Central America Let’s Go!

By David Bolaños on Feb 03, 2022

Of all the surf destinations in the world, Central America might include some of the most overlooked. It’s an injustice, as the region has so much to offer!

Hidden Right In Front Of Us

So many people look the wrong way when it comes to surf travel. It’s common to look at the destinations that surf mags and video clips point out, but there are so many others that consistently pour out perfect waves, far from the crowded lineups of famous spots.

Costa Rica is a perfect surf destination for both beginners and intermediate surfers, which encompasses the great mass of who we are as a tribe. It has fun waves, unique biodiversity, a mild climate, and the vibe is friendly and inviting. For a fact, Costa Rica has claimed the top spot in the Happy Planet Index rankings four times in a row, ranking the best places to live in terms of happiness and overall wellbeing.

Selina Costa Rica

Embrace a life without borders! Work, stay, and explore Costa Rica!

Surfers from all over the world are heading there on a more regular basis, assured of good waves, and those offshore winds that blow all day. What Costa Rica might lack in wave size, it quickly eclipses with consistency as well as fun. Beach-break barrels are the reason why so many of us flock there!

Enter Central America

One of the most accessible destinations in the world to get to, Panama City, is the hub that will get you to the Central American surf scene. This scene is like a surf vibe anywhere in the world, with unique people stoked on surfing and doing what they can to get a few barrels.

It is less of a surf center than a place like Bali, with a different, more exaggerated surf culture that moves a bit slower and more relaxed than other made-for-surfing developments worldwide.

The biggest plus for a traveling surfer is that Central America is relatively small, wedged between two massive, sprawling landmasses. As such, it is easy to traverse, a cinch to get to several surf spots in a short amount of time, and that same consistency we spoke about earlier. It really is a destination to get your wave count up and rapidly improve your surfing performance levels. You will also be able to surf both the Pacific – and Caribbean coast during the same surf trip, which is quite unique!

Due to the lie of the land, most waves are beach breaks, with very few reefs and points. The few reefs don’t break far out, so there is little to no use for boats for access. There is also vast biodiversity in Central America, making for a further glorious experience when visiting. Nature at its finest, and waves on tap.

One Month Surfing Through Panama & Costa Rica

The team at Surfers Hype recently went to Central America. As an outcome of this trip, we made a surf travel itinerary to commemorate our travels and highlight our favorite surf destinations in Central America. So keep reading to get inspiration for your next surf trip!

Panama City Airport: Our surf trip begins in Panama City.

Tocumen International Airport in Panama is a good starting point for a surf trip in Central America since it’s one of the biggest airports in the region, which makes it easy to find good flight deals regardless of your nation and starting point.

1. Panama City: Day 1-2

Panama is a highly underrated city, in our opinion. While many people only see it as a financial hub and a city with good flight connections, Panama has so much more to offer. Panama is a vibrant city where the old town of Casco Viejo blends with all the skyscrapers and creates an interesting beautiful contrast. We are staying in Casco Viejo to get a feeling for the charm and authentic character of the city.

There are plenty of things to do and explore in Panama City, and these are some of our best recommendations:

  • Stroll down the iconic streets of Casco Viejo – The UNESCO World Heritage-designated Old Town.
  • Visit the impressive Panama Canal – An artificial waterway of a 48mi (77km) connecting the Atlantic- and the Pacific Oceans.
  • Explore The Biomuseo – The first biodiversity museum in the world
  • Have a drink at one of the cities many rooftop bars
  • Hike up Cerro Ancón (Ancon Hill) to reach the best viewpoint in town – A tropical lush green peek in the city center.

2. Playa Venao: Day 3-6

From Panama City, we travel to Playa Venao – A scenic five-hour drive by public bus or private shuttle. Playa Venao is the first stop on our surf trip, and by now, we are excited to get in the ocean and catch our first waves in Central America! The small and tranquil beach town is known for its good surf conditions and laid-back vibe. Located on the Pacific coastline of The Azuero Peninsula, Playa Venao is a unique destination where the jungle meets the picturesque black sand beach.

Selina hostel in Playa Venao offers the perfect settings for our stay in Playa Venao, with its beachfront location, surfboard rentals, yoga classes, Caribbean-inspired restaurant, coworking space, and much more.

Selina has made it very accessible to stay in a remote beach town like Playa Venao by having all these incredible facilities On-site.

3. Bocas Del Toro: Day 7-12

From Selina in Playa Venao, we book a shuttle bus to traverse the country and reach the Caribbean coastline of Panama. After a short boat ride, we arrive at our final destination for the day, Bocas Del Toro.

