We are 2 adults and 2 17 y.o. teens and we're trying to decide where to go to take surfing lessons and snorkle. Based on the reviews of Panama's beaches, it sounds like we want to be on the caribbean side for both activities. However, the only surfing lessons posted in the threads were by LN for the Panama Surf School at El Palmar Beach.
We will be in Panama a total of 12 days (excluding travel days in and out) around ~6/29 through ~7/12 and we will be renting a vehicle (4WD). Since we live in Fort Lauderdale, the beach is not a priority for us other than a day to fool around with surfing and snorkling.
Our primary locations to visit are Volcan/Boquete, El Valle and Panama City/Portobelo. The reason I group Portobelo with Panama City is because it's close enough to not require significant travel time.
Do we go to Bocas as a side trip from Boquete? I'm not exactly sure of the route. One of the threads I read said to leave Boquete and pass through Volcan/Guadalupe/Cerro Punta on the way, but that doesn't look right on the map (it looks like the opposite direction). We could start on the Volcan side, wind up on the Boquete side and then out to Bocas. That's 8 hours round trip, 11 hours from Bocas to El Valle, and 13 hours from Bocas to PC (does that sound right?).
We're probably looking at $1,500 to $2,000 for 4, just to snorkle (I'm assuming there's no surfing). However, the lure of 100's of deserted islets, crystal clear blue water and coral reefs sounds like a something out of a storybook. My only concern is whether it's worth the added expense. We did this in Honduras when we went to Roatan. The beaches were gorgeous and the snorkling was okay (water was fantastic, but very little fish). But, there were several untreated sewer ditches that drained across the beach and into the water.
From what I've read, the coral reef there provides for good snorkling and I believe there's also surfing, but I don't recall anything specific in the threads. This may be our best option in regards to time and expense, but I just can't get the image of a deserted islet out of my head.
Any input is greatly appreciated.