Bocas del Toro Surf Guide

Bocas del Toro offers a wide range of surf spots from beginner to pro, beach break to reefs and from crowded to empty line-ups. This guide is meant to give you an insight into these waves and when the best conditions are.

The Bocas del Toro Archipelago consists of 9 islands. The islands located on the ocean side receive swells from the Caribbean Sea and all around some of these islands, coral reefs have formed. The swells colliding with these reefs and with some of the sandbanks of the beaches, create beautiful, surfable waves.

Isla Colon

Isla Colon is the main island. Sweet Bocas is located 7 minutes away from main land, by boat. On the ocean side there are 5 major surf spots. With the boats at our disposal, we can always get to the right spots at the right time.


Located just out of town at Playa El Istmito, this is a mellow beach break with sand bottom suitable for beginners and long boarders. 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. If your kids would like to learn how to surf, this is the spot to go to.

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.

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.


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.


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.

Carenero Island

Depending on which break you’re going to, it’s just a 10-15 minute boat ride from Sweet Bocas.

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.


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.

Isla Bastimentos

Isla Bastimentos has several nice breaks. The best part is, they are often not crowded at all.

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. Wizard beach usually works when everything else is too small.

Red Frog Beach / Playa Segundas

A nice break for beginners who would like to try out waves a little bit bigger before they take that extra step. The beach also conveniently has several bars and restaurants. This is a great beach to go to when you want to learn how to surf, while the rest is relaxing on the beach.

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.


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 waves. Experts and pro surfers only! Get in early and go to the right as it’s easier to get out before it kills you.

Secret Spots

The breaks mentioned above are the ones which are accessible to all tourists. They can be found anywhere online, with a bit of research. The simple rule in Bocas del Toro is: The easier/cheaper it is to get to, the more crowded it will be.

At Sweet Bocas, however, there are no limits and no wave is too far away. This opens up some other spots where you will practically be the only one in the water. One of these waves is Kusapin.


At a remote indigenous village called Kusapin, located on a peninsula on the far side of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, there is a magical wave. It is a very heavy beach break, which already works with a little bit of swell.

Surf Season, Swell & General Bocas Surf Info

There are two main swell seasons in Bocas del Toro: the winter season (November through April), which is the primary season (the best months are from December to March) and the summer season (June through August), which is the secondary season (best month is normally July). During the rest of the year, sporadic swells do come through, so some surf can almost always be had if you know where to go, with the flattest months generally being September and October, which in contrast provide the driest months and best ocean visibility, perfect for spear-fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving.

During the entire year, water temperatures remain constant between 26° and 29°C (80° and 85° F) so you’ll never need a wetsuit and you’ll always be able to surf in warm tropical conditions. The water is turquoise and transparent and you can even see the reef while you surf. Another advantage about surfing in the Caribbean is that there is a really small tide coefficient between high and low tides, which allow you to surf the same break all day long. There are plenty of reef breaks in Bocas del Toro, so if you’re not used to it, booties can come in handy.

Bocas del Toro surf has been compared to Hawaii’s north shore (on a smaller scale) and certain places in Indonesia. The way the bottom drops off the coast is one of the reasons why the waves break with so much power in Bocas del Toro. Even though Bocas del Toro only receives short period swells (mostly under 11 seconds), the dramatic drops in the continental shaft create hollow, barrelling waves. Add to that some reef, a little sand or a certain angle to the coast line, consistent seasonal swell seasons, and you got yourself some serious tropical world class surf.

The winter season swells (November through April) are produced by the combination of a) the Intertropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres come together), b) the dry winds of the northern coast of Colombia and certain Caribbean islands which are practically deserts, and c) the Caribbean high pressure systems that form every winter in the mid Atlantic, providing significant push and pressure gradient differences. The result of these three combined factors is a massive acceleration of low pressure pushing constant north eastern swell into Bocas’ wave window, which does not stop for weeks or even months at a time. Another swell contributor which brings a more northerly swell comes from the low-pressure systems that drive swell down from the Gulf of Mexico into other spots of the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro.

The summer season’s swell is produced by the early hurricane season coming off Africa (Bocas del Toro is not within the Hurricane zone by the way). Just like during the winter, the swell glides over the Atlantic and accelerates thanks to the high-pressure systems of the Caribbean, and then hits several dry and windy islands in the Caribbean and northern coast of South America, producing the same type of NE swell as in the winter.