For decades, Panama has been known as one of the world’s premier sport fishing destinations among international anglers. Fishing for giant blue and black marlin at venerable hot spots like the Hannibal Bank in the west or the Zane Grey Reef in the east put it on the radar, but today Panama is just as famous for it’s outrageous yellow-fin tuna action and amazingly diverse inshore fishery. Surface boils of frenzied yellow-fin tuna that stretch for acres are nearly a daily occurrence in the peak season, while in any given week we can catch up to 30 different species of game fish so Panama is much more than just another billfishing destination. With nearly 1,800 miles of coastline spread along two oceans there is no shortage of exotic places to fish, but knowing where to go and who to fish with is of the utmost importance as the local operations are as diverse as the fishery itself. We’ve compiled a list of the 7 Best Fishing Lodges in Panama to make it easy so you can choose the best lodge for the fishing you want to experience.
Our top ranked fishing lodge in Panama is not only the most luxurious, it’s also one of the most exotic. Located on Islas Paridas twelve miles off the Western Pacific Coast, the Sport Fish Panama Island Lodge is everything you’d look for in an exotic fishing lodge: luxurious air conditioned accommodations, top of the line fishing tackle, fast and spacious boats, gourmet food, and best of all – isolation. As if being on an island twelve miles out to sea wasn’t exotic enough, they happen to be in the Gulf of Chiriqui National Park so you won’t see (or hear) anyone else out here.
Captain Shane Jarvis is the owner/operator here and has been fishing the Gulf of Chiriqui since 2005. What started as a charter boat operation has now grown into a 5-star, off-the-grid fishing lodge with a fleet of three identical 33′ World Cats. Captain Shane loves these boats for numerous reasons, including the catamaran hull that cushions the waves when making your long runs offshore, the walk around design allows for multiple anglers to be casting and fighting fish at the same time, and the large casting platforms with lean bars at the bow where every angler wants to be when you roll up to a boil of feeding tuna. Lodge sponsors include Accurate Reels, Blackfin Rods, Mustad Hooks, and Yo-Zuri so just part of what makes this lodge 5-stars is knowing that you are fishing with the best tackle in the industry. Located where they are, the run times out to famous offshore hot spots like the Hannibal Bank and Isla Montuosa are much shorter than the land based options in nearby Boca Chica. There is seemingly no limit to the different spots they can take you inshore fishing in the Gulf of Chiriqui, but plenty of days they’ll catch roosterfish, giant cubera snapper, and more right in their own backyard at Islas Paridas.
The Sport Fishing Panama Island Lodge features three private villas, each one is assigned it’s own World Cat for your stay. The villas are fully air-conditioned and include pre-stocked mini-fridges, flat screen TVs, and hot water showers. Your stay on the island is fully all inclusive so you’ll have breakfast in the morning, lunch & drinks on the boat, daily hors d’oeuvres each afternoon after fishing, and a three course gourmet dinner each night. There is an open bar policy with top shelf liquors and local Panamanian beer. Despite being 12 miles off the coast, the lodge also features a basic internet service to be able to check email and keep up with the latest news & sports scores. For a small fee they can vacuum seal your catch should you wish to bring any home with you. A stay at the lodge can range from three nights with two days of fishing to six nights with five full days of fishing, price varies based on length of stay and number of anglers in your group.
The most unique operation in our list of the 7 Best Fishing Lodges in Panama is our 70′ mothership. Pesca Panama has been around for two decades, but when new ownership took over in 2014 they brought with them not only new blood but also renewed energy, passion, and finances to bring the operation back to the forefront of sport fishing in Panama. Fondly referred to as “the barge”, this former supply barge was retrofitted and turned into Panama’s first floating fishing lodge. As they say, ‘Location. Location. Location’, and the mothership can do what no other fishing lodge in Panama can do by putting you right on the doorstep of some of the best fishing as you’ll spend all week anchored 50 miles out to sea at the Coiba Island National Park.
