del Toro. Contact me Dan.firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +507 6368-6878