top of page

Perfect Waves and Wild Camping Adventure in Panama

This beach has the perfect waves to surf all year round and it is still untouched by tourism. Read about a surfer's wild camping adventure on Playa Morillo in Panama.

The back of a laptop with stickers and a DJ in Bocas del Toro, Panama

by Betsy Salcedo

7 de jul de 2023

I wanted to have the camping adventure of my life and decided to go to the only place in the world where you can see the sunrise on the Pacific and the sunset on the Atlantic. To my boyfriend and I, it seemed that every good spot in Central America was crawling with tourists. So we decided to think outside the box and travel to Playa Morrillo in Panama. Connected to both the Caribbean and the Pacific Sea, with more than 1700 miles of coast, surfers love Panama for its year-round surfing destinations. I had heard about Playa Morrillo in a quick chat of two surfers talking about Panama when I was surfing in Costa Rica. Perfect waves and no big crowds: Playa Morillo, here we come!

You Probably Never Heard About Playa Morrillo

Playa Morrillo is a beach located in the Veraguas province approximately 5 hours from Panamá City. It’s still an uncharted destination because there is no development nearby, the closest pueblito is 30 minutes away. 

On your way there you will see a two-way street with a lot of pastures, horses and cows and once you see the entrance of the beach you will pass through a dirt road, a river, old palm trees, and the great waves from the Pacific Ocean that will blow your mind. When it’s almost flat everywhere else this sand bar has decent size waves that, with the right tide, will let you experience fast barrels and hollow sections. Locals proudly say that “Morrillo has the most consistent wave in the country”. 

It’s not unusual to see tents pitched on the sand alongside surfboards. If you want a magical and memorable adventure, I highly recommend that you wild camp on the beach. There's something special about this place: the calm it transmits to those who visit and the remoteness of the location. Of course for a surfer, the waves are a big part of the magic that I am talking about, but more than that, we felt so at home there since the first night setting up camp. Every morning when I unzipped our tent, I felt like I was starring in Blue Lagoon (always with at least a bikini on).

A Coca Cola cool sign in the main street of Isla Colon

we set up camp on this little shack

Best Time to Go

Panama only has two seasons: dry and rainy. The rainy season starts in April and finishes in December. For me, the worst thing on a camp mission is the rain. I really hate that and it is ironic because the best time to surf is in the winter due to the powerful swells, they bring the biggest waves which means fewer “flat” days. It wasn’t easy to pick the dates of the trip but I made the best decision setting off in March until mid-April. We had less than 3 rainy days during our stay and I call that a success!

Logistics and Budget

There are no buses that can take you to this beach so we rented a car. That was the best way to save time and have the freedom to do what we wanted, when we wanted. The rental would be our transportation and our home during our trip.  

We bought all the camping gear at the Do It Center which is a massive hardware store similar to Lowe's or Home Depot. We bought a tent, some chairs, a single burner gas kitchen, a mattress, pillows, a shovel, a big cooler, and a hammock that we barely used. And for our groceries, we went to Supermarket Rey. If you plan to stay a while, it’s worth subscribing to their loyalty program.  

We spent 750$ on the rental car, another 250$ on the camping gear, and our weekly groceries cost around 100$ for both of us. You will need around 2500$ or so for this adventure (you could even save some money by bringing your own camping gear). But let’s be honest, the experience was priceless! 

10 Tips We Wish We Knew Sooner

  • At the entrance you will drive through a river mouth, you will not be able to pass to the other side if the tide is high, so always check the tides and how low or high they are.

  • There are no public toilets near so make sure to find a hidden area for you to dig deep holes (minimum 10 cm deep) and make sure to cover them after you do your business.  

  • You should buy a Claro chip if you want to have good service in this area. Never Movistar o Tigo.

  • 2 ice bags will last 3 days in a cooler box in the shade.

  • Playa Morillo is a great spearfishing spot with plenty of fish.  

  • If you do this adventure with your significant other, two things can happen: you will hate each other in the end and possibly break up or you will fall deeper in love and end up being closer than ever.  

  • The Waze app works better than Google Maps and shows you how close the police points are. 

  • Show respect to the locals because they can be very possessive with this surf spot. Always follow the surf etiquette while surfing.

  • The best time for surfing for short boarders is mid-tide going low. The best time for beginners and longboarders or mid-lengths is an hour before or after the high tide.

  • Plaza Torio is the nearest spot to eat at 20 minutes driving from your tent and the food is really, really good. I recommend the Thai salad. 

Spa next to the ocean in Panama

Surfing in Panama Photo by Austin Neill

You Only Live Once So Live Differently

After the trip, people asked me if it was an uncomfortable one, and for sure it was at times. Sleeping in a tent and waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom when there was actually no bathroom at all, is not exactly synonymous with comfort. However, I always tell them that for me, even more uncomfortable than that would be to stay at home and not be able to experience new adventures. I know it sounds cliché but life changes after you give yourself the chance to live differently, and our little wild camping adventure on Playa Morrillo definitely made me feel more alive than ever.

bottom of page