Travelling Panama's Pacific Coast

Famed for quality surf breaks without the hectic crowds, jungle hikes and national parks teeming with wildlife, Panama's lesser travelled Pacific Coast has plenty on offer to travellers who prefer to take the road a little less travelled.

Here's a few gems worth checking out on this side of the country: 

Santa Catalina

Although one of Panama's best surf breaks, it's still so underrepresented by travellers. It has a local population of only 500 and literally less than a handful of places to eat. The main break is a reefy point-like wave that can absolutely pump on a good day, There's also a beach break great for beginners on a smaller day just further along the same stretch of beach. 

It's also a great gateway stop if you're planning on visiting Isla Coiba too. 

Isla Coiba

Best visited also when travelling to Santa Catalina, these destinations make the perfect combo. Far less travelled than the likes of Bocas Del Toro but literally teeming with wildlife. This National Park is mostly uninhabited and is now a UNESCO listed nature reserve.

Playa Venao (and Pedasi)

Beginning to increase in popularity, this beautiful beachside village is about 4 hours south of Santa Catalina and is the perfect surf spot for both experienced surfers and those wanting to learn. Only a handful of accommodation options, it's perfectly populated for now, but set to explode in future years without a doubt. There's stacks of backpacker priced accommodation and homestays and other fun activities here include ziplining through the tree tops.

Isla Iguana

The perfect dive and snorkelling spot to combine with a trip to Playa Venao. This island is a Wildlife Refuge, obviously, full with Iguana, you'll also find stacks of fish, turtles and native birds. It's also a white sand beach, unlike most of the Pacific Coast and has beautifully preserved coral reefs.


An hours drive on the same peninsula as Playa Venao, Cambutal is an uncrowded right handed reef break surf spot. The tiny town of only 500 residents are mostly fisherman and the tiny town itself will have you feeling like you're quite literally in the middle of nowhere

Transport Options

Hiring a car is by far the easiest option for flexibility when travelling Panama's Pacific Coast. It's also quite inexpensive, for around $40US a day including taxes. For those on a stricter budget local buses are the go. They travel from Panama City along the Pacific Coast all the way to David however getting to the coastal spots does require changing buses at certain points, a single trip in one direction will cost around $1-$3 US dollars depending on distance. For those on a moderate buses, private transfers are also a possibility but if you plan to drive around to visit different beaches and surfing areas daily, car hire works out the cheaper option.

Alexis ZahnerComment