You like it relaxed, meeting locals and going surfing with less than ten people in the line up? Then Guánico in Panama is the place you want to go.
Thanks to the advice of my friends from the surf and travel magazine laybacktravel.com, I made it to this lovely place with just one local restaurant and one surf hostel at the beach front.
Surfing Playa Guánico
Playa Guánico is a beach break, where you find lefts and rights for all levels. There is also the Guánico Point Break on the other side of the river Guánico, which is for experienced surfers. Watch out, there could be crocodiles, who want to play with you 😉
Playa Guánico picks up swells from all directions and works at a swell-size of 1.5 feet. It is pretty consistent all year round, as the locals have told me.
📷 This is my local friend Roberto.
The atmosphere at this beach was very unique. I was often watching the locals surf. Panama’s number 3 and number 5 surfers are from Playa Guánico. After every session they came over for a little chat, in Spanish of course. Their English is limited. However, they are all very open and friendly. It was just easy going and relaxed.
Taking surf lessons
As I am still a beginner, I took some surf lessons with one of the best surf instructors I have ever met: Justin Merk, a Canadian, who dedicated his life to waves and got his ISA surf instructor diploma on Vancouver Island.
📷 Justin Merk on the beach with his fellow.
The lessons were very well structured. He taught me how to read waves and gain confidence in the water. Furthermore, he explained Magic Seaweed to me and of course he gave me uncountable tips in the water to improve my surfing. One of the most important things he told me: „If you take a wave you have to be 100% committed! It’s all about commitment!“ And this is so true.
He is not working in Guánico anymore, as he wanted to see more of Central America. However, I can recommend you to take lessons with any ISA-certified instructor. They know what they are talking about and they show you how to surf step by step. The quality is so much higher than with any other surf instructor. I met more certified surf instructors in Punto Aposentillo at Rise Up Surf and I had the same experience with them. Read more in the blog about my time at Rise Up Surf Nicaragua.
📷 The map of Panama.
How to get to Playa Guánico by public transport
- Take the bus from the main bus terminal Albrook in Panama City to Las Tablas ($9.50 US). It takes about 4 hours.
- Once you arrive in Las Tablas take a cab to the local bus station ($1 US). There are several local bus stations. However, if you tell the driver that you want to go to Tonosi, he will drop you off at the right station.
- Take the bus from Las Tablas to Tonosi ($3.50 US). It is a 1 hour ride. At 1.30 pm there is a direct bus from Las Tablas to Guánico. (approximately $5.50 US).
- If you don’t catch the direct bus, take a cap from Tonosi to Playa Guánico for about $10 US. A local person gave me a ride. You can always bargain with them.
TIP: If you plan to cook your own meals, go to the super market in Tonosi. At Playa Guánico you will not find any supermarket.