Balboa - Docking

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The Pacific Ocean entrance channel to the Canal is protected on the east by a breakwater called “The Causeway” (also “La Calzada de Amador” and “ Avenida Amador”) that extends south two miles from Balboa on the mainland to four interconnected islands (listed in order from Balboa to the outer extreme): Naos, Culebra, Perico, and Flamenco.


Las Brisas Anchorage – NW of Isla Perico, on The Causeway

This anchorage tends to be used during the rainy season (April­ to December) due to prevailing S/SE winds. It can be quite rough during the dry season due to N/NE gap winds. During the rainy season expect frequent, sudden and violent storm squalls. There are a couple of places where the bottom is gravel/construction debris with bad holding, however, the rest of the anchorage is mostly mud and shell. That said, holding in the main is excellent as long as you follow a few simple rules:

  1. Back-up strongly on the anchor to test the hold;
  2. Put out at least 150′ of chain (not just rode) at the bottom; and
  3. Give the boats around you ample swinging room.

There is a free dinghy dock but space is limited.  You can only use it to load/unload as it is used by commercial traffic. The old dinghy dock which collapsed is still there.  If you want to tie your dinghy to the old dock there is a small boat on a pulley system that you can use to pull yourself ashore. Use of the docks at Flamenco Marina for dinghy landing is limited; check in advance for costs and availability (see listing below). Water taxis are also available:

  • Juan 67613284 (speaks English)
  • Kevin: 67680369
  • Jesus: 66030754 (a bit of English)

CAUTION: Sunken sailboat at N 08 55.309 and W 079 32.107

La Playita Anchorage – outside the breakwater of La Playita Marina, south side of The Causeway

The anchorage here is protected from strong winds and waves from the north and east, yet you are continuously exposed to the wake of transiting canal vessels and their related work boats which speed through the anchorage. Holding is poor with a hard bottom. Use an anchor alarm and lots of chains. Back-up strongly on the anchor to test the hold.

Access to the shore is via Marina’s dinghy dock service available to cruisers for a fee. Check with the marina office for rates. See the marina listing below re. fuel and water.


All the Marinas and Landings around Balboa – Balboa Yacht Club, Mi Playita Marina and Brisas de Amador – are not only servicing local and visiting yachts, but also an extensive amount of commercial traffic such as the launches servicing the Islands in the Gulf of Panama and the commercial ships at the Canal. Wash and roll is therefore a problem.

The Balboa Yacht Club – probably the best value for an overnight stay on this side of the Canal. Mooring balls need to be booked in advance. No dinghy use but 24-hour service boat. Alot of movement here due to passing traffic.

Alli on SV Genesis – Speaks English. Phone: 6685 0858.

Neldo – Speaks some English. Phone: 6885 7239.


Flamenco Marina – has mainly local yachts and some visitors (limited slips), but is very expensive (approx. $100 a night for a 40ft boat). It has fuel available. Call them on VHF Ch.10.

La Playita Marina – has fuel available and the staff are reported to be friendly and accommodating.

Vista Mar Marina – eight miles west of the main channel – is part of a large hotel, golf course complex. Again, alot of movement here and surge (so wear and tear on cleats and lines). Haul out facilities.

Club de Yates y Pescas – not a viable option for cruisers. Has silted over, access to power boats available only at high tide. To be relocated by the government at some undetermined time in the future.

Buenaventura Marina – new marina 53 miles from Balboa, part of a residential resort and very sheltered. Good place to leave the boat. Entrance to the marina is tide dependent but a good 6-8 feet clearance makes entry easy. Good for catamarans with wide berths of different sizes.

Last updated:  November 2022

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Balboa was last updated 10 months ago.

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  1. May 29, 2019 at 10:21 PM
    mariawadsworth says:

    Notes from after our transit 10th March 2019
    Panama City
    Propane – you have to go to Chilibre, Panagas or Tropigas) ( to get your propane tanks filled. There isn’t any other place that we could find to get them filled. You can get an Uber for $15 ( one way ) but as we needed to wait and go somewhere else on the way we hired a taxi to take us, we agreed $40 total including our detour. If you want to go into the propane site yourself then you need to wear long trousers . They will come out and take them in for you.
    It only cost $8 to fill 2 small galore gas and 1 small American gas bottle. They won’t fill your bottles if they are rotting.

    Balboa Yacht Club

    We took a mooring buoy after we had transited the canal and stayed for 2 weeks

    There is a man who will take your tanks for you and get them filled. We don’t know how much he charges but he works on the launch ( water taxi) .

    The swell from the boats passing here was not continuous and didn’t really bother us. We were there 2 weeks waiting to get work done on the boat.

    The water taxi runs 24 hours, they get very busy when the tourist pleasure boats come back in – call on channel 6, not much English spoken and sometimes you have to call a few times. I thought at first it was because they did not understand, but we then had a local on board and it would seem they have the same problem. If you provision here and get to the yacht club then there are men with trolleys that can bring your stuff from the road to the pontoon. We tipped them $5.

    We found Uber was cheaper and safer! Taxis don’t seem to have seat belts available in the back of their cars and they drive quite erratic.

    We hauled out here and the guys were great. Cost for haul out was $206 for one day. We had help from 8 guys when coming into the slip and that was $30 paid in cash after we came out. We fixed our own propeller but there are people here to do every job. We paid $250 for 2 men to clean and polish the hull, clean the deck and Anti- foul some parts on the boat. I think I could have got it down to £200 but we were more than happy with the work.

