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Panama is a beach and island lover’s paradise, with its two long coastlines and more than a thousand islands. Where else on earth can you surf in the Pacific Ocean in the morning and take an evening dip in the Caribbean Sea, all in the same day?

We’ve scoured the best beaches Panama has to offer. Here are our top 12, in no particular order. Since each beach has its own charm and unique characteristics, it would be almost impossible not to be able to find the tropical beach atmosphere you seek somewhere along the coast of Panama.

Panama best beaches

Ceclia Beth

1. Santa Clara & Farallón, Pacific Coast: These two are the most appealing beaches along the Pacific Coast, and the best for swimming. Best of all, they lie within a 2-hour drive of Panama City. Here the water is bluer and the sand is whiter than what you’ll find in many neighboring beaches closer to the city.

panama best beaches


2. Isla Bastimentos National Park, Bocas del Toro: Cayos Zapatillas, or the “Slippers Islands” (so-called because they resemble footprints), not only fulfill the beach lover’s fantasy with their soft sand backed by a tangle of jungle. They are also surrounded by a rich display of coral that attracts hordes of fish, which makes for some excellent snorkeling.

Panama best beaches


3. Boca Chica, Chiriquí: We are a bit partial to Boca Chica, which offers pristine ocean views of tropical blue seas, lush vegetation, and remote islands with white sand beaches and swaying palms. Not to mention, this area also offers world-class fishing, diving, and snorkeling.

panama best beaches

Michael McKenzie

4. Santa Catalina, Veraguas: Originally a highly coveted secret surf spot, Santa Catalina probably has the most consistently great waves in Panama. It is the closest access point to Isla Coiba with its world class diving, pristine beaches, and nature reserve.

panama best beaches

César Duarte

5. Contadora Isand, Panama:  The beaches here are sandy brown, with warm waters suited for snorkeling and swimming. Contadora Island is one of Panama’s more affordable beach destinations.


Haakon S.Krohn

6. San Blas Islands, Guna Yala: This is by far Panama’s premier beach destination with with powdery white sand, extensive coral reefs, piercing turquoise water, and clusters of enticing palm trees. The indigenous and colorful Kuna population administers this province, and their unique culture is one of the best reasons to visit the region.

panama best beaches

Gaspar Serrano

7. Las Perlas Archipelago, Panama: The Pearl Islands are a relatively unsung beach destination, despite the fact that this Pacific archipelago is close to Panama City, has some of the country’s best snorkeling, and boasts white sand beaches and calm waters. Outside of holidays and the hard-core summer, you won’t find crowds here, even during weekends. It’s well worth a short boat ride to enjoy solitude at one of Panama’s best beaches.

Chuck Holton

Chuck Holton

8. Isla Coiba National Park, Veraguas: This island is Panama’s number one diving site. It’s rather remote, but its incredible beaches and the Isla Coiba National Park make it worth the excursion. If the main island is too crowded, try venturing to Granito de Oro where the beaches are so idyllic that midsize cruise ships make stops here.

panama best beaches

Andy B.

9. Las Lajas, Chiriquí: One of the lesser known beaches in Panama, Las Lajas is worth a visit, with its swaying palm trees and perfect water temperature. This beach is known for having just the right amount of waves for bodysurfing. Given that the beach stretches for more than 8 miles, it is also the perfect walking beach as well.

best panama beaches

Manuele Zunelli

10. La Barqueta, Chiriquí: Strong currents at this black sand beach mean the water is not ideal for swimming. However, like Las Lajas, it is lengthy and good for walking. It’s also home to an impressive nature reserve.

panama best beaches

Roman Königshofer

11. Playa Los Destiladores & Playa Venao, Azuero Peninsula: There are a multitude of beaches lining the coast of this peninsula, but these two are the best. Located within a 20-minute drive from one another, you can surf both in one day. Not into surfing? Try the protected cove at Playa Venao, where it is calm enough for a swim, or travel a bit farther east for the best beach surfing hotspot.