The 70′ barge is what you’ll call home for the week, but it’s her fleet of five identical 27′ Ocean Master center consoles that will ultimately be your battlewagon on this adventure. These agile center consoles are ideal for any type of sport fishing as they can run & gun with the feeding schools of yellow-fin tuna or get you up close to the countless islands, pinnacles, and river mouths that are home to trophy inshore species. Equipped with Penn conventional tackle when trolling for marlin or the big cow tuna and a bevy of Shimano Saragosa spinning tackle, the experienced crew at Pesca Panama can accommodate any type of fishing you want to experience. Perhaps more than any other fishing lodge in Panama, the claim to fame of the mothership is that you can catch up to 30 (or more!) different species of fish in a single week. While the accommodations are surprisingly comfortable and the food delicious, the main benefit of the mothership is of course it’s ability to keep you right at the fishing grounds all week. By anchoring in the various bays of the Coiba Island National Park you are already 50 miles offshore, so unlike the land-based fishing lodges in Panama that have to make long runs every single day, here you’ll be just 15 miles from the famous Hannibal Bank. Eat, sleep, fish hard, relax with friends and a cold drink – it’s the sort of rhythm any hardcore angler would love.
Even though it is referred to as “the barge” and you are spending all week 50 miles offshore, the experience on the mothership itself is surprisingly comfortable. There are four air conditioned rooms, each with two sets of bunk beds to accommodate a max of four anglers per room. Each room is assigned it’s own boat and crew for the week. There are two full bathrooms for guests, each with a hot water shower. They even offer daily laundry service out here so your favorite fishing shirt is always ready to go! Of course three meals a day are part of your package, and with a chef who has been there for over 20 years the food is fantastic. You’ll eat much of what you catch throughout that week in fresh meals such as ceviche, fresh tuna sashimi, fried snapper, and tuna steak, but special requests can be also be accommodated. When you aren’t in bed recovering from a 10-hour fishing day, you’ll spend most of your time on the bow of the boat that serves as the restaurant and bar area. Here nightly appetizers are enjoyed along with your pick from a fully stocked bar. Share stories, laugh, and enjoy sunsets and a sky full of stars in this open-air social area. The mothership can be booked one room/one boat at a time for groups of 2-4 anglers, or if you have a group of 10-16 anglers you can rent out the entire barge and make it your own private floating fishing lodge for the week.
To get a better idea of what this experience is like, watch the TV show we made with our good friends from Stoked on Fishing in May of 2019 – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwh1Y4oKocbjit5OpGmSIYIzIRYCVEK6j.
One of the most popular fishing lodges in Panama in the 2000’s has been the aptly named Paradise Fishing Lodge. Located near the small town of Quebrada de Piedra in the northeast corner of the Gulf of Chiriqui, Paradise Fishing Lodge is our first choice for anyone looking for a land-based fishing lodge. Set on top of a hill overlooking tropical mangroves, the open air rancho and all rooms offer panoramic views of the lush hillside and Pacific Ocean. Each room features faux rock interior, ceiling fans, air conditioning, two queen beds or multiple twin beds, and a private bathroom with hot water shower. Your stay here is all inclusive so all meals and drinks are included with an open-bar policy. After a long day of fishing cool off in the refreshing pool with swim up bar or grab a cocktail and a good seat and watch some amazing sunsets over the Pacific.
The Paradise Fishing Lodge has a fleet of 28′ and 32′ Contender center consoles that get you to the fishing grounds quickly and comfortably. These boats are equipped with twin Suzuki outboards, T-tops, tuna tubes, and Penn conventional and Fin-Nor spinning tackle. These boats can easily cover most of the Gulf of Chiriqui, so whether you are hunting big marlin & yellow-fin tuna out at the Hannibal Bank or inshore fishing at the over 200 islands you’ll find plenty of action. Many of the lodge staff and boat crew have been with the operation since it’s inception, so this is a very well-run and welcoming operation which is why so many angler groups come back here year after year.
