Surf Guide

Bocas del Toro Fascinating place for surfers

Surfing is a water sport, it consists of standing up, keeping the balance on the board while you slide on the waves and, the most advanced sporty, make turns up to 360 degrees. There is nothing more satisfying for those who are just beginning than being able to stand on the board for the first time; it is just the beginning of wonderful experiences and sensations that this famous sport provides and the satisfaction of getting better while you practice, whether you do it as a hobby or sport. Bocas del Toro is one of the most coveted places for surfers from all over the world.

Advanced and beginners talk about the waves of Bocas, as nothing to envy to the best ones in the world, MalibĂş and Indonesia to name a few.

Bocas del Toro archipelago is a set of around nine main islands and hundreds of other small islands or cays, in the province with the same name in Panama.

Bocas del Toro has the perfect location to make it a paradise for the surfer, with strong winds, waves, tides, tubes, beach breaks, reef breaks, waves of up to six meters and countless beaches that any surfer dreams of.


1. How to access Bocas del Toro?

1.1. The city of Panama.

1.2. David, ChiriquĂ­.

1.3. Costa Rica.

1.3.1. Land route.

1.3.2. Private transfer service.

2. Main waves in Bocas del Toro

2.1. Island the fair

2.2. The Bluff

2.3. Black Rock

2.4. Bastimentos Island

2.5. Silverbacks

2.6. Red frog beach

2.7. Wizard Beach

3. Surf schools and shops

3.1. Escuela del Mar School – EDM

3.2. Mono Loco Surf School

4. Lodgings for surfers

4.1. Eclypse de Mar – Acqua Lodge

4.2. Tesoro Escondido

4.3. Hotel Tierra Verde

5. Other diversions in the Archipelago

6. Best time to surf in Bocas.

6.1. Rainy period:

6.2. Dry season:

7. In case of emergencies

7.1. Health Centers in Bocas del Toro.

7.1.1. Regional Hospital – Colon Island.

7.1.2. Hospital Almirante

7.1.3. Regional Hospital RaĂşl Dávila Mena – Changuinola.

7.1.4. Regional Hospital of ChiriquĂ­ Grande.

7.2. Bocas del Toro Police Station

7.3. SUME – 911 Emergency – Unique System of Emergency Management

7.4. Fire Station 103

7.5. Local police 104

7.6. Civil Protection: * 355

8. Recommendations for travel and stay

9. Some surf terms

10. Websites that may interest you.


1. How to access Bocas del Toro?

The way you get to Bocas del Toro depends on the place you are at, however, there are some easy-access routes you can use for a faster and more pleasurable way here.

1.1. City of Panama:

– From the Marcos A. Gelabert Albrook airport, in Panama City:

The airline Air Panama operates round-trip flights, from Panama City to the Bocas del Toro Airport in Isla Colon, every day of the week and they are increasing the number of daily flights in high season.

surf guide bocas del toro arriving

Once in Isla Colon, you will look for the boat station that goes to the island where you will stay, most busses do not charge more than two dollars.

In case you are headed to Playa Bluff in Isla Colon, take a Taxi that will take you to the hotel Tesoro Escondido, very close to the beach.

– Bus: It is a very good experience when it comes to touring and sightseeing. Take a bus from Panama City to Almirante in Bocas del Toro.

These buses depart from the Albrook terminal in Panama City. The trip lasts 10 hours, which means that if you take it at night you will wake up in Bocas del Toro.

From Almirante: You will have to get to the boat station going to Isla Colon.

1.2. David, ChiriquĂ­.

From the bus station in the city of David, catch a bus to Changuinola.

Once there you can either take a taxi to the boat station going to the Bocas Town or take the Ferry (Ferry Bocas) to Isla Colon.

1.3. Costa Rica.

From the Pavas Airport, San Jose, Costa Rica, to the Bocas del Toro International Airport in Isla Colon.

– Airline: Nature Air:

1.3.1. Land route:

– Another option is catching a bus from the El Bocatoreño line, leaving from the downtown in San JosĂ© de Costa Rica (Country bordering the Province of Bocas del Toro) to Changuinola in Panama.