Burica Panama

Emerging Terrains

12. Burica, Chiriquí: Looking for an underpopulated stretch of some of Panama’s best beaches? Burica, apart from a few small towns and one accommodation, is absolutely desolate. So what is its attraction? Lots and lots of isolated beaches, rows of palm trees, and at times surfable waves. The beach is formed with gray sand and striated rocks that stretch all the way out into the sea.

Which of these Panama beaches is your favorite? Are there any others you think we should have included? Comment and let us know!

Central America has become a tourist hotspot for those looking to surf epic waves a short plane ride away. Some surfers fell in love with the beautiful landscape, the warm people, and the excellent surf and decided to create a home for themselves.


Mark Veraat

There is plenty of undiscovered stunning coastline and great surfing all over Central America. But for those looking to live or invest, what are the surf towns that you could actually live in?

We’ve compiled a list of the towns that have strong communities and basic amenities for those who enjoy a side of comfort with their morning surf.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Tamarindo is Costa Rica’s top destination for surf tourism. Surf schools are aplenty and surfing has become integral to the local culture. All skill levels can surf here as there are beach, rivermouth, and reef breaks. It is also located near many other beaches for surfing day trips. Just north of Playa Tamarindo are Witch’s Rock and Ollie’s Point, which became world famous from the film Endless Summer II.

Located a short one hour drive on a paved road from the Liberia International airport, Tamarindo is highly accessible from North America. As a result it is one of the most tourist frequented towns in Costa Rica and the tourist businesses thrive. There are also many more amenities here than in other parts of Costa Rica, including plenty of restaurants, shopping, and bars. This gives the area a fairly North American feel, which some people may enjoy while others may not. However outside of town it is still possible to find peace, tranquility, and even waves all for yourself.

Santa Catalina, Panama


Guillermo Duran

Until recently Santa Catalina was a secret kept by the locals who enjoyed its excellent surf. While still a small, quiet town, Santa Catalina is the top surf destination in all of Panama. It is now bringing surfers from all over the world and actually hosted the 2010 ISA World Master’s Surfing Championship.

The influx of health conscious surfing expats in recent years has developed an overall health conscious attitude in the area. It is one of the few towns in all of Panama that has health food and yoga.

The town is still difficult to access which has kept it quiet and relatively undeveloped. Consequently land prices, even beachfront, are quite low. However Santa Catalina is rapidly paving its way as the next big surf destination in Central America which makes investing now an excellent opportunity.

Playa Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

Playa Guiones (sometimes called Nosara after the region it’s in) is one of the most beloved towns in all of Central America by expats, and in large part due to the surf. It has some of the most versatile surf in the country with waves surfable at any tide level.

At the shore are clean rows of white water for beginners, further out is an intermediate break, and on the outside are expert level waves. There is also a volcanic reef break at Playa Pelada as well as rivermouth break near the Nosara River for experts. Plenty of other nearby beaches have great surfing as well.

The town itself boasts two exceptional private schools, several world class yoga retreat centers, delicious international cuisine, raw health food cafes, kickboxing, pilates, and tons of other activities. There is an organic grocery store in town as well as a farmers’ market and local organic produce delivery service. The town is known for its strong expat community and dedication towards health and sustainability.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua


Jeff R.

This crescent-shaped bay surf town is the gateway to many of Nicaragua’s best beaches. Just across the border from Costa Rica’s famed Nicoya Peninsula, San Juan del Sur enjoys similar weather, landscape, and surf. Playa Maderas is a twenty minute drive from the center of San Juan del Sur and picks up most of the swells that hit Nicaragua. It is a fun spot for surfers of all levels.

San Juan del Sur is the most popular tourist destination in Nicaragua because of the incredible surfing opportunities. As a result there are many hotels, restaurants, bars, yoga studios, and plenty of other North American luxuries. It can become touristy and crowded at times, but the nearby beaches are often completely deserted.


Central America is a great place for surf lovers with the desire to live among world class waves. These are just a few of the best spots for those looking to relocate. What are some of your favorites?

