Bocas del Toro Surfing Legalized For a Day, Then Reconsidered – Beaches Will Be Closed for All Activities Dec 23 to Jan 4 (Including No Surfing)

UPDATE: On the morning of December 22nd, we received the news that the special surfing permission has been vetoed by the national government. The beaches will remain closed December 23, 2020 to January 4, 20201, for all activities, including surfing.

“According to an direct order at the national level, the beaches will be closed. I had explained the situation and the previous agreement that we had for surf as a physical activity, for the days no quarantine, however, at the national level they don’t want movement of people of any kind,” explained Dr. Carlos Miranda of the Bocas del Toro Ministry of Health.

Surfing in Bocas del Toro will resume once the beaches open again, which could be as early as January 4, 2021.

Due to the beach closure and the veto of Bocas del Toro’s local consideration, surfing has been postponed until January 4, 2021. Photo by Gaby Alexander.

Article from December 21, 2020

The information in this article has been updated above.

“All I want for Christmas is surf” was the sentiment on the Caribbean Island wave-riding community of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Many were disappointed to hear the news that the sport was going to be effectively canceled for the holidays with a national beach closures announced on December 15th.

However, locally specific exceptions have been made and it’s now official: surf will be happening in Bocas del Toro during the 2020-2021 Christmas and New Year weeks. If you are planning a surf trip to the islands soon, you can now rest assured that you will be able to surf on most of the days. Although beaches will be closed nationally in Panama starting at 5am on December 23, 2020 and until 5am on January 4, 2021, there is a special rules for the great sport of surf in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro.

“Another one to put up on the wall.” This is the 2nd permission for surfing exceptions that Bolivar Solis and the Bocas Surf Crew were able to pursue from Bocas del Toro’s Ministry of Health.


On the morning of December 21, 2020, Dr. Carlos Miranda from the Bocas del Toro Ministry of Health and Bocas Surf Crew president Bolivar Solís signed a document establishing the conditions for approved beach access in order to accommodate the sport of surfing. This measure applies to the days that are not “total quarantine,” in which no movement whatsoever is permitted, unless it is an emergency. Therefore, the days that you cannot surf will be the total quarantine days of December 25, 26 and 27, and January 1, 2 and 3.

“We’re always grateful to the local MINSA officials who understand the conditions of the archipelago,” said Solís, on behalf of the Bocas Surf Crew. The group would like to thank the local surf enthusiast and attorney Lic. Johnny Griffo for his legal diplomacy and diligence on the matter.

Juan Fischer (left) and Joshua Caraballo (right) are members of the Bocas Surf Crew. The group is active in the community advocating for surf, but also teaching kids how to surf. The crew accepts surf board donations (new, used and broken) that they use in the lessons and pass on to the kids. All positive collaborations to their project is welcome.


This is important news for the surfing community, for its health, its recreation, and also for the island’s economy. Though many hotel reservations have already been canceled because of the curfews, lock downs and beach restrictions, this news has had opposite effect on other reservations. After posting the news on Instagram and Facebook, The Bocas Breeze received a message of at least one group who decided to re-book. Others had been waiting patiently for the official word on if surfing would be allowed or not. These travelers were going to cancel if they could not surf and have since decided to not to cancel in light of this news. “I’ll wear a mask 24/7 as long as we can surf!” wrote Pete Milnes on Instagram, excited about his upcoming Bocas del Toro trip.

Dr. Miranda was asked whether other beach and water activities such as aerobic swimming, kayaking, jogging or training on the beach would be allowed. Unfortunately this time around, these activities will not be permitted until the beach is officially open again, which could be as soon as January 4, 2021. For now, surfing that will be the only sport that permits beach access. Surfing may be practiced during the beach closure only while following the bio-security guidelines of the Ministry of Health.

Scott Balough is “abolutely frothed” by this news. Balough has hosted many professional surfers in Bocas del Toro as a surf guide and owner of the Red Frog Bungalows.

Biosecurity Measures and Restrictions

All athletes should respect the curfew times and the days of total quarantine, practice social distancing of 2 meters at all times and the use of masks where applicable. Masks should be worn before entering the water and after leaving. The face coverings are not required to be worn while in the water. The document also mentions that surfers should plan their sessions to be at the break closest to their residence. Surf was also permitted during the first quarantine. Dr. Quintero signed the Bocas del Toro Ministry of Health agreement with the Bocas Surf Crew’s president Solís on May 18, 2020.

Dr. José Quintero and the shaka of approval during the first surf exception agreement for Bocas del Toro.

A translation of the December 21, 2020 agreement:

“Bocas del Toro, December 21st 2020
Colon Island, Bocas del Toro Bocas del Toro Province and district
Because the Bocas del Toro archipelago has easy access and short distances in which the sporting activity surf can be done, with the support of the Olympic Committee and PANDEPORTES, the health ministry (MINSA) grants the permission to its inhabitants and athletes so that they can carry out this sporting activity , as long as the MINSA biosecurity guidelines are followed, such as using a face mask as soon as you get out of the water and vice versa, keeping social distancing and respecting the curfew and quarantine regulations; and doing this sport in the area that is closest to your home. Without anything else to add to this matter, other than thanking you beforehand for your good services and fine attention, we bid farewell with the usual respect.”

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The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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