I just returned from an unexpected and great Panama surf experience.
My family and I went to stay at Mono Feliz.
Mono Feliz is a wonderful, rustic eco-non-resort.
It is located at the very tip of the Punta Burica peninsula, in Panama’s Chiriqui Province.
Staying at Mono Feliz is an amazing way to get back to your basic practice of “being”.
You are in a spectacular tropical jungle and at the apparent end of the known world.
Also there is a secret surf spot – actually, more than one.
Surfing on Punta Burica is very much worth the effort required to get there.
(Mono Feliz is nearly hour and a half drive from Puerto Armuelles, over some pretty rustic dirt roads. Or alternatively, a smoother and pleasant hour long drive on the beach – for most of the drive, but only during low tide.)
I had decided not to bring my surf board to Mono Feliz.
It was the off-season (early March), and the ocean in Puerto Armuelles was about as flat and calm as it is possible for the ocean to be.
Ideal for barefoot waterskiing, I’ll bet.
I figured the surf conditions would be the same on Punta Burica as in Puerto Armuelles.
I was wrong.
When we arrived, I was surprised to find quite a bit of wave energy.
Albeit the surf was blown out by the wind.
I spoke to Michael, one of the sons of John (known better as Juancho) and Luzmila, the owners of Mono Feliz.
Michael told me that he and his brothers had been catching good waves lately.
I was surprised to learn that the boys claimed to be able to surf all year long out on the Island (Isla Burica).
Isla Burica is located a few thousand meters off-shore.
Isla Burica is reachable by kayak, surfboard, or in super low tides (-2), one can walk to the island.
At breakfast the first morning, Michael mentioned that they had surfboards for rent.
He invited me to join him for a trip over to the island to surf.
However, this was a family trip for me, not a surf trip.
Also, I seriously doubted that there could be a decent wave on the island, since the rest of the ocean around Punta Burica was as flat as a lake.
(According to the scientists at Magic Seaweed the swell was 1-1/2 feet)
I said no, I wasn’t interested in paddling over to the island.
Michael, however did talk me into the lesser adventure of walking down the path five minutes to the nighbor Sean’s “surf camp” .
There was reportedly a pretty decent wave at the surf camp as well.
I decided to join him for a short surf session there.
Surf on Punta Burica – Near Mono Feliz
Though the surf was tiny, I was quite impressed with the form of the mini bay/inlet in the rocks in front of the neighbor’s house.
It was obvious, from the clean mini lefts and rights peeling over the rocks at either side of the inlet, that this place must absolutely rock during the big wave months from May to December.
Despite the fact that the waves were small, and the thruster I had rented (a 6-2 with not much foam) made it tough to keep up any board speed, I had a fun time riding the small lefts (we were on the left side of the inlet).
I marveled at this ideal surf spot.
Michael, who is only fifteen or sixteen was also a super amiable surf partner.
As we walked back to Mono Feliz, I kept thinking to myself, “If only I had brought my Von Sol Shadow (my favorite fish) along.”
Anyway, I reminded myself, this was a family vacation, and not a surf trip.
The following morning at breakfast, we met a couple of Juancho’s and Luzmila’s older sons.
Myron, who is about twenty five, and Edgar, twenty three.
Aside from really enjoying the good nature of the guys, I was beginning to be intrigued by tales about the surf on the island.
Myron had been away for a couple of days, and he was really eager to surf the island.
Edgar and Myron were enthusiastic to share the Island surfing experience with me.
Surf on Isla Burica
So I grabbed my rented board, my sunscreen and followed them to the beach where we jumped into a huge, inflatable kayak.
With the three of us paddling, it took ten minutes or so to get to the island.
We beached the boat, and I followed the guys up a steep trail a short distance, before it flattened out, and quickly descended to the other side of the island, probably no more than two or three hundred meters.
As we climbed down through the trees, you could hear, then see the main peak, rising up, a perfect point, breaking left and right.
We got down to the beach, waded out into the water, and paddled out.
I was barefoot.
(I would recommend surf booties, since the rocks are slick and occasionally sharp.)
Myron and Edgar are natives and have super tough feet.
The paddle out was easy, as we were paddling around beside the main peak, and the surf was small.
However, the guys assured me that when the waves are big, they break further out, and there is a great tide rip to whisk one out to the break.
Myron was the first out, and he had already taken off on a couple of waves.
Just as it looked from shore, the wave consisted of a big, almost hollow drop, and then it quickly faded to nothing.
Still, Myron who was on a 5′-8” thruster was able to get down the line pretty well, including a couple of decent slashbacks.
In fact, Myron, who has been surfing the same peak for five years now, continued to take the drop, as far back as possible on the wave, and rode mostly rights for the next couple of hours.
Edgar also got some nice waves.
I hadn’t surfed in months, and was on a borrowed board, but still I managed to make the drop and get a way down the line.
At the time I was only thinking about how much fun I was having.
But now I’ve decided to leave the Von Sol at home and bring my thruster to surf the island next visit.
If this is what the conditions are like when the Pacific Ocean is flat as a pancake, I could only imagine what the surf would be like when Magic Seaweed’s buoy reading was say 6 feet, 7 feet, 8ft….
Other Surf Spots on Punta Burica
On the paddle back in the inflatable, Myron explained to me that there were a couple of other breaks that the brothers liked to surf, also reachable in the kayak.
You can also rent a fisherman’s boat and go about fifteen minutes “around the corner” to the Costa Rican side of Punta Burica.
A place that is rarely surfed.
A place that always has a breaking giant of a wave, just offshore.
Reportedly, during the big wave months, this monster breaks for nearly a kilometer.
I can’t remember which way it breaks.
Probably left, since it’s on the Pavones side of the point, and the prevailing wave angle is for lefts.
As you can probably tell, I will definitely be going back to Mono Feliz during the swell season (May-December).
But, frankly, since Mono Feliz is so laid back, and there is so much for the kids to do there, I think we will make it a combined surf vacation/family vacation.
Surf in Panama is great.
It is particularly great to have such a wonderful place to surf so close to our home in Puerto Armuelles Panama.