#4 – Pana Fishing Adventure Lodge
When it comes to the adage “Know what you do, and do it well“, the Pana Fishing Adventure Lodge does just that. One of the smallest lodges on our list is also very unique in that it is proud to be a 100% lures-only fishing lodge. Owned and operated by Pierre Demauge, this lodge is dialed into where they fish, how they fish, and what they fish for perhaps more than any other operation in Panama. Located out on the Azuero Peninsula near the small town of Pedasi, the lodge features just four rooms and likes to keep groups to ten anglers or less to guarantee a quality experience both on land and at sea. Each room is modestly decorated with three beds, private bathroom, and of air conditioning. After a long day of fishing come back and take a refreshing dip in the pool, check in with the world via the free wifi, and enjoy family-style dining and drinks at the bar at night with fellow anglers.
The Pana Fishing Adventure Lodge has a small fleet of four boats: two 25′ Caribe Pro center consoles and two 26′ Twin Vee catamarans. These are the ideal boats for the type of fishing they do here – jigging, popping, and crank baits. This is not a destination for anglers looking to troll for billfish, this is a 100% lures-only fishing lodge that offers a hands on fishing experience. Due to the type of anglers they attract, many guests bring their own tackle but they lodge can rent rod-only packages to anglers who want to avoid traveling with rod tubes or complete rod & reel packages. Rods include Shimano Terramar & Trevela or high end Smith and Black Hole while reels range from Penn Conflict 6000 to Shimano Saragosa 10,0000. Located on the southeast corner of the Azuero Peninsula this allows them to fish both the southern and eastern coastline depending on the season and wind conditions. While the main target 90% of the time are game fish found near shore and on bottom structure like roosterfish, cubera snapper, and grouper, during the summer and fall months they can make a short run for yellow-fin tuna that are found just a few miles out from the “Tuna Coast”. The Pana Fishing Adventure Lodge is exclusive, affordable, and extremely popular with a large base of repeat anglers so it does fill up quickly – we recommend booking 6-12 months in advance.
One of the longest tenured fishing lodges in Panama is a the family run El Rio Negro Lodge, which dates back to 1995. Located on the west side of the Azuero Peninsula in the quiet town of Playa Reina, the lodge offers just four spacious, air conditioned rooms to keep groups manageable and well attended to. The main house and plenty of open air social areas for relaxing with drinks and hanging out with friends, as well as creature comforts like flat screen TVs and free wifi. El Rio Negro Lodge is all inclusive so all of your meals, daily hors d’oeuvres, and alcoholic drinks are included in your stay. The husband & wife team of owner/operators Alex and Lauren do a great job of providing first class service in a relaxed, laid back environment that makes you feel more like a house guest than a client at a fishing lodge.
El Rio Negro Lodge is the only lodge in the Azuero Peninsula that affords its angles the choice to fish inshore, offshore, or with light tackle gear one of Panama’s largest estuaries. Located on west side of the Azuero Peninsula, they are right in the Gulfo Montijo which is a nationally protected wetlands. For light tackle enthusiasts the snook, seabass, and snapper action here can be world class. They can also fish the western and south faces of the Azuero Peninsula where you can find huge roosterfish, cubera snapper, amberjacks, and more hidden along the rocky coastline. Last but not least, their unique location half way between the “Tuna Coast” of the Azuero Peninsula and Coiba Island gives them access to incredible offshore fishing grounds that no other lodges fish. From here they can make runs to Cebaco Island, Coiba Island, or run south and fish the ‘Tuna Coast’. Their fleet of four 32’-35’ custom made center consoles are the ideal boats to be able to handle the various fisheries available to them and be flexible based on conditions, seasons, and anglers. They all feature 150 gallon livewells, tuna tubes, top of line electronics, Shimano spinning reels and AVET conventional reels, and local captains that have spent their entire lives on these waters.