This option is a bit more tedious because you will have to walk past the border and through the bridge dividing both countries and do all the immigration procedures.

When you arrive in Changuinola, you have two options: either taking a taxi to the boats going to Isla Colon for around $ 15 or taking the bus to the boat station in Changuinola for $ 5.

1.3.2. Private transfer service: Costa Rica – Bocas del Toro. Caribe Shuttle Agency

The package includes some meals and helps in the migration process between both countries with round trip.

2. Main waves in Bocas del Toro

2.1. Island the fair: ideal for beginners and children who ride their first waves.

2.2. The Bluff: It has one of the most powerful waves of the archipelago, murky, fast and very strong, recommended only for specialists or advanced users.

It is located at the exit of Colon Island, a few minutes away from the town.

Playa Bluff is also recognized as one of the nesting places of the Leatherback Turtle, one of the largest sea turtle species in the world.

2.3. Black Rock: It is one of the most powerful waves of the archipelago in Isla Carenero.

surf guide in bocas del toro

2.4. Bastimentos Island

– 2.4.1. Silverbacks: It is one of the largest waves on Isla Bastimentos, only for experts, since the waves can reach up to six meters high (20 ft). We recommend using boards above two meters long or seven feet (7 ft).

2.6. Red frog beach: Provides slightly safer conditions, very clean water, and fascinating beach breaks.

2.7. Wizard Beach: Located in Isla Bastimentos, this is one of the most paradisiacal and fascinating islands of the archipelago, whether you go surfing or not, you must visit this island. It is simply amazing.

Wizard beach: offers fun beach breaks and very good waves.

3. Surf schools and shops

3.1. School of the Sea – EDM

It is one of the best places for surfers in Bocas del Toro, with branches in Isla Colon and Isla Carenero.

It offers to locals and tourists specialized personnel willing to assist you and to meet your needs not only in terms of this sport but also offering advice on what to do in the place and the different activities, both for you as for the other members of the family group. You can book one of these fascinating classes with one of the instructors.

For beginners and advanced School of the Sea, offers:

Surf lessons for adults and children (Surf lessons for adult and children) older than four.

Classes have a maximum duration of three hours, which includes half an hour of theoretical class prior the practice, to indicate techniques and safety standards.

For the classes, they provide you with the appropriate clothing and a board according to your height and weight.

Sale, rental and repair of surfboards. (Rentals, repair services, and sales surfboards)

It is a good option if you don’t want to waste a large amount of money trying to bring your own surfboard, as you can rent one for just a few dollars.

Different models, brands and table sizes according to the needs of each surfer:

  • Merrick
  • JS
  • Hayden Shapes
  • NSP
  • Longboards
  • Shortboards
  • MalibĂş
  • Bodyboards

In addition to excellent prices ranging from only five dollars ($ 5) depending on the model and state in which the table is, you can receive discounts for long rentals.

Accessory of Surf

Clothing for women and men

In addition here you can also find:

  • Snorkels
  • Surfboards
  • Kayak rental

Address: First Street, in front of the Police Station, Isla Colon.

Phone: (507) 757-7008 / 6785-7984



Facebook: School-of-the-Sea-Surf

3.2. Mono Loco Surf School

It is one of the most complete and important surf schools in all of Bocas.

It has private or group classes and surfboard rentals from noon onwards for only very few dollars.

Mono Loco Surf combines yoga with surfing perfectly, offering packages of yoga retreats in different pairs of the archipelago.

It also offers its clients surf lessons for beginners and intermediate students.

They have Lessons for groups of two to three people. The sessions are usually of one day for 50 dollars up to five days for a bit extra.

Private classes (Private Classes, for beginners and intermediate levels)

surf schools

Special for beginners and intermediate students, for 3 hours and include the theoretical class of techniques and safety standards which lasts for one hour and a half.

Each class or session with a bilingual instructor includes in its rate:

  • Transportation to and from the resting place.
  • Surf table.
  • Use of spandex.

Transport of Surf (Surf shuttle)

We have transportation service in Isla Colon, whether you’re surfing or not. they also offer you the possibility of taking you to a surfing spot to spend a pleasant time with good food or for sunbathing. It’s only $ 10 per person and we accept no fewer than 2 people.