If you’re hoping to retire to a beach haven overseas, may we suggest Panama? The Latin American country has a great deal of culture to offer, as well as beautiful scenery and fabulous weather. And the Panama beaches are an important part of the package.

Panama has many draws as an overseas retirement location, including vibrant communities, great quality inexpensive housing, and the beaches are some of the best. In fact, one of the best things about the country is that it has beaches leading onto two oceans: the Pacific and the Caribbean. In fact, Panama has over 1,500 miles of coastline!

Panama Beaches

In the past, Panama’s beaches have often been overlooked. Many of them are very rural and remote, and they haven’t typically been popular tourist destinations. However, there are some absolutely gorgeous areas of coastline in the country, and we don’t think that you should overlook them.

If you’re thinking about visiting or retiring to Panama, take a look at these top five beach areas in the country.


coronado panama beaches

Coronado Panama

 Photo by Roberto Moreno

Set only an hour away from Panama City, Coronado is a beach town that is well-loved by expats and Panamanians alike. The beaches themselves are an impressive site to behold. The beaches in this area have fantastic black and white sand, and are great fun to visit.

Away from the beach, the town of Coronado also has a range of leisure facilities including bars, restaurants, shops and a plaza area. This is a very popular area, and has a great expat community. This area is very different from the rest of the beach areas on the list: purely because of how developed it is. Coronado is the destination for you if you want to be able to shop in an American-style grocery store and meet up with friends for a nearby round of golf.

Boca Chica

The Boca Chica area is wonderful if you’re looking for a rural, romantic spot to spend time with a loved one. The landscape here is made up of hills, valleys, and banana plantations. It also has a perfectly tropical climate. In the past, this was a very remote area, but it is fast becoming the next up and coming spot. The new airport in nearby David will soon be accommodating direct flights to the United States and Canada, which will make traveling here very easy.

The beaches in Boca Chica benefit from fine sand, dark beautiful water, and a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. Factor in the Chiriqui Marine Park, and the coast at Boca Chica is very attractive.

Bocas Del Toro


 Photo by Rita Willeart

Bocas Del Toro is an area that’s made up of six islands, along with a number of uninhabited islets. It’s a beautiful part of the country, and is described by Conde Nast as “the Caribbean that time forgot.”

This area is popular with tourists and expats for many reasons. It has a great community, and is also home to some of the most typically beautiful beaches in the whole of Panama.

Here, you can expect to see flawless white sandy beaches and clear, turquoise water. Because of this, the beaches in this area are particularly popular snorkelling destinations.

Santa Catalina


 Photo by Chuck Holton

The Lonely Planet has reported that Santa Catalina has the potential to be the next great Central American beach destination.

This laid-back town is mainly populated by laid-back Panamanian fishermen, but it does have a huge draw for tourists and expats alike: great surf! The beaches of Santa Catalina offer incredible surfing opportunities. Because of this, the town is growing, and is developing more and more facilities for expats.

Because of the relaxed atmosphere of the town, it also has a growing reputation for having a healthy attitude. There’s a real focus in the town on healthy food, as well as yoga. Santa Catalina is one of the few places in Panama with this sort of vibe.



Pedasi is a small town set in the outback of Panama. It’s a relaxed, low-key place with a rich history of folklore. If you visit the town, you can expect to be greeted by friendly residents, great food, and maybe even a beach party or two. There’s also something a little out of the ordinary waiting for you at Pedasi. In this area, some of the beaches feature beautiful lava covered sand.

But it’s not all quiet here. There are also a great deal of sports opportunities to choose from. Whether you’re into surfing, scuba diving, sports fishing, or horseback riding, you’ll find something to enjoy in the area.

The one downside of Pedasi is that property prices are quite high here compared to other rural areas with limited services.

Is One of these Panama Beach Areas Right for You?

Panama is a beautiful country that offers a lot more value for money than other more typical holiday or retirement destinations. It’s an inexpensive place to live, and this is true even in some of the more popular coastal areas.

If you’re looking for the ideal beach destination, to visit or even to retire to, one of these five areas might be the one for you.