The 411 on Santa Catalina, Panama

by shelbylewis /
shelbylewis's picture
Mar 08, 2013 / 0 comments

Throw out your Lonely Planet book on Santa Catalina, Panama, because I have all the need-to-know information.  If you enjoy catching a wave, snorkeling and diving, or a peaceful getaway on the beach, Santa Catalina is the place for you. Located remotely in the Veraguas Province of Panama, it is a small fishermen’s village. Santa Catalina is located 1½ hours from Santiago, Panama, and 65 kilometers from Sona, Panama on a newly paved road.


The first thing you need to know about Santa Catalina is what activities there are to do. Besides enjoying spending a day soaking up the sun on their unique black sand beaches, Santa Catalina offers much more adventurous activities.
Surfing in Santa Catalina is spectacular. The waves on La Punta (The Point) range from 5 feet to 20 feet - year around. Billabong has held multiple surf competitions for the best surfers to show their skills in Santa Catalina. Santa Catalina also has beaches for beginner surfers. If you do not have a surfboard with you and are looking to purchase one, you can buy one from Surf and Shake. They have different sized boards that range in price from $75 - $300 dollars. If you’re not looking to buy a surfboard on your trip, you can rent surfboards from almost anywhere in town. Rancho Estero offers boards to rent for $15 dollars per day. They also offer surf lesson from Michael, which are $35 dollars for two hours.


Scuba diving is the next biggest attraction in Santa Catalina.  Although you cannot dive in Santa Catalina, they offer trips to dive in Isla Coiba.  Isla Coiba is considered to be the “Galapagos” of Panama. Coiba is the best diving in all of Panama. Any time of the year, the diving is phenomenal.  On every trip you are guaranteed to see tons of sharksWhite tips and nurse sharks are most common. Don’t let the sharks scare you, white tip and nurse sharks are very friendly. If you do not bother them, they won’t bother you.


From December through February is the best time to spot the whale sharks in Coiba.  At other times of the year, you can see whales, giant manta rays, eels, and huge schools of fish.  You can schedule a day trip or a few nights’ stay on Isla Coiba and dive with Scuba Coiba.  Scuba Coiba has been in Santa Catalina for the longest and has a team of great, well trained divers.  For more information contact Herbie at 6575-0122 or visit


Whale Shark, Isla Coiba


Whale Shark, Isla Coiba



If you’re looking to catch a bite to eat after a long day of diving or surfing, Santa Catalina has many great dining options. Jamming Pizza is a popular restaurant where you can get good thin crust pizza and lasagna that is cooked in a clay oven. Los Pibes is owned by an Argentinean family who cooks exceptionally delicious steaks and pork. They now have an alcohol license and serve all types of alcoholic beverages. Donde Viancka is known for her delicious fresh sea food.  She has the catch of the day fish and lobster served with excellent coconut rice.  For drinks and a snack, The Dive Stop has great nachos and tacos, along with your favorite alcoholic drink, if desired. 


If you’re looking for something to cool you off from the heat, next to the Dive Stop is an ice cream stand. If you need a place to sit down and shop, Surf and Shake has endless possibilities of fruit shakes made from local fresh fruit. While you’re there, check out their surfboards, bathing suits, rash guards, flip flops, and much more. All of her stuff is marked at very reasonable prices.


If you’re looking for a place to stay with an ocean view, Rancho Estero cabinas have the best view in the area, hands down. Located right on Playa Estero, you have a picturesque view of the ocean. Their tiki huts are kept very clean and have the nicest host. Rose, the host, will help you with any troubles you have along the way. She offers great advice on anything you need. Prices range from $15 dollars a night  to $40. The other place with an excellent beach view is Surf Side Inn.  They offer private rooms, as well as shared dorms.  Both places have a communal kitchen. Prices at Surf Side Inn range from$12 dollars per person to $65 dollars for private rooms. 


Rancho Estero, Panama


Rancho Estero, Panama


As you can see, Santa Catalina serves as a great get away vacation to catch some of the best waves around and see of the greatest sights underwater. 


For more information on Santa Catalina and what is going on in town, visit, for the local newspaper written by Tereza Harp. 


When will we see you in Santa Catalina?




Shelby Lewis is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


Photos courtesy and copyright Shelby Lewis