Check out this video in which local surfers Juampi Caraballo and Oli Camarena take Keoni Jones, Kaoli Kohakuloa, both from Hawaii, and Jake Davis from California, around Bocas del Toro in search for some great waves!
One of the great things about Bocas del Toro surfing is that there are plenty of uncrowded surf breaks and if you come along a busier one you can just move on to the next one (or wake up earlier!). Julian Wilson, Ian Walsh and Jamie O'Brien paid us a visit. Check out their video!
And as follows are some of Bocas del Toro's most popular surf breaks!
Map with approximate location of surf breaks in Bocas del Toro
Depending on which break you're going to, it's just a 5 or 10 minute boat ride from town. If you're with others in the boat expect to pay $2 per person each way, or $6 if you're the only person on the boat.
- Old Man's: an A-frame that breaks in the middle of a channel, Old Man's is a fun wave for everyone. Even though it's a reef break, the water is deep enough for it not to be a hazard so it's great for beginners.
- Black Rock: a fun right suitable for beginners, that also breaks in the middle of the channel with a sandy reef bottom. On bigger days it can be more powerful.
- Carenero: the point break that put Bocas del Toro on the surfing map, it has an inner and outer section that when it's big can connect to make for very long rides. With 5 distinct peaks this break can hold a lot of surfers. This break starts working at 4 feet and can hold swells of up to 12 or a bit more. With the right angle, expect hollow and powerful tubes. Plenty of current. Only for intermediate - advanced surfers.
From town you can take a taxi to get to these breaks or just ride a bike. Waikiki is just a 5 minute drive out of town and a taxi should charge you $1. Tiger Tail and Paunch are about a 15 minute drive out of town and a full taxi charges about $8 - $10 per trip (the last 5 minutes are driven over the beach). To Dumpers add about $2 or $3 more and a trip to Bluff should be around $15 for a full taxi. You can also take a boat from town to these breaks.
- Waikiki: located just out of town at Playa El Istmito, this is a mellow beach break with sand bottom suitable for beginners and longboarders. It throws both lefts and rights and is great for beginners to just practice standing up and going straight on the whitewater. It does need a larger swell to start showing and will be breaking smaller than everywhere else. A good place to look for is in front of the Smithsonian Institute.
- Tiger Tail: one of the first breaks that starts showing, it's a fun right-hander when small, and once it is head high or overhead, breaks pretty steep and powerful to both the left and right. When small, it's suitable for beginners but not afterwards. With a sand/reef bottom, if it gets just a bit bigger, it starts closing out as it breaks in a small gap in the reef.
- Paunch: surfers looking for some reef experience can try out Paunch which gently breaks mostly to the left but also has a right. With clean faces great for playing around, Paunch can get quite square if the surf is really big and then only the really experienced should try it out.
- Dumpers: outer dumpers provides one of the fastest rides in town. With a steep drop, surfers should get ready for a short tube. This is a wave you really don't want to fall off, as the reef is exposed right in front of you and there are even caves under the hole where the wave breaks. Inner dumpers provides a longer ride with clean steep walls and at the right size can also give you some really nice tubes.
- Bluff: only for advanced and pro surfers, when conditions are right, Bluff is hollow, fast and very powerful. It breaks almost over the shore and eats boards when it's hungry.
To get to Wizard beach you can grab a boat to Bastimentos and then hike for 30 minutes through the island. To get to Playa Larga or Silverbacks you'll need to arrange a boat with other surfers.
- Wizard Beach / Playa Primera: uncrowded beach break that is great for beginners when small, and can offer pretty good conditions when it gets bigger before it starts closing out.
- Playa Larga / Long Beach: with several breaks it can be another truly world class wave and less crowded than Carenero as it's more difficult to access. When it's on, challenging drops and hollow tubes are in order.
- Silverbacks: an open ocean wave on the west tip of Bastimentos, Silverbacks is only for big wave surfers. It starts showing at about 10 feet when the swell in the open water channel suddenly hits a sharp ledge which drains the reef and produces Bocas del Toro's most powerful and sickest wave. Experts and pro surfers only! Get in early and go to the right as it's easier to get out before it kills you.