Author: Jordan Adkins – @inspiredbymaps
Hotel Santa Catalina in Panama is a rare mix of under-stated elegance and natural beauty in a prime location. A ocean-front hotel in the quiet surf town of Santa Catalina Panama, the hotel offer’s guests the opportunity to holiday their own way, to do as much or as little as you desire. Located directly in-front of one of the world’s best surf breaks, the more adventurous travellers with the necessary skills can paddle out directly from the hotel – or you can simply lounge in the heavenly infinity pool watching in awe as riders try to tame the waves.
There is also a beach less than 5 minutes walk away if you want to try surfing out for the first time with more gentle waves. Still not for you? Don’t worry Hotel Santa Catalina has free bicycle and skateboard use, as well as foam, surf and stand-up paddle boards and even kayaks! This hotel truly has it all for whatever kind of vacation you have planned – be it solo, with a special someone or for the whole family! Read on for my full Hotel Santa Catalina review and to find out what makes this place so perfect for a stay in Santa Catalina.
While with all of the other features of the hotel you are unlikely to spend much time in the room, its still obviously important to get a good-night sleep! With fabulous air-conditioning and high quality bed linen you are guaranteed to wake up every morning here feeling refreshed and renewed. The rooms are also very well sound-proofed so even though the hotel was fully booked I never heard a peep out of the neighbours! The shower was also high-pressure and hot, and available 24/7 thanks to an on-site generator as Santa Catalina does still have frequent power-cuts. The volcanic-stone inlaid shower surroundings and high nozzle reminded me of the typical outdoor Balinese shower, minus the annoying insect bites which inevitably come with being outside, and the complimentary bathroom amenities were a nice touch as people always forget something!
The rooms all have space for four people meaning that it’s perfect for families, but of-course king sized beds are available for couples. Some suites also feature a kitchenette making it even better for families travelling and watching their pennies, as the free gear hire the hotel allows and having some snacks for the kids in the room really will amount to some decent savings. All rooms feature mini-fridges as-well so you can store your own drinks or fruit in here, though I hardly used mine as the restaurant has an ice-cold water dispensar! An in-room safe is also on offer so you can put your valuables in here without worry (though this part of Panama is extremely safe – I routinely left my phone and laptop unattended by the pool) and of course the is a LCD Television and Cable TV available for those wanting to relax and unwind from the comfort of their bed! WiFi is however not available in the room, but this has the positive side-effect of making you soak up the view’s from the restaurant while you chat away to people at home and gives this part of the hotel a real vibe!
Hotel Santa Catalina has everything you need whether you want to lounge by the pool all day, explore the surrounding countryside, hit up the beach or keep connected with those at home. However one thing here obviously outshines everything – the stunning infinity pool! Something that for some reason hasn’t caught on that much outside of Asia, the infinity pool complete with wooden loungers and free pool towels is a hard proposition to tear yourself away from – if only they would provide pool towels by the pool and not at reception, but this should change in future. The pool has varying depths so it’s perfect for children, relaxing or just sitting in to cool off in the heat of the day. I must admit I spent an entire day between the loungers and the pools warm embrace. Steps away is the restaraunt with WiFi, snacks and cocktails for those who need it. Of course there is also an entire selection of free gear for what you decide to do for the day – I suggest walking in, having a look and taking whatever inspires you! A giant money saver and defiantly much less of a hassle than organizing rental in the town. Sure to put on smile on anyone’s face and most importantly gives you options to relax however you want!
Hotel Santa Catalina has it’s own on-site restaurant “Pescao” which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily with a ocean front view of the infinity pool and surfers off the point. They also serve cocktails and drinks poolside through-out the day and into the night, and let me tell you – Their CocoLoco was one of the best I have had anywhere in the world, and is all the more enjoyable at sunset watching surfers out on the break. Breakfast is not included at Hotel Santa Catalina but is very affordable at between $5-$8 dollars. This ensures each guest can choose what they prefer and then, resulting in higher quality and no buffet in site. It also means lower room rates as the price for breakfast is not included, and if you have an early morning activity, want to eat elsewhere or are just someone who only wants a caffeine kick in the morning you are not paying unnecessarily!
For lunch and dinner Pescao really shines and is one of the best eating houses in the entire town – many people from outside the hotel head here to enjoy the delicious fresh fish, lobster and daily specialities. I had some of the best tuna of my life here, and the waitress was able to passionately guide me in the correct pairing of sauce and accompaniments, of which there are many, many choices. And of course, seafood always tastes better with an ocean view and the sound of the waves crashing ashore! The only negative here would be the pancakes at breakfast were a bit lacking for flavor and were quite dry, but I did love every other meal!
Besides being located on Panama’s best surf break (and one of the best in the world) Santa Catalina has prime position in Santa Catalina, being easy walking distance to both Estero Beach and the small township. A number of other delicious restaurants dot the road in both directions so you really are spoilt for choice, and if you choose to make use of the free stand-up paddle boards the staff will help you get it down to the beach and back. While the distances are fairly small the hotel also offers free bike hire so you can really be anywhere in a matter of minutes. Further afield their is amazing scuba diving at Coiba Island which is truly not to be missed – on either a day trip or an overnight excursion.
Hotel Santa Catalina also partners with Santa Catalina Retreats who use the hotel to host their unique (and wildly popular!) yoga + surf retreats! I can’t imagine a better way to relax the mind, body and spirit than a retreat at Hotel Santa Catalina. If you don’t have enough time they can also organize one-off yoga lessons in their custom yoga-hut with ocean views, or surf lessons with pro-instructors to get you conquering the waves in no time! Still havn’t got enough ideas for thing to do in Santa Catalina – Check out this post on the ten things you absolutely cannot miss in Santa Catalina for more inspiration!
The Hotel Santa Catalina in Panama is a special place, a hybrid of luxury and rugged nature that entertains and invites. A clean, modern hotel with a world-class infinity pool and surf break. Free equipment use and incredible onsite dining means the options are endless. Equally perfect for a family getaway or a romantic retreat, for those looking to relax and unwind or something a tad more adventurous. A well-run operation which far exceed the low standards of service you generally find in Panama it is truly hard to find fault here – I recommend a stay here if at least 3 nights to take in the highlights of the area, but you could easily entertain yourself for a week or more!