    There are washing machines and a tumble dryer ( in the boat yard), not the cleanest of places but the machines work and are only 50c a wash and 75c for drying.
    There are toilets and showers there too but the ladies are always locked.

    The bar/ restaurant is closed on Mondays and although it’s opening hours are stated as being open late every day, this is not the case. They also get quite busy and sometimes there is only one waitress. Best to order a drink at the bar and then take a seat to order your food.

  2. January 22, 2018 at 7:41 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    January 22, 2018. I checked with respect to fuel at the Balboa Yacht Club. Email from Rex Jansen – BYCPTY: Herein confirming that the Balboa Yacht Club has diésel and gasoline available. Bob – sv HEDONISM

  3. November 19, 2017 at 9:21 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Reported by Royce Reid:

    Laundry has always been a pain on the Pacific side of the Canal, but we found this guy: Moises Jiang. 507-228-6592, cell 507-6481 2611, email [email protected].

    He came and picked up and dropped off our laundry, clean and folded for $7. USD a load all in. IE no detergent bleach or hidden costs.

    He called ahead of time to let us know he was coming back, speaks English and was on time…..and for the service, I felt it was super cheap.

    It’s the small things that make cruising painful or bearable right?

  4. August 6, 2017 at 4:46 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    The below comment is about La Playita Marina.

  5. July 1, 2017 at 1:45 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Posted on behalf of Hugh Pilsworth of BlueFlyer:

    After an uneventful trip through the Canal, we arrived at the well-hidden Marina.
    First impressions on arrival through the narrow and unlit, unmarked entrance, were good. This is a new Marina with power and water on the docks, which are wide and stable, with big dock cleats.

    Security is via keycard to both enter and exit. The office is just at the top of the walkway and is heavily air-conditioned.

    That is the end of the good impressions. The fees are outrageous, twice those of Shelter Bay and that was more than Red Frog Beach. The first night is US$150.00 plus water and electricity.

    Thereafter it’s $2.00 per foot per night, the minimum rate charged is 40 feet! For a 2 week stay our cost, 49 ft, is $1470.00 plus 7% tax. That is $1573.00 plus water and electricity.

    The toilets are bad and the shower had no hot water.
    There are a large chandler and an ice cream shop next to the office. Restaurants, etc are a good walk away and Panama City is a taxi ride away. Albrook Mall is a 2-hour walk, so bus or taxi.

    This would not be my favourite Marina by any measure, but the other marinas are either more expensive or for motor boats. There are mooring buoys at the Balboa Yacht Club, but I’m told that they cost $46.00 per night, presumably plus tax as well.

    1. May 27, 2019 at 5:49 PM
      mark-erdos says:

      Vista Mar is a much better option:

  6. June 11, 2016 at 1:55 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Astillero Nacional S.A.
    Vacamonte, Panama
    They do NOT do long-term dry storage. There is an $80 per day charge to be blocked up.

  7. March 10, 2015 at 7:40 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Most marine rigging can now be done in Panama. DIMAR has opened Total Marine Supply and details of products and the location of Flexible can be found on

    Total Marine Supply in DIMAR also has a wide range of marine products, parts and services. They are official agents for a range of products, including Rule/Jabsco pumps and an inflatable.

  8. February 17, 2015 at 1:41 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Increased Rates for Transients, Balboa Yacht Club, Panama City, Panama
    Effective March 1, 2015:

    Monohulls: $0.85 US per foot, per day
    Multihulls: $1.00 US per foot per day

    Adding the 7% government tax brings actual effective rates of $0.91 for monohulls and $1.07 for multihulls.

    Rates include mooring ball (which will rub bright yellow paint onto your hull), water taxi service (dinghy’s not allowed in the mooring field), use of coin-operated laundry facility, free shower facilities, free water, free wifi (depending on location within the mooring field).

    BYC does NOT sell gasoline and, due to permitting issues has been unable to sell diesel for the past 4 to 5 months. No one can say with certainty when they will be able to sell diesel again.

    The new General Manager is Capt. Rex Jansen. The email address for checking on mooring availability is: [email protected]

    Debi Shaimas
    s/v Serenity

  9. July 3, 2014 at 11:44 AM
    Data Entry3 says:

    I am sorry to report that Juan of Gente De Mar cannot be used to handle laundry. On two occasions items have been missing and on the second occasion, my husband’s Columbia brand clothes and several other items were missing.

    Juan said it was not his problem and offered no help. I replaced several items at significant cost and did not want the money, I just wanted him to inquire with his laundress. His response was shocking and rude.

    He fills gasoline cans and propane cans for cruisers in the Panama City area but you can do this yourself much cheaper with a taxi if at least two boats get together. If you chose to use his services, expect to pay premium prices with no guarantee that he is using reputable service providers.

    Nell Kellett
    SV Moon Dancer

  10. April 15, 2014 at 3:16 PM
    Data Entry3 says:

    Posted on behalf of D. Laurin, S/Y Vimy:

    I want to inform the yachting community about a top notch Electrical Engineer who is working both in Shelter Bay Marina (Colon – Panama) and out of Panama City/Balboa.
    He is the first seriously professional electrical trained person that I have encountered in many years of cruising. This is the first time that I have bothered to make a comment about a Trade here or anywhere.

    Name: Tom Valentine
    Company: Marine Electric
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Tel: 507 -6666 2598

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