Panama is not known as a tarpon fishing hot spot like it’s neighbors to the north, Costa Rica and Belize, yet anyone who has seen the Caribbean Coastline can attest that it easily passes the eye test for prime tarpon and snook habitat. The only representative of Panama’s Caribbean Coast in our list of the 7 Best Fishing Lodges in Panama, Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge is one of the most luxurious and well run hotels in the popular Bocas del Toro archipelago. More importantly, it’s also the only one that offers the services and expertise of a fishing lodge. Located on the southeast corner of Isla Bastimientos, this boutique ecolodge is surrounded by the Bastimientos Marine National Park so there are no roads or other hotels close by, just beautiful Mother Nature. Tranquilo Bay surprises guests with 4-star accommodations as each of the six private bungalows is equipped with air conditioning, ceiling fans, orthopedic mattresses with luxury linens, private bathroom with hot water shower, coffee maker, hair dryer, and your own private deck with hammock. Owner/operators Renee, Jim, and Jay all live on site and have a phenomenal staff so here you feel like a welcomed guest into their home, not just another confirmation number. Due to your exotic location your stay here is all inclusive so all meals, drinks and local Panamanian beer & rum is included as part of your package.
The main target for anglers fishing in Bocas del Toro are tarpon and snook, although other species like jack crevalle, mackerel, barracuda, dorado, blackfin tuna and wahoo can all be caught in season. You will be guided by the American owners themselves, Jay & Jim, on their 26’ SeaVee center console which is equipped with 200 hp Yamaha engines, livewell, padded seating, bimini top for shade, and quality Shimano tackle. This section of Panama’s Caribbean Coast is dotted with islands, mangroves, lagoons and two big river mouths at the Changuinola and Sixoala Rivers. The river mouths lie about an hour run from the lodge, so along the way you’ll stop and try to fill the livewell with live bait which goes a long way to eliciting a bite from a marauding tarpon. If you want to try and land a big snook you can wade into the surf at the rivermouths, often times with bucktail jigs or white/bone colored stickbaits doing the trick. While Panama many not offer as many tarpon as Costa Rica or Belize, the trade off is these fish are under a lot less pressure so you’ll most likely be the only boat fishing these river mouths. If you are visiting with family or simply love all ocean activities, you can also combine a day of fishing with snorkeling the vibrant reefs right in front of the lodge or out at the Isla Bastimientos Marine Park. Back on land the Tranquilo Bay property covers 200 acres so there are a ton of on-site activities to enjoy like early morning bird watching, night hikes, kayaking the mangroves, stand up paddle boarding, or climb their 60 ft observation tower for one-of-a-kind panoramic views.
Of course no list of the 7 Best Fishing Lodges in Panama would be complete without the world famous Tropic Star Lodge. Located in Pinas Bay, the Tropic Star Lodge helped make Panama the internationally recognized sport fishing hot spot that it is today. With just 19 rooms and a reputation known around the world due to over 300 IGFA world records, anglers need to lock up their dates a year in advance if they want the chance to fish the Tropic Star Lodge. There are eight rooms in the Casa Grande, four private cabins, and one 3-bedroom ocean view villa at the top of the hill aptly named ‘The Palace’. All rooms offer air conditioning, private bathrooms, and spacious interiors for all your gear and luggage. After a full day of fishing come back and enjoy a refreshing dip in their freshwater pool along with a cold drink the bar. Due to the remote location deep in the Darien Jungle, all meals are included in your stay at the lodge, including wine service with your four course dinner.
One of the most iconic things about the Tropic Star Lodge is their rainbow fleet of 16 fully customized 31′ Bertrams. Fully maintained and repaired on site, all boats are outfitted with GPS, VHF radios, and custom tuna tubes and live baitwells for an unforgettable experience whether you are fishing inshore or offshore. The captains & mates at Tropic Star are all local to the area and have been fishing off Pinas Bay for years, many learning their craft from fathers and grandfathers who worked there before them. Synonymous with fishing at the Tropic Star Lodge is the Zane Grey Reef. Discovered in the 1920s by famed author and adventurer Zane Grey, this was made famous once Dr. Guy Harvey mapped it and showed it to the world. What is a relatively small sea mount, there are three pinnacles that rise from the ocean floor to within 150 ft of the surface in some spots, creating the ideal habitat for bait fish and game fish alike. Located just 20 miles from the dock at Tropic Star Lodge, on the right week you can catch blue, black, and striped marlin – along with sailfish, dorado, and wahoo – just minutes from your room. All boats are equipped with Shimano reels, custom Dru rods, AFTCO fighting harness and all teasers and lures you’ll need for the fishing trip of a lifetime.