– Important: you should bring their surfboard, towel, and sunscreen.

Surfing guide (Surf guiding – Geared at intermediate and advanced levels only)

In 4×4 vehicles or by boat. The guides of Mono Loco Surf, take you to explore the best places of Isla Colon, with trained instructors who will show you the where you can find the best waves as well as where the peak and the channel are located.

What will be the appropriate table and the type of wave, according to the position and level of each participant? Feel free to ask all the questions you consider relevant to get your mind out clear of doubts, the instructors are specialists in the area and the best persons to teach you.

The price goes from 50 to 60 dollars depending on the case, and if it is a group, people pay only 10 or 20 dollars for each additional staff.

– Important: The Surf guide is only aimed at intermediate and advanced surfers.


– Surfari in Boat (boat trip – Geared at intermediate and advanced levels only)

It is a full day, in which you will be taken to the best places to surf between the Carenero and Colon Islands.

You must take your lunch and drinks with you, for which they provide you a cellar or cooler, or if you prefer it you can visit one of the best restaurants in the place, Bibi’s on the Beach.

Prices: only 210 dollars for a maximum of six people.

– Surfari 4×4. (4 wheel drive vehicle – for more advanced surfers)

The guides of Mono Loco surfing will take you to know the best places to surf in colon beach during the whole day, explaining in detail the types of waves, the correct postures and the water level in surfing.

You can make use of the coolers that they put at your service to carry your drinks or food, or by the group’s decision to stop and enjoy a delicious Caribbean lunch at Bar Bluff Beach.

The price for groups of a maximum of four people is just $ 200.

Board rentals (Board rentals)

From $ 15 noon. (Half day) / 20 dollars all day (All day)

– Hours: 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 pm. / 9:00 am. – 6:00 pm.

From $ 50 three days (three days)

From $ 100 per week (per week) – additional day $ 15.


Address: Second Street, Isla Colon. Bocas del Toro.

Phone: (507) 7609877

Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 pm.



4. Lodgings for surfers

4.1. Eclypse de Mar – Acqua Lodge

It is a wonderful eco-resort, firmly committed to the environment and the great biodiversity that surrounds the beautiful archipelago of Bocas del Toro. It works with sustainable energy provided by the sun to its solar panels.

It has seven spectacular bungalows, strategically located on the sea, including glass panels on the floor to enjoy marine life from the privacy of your room. All the bungalows are decorated in the Caribbean style, but with the appearance of indigenous dwellings, stilts of wood and native straw.

Standard rooms, suits, and even a beautiful three-bedroom villa for families or groups of up to six people have:

  • Private bathroom
  • Free Wi-Fi service
  • Hot water
  • Private bathroom
  • External fresh water shower (Depending on the room)
  • Fans
  • Chairs for sunbathing.
  • Hammocks

Plus amenities for your guests:

  • Restaurant.
  • Tours of the nearby islands.
  • Transfer to the best places on the island to surf, from your terrace and in your own boat.
  • With surf schools in the area, you can arrange surf lessons for adults and children on Isla Carenero.
  • Reservations: You can make your respective reservations from the webpage of Eclypse de Mar or through your email.
  • In case you are not a hotel guest, you can make use of the restaurant for a romantic evening, upon reservation by the indicated telephone numbers.


Address: Bastimentos Island, Bocas del Toro Archipelago.

Phone: (507) 6611-4581 / 6430-7576 (Reservations)

Office hours for consultations: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.



bocas del toro surf guide

4.2. Hidden treasure

This is a true treasure hidden in the surroundings of Playa Bluff which you can even find on your way to this beach.

Like most places of lodging in Bocas del Toro, Tesoro Escondido is environment-friendly and all the electric energy is provided by solar systems and the wind, while the water is collected by its own system of rainwater collection.

This is, without a doubt, one of the best places to stay if you go in are surfing or surfing.

The cabins with names of marine species take you directly to the sea, which you can reach on foot.

  • Dolphin Cabin.
  • Queen bed.
  • Kitchen with oven.
  • Private bathroom.
  • Fridge.

