Surfing at Bocas del Toro
The Bocas del Toro Islands are particularly good for surfing.
Swell is produced by strong trade winds and cold fronts coming in from the Caribbean
Sea. In addition there is deep ocean trench just offshore and favourable local
winds. The combination produces potent short period swells. The biggest and
most consistent swells come to Bocas from December through March. You can also
expect to find great waves during June and July.
The surf produced is a combination of coral reef breaks and
powerful beachbreaks and is recommended for experienced shortboarders. Bocas
del Toro's waves generally favour shortboarding and bodyboarding, and the surf
tours are geared for the experienced surfer seeking performance waves and tubes.
The planes to and from Bocas do not accept longboards or funboards, max. length
accepted is 7 feet (plus or minus a few inches), and it is not practical to
ship longboards by land (12 hours from Panama city).
Bocas can offer different breaks, anything from long, barelling,
reef point breaks, to powerful beach breaks, reefs with steep drops and spitting
tubes. The islands of Bocas catch just about every swell direction and surf
is rarely under 4 feet and gets to up to 25 foot faces with a good swell. The
main surfing spots are
- Bluff Beach, Isla Colon. This is a long
beach with very strong waves not always good for surfers. The long underwater
drop off makes long and continuous waves that break almost in the beach. A
sand bottom beach break, breaking very close to the beach. This place is normally
surfed by bodyboarders. The wave is powerful and wave snaps lots of boards.
It normally gets about 2 feet bigger than Dumps and Punch.
- The Dump, Isla Colon. The Dump is the favorite
of local surfers, but a little dangerous with many coral reefs close to the
waves.A reef bottom left hander. Steep drops and super powerful with a tube.
The wave is short and ends on top of a rock on the inside. There is an inside
break that is a longer ride, but not as tubular and it only breaks when the
Dump is about 7 to 8 feet. The surf can get as big as 12 feet, but that’s
when the inside Dumpers starts really firing.
- Paunch, Isla Colon. A reef bottom right
and left break. There are 2 or 3 different peaks you can take off from. This
wave is more mellow than Dumpers and not quite as powerful. Most of the less
experienced surfers go out here because it is a fun wave and less dangerous
than most of the other breaks at Bocas. It can get as big as 12 feet, and
the wave holds size well. The bigger the the wave, the more perfect the tube
- First and Second Beach, Bastimentos. This
is a long beach break. The beach has a reef point break, and then beach break
in the middle. The beach break is very powerful and when there is a large
swell it tends to close out. Generally, it gets much bigger at First Beach
than any of the other breaks (except Silver Backs), so when the other breaks
are only a 1-3 feet, you can get fun 4-6 foot beach break surf here.
- Carenero Cay, northern tip. A little dangerous
with many coral reefs close to the waves. A left hand reef bottom point break
that breaks on the outside of a round shaped reef and wraps along the edge
of the reef for a ride about 150 yards long. The wave is powerful and pitches
some very long tube sections. When conditions are perfect you can get 5 to
6 second tube rides
- SilverBacks - A right hand big wave reef
bottom point break, breaking out in the deep ocean, but close to an outer
island, about a 30 minute boat ride from Bocas. The wave breaks on most swells.
When th other spots are 6 to 7 feet, this place can be twice that, and gets
sometimes to 25 foot faces.
Boras del Toro
Bocas del Toro Information