Panama surfing and snorkeling -  2019 blog

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Trip itinerary


23- Depart Baylor at 3:30am for flights from Atlanta to Panama. Arrive in Santa Catalina at 9pm.

24 - Surf at Playa Estero

25 - Surf at Playa Estero

26 - Surf at Playa Estero

27 - Snorkeling trip to Isla Coiba

28 - Surf at Playa Estero

29 - Surf at Playa Estero

30 - Return to Panama City. Stay in Crowne Plaza Tocumen

31 - Return flight to Atlanta. Arrive in Chattanooga at 4-5pm.

To communicate with guides, send a text to 858-353-0650 or email

March 23rd

21 hours of traveling got us to our temporary home in Santa Catalina. We encountered both automobile and bovine traffic on the long drive. The students are ready for a good night's rest. For the next six days, our longest trip will be by boat.

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March 24

We had a great first day of surfing. The conditions were perfect: small, well-shaped waves in the morning gave students an opportunity to master the basics, and larger waves in the afternoon provided a bit more challenge and fun. This evening, the moon did not come out until almost midnight, so we were treated to a sky full of stars and bioluminescence in the surf. Those who were able to stay awake were treated to a light show of glowing waves.

From Ellie and Audra:

In the morning and until lunch, we surfed. It was so fun, and it’s cool to see the progress everyone’s made surfing, .The weather here has been so great—it’s in the 80s and 90s and sunny. Occasionally, there’s a breeze, and it feels wonderful.

After a super fun day filled with surfing, we set out for dinner. We walked for about 20 mins to this cute little restaurant, only to find out it was closed. We just kept walking in hopes of finding a place to eat. We found another place at 6:30ish, but it didn’t open until 7. We were all sweaty, hot, and honestly pretty gross, and it had started to sprinkle. Mr. Laramore decided to go back, get the van, come pick us up, and drive around looking for a place to eat. We found the cutest restaurant and decided to stay there. You could see the look of, “oh gosh” on the only waiter’s face when 13 hungry Americans took up 4 big tables. The food was great and very welcome after our short adventure.

After we got back to Surf Camp Oasis, we went on the beach to try to see the bioluminescence in the waves. It wasn’t visible, so we all went to the porch outside one of the rooms. Eventually, we all had blue moustaches drawn on our faces. The idea to scare Mr. Laramore and Mr. Margio came up, and for some reason we all went for it. We Walked by their huts/house in 10-second intervals, circled back around their house, and all got together as a group, and walked by them while they were on their porch. We couldn’t keep straight faces. Then, we ran back to the original house and couldn’t stop laughing. After that, we didn’t do much and were all fairly tired from the long day. Going back to our rooms, we had to dodge crabs coming at us from all directions.

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March 25

We had another clean and small morning of surf. Sore from the first day, many students opted to swim and relax in order to save energy for the larger afternoon waves. The afternoon waves were bigger and a bit messy, but students still got a lot of great rides and are making progress. 

Tomorrow we will go to Isla Coiba for our snorkeling trip. We will leave at about 8am and will be gone all day, so our next blog post may be Wednesday evening.

 More from the students coming soon.

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March 26

Another good day of ideal conditions in the morning: clean, small waves that were perfect for mastering the timing and balance of getting up. In the afternoon, the tide pushed in, and the students jumped up again to try their skills.

Tomorrow we will go to Isla Coiba for our snorkeling trip. We will leave at about 8am and will be gone all day, so our next blog post may be Wednesday evening. 

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March 27 - Coiba

We left our rooms this morning before the sun had risen, piled into our van and ate breakfast in town. We got ready for our 1.5 hour boat ride to the former prison island of Coibay. After a brief history of the island by Mr Laramore and an intriguing dog vs. crab showdown, we were off. On the way we were met by a sociable pod of dolphins that swam alongside our boat. Once there, we had our first snorkel session of the day where we swam alongside sea turtles and got adjusted to our masks.

Later, we traveled to an island adjacent to Coiba. We were let off the boat to snorkel to our lunch spot. During this trip, we spotted two white-tipped reef sharks. After lunch, we explored the ruins of a “party home” of the late, not-so-great Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega. It is said he hosted arms and drug dealers on this idyllic island, but the area is now a Smithsonian research center. We wandered some more along this island’s white sand beaches before boating to our final snorkel destination. We hung out with eel and pufferfish, swam with schools of fish, and ate some watermelon on the beach. We had an uneventful ride back.

We all wound up a bit sunburned from the day. The rest of the day seems to be consisting of naps, lounging, and trying to stay out of  the sun. Tonight we hope to see more bioluminescent waves, and tomorrow we will be back on our boards surfing until the sun goes down. Adios, Max

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March 28

The crew slept later this morning after an early start yesterday. Zach, Audra, and Ellie got out in the waves just after breakfast, and Avery, Olivia, and Dawson joined later. Once tide dropped out, games and reading in the hammocks became to order of the day. Tonight we will try to get a table at the pizzeria nearby.


March 29 - Big Friday

The swell hit today, building in the morning as the tide came up. The biggest waves we have surfed to this point were the standard, and the sets were much larger. Undaunted, the students paddled out (this took a bit longer) and took off on some giants. 

In order to see the famed point break, we went back to Hotel Santa Catalina and had lunch with a nice view of the massive sets rolling up on the point. 

Later in the afternoon, we went to get gelato to energize us for a sunset swim and/or surf on some chaotic, windblown waves in front of a gorgeous sunset. Quite a final day.

Tomorrow we will roll out for Panama City after breakfast and should arrive in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on traffic. We will stay at the Crowne Plaza just next to the airport so that we can easily make our Sunday morning flight.

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