Well. What is not to love about Santa Catalina? Santa Catalina is among Panama’s places to be. Not only does it have a laid-back surfer vibe, some chilled cafes, and restaurants. Exposed to the open Pacific Ocean in the Veraguas province, you will find very consistent surf and a variety of spots to choose from. Santa Catalina is the hub for trips to the Coiba National Park with incredible scuba diving, snorkeling or sailing. In the last couple of years, a lot of places opened and it seems Santa Catalina is getting some traction, however still far away from any tourist masses.
Anchorage in Santa Catalina
The anchorage next to Santa Catalina Island is great. The holding is good and even though there may be a six feet swell, it is still very much protected. It is getting rolly and around spring high tides and bigger swells, though, as the waves wrap around the island then.
Beaches to walk around (and take your dog to business)
We anchored very close to Santa Catalina Island and were actually able to swim to the beach (at low tide). Dinght, Kayak or SUP landing here is usually ok and only at high tide and big swell challenging.
Dinghy landing in Santa Catalina
If you want to go to town, it’s a different story. This may be rough when there’s a swell of more than three feet and you need to time it right. High tide is the roughest, but all low tide is also not recommended as it’s got rocky ground from a few hundred meters of the highest point of the beach. So you want to come in and out about 1-2 hours before or after low tide. Then you can ride up to the beach and beach your dinghy. If the swell is small, also the dinghy landing here is easy going.
Also be aware of the rocks about half way to the beach of the town. You can see them at low tide, but at high tide they are submerged. As a rule of thumb, you start at the eastern end of the beach of the island and head straigh to the middle of the beach of the town. On the way back, head to the eastern (left) end of the tree line of the island.
Be aware that, especially in rainy season, the weather may change very fast and you don’t realize while in Santa Catalina and only see the squall with pouring rain and strong wind when you get back to the beach. Of course if will be onshore and very choppy and you will have your hands full of supplies..
Supplies and provisioning in Santa Catalina
There are plenty of supplies available in town. First to mention is the amazing fruit store up the main road. You will find a big selection of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as Granola, Seeds, and different things that you would usually only get in Pricesmart or an organic store.
A real novelty is the ATM and the pharmacy on the junction of the main road. Please don’t count on the ATM working though (it didn’t when we were there). There are two more small supermarkets with different, basic supplies.
You can find fuel here if you can wait for a day or two. Bring your jerrycans to the first house on the right side when you come from the beach.
For bigger shopping, there is a bus that takes you to Santiago. There, you will find Cosco Style wholesale shop Pricesmart, all large supermarket chains like Rey and Super99 and also hardware stores like Doit Center and Novey. Also, an electronics shop Panafoto for Cameras like Gopros or even laptops, dehumidifiers, headphones, etc. It will take about 3 hours to go there and the bus leaves at 8 am.
Surfspots close to the sailboat anchorage in Santa Catalina / Panama
There are a couple of surf spots close to the anchorage in Santa Catalina in Panama.
La Punta – Surf spot in Santa Catalina
The best (for advanced surfers) and most famous surf spot is La Punta. From the anchorage at Santa Catalina Island, you can take your dinghy and anchor it right next to the wave in the channel. As the name suggests, La Punta is a Point Break. The main wave is breaking to the right. It is a very consistent wave that can get big in any swell bigger than 4 feet. Then it not only breaks at the point, but with a wide face. As with any point break, there is a channel that you can and should escape to in case you get caught in a set. And there are going to be some set that catch you in a surprise.
If you anchor your dinghy, make sure to have a good holding anchor, we have a Mantus stainless steel dinghy anchor and it has never let us down. Also, watch the waves for a couple of minutes before you decide on an anchor spot and anchor further out if you are going surfing on an outgoing tide.
There are so many things to do in Santa Catalina that we will continue this blog post at a later stage.
What’s there to do in Santa Catalina?
Sailing – you may go on sailing trips to Coiba or Cebaco Island.
Whale Watching – July to October is whale season and you can go on whale watching trips.
Surfing – For beginners and intermediate surfers that don’t feel ready for La Punta, there are plenty of other options, including beginner beach breaks with a surfschool
Diving – One of the main reasons for landbase folks to go to Santa Catalina is the incredible diving in Coiba National Park. You will find around a couple of dive centers in Coiba that take their divers to Coiba and the surrounding islands.
Snorkeling – if you’re not a diver, going on a snorkeling trip to Coiba is also an option and you will see a lot of underwater wildlife. Once we went and saw whalesharks when we were snorkeling!
Fishing – Fishing is amazing, there is Tuna, Dorado (Mahi Mahi), Bonitos, Jacks, Spanish Mackerel and much more to catch in the waters around Santa Catalina and Cebaco. Please be aware that Coiba is a National Park and fishing is not allowed there.
Sailing Outventure offers catamaran sailing trips and yacht charters, based in Buenaventura Marina / Rio Hato.
The following picture is a 360 degree panoramic, aerial picture taken with our drone. You can use your mouse to move around in the picture.
We hope this helps when you are approaching the sailboat anchorage in Santa Catalina Island in Panama.