Surfer Paradise Camp in Panama
A great surfing day with Steve, owner of Surfer Paradise Camp in Panama, Chiriqui area
Steve is the owner of Surfer Paradise Surf Camp in Panama.
To plan your next trip this winter, we asked him 10 questions to find out about the best tips and secrets of his destination...
1 / Hello Steve, in a few words, how and why did you choose to settle down in Panama ?
In the 90 ' I was cruising in Central America and at that time Costa Rica started to be a little too crowded. When I arrived in Panama in 1998, I sought a secluded corner and I found this spot, which is actually made of 2 islands. The Big Island is where the surf camp is, and another smaller island nearby, with perfect waves just for me ! I knew I had found a magical place.
Bungalows are build on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean and since, we regurlarly expanded the site, while having a maximum capacity of 25 surfers.
Panama has quality surf all year round. When the Pacific coast receives no swell, the Caribbean tropical storms generate waves. And especially the destination remains pretty uncrowded !
2 / Who can come (or not) for surf trip in Panama ?
Anyone can come to Panama to surf or even learn to surf. If the country is less known to travelers as Mexico for example, surfing is as varied and on the contrary, it is an original destination, safer and ideal for a stay in Central America. Those starting to surf will also come to Panama, there are all kinds of waves for all levels.
3 / Why Chiriqui area and not Bocas del Toro in the Gulf zone or Panama area ?
Of course Bocas del Toro has excellent spots, but waves season is more limited, from December to March, due to its particular exposure. Breaks around Panama City are polluted. Much of Panamanian surfers living in Panama city capital and remain in the area. They don't hit the road down to Chiriqui, where we are still well preserved from the crowd. To reach the surf camp, it takes 6 hours away, then take a boat to reach the island. Therefore, the closer you are to Panama City, the more likely you will find bigger crowds.
4 / To make the most of the waves, how do you plan the surf ?
We check the surf reports, tide and swell to determine the best places to surf in the morning. Some spots are better at high tide, others depending on the state of the tide and the direction of the swell. We have over 10 spots near the surf camp and we go on expedition with our catamaran on a small island about 30 minutes boat.
5 / Places and areas to avoid ?
Personally, surfers who come here want to avoid the crowds on the spots. Santa Catalina in Veraguas is a great spot, but there are now a dozen surf camps and guesthouses in the area, Fancy the number of guys in water there may be... Especially on week -ends.
6 / Types of waves and beaches ?
There is a wide variety of spots near the surf camp. Lefts, rights, reef spots or point breaks.
Some spots are perfect for big swell while others saturate at that time. We try to adapt ourselves, with the advantage of being on an island that allows you to surf with many swell and winds directions. Our local guides know perfectly the conditions and manage it for the surf clients.
7 / What is a typical day at Surfer Paradise Camp ?
We get up very early, because the conditions are often glassy or offshore winds. We share a hearty breakfast of fruit, pancakes, eggs and coffee before boarding the ship. Normally, the group will be divided between the more advanced surfers and beginners who will travel to different spots.
It's like during Surf cruises, when a surfer is tired, he will paddle to the boat to rest, drink water and / or have a snack. Surf until lunchtime, then sail back to the surf camp.
Breakfast is a hearty and solid meal. Often after a big surf in the morning, most surfers will take a nap in a hammock, lulled by the warm breeze.
After an hour or two, people will either decide to have an evening surf session or doing another activity.
Night falls early we serve dinner around 17:00 PM, according to the surfing conditions. Sometimes when the waves are perfect, dinner time is when everyone has returned from surf. Then we chill, discuss about the day session, watch our video of the day, play cards, table tennis or simply talk with surf mates...
8 / Your favorite beach in the area ?
I love the beach just down the camp, because the vegetation is intact and the background view with the mountains of Chiriqui is wonderful. I do not give you its name, I will tell you when you come see me !
9 / Your restaurants, bars, favorite places to enjoy the atmosphere of Chiriqui ?
The largest city around is David. It's a nice and cool place. It has a lot of good restaurants and even nightclubs. My favorite place is the Pirata Bar and Grill.
10 / When surf is flat, what can we do for fun ?
The camp location is turned towards Nature activities. One can go hiking in the hills and villages, fishing, scuba diving, horseback riding on the beach. Surfers can also practice yoga during the day, facing the waves.
So what are you waiting for to visit us ?
Working for several years in tourism in France and abroad, Jean-Hervé Cristol (aka Jean Révé) also has a large number of kilometer mark traveling around Planet Surf in search of endless summer waves.
In 2004 he created Destination Surf, the first agency specialized in Surf Travel , then Endless Summer a blog with tips, info and travel stories, in order to enjoy and share this rewarding experience with all surf travelers. → Learn more