Turtle Cabin: Located on the sea, where the sound of the waves will wake you up at dawn, but at nights you will only hear the sea and nature in full.

  • Queen size bed.
  • Kitchen.
  • Private bathroom.
  • Fridge
  • Dragonfly Cabin.

This cabin is the largest of all, with wonderful views of both the sea and a small brook, offers you:

  • Equipped kitchen.
  • Bedroom with queen bed and private balcony.
  • A single bed and a double bed in the main room.
  • Fridge.
  • Terrace
  • Private bathroom.
  • Two-Bedroom Apartment, Oceanfront Suite, Oceanfront Rooms and the Butterfly Suite
  • Tesoro Escondido has, not only its facilities near Bluff Beach but also other excellent properties, barely a kilometer from the main facilities, which offer.
  • Queen bed.
  • Private bathroom.
  • Terrace overlooking the beautiful garden characteristic of the area, with a wide variety of birds.
  • Kitchen with bar (Does not include kitchen, nor refrigerator).
  • Coffee service in the morning, courtesy of the hotel.
  • Sink.
  • Living room.
  • Refrigerator or portable cellar.
  • Butterfly Suite.

This suite consists of a double bedroom:

  • One double bed.
  • One single bed.
  • Fridge.
  • Terrace in the kitchen.
  • Bath.
  • Living room.

4.3. Hotel Tierra Verde

Located right in front of Black Rock, in Isla Careneros, Hotel Tierra Verde has one of the most recognized and popular waves by local surfers as well as tourists. This is indeed one of the most desired locations and used by surf schools in the area available for beginners as well as for intermediates.

In Tierra Verde, both you and the rest of the group would enjoy its facilities and the majestic views of the place and its surrounding islands.

It is only two minutes away from Isla Colon, where the most of the activities in the archipelago happen both during the day and night time.

So during the daytime, you will have the opportunity to surf in its crystal clear waters in front of the hotel and at night you could go to the village if you like the nightlife in one of its spectacular bars and nightclubs.

The hotel’s facilities and rooms, decorated in a tropical style, have:

  • Cable TV
  • Fax
  • Hammocks by
  • Hammocks in every corner to enjoy the wonderful views of both the jungle and the sea.


  • Air conditioner
  • Private bathroom
  • Hot water
  • Semi-orthopedic mattresses
  • Cable TV – DirecTV
  • The price of the room includes a delicious breakfast with local ingredients and according to the season and tourist taxes.

Double Suite: Two bedroom suite, located throughout the third floor of the hotel, designed for the most demanding tastes or large families, it has:

  • Two bedrooms
  • Dressing room
  • Living room, balcony, and private bathroom
  • Cable TV
  • Fridge


Address: Isla Carenero, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Phone: (507) 757-9903 / (507) 6615-5911



5. Other Activities in Bocas

In addition to surfing, both for you and the rest of the family or group, can do the following activities and enjoy these amenities

Transport: Water taxis, all over the archipelago

Hikes: Tour around the islands in a very short time.

Peace and tranquility: Away from the hustle and bustle and very close at the same time, just in case you need to return for provisions or you want to stay in different islands to Isla Colon.

transport bocas del toro - surf guide

Beaches: Isla Carenero offers several beaches on a single island, such as Bocas de Drago and Cayo Zapatillas, made up of two small islands,

Massage in the room: Some hotels offer you massage services, previous coordination with the hotel.


– Bird watching in Swans Cay or Island of birds, turtles and beautiful red frogs.

– Excursions of exploration of private islands:

– Crawl Cay: It is a place of beautiful views with beautiful mangroves, in which you can camp during the day.

– Hospital Point: It was the former hospital of the banana company of the United Fruit Company region, but today it is a set of wonderful private facilities for diving in fascinating reefs.

– Submarinism: Beautiful corals reef, endless species of marine life, caves and even shipwrecks.

– Boat trip: You cannot say you actually visited Bocas if you do not take a boat ride to see the dolphins.

