Santa Catalina Panama Surf Guide {2023}

Are you considering a trip to explore the Santa Catalina Panama surf? You’re in the right place!

Whether you are a beginner, advanced or professional surfer, the Santa Catalina Panama surf offers plenty of fun for everybody. 

The Santa Catalina Panama surf provides world class fast barreling waves, nice mellow beach breaks and everything in between! Santa Catalina lies a bit remote and that makes it a literal hidden gem, with less crowds so lots of waves to catch.

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How to get to Santa Catalina

Tropical green forest behind a sandy beach next to the Santa Catalina Panama surf

Because of the remoteness of Santa Catalina, it can be a bit tricky to get there. From Panama City the fastest way is to take a private shuttle, the shuttle will take around 6 hours and cost about $450, this saves you a couple of transfers and you will be picked up and dropped off at a location of your choice. 

From David and Panama City you can also take public transport to Santiago and hop on the next bus to Sona. 

If you go all the way with public transportation, it will take around 8 hours to get there and this will cost you around $15. I myself took a taxi in Santiago and that cost me $65 dollars. 

Santa Catalina surf overview

Panama is one of my favorite countries to surf! What makes Santa Catalina surf so amazing is that there are almost no crowds, and you will really connect with the locals. 

Santa Catalina has beautiful nature and lots of wildlife. Isla Coiba is close and definitely worth a visit. There is also surf there and I recommend taking a tour guide who can show you some secret spots by boat.

 Isla Coiba is world famous for its scuba diving and snorkeling. It also has a National Parc full of amazing nature and wildlife, so plenty to see on the off days. 

The different Santa Catalina surf breaks

Huge, barreling wave breaking in front of surfers, Santa Catalina Panama surf

Between Santa Catalina and Punta Brava, there are many surf spots, and also on the islands of the coast of Santa Catalina you can find some waves in the wilderness. I will break down some of the spots for you. 

Santa Catalina

The Santa Catalina surf point provides a very nice peeling right that works almost every day. This is the most crowded spot in Santa Catalina, especially the outside section. In the early morning there is almost no wind or a small offshore breeze. This wave works best with high and mid tide. 

El Estero

Located just outside of town you can find the beautiful beach of El Estero. You have to cross a little river to get there, and with high tide it can be tricky. So be sure to plan your trip back to town. El Estero provides lefts and rights, on the lower days it provides nice longboard waves, and this is an ideal spot for beginners. 

Punta Brava

This spot takes more swell and is usually higher than Santa Catalina point. It provides a challenging left for experienced surfers, because of the bottom being full of rocks. The paddle out can be challenging. 

It is recommended to go here by boat and just jump off without doing much paddling and risk getting caught inside. If you do go for the paddle out, I recommend some booties for the sharp reef and urchins. 

Punta Roca

This break provides a consistent hollow left wave that breaks over a reef. From Santa Catalina Surf point it is a half hour walk to Punta Roca.

 It is not the easiest trek to walk but the view if you arrive at Punta Roca is really amazing. It is also possible to go by boat which I prefer because of the sharp reef and urchins. 

This spot works best on mid tide. 

San Pedrillo

This beach break, located on a beautiful beach, provides fast hollow waves that go left and right. If there is not a lot of swell coming in, it is a good idea to check out this spot. 

It starts working with a small swell (3 feet) and the wave is often empty. If you want to go for a swim, be aware of the strong currents here. 


This spot is located just off Santa Catalina, on a little Island. You often find yourself there alone on the beach and in the water. It provides a fast hollow left and is best surfed from low to mid tide.

Where to stay for a Santa Catalina Panama surf trip

Hotel Santa Catalina Panama

This surf hotel literally overlooks the ocean, has a gorgeous pool, beautiful rooms, and is a short walk from El Estero. 

Rancho Estero Surf Camp

Rancho Estero Surf Camp overlooks Playa Estero, includes three surf lessons, board rentals, accommodation, and breakfast. 

Bodhi Santa Catalina

If you’re on a budget, this awesome surf hostel is affordable, close to the surf, and has lovely rooms and social areas. 

Hostel Villa Vento Surf

This surf hostel is super affordable, has a pool, $1 beers, is clean, and has great social areas. 

Best swell(s) for Santa Catalina:

Santa Catalina surf works best with a South to Southwest swell. There is a consistent swell coming in during the rainy season which provides waves between 3-16 feet. 

Santa Catalina surf seasons

The best season is from April to October (rainy season). Especially if you are an advanced or experienced surfer. 

For beginners it is good all year around. 

During the rainy season, the rain can be very heavy sometimes. There is an offshore wind almost all year around which can get a bit strong in the afternoons. 

The water temperature in Santa Catalina ranges from 79°F to 82°F (26°C to 28°C). The air temperature is between 72°F to 88°F (23°C to 31°C), and Santa Catalina has a tropical climate with lots of rain and humidity. 

There is a short dry season between December and April, but the humidity level will stay high during this period. 

Santa Catalina Panama surf FAQ’s

Is Santa Catalina safe?

Santa Catalina is safe, especially during the day you can walk around and explore alone. But I do not recommend driving or walking at night because the roads have no streetlights, so it is difficult to see people and there are also cattle walking on the road. 

Is Santa Catalina a good surf spot for beginners?

Absolutely! Santa Catalina surf provides some perfect beginner waves. Not all the spots are recommended for beginners, but there are more than enough mellow beach breaks to learn how to surf, like El Estero. 

There are a variety of surf schools and surf camps. 

What are the best months to surf in Panama?

Santa Catalina surf is best between April and October with June and July being considered the best months with most consistent swell and offshore winds. 

Where can I surf in Santa Catalina, Panama?

The Santa Catalina surf provides some world class waves and has many secret spots with empty waves just for you alone. Most surf spots can be reached by boat, and it is definitely a good idea to hire a local tour guide to take you to the real hidden gems and secret spots to surf just by yourself. 

Santa Catalina surf guide- final thoughts

So, if you are in much need of some vitamin sea and itching to catch some world class, uncrowded waves, you should definitely check out what the Santa Catalina Surf has to offer you! 

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