Miscellaneous Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina has been absolutely incredible. I could live here. In fact point at pretty much anywhere in Panama and I’d probably quite happily live there too. But Santa Catalina is a bit special really. It’s so chilled with a lovely vibe to it. I was expecting chill time but there’s actually stuff to do here too unlike Farallón. I mean, Farallón was brilliant too and I’d definitely go back but Santa Catalina currently ranks as a hot beach town favourite.

Small town vibes.

On our first day, after I’d sorted out my diving, we took a hot, sweaty stroll to Playa Estero. Fucking hell, it’s hot here. You sort of forget you’re in the Tropics when you’re up in the hills with the sane daytime temperatures and the lovely, cool nights that actually permit you to get some sleep without AC or a fan. In fact yes, I’d love a blanket, please. Not here though. I think I’d combust if I tried to cover myself with a blanket. I’d incinerate my internal organs. It is very, very hot. But I digress.

Playa Estero

We did originally come to this beach as we’d read it was a beginners’ surf beach so we fully intended to hire a board and go for it. Then we decided it was entirely too surfy and we were more likely end up impaled on the board rather than gliding ashore atop a wave, goofy stance perfected. We talked about maybe having a lesson but I’ve done casual surf lessons before and I’ve never been able to stand up. I don’t mean to ride a wave either, I mean at all. I can’t go from prone to my feet in one movement. I need to struggle laboriously to my knees first before I attempt to be upright and all whilst making old lady noises, then I’ll probably get a head rush and fall over.

Body boards didn’t seem to be a thing here so we contented ourselves with several hours of sprawling in the shade and frolicking in the ocean. When our shade gave way to blazing sunshine we retreated to a café up the road for lunch. We did look at the menu at the surf camp behind the beach but I nearly had a heart attack when we saw the prices. Fucking hell, mate! We’re not in bloody London! We did that thing where we studied the menu for a little longer before making an escape to a much cheaper place when the staff weren’t looking. Then we went back to the beach and found some new shade to continue the sprawling.

Our local beach, Playa Santa Catalina, is also lovely and offers shade along the back. Whilst I was out diving Tarrant found the most perfect all day shade spot so we spent a good chunk of time there too. This is where the boats are launched to take people to the national park. There are no waves here so you’re not at risk of a lobotomy from a surfer which is nice. It’s a good place to chill and we never saw it get busy. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the season? Who knows. I’ll take it whatever the reason.

Playa Santa Catalina

We’d fully intended to rent a kayak on our last day and sail gracefully out to Isla Catalina, definitely not flapping around like a drag queen on crack, but I wasn’t sure it’d be a good idea given the whole “not getting my ear wet” thing. Out of all the time we’ve been sea kayaking we’ve been able to beach the kayak without capsizing exactly zero times. I’d worry that my little green ball of wax would fall out of my ear and flood my skull with the Pacific Ocean. Plus we’d just be going to a beach. We could go to a beach right here for free. Fuck it. We geared up for another day of absolutely fuck all on our local patch under our favourite tree.

For such a tiny place there’s a surprising amount of stuff. There’s a pharmacy, a couple of convenience stores, an ATM (but I don’t know how reliable it is, I wouldn’t be all surprised Pikachu face if it ran out of money), and a shit tonne of accommodation. There are plenty of place to eat too ranging from “I’m not fucking paying that!” to US$5 for fried chicken, rice and beans. There are an abundance of dive shops and tour operators that’ll take you to Coiba. Prices seem to be more or less the same whoever you go with but I really liked Expedicion Coiba. They’re a good, professional outfit and I felt like the staff really cared about our experience.

Beach friends.

Anyway. All we need to do now is win lotto and we can move here. Just point at the deity I need to sacrifice a goat to to make that happen.

Jump to “Useful shit to know…”

Santa Catalina, Veraguas, Panama

Stayed at: Tiki Lodge Bar & Restaurant, Santa Catalina

Tiki Lodge Bar & Restaurant. Located in I guess what passes for town here, close to the dive shops, the convenience stores, and a non-surf beach. We liked it but there aren’t many comfortable places to just chill in the shade. There’s AC in the dorm which is nice. Beds are comfortable and the they all have curtains, a shelf, a light, and a plug socket. The kitchen is fine, it does the job. There’s free coffee and pancake mix. The restaurant is very expensive but the food is actually pretty good. Showers are a cool trickle. You don’t want a hot shower here but it would be nice to have more pressure. WiFi is obviously shite. Generally a decent, affordable option.

Useful shit to know…

How To Get From Santa Fe To Santa Catalina By Bus

  • Minibuses to Santiago from Santa Fe leave regularly from early in the morning.
  • You can go from the terminal or basically anywhere the bus passes by, you can flag it from there.
  • Obviously you’re more likely to get a seat if you go from the terminal.
  • It cost US$2.90 each and took about an hour and 45 minutes.
  • You’ll be dropped at the front of the terminal in Santiago, then you walk through to the platforms and turn left.
  • Buses to Sona leave from stand B.
  • Toilets at the bus terminal need a 25c coin for the turnstile.
  • The bus to Sona was a big bus, took just over an hour and cost US$2.50.
  • If you ooze gringo like we do the conductor will guess you’re going to Santa Catalina and will let you off at the right place.
  • If you miss it just get to the terminal at 8.004692, -81.314982.
  • There are, I’m told, four or five buses a day to Santa Catalina. I couldn’t find a schedule pinned up anywhere. I asked at the Sona to Panama desk inside and she told me the next bus was at 11.15am.
  • It took nearly two hours and cost US$5 each. That last 15 kilometres was a bone rattler.
  • Total cost: US$10.40 each.
  • Total time: Six hours including the 40 minute wait in Sona.

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