The internationally famous surf break at Santa Catalina has been described as a “perfect” point break with long, powerful hollow waves that break left and right. The sea bottom is volcanic rock, so bring booties. This place is strictly for experienced surfers; it’s all too easy to bust a board or a head on those rocks. There’s also a sand beach break next to town with hollow lefts and rights that are somewhat smaller than waves at the point.
Several other breaks in the area are less well known. Punta Brava, about a half-hour walk southeast of Santa Catalina point, is a hollow left-hand, rock-bottom break which can get twice as big as those at Santa Catalina. Punta Roca, about a half-hour walk northeast of Catalina, is another left-hand point break, about the same size as Catalina. Except for the Santa Catalina point break, which can be surfed at medium or high tide, experienced surfers say these other waves can be ridden only at medium to low tide.
Isla Cebaco, which is accessible only by boat, is an island with a beach break and point break, with left- and right-breaking waves that tend to be somewhat bigger than Catalina point. The truly ambitious can opt for a trip to Isla Montuosa, 3–4 hours west of Coiba. The waves here have five-meter faces and are shallow, hollow, and powerful. Do not attempt to surf them unless you really know what you’re doing. This is far, far away from any hospital. This is a two-day trip.
Some of the surf camps rent surfboards, though expect these to be pretty banged up. The going daily rate is US$10 for a short board or US$15 for a long board. There’s a surf shop (cell 6451-9939, 6 A.M.–9 P.M. daily) in a house a few minutes’ walk up the road that leads to the surf camps. The managers live in the house, so there should usually be someone around. Half-day rentals, at half the daily rate, are available, as are boogie-board rentals (US$7.50/day).
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition