Santa Catalina, surfing paradise in Panama
Yes, we arrived at Santa Catalina on Panama’s Pacific coast, but not to surf, but to enjoy its beaches, and above all, to visit Coiba Island, known as the Galapagos of Central America.
Perhaps the fact that it is a small town, which has known how to show the world its waves, has made it a paradise for surfers from all over the world.
In fact, it has been one of the stops of the world championship of surfing, so if you like the waves this is your place.
But if you don’t surf, that’s okay, there are plenty of plans that make this small town worth stopping for.
As I mentioned above, the main reason for our stop in Santa Catalina was to go to Coiba, and snorkel there.
But also, stopping in Santa Catalina, is something strategic if you are going or coming from Bocas del Toro to Panama City.
Since it’s a midway stop, it’s perfect to make the most of a two-week travel itinerary through Panama.
Santa Catalina is a very quiet and friendly town.
Let’s say it can be divided into three parts.
Santa Catalina Beach
The first one is the part of town where the transport from Soná leaves you, and where the Santa Catalina beach is.
There are several accommodations, but it’s also where the town itself is.
It reminds one of a small, pleasant, lively place, but certainly not a party place.
Santa Catalina beach is small but nice.
But remember, you’re in the Pacific, and it’s a wave town, so be careful getting in the water.
There’s also a nice local atmosphere.
The second most important place on the island is Estero beach.
It’s right across town, you can walk along the road, it’s a short walk, about fifteen minutes.
To get to the beach, you have to cross a small estuary, which, when it rises, reaches your knees.
And when it’s low, it barely covers your foot.
The Estero beach is very long, and actually quite beautiful.
A perfect place to swim a little, enjoy a perfect sunset, I have to say, the sunsets in Santa Catalina are beautiful, especially in this beach of Estero.
It is also true that Estero Beach has a “but”.
We arrived in Santa Catalina on November 2nd, a bad day, this one and the next two, since it is a national holiday and it is the four days of the year when Panamanians move around the most.
This happens because in Panama the working week is six days long, and the only days of the year when you can enjoy more days, is on this holiday.
When we arrived at Santa Catalina, the town was full.
Well almost, since we found accommodation in a perfect place, with the best sea views.
Going back to the “but”, something we didn’t like, but well, in the end the customs of each place are their customs, and we are mere spectators.
What we didn’t like is that some Panamanians have the habit of putting their car in the sand of the beach next to the water, music and above all, throwing waste on the beach that ends up in the sea.
Plastics, beer cans, etc.
I also have to say, that Panama in general has seemed to us to be a country that is quite environmentally conscious, that takes care of the environment, and that they have a war against plastic.
But there are always those who do not have that awareness, also the tourists.
We spent almost a whole day on that beach, we enjoyed it, the surroundings, the baths in the water.
And as I said before, it is so long that you can look for your lonely corner away from everything.
On this beach there are also cabins where you can stay, looking at the sea.
I think it’s a good accommodation option, but we liked it much better where we stayed.
The last part of Santa Catalina is a small hill with very good views of the village, well, more of the sea around.
I’m talking about the ridge.
You could say it’s a trek, but I think it’s very daring.
It is a walk along a very steep path, which when you reach the top, shows you the nature around Santa Catalina.
We did it the last morning, before taking our transport to Boquete, the next stop.
In short, we liked Santa Catalina very much, its beaches, the atmosphere, and above all, that in spite of being one of the most visited places in Panama, it conserves a very authentic local atmosphere.
It’s a mixture of “it has tourism, little, and you can tell it’s not quite ready yet”, which was perfect for us.
Accommodation in Santa Catalina
There are three places in Santa Catalina where you can find accommodation.
On the one hand there is the area of the small town and next to the beach of Santa Catalina.
That’s where the bus from Soná drops you off.
There are quite a few options, but none of them with a view of the sea.
As I said a bit above, the area of Playa Estero also has several accommodations.
Among them, one that is on the same beach with cabins overlooking the sea.
Getting up in the morning and enjoying the sound of the sea is priceless.
The Oasis Surf Camp is a very good option to stay in Estero.
You can take a look at the availability, price and pictures in the following link, Oasis Surf Camp.
We are located halfway between Santa Catalina Beach and Estero Beach, in Surfers Paradise.
We liked the place a lot, with a relaxed atmosphere, impressive views of the sea, four dogs that greeted us every morning, and every time we were there.
And Italo, the owner of the place, and his wife were great hosts.
You can take a look at this link about this accommodation, Surfers Paradise, we simply loved it.
If you want to see other options to stay in Santa Catalina, you can check out this link, Accommodation in Santa Catalina.