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SURF IN PANAMA
The trip: Panama has the waves of Hawaii and the cultural allure of Balibut without the lineups of the Aloha State or the long haul to Indonesia. And the Central American coast is very friendly to the wallet (think $20 massages and $1 ice-cold cervezas). Experts and novices alike can find waves to their liking during a weeklong trip to Morro Negrito, a surf camp on the far-flung island of La Ensenada. Hard-core types should book between April and October, when they'll have the best shot at 12-foot-tall waves; panga boats will take surfers out to the area's finest breaks, including the world-class Point Barrel and the long, rolling Sand Bar. Greenhorns can take hour-long semiprivate lessons for $15 and can find much gentler waves between November and March. In between sessions, cast for sailfish in the Pacific or practice your shavasana on the camp's yoga deck. Try not to strain yourself, as you're here to surf, after all.
Why go? Fierce waves and few distractions make Panama the top spot to channel your inner Kelly Slater.
What to pack: A good paperback to read while swinging on a beach hammock, and a bottle of Mount Gay Rum (the remote camp stocks only water, soda, and beer).
Difficulty: 8 out of 10. The waves can be gnarly, but guides on boats are there to coax you through them, or ferry you back to land.
Your guides: The surf bums and expats at Morro Negrito, where the bunks are basic but have ocean views; the camp operates on solar and wind power.
Five nights at the camp and two nights in Panama City, including all meals, transfers, and two daily boat trips, $650 per person