6. Best time to surf in Bocas.

The climate in Panama is humid and warm most of the year, with frequent rainfall with a dry period that includes scarce rainfalls, and which is characterized by two periods:

– 6.1. Rainy period: Includes the months from May, until November. May is usually the rainiest month, at least in the Pacific area

– 6.2. Dry season: It goes from the end of November to April.

However, between the months of July and August, there is often a dry period, known among Panamanians as summer.

Therefore the best months to surf are from November until April and during the dry period between July and August.

Surfing is a sport that can be adapted perfectly to rainy seasons, and that’s why schools and guides offer it all year long, and even in rainy seasons, you could be surprised by of excellent waves produced by strong storm gales.

Snorkel - surf guide bocas del toro

7. In case of emergencies

7.1. Health Centers in Bocas del Toro.

We rarely think of having an accident when talking about vacations, however, accidents can happen at the least expected moment, especially when the attention and safety rules are not met.

It never hurts to have extra precautions, and the addresses of the nearest health centers, as well as the local police, firefighters and the Emergency Management System in Panama (SUME – 911) at hand.

7.1.1. Regional Hospital – Colon Island.

Address: Avenida Norte, Bocas del Toro City (Bocas Town).

Phone: 757-9201

Hours: 24 hours

7.1.2. Hospital Almirante

Address: Zegla, Admiral. Bocas del Toro province.

Phone: 758-3745 / 758-3286

Hours: 24 hours

7.1.3. Regional Hospital RaĂşl Dávila Mena – Changuinola.

Address: Changuinola, Province of Bocas del Toro.

Phone: 758-8232 / 758-8295 / 758-7025

Hours: 24 hours

7.1.4. Regional Hospital of ChiriquĂ­ Grande.

Address: RambalĂ , ChiriquĂ­ Grande.

Phone: 756-9314

Hours: 24 hours

7.2. Bocas del Toro Police Station

Address: 1st Street, airport. Bocas del Toro

Phone: (507) 758-8279 / 757-9217 / 986-1703

7.3. SUME – 911 Emergency – Unique System of Emergency Management

7.4. Fire Station 103

7.5. Local police 104

7.6. Civil Protection: * 355

8. Recommendations

Increase in prices in high season: Hotels and plane’s tickets tend to go up a bit in seasons where there are more visitors in the archipelago.

In Panama the high seasons, more important are:

– Carnival

– Holy Week (Thursday, Friday and Holy Saturday, joins the resurrection Sunday, March 29, 30, 31 and April 01, 2018).

– Christmas: December 24 and 25

– The celebration of New Year: December 31.

– New Year: January 1st.

Communication: Keep constant communication with the connoisseurs of the place, for whatever you wish to organize:

Staffs of the place where you stay, the employees of shops or surf schools and the locals are usually very kind and cooperative people.

SECURITY: It is vital to abide by the safety rules that you indicate at the time of the surf lessons or that you practice it.

– It happens that people with an advanced level at any sport are trusted to be knowledgeable about the security standards to play it, being cautious is not related to the level of knowledge. Make sure to follow all the security measures practicing any sport, but especially water sports

– Reef Break: They are waves whose reef is located just above coral reefs, and it can be very dangerous if you the proper security measures and strategies when falling are not followed properly.


– Point break or rock waves: Waves with rock bottom, headlands or coral. Be careful if you have to surf in this type of water.

Savings: Any reservation you wish to make, try and do it directly with the site instead of booking sites or search engines.

Contact: The telephone signal of the islands is very weak, so it is preferable to contact the hotel or any other service via email, WhatsApp or Facebook messages, for those who have these pages.

Taxis: Taxis on the island usually have extra charges in some hours at night. If you could arrange with the hotel your transfer from the airport to the boat station, that will save you some bucks.

Ice: There are lodging places that provide you with a cooler to keep your drinks and food refrigerated, If that is the case, make sure to buy ice bricks in Cool Shop, on the way to Playa Bluff.

Water: Garbage and non-biodegradable items are a real problem for the archipelago. DO NOT PACK OR BUY small bottles of mineral water. On the other hand, carry rechargeable containers or buy them on the island, they are containers of around 5 liters, which you can recharge at the hotels and take you on your return.

