When you get to Panama City you will notice a few things: the high-rise landscape like Miami, the multitude of casinos, and that there is NO BEACH! Situated right on the Pacific Ocean, Panama City simply doesn’t have a beach and even if it did you probably wouldn’t want to get in the water with all the tankers and ships waiting in the bay to transit the Panama Canal aka not the cleanest water. The closest beach to the city is across the Bridge of the Americas that crosses the canal in a city called Veracruz. The sand is coarse, no waves, and shallow reef that extends out a good hundred or two meters out.
If you are looking for white sand, decent waves, and a comfortable chill vibe to enjoy the tropical weather of Panama then you’ll want to head to Playa Caracol about 1 hour 10 min from the city by private car. Playa Caracol is at the base of the Chame peninsula surrounded by nothing, but nature with a long deep white sand beach. The weather here falls outside the climate zones of the city and is typically a lot drier, sunnier and all around nicer here, so don’t let rain in the city get you down because it’s probably bright and sunny at Playa Caracol.
Long, granular, and white, the beach here is excellent for beach volleyball, chilling, or whatever you do at the beach. There are not any sand flees (chitras) here so your ankles will thank you. One thing to be careful about here are the turtle nests. Some are marked and some are not as I personally came to discover when we happened upon a collapsed turtle nest right next to the clubhouse beach entrance. A storm had rolled through about a week prior to our arrival when we, with the help of the security guard, began to scoop out sand around where the supposed nest was. We discovered a trove of baby turtles that had newly hatched, but were unable to escape the sand prison they found themselves in. We helped 88 living baby turtles escape and freely make their way down to the ocean. The beach may have some little nature-tastic surprises for you.
You'll see a bunch of the baby turtles we released making their way to the water in the photo
If you are a beginning surfer or an expert, Playa Caracol is a sweet left and right beach break. With the right swell you could get some curls. It typically pumps during low tide and gets messy at high tide so recommendation is to make sure you’re there at peak of low tide to catch the best waves. It is pretty consistent year round, averaging 3 ft waves unless a south or southwest swell rolls in and will give you some barrels. Check the tide reports to figure out exactly when you should go based on this info.
Major perk for going here is the surf club and the amenities, which makes it extremely comfortable to hang out all day. At the surf club you can rent longboards, a few shortboard options, chill inside the café with A/C, chill on the beach with lounge chairs, on benches in the grass with palapas and outlets. Oh, and there is wifi throughout the grounds so you can bring your laptop, chill at the tables under the palapas, plug in and do a little work in between sets. Well, at least that is what I do. The restaurant has a decent selection of sandwiches, tacos, and of course seafood. Prices are reasonable considering it is the only option for miles. Access to the club costs about $20 per person for the day and board rentals are about $18 for the day. There are options for surf classes that vary on experience and are priced from $65 up to $250 with options for photo session and videos. Probably my favorite part of this place are the clean bathrooms and showers next to grass so you can get cleaned up and get rid of all that sand before making the ride back to the city.
If you’re itching to surf while you’re in Panama or you just want to hit the beach for the day then my top recommendation is Playa Caracol. If you want to arrange a ride out there or a package deal then reach out and we can arrange it for you.