Around Town in Santa Catalina 🏄 Panama

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Santa Catalina, Panama

Around Town in Santa Catalina 🏄 Panama

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Santa Catalina, located on the Pacific coast of Panama, is a laid-back and picturesque destination renowned for its world-class surfing, diverse marine life, and stunning natural beauty.

This small fishing village has become a magnet for surfers due to its consistent waves, particularly at breaks like La Punta and El Estero. Beyond surfing, Santa Catalina offers opportunities for diving and snorkeling, especially at the nearby Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its rich biodiversity.

While it’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Santa Catalina retains its tranquil ambiance, making it an ideal spot to unwind and soak in the natural beauty of Panama’s Pacific coast.

Highlights

 

Enjoy Laidback Vibes in a Coastal Paradise

Santa Catalina is a relaxing place to unwind, especially after spending a few days in Panama City. This is a small resort town on the Pacific coastline, south of Santiago. The town is centered between 2 beaches: Playa Estero for the surfers and Playa Santa Catalina for the divers.

Surfing on Playa Estero – the larger of the 2 beaches – and snorkeling or diving around Coiba are the main recreational activities.

Santa Catalina, Panama

Santa Catalina Map – Click to Enlarge

The beaches themselves might not be to everyone’s taste. Black sand interspersed with rocks and a daily tide that takes the sea out a good 200 yards in the mornings.

A cross between Tenerife and Blackpool would be a fair description.

Santa Catalina Panama

Playa Santa Catalina – Santa Catalina Panama

At least the sea is warm, and has lively surfing waves to keep you on your toes (or your head, depending on your agility).

The smaller Playa Santa Catalina is fine for swimming, but not so Playa Estero. There, the waves are huge and relentless, with a powerful undertow: Caution advised.

Hotel Options near Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina Panama

Playa Estero – Santa Catalina

Also watch out for the rapidly moving currents, which can suddenly swamp an area of beach you might consider safe. On two occasions we came very close to losing our shoes and bags to the currents.

Because of the churned and murky waters, you have to tread carefully to avoid hidden (and painful!) rocky areas.

If you’re looking for white sand, you’ll need to fork out $60 per person for a boat trip (including snorkeling gear) to Coiba. Once there, you’ll need to pay another $20 per person to enter the ‘National Park’.

Santa Catalina Panama

Santa Catalina Panama

Hotel Iguanito – Santa Catalina

For accommodation in Santa Catalina, after much online searching we chose the Hotel Iguanito.

They gave us a clean but basic room with a private bathroom and a large shared veranda. The room was dark and lacked any storage facilities, but the bathroom was modern with a really good shower.

Importantly, the room had both AC and a fan.

Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
Santa Catalina, Panama
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When we arrived there was a power cut which meant we had to wait a few hours before we could take a shower. Somehow, the water supply was dependent on the electricity. The following late evening there was another 3-hour power cut. Without the aid of a fan, this made it very uncomfortable to sleep.

We had dinner once in the guesthouse, which was excellent, including a delicious Thai curry.

We paid $56 per night for our room, excluding breakfast. A bit on the pricey side for what is offered, which because of the shared veranda is not private.

The veranda sitting area would be fine for just 2 rooms. However, it is shared by all 4 rooms. Because of this, you may be unlucky with noisy or discourteous neighbours drinking late into the night literally in front of your bedroom door.

Santa Catalina Panama

Santa Catalina Panama – The Shop

Santa Catalina Town

In Santa Catalina ‘town’ you can find 2 very small supermarkets and one or two shops. Most days a van drives around town selling fruit and vegetables.

Listen out for his megaphone as he drives past.

Santa Catalina Panama

The Fruit and Vegetable Car

We didn’t find a bank or ATM, so you need to bring with you sufficient cash for your stay. Some guesthouses, like the Hotel Iguanito, do accept credit card payments.

There is a variety of small cafes and restaurants where you can eat. Count on around $10 per person for breakfast and $20 per person for dinner, including drinks.

Santa Catalina Panama

Santa Catalina Panama

For lunch, we bought fruit and snacks from town and ate them on the beach.

Santa Catalina Panama

Santa Catalina Panama

We spent three nights in Santa Catalina, which was just about right. After this, we headed west again to David, and then onwards further north to the highlands of Boquete.

Hotel options near Santa Catalina


If you enjoyed Santa Catalina Panama, check out our Panama Roundtrip. You may also like:


1 Comment

Jessan Dunn Otis | Writer

Jessan Dunn Otis | Writer

March 23, 2021at 11:53 am

Santa Catalina & Panama = another place I’ve not been to yet. I’d love to visit – sooner rather than later.

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