RESOURCES: The good use of natural resources is an obvious recommendation. The energy in most cases is provided by the sun and water is supplied from rainwater systems. Do not waste, but it is necessary to disconnect electrical appliances while not using them.

Cash: Try to have cash, in the town of Bocas del Toro there are two ATMs that sometimes are out of service. Some places only accept cash, precisely because of the low reception and the distance of the islands of the town. Think ahead and be prepared.

Taxes: In Bocas del Toro a small percentage must be paid as a tax on tourism, some hotel rates include it. Make sure to have this clear before making a payment, so you can include this in your budget of expenses.

Food: If you stay in a room or cabin with an included kitchen or plan to go to an island with little trade, it is best to pack long-lasting foods such as canned goods and bread, drinking water. Do not forget the can opener if the occasion warrants it.

Do not forget to pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Repellent
  • Flashlights: The vast majority of places have little night lighting. If you want to have night walks a flashlight will come in handy.

We recommended carrying flashlights with rechargeable batteries, which can be recharged in place.

Special footwear for the water: Remember that many of the surf beaches have reefs when entering, so it is advisable to wear this footwear.

Prepend the digits 011, if you call from the United States, before the code of (507).

(507) It refers to the dialing of international entry to Panama, so if you are in the country there is no need to dial it.

9. Some surf terms

Bodyboard: Table to go lying down, it is smaller than surfing.

Bodysurfing: Surfing with the body.

Arm: Amount of water in a wave, which allows surfing.

Crest: Top of the wave.

Hollow: Concave part of the wall and the arm of the wave, through which the surfer can slide.

Left: Waves that break to the left of the surfer who is taking the wave.

Lip of the wave: Crest or end of a wave tube.

MaretĂłn: coarse Sea with huge waves.

Offshore: Wind in the direction of the sea

Onshore: Wind in the direction of the shore.

Wall: It is the part of the wave that rises and over which the surfer slides.

Peaks: Place where the waves begin to break.

Dish: There are no waves, at that time or place.

Point: Place where the waves break.

Trace: Row towards the peak from the end of the wave.

Spot: Surfing places.

Surfari: Travel arranged for surfers, for that purpose.

Swell: Storm.

Take off: First maneuver and the most important one. It consists of standing on the board.

Tow-in: Term used to the action of being towed to catch waves, in general to surf waves with difficulty to catch them paddling.

Tube: Maneuver more peppered and difficult, it consists of letting yourself be covered by the lip of the wave. it requires a great technique and good position of the surfer in the wave.

Wave sizes:

– Small: Usually one meter high, easy to surf, ideal for beginners. (1 m).

– Half meter: Waves considered medium, up to 1.5 meters high (1.50 m).

– Subway: Waves two meters high. (2 m)

– Last meter: Waves that exceed two meters in height (2 m).

– Subway and medium: Waves that exceed 2.50 meters in height (2.50 m).

Types of waves:

– Bar: This type of waves tends to break in several parts at once, so it slammed the wall, not good for surfing.

– Beach break, sand waves or shore: Waves that break in the sand on the shore. Beach with sand backgrounds. Beach breakers

– Fofa: Waves formed mostly of foam or that break in a hollow form.

– Hollow: It is the one that forms a concave and circular section, ideal for surfing with speed and a lot of strength.

– Coral waves (Reef break): They break on coral reefs, usually have a lot of power but also very dangerous if the surfer falls on the coral reef.

– Point break or rock waves: Waves with rock bottom, headlands or coral.

– Tubera: a Hollow wave that breaks generating a tube inside, where you can surf.

10. Websites that may interest you.

Caribe Shuttle



Phone: (506) 2750-0626

Air Panama – Panama City


Phone: (507) 316-9000

Nature Air – Costa Rica


Phone: (506) 2299-6000

Almirante Ferry – Bocas


Admiral City – Colon Island


6:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Wednesday – Saturday

7:00 am. and 12:00 p.m.


7:00 am.


Colon Island – Admiral City


9:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Wednesday – Saturday

10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.


3:00 pm.

Admiral – Colon Island / Colon Island – Admiral

Phone: (507) 391-1754



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