One of the jewels in the crown of Central America has to be Bocas Del Toro. Island life, with no vehicles, the locals forecast surf when they experience the slapping of water under their water-houses, meaning that the motor has turned on and the waves are coming. With a feast of waves within striking distance on foot, a place like Bocas is the perfect place to get a feel for Central America.

The Caribbean chain of islands is known for its strong surf, including iconic spots such as the infamous deepwater slab, Silverbacks.

We check-in with Selina to get the full surf experience, as Selina has joined forces with Volcom to create a surf club that offers complete packages for a tailored surf experience. Selina has two separate locations in Bocas Del Toro; one at Isla Colon and one at Red Frog Beach.

4. Puerto Viejo: Day 13-15

After spending nearly two weeks in Panama, we have gotten a feel for the conditions and are starting to see some improvement in our surfing, thanks to the help from the coaches at Selina Surf Club.

Now, it’s time to head towards Costa Rica for the next part of this adventure.

Puerto Viejo is the first town we reach as we cross the border on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. We are here at the beginning of the year because the surf tends to be best from January to April. Still, the surf conditions on the Caribbean coastline tend to be less consistent than on the Pacific, so we have mentally prepared ourselves for a possible lay-day. We have researched things to experience in the area and found the Jaguar Rescue Center and the national park.

Selina surprises us once again with an outstanding beachfront location and the same unique vibe and Selina-DNA as we experienced during our stays in Panama.

Selina Costa Rica

Embrace a life without borders! Work, stay, and explore Costa Rica!

5. Manuel Antonio: Day 16-22

Today, we are getting up early to catch a bus across the country to reach our next destination, Manuel Antonio.

Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is a lush tropical paradise with flora and fauna that highlights the biodiversity of Costa Rica. It’s an absolute gem surrounded by the jungle and Manuel Antonio Park. The beaches in the region are outstanding; in fact, Manuel Antonio beach was awarded as one of the top 25 beaches in the world – by Tripadvisors Travelers’ Choice Award 2019.

Adventure seekers will find plenty of things to do in Manuel Antonio, but we are here to surf, and the surf scene doesn’t disappoint! The beaches are beautiful, the waves are consistent, and the surf spots are less crowded than other places in Costa Rica – What’s not to like?

Selina hosts us once again, and their hostel in Manuel Antonio provides a perfect work-life balance. With a cowork space to get work done between surf sessions, an outdoor yoga deck to recover, and some unique common areas; including a bar & restaurant, a jungle garden, and three outdoor swimming pools – The perfect surroundings to mingle and meet like-minded travelers.

It’s so easy to fall in love with Manuel Antonio – the people, the food, and the stunning nature make the time here feel like a lucid dream.

6. Santa Teresa: Day 23-29

Today we are heading towards our final destination of this 4-week surf trip. We have saved the most hype and popular destination for last, and we are excited to experience everything Santa Teresa has to offer.

It is a popular destination among backpackers, yogis, and surfers, and in recent years it has become one of the best digital nomad hubs in Central America.

The stylish beach town oozes surf and defines the meaning of a coastal lifestyle with its bohemian vibe. Santa Teresa offers top-class restaurants, a lot of cool bars, and small boutique cafés. It’s the perfect place for long-term stays, where you will be able to combine your passion for surfing with a remote job. For this reason, you will find many cool freelancers in this city.

The surf scene lives up to the hype, and there are plenty of surf schools and board rental shops in town, that will get you prepared for all the good surf spots.

We’ve really started to love the Selina concept during this trip, and their hostels make us feel at home despite the change of surroundings and county. They are very consistent with their concept, and their DNA is extremely recognizable. Booking with them has made our trip enjoyable, productive, and hassle-free!

Selina got two individual locations in Santa Teresa – but we chose to stay at Selina Santa Teresa North, as it is another location that facilitates their surf club partnership with Volcom.

7. San José: Day 30

An amazing surf trip in Central America has come to an end. Panama surprised us, and it is truly a hidden gem that deserves to be explored. Costa Rica showed off from its best side and lived up to the hype. Amazing surf spots, beautiful nature, friendly local people, and outstanding wildlife.

On our last day of the trip, we travel from Santa Teresa to San José, the capital of Costa Rica. It is the final destination and end to our journey before hopping on a plane back home in Juan Santamaria International Airport.

Final thoughts…

We hope you enjoyed following along on our journey through Central America, searching for perfect waves! It has hopefully brought some inspiration for your next surf trip.

Selina Costa Rica

Embrace a life without borders! Work, stay, and explore Costa Rica!

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