Embracing the Ocean Lifestyle With a Surf Hotel in Panama

After spending time visiting Central America, Shawn and Shena Lockwood decided that a permanent move there was the change they needed from their home in Utah. As passionate surfers, they wanted to live near the ocean and enjoy their favorite sport more regularly. “We’ve always loved the lifestyle of Central America and are avid surfers. We knew that as developers we could do a lot more with less money, while living the natural life and embracing the ocean lifestyle,” says Shawn.

But still some way from retirement, they needed an income to support the lifestyle they were seeking. “If we weren’t working we wouldn’t have been able to move, as we weren’t independently wealthy,” says Shawn.

They decided to buy investment property in Panama, but initially they made their home in Costa Rica, where they lived for 10 years and had two daughters. It was only two years ago that they made the decision to move to Panama and follow through on their shared dream of owning and operating a small boutique hotel.

They had chosen the small quaint seaside village of Playa Punta Burica on Panama’s Pacific Ocean, only a few miles from the Costa Rica border on the peninsula where Puerto Armuelles lies. What they needed next was just the right surf spot. “We drove around in a boat to find the waves in the area, then we found out who owned the land in front of the waves and asked if they would sell,” Shawn says. The rest is history.

Today, Shawn, Shena and their children—now eight and three—are enjoying the fruits of their hard work. The Burica Surf hotel caters to those who love surfing and stand-up paddleboard surfing as much as they do. Burica Surf gives them the income they need for the comfortable lifestyle they want, all while allowing them to enjoy their love of the ocean and surfing. “Since we work for ourselves we prioritize raising our kids and fun activities like surfing, but when things get busy we work full-time,” says Shawn.

“Living in harmony with nature has really allowed our family to let our guard down from the energy of the city and be more sensitive to life. You have to be creative here to make things work out. Patience and being able to let go of expectations is a big lesson to learn.”

To get started in business in Panama, Shawn recommends learning Spanish. He and his wife Shena have mastered the language. “Before you start, ask tons of questions. Consult a lawyer beforehand to know what the legalities are to start the business.”

As a developer, Shawn knew how to get the job of building his dream boutique hotel done. “Buying the land was easy, but finding good help in building was challenging. Being in Central America we figured out quickly who works well, who is honest and who is not. It’s important to do your due diligence and get good recommendations on who you hire.”

As for living in Panama, Shawn has some sage advice. “If you can get past not having all the conveniences that you’re used to, and get into the laidback, “there’s always tomorrow,” attitude, then you will be fine.”

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