By Kenny Myers, Hotel Santa Catalina Panama
Long weekends. Offshore Winds. Sunny days. Luke warm-blue ocean. Surfing La Punta. Pristine waves. Panga boats. Isla Coiba. Whale watching. Sea turtles. Tucans. Deep breath. Nasal drip. Yoga. Cerveza Balboa. Fish tacos. Coconut rice. Estero beach. Low tide. Familia. Tranquilo. Jammin pizza. Red snapper. Patacones. No worries. Mojito. Freedom. Escape. Nature.
When you dream about Santa Catalina, you dream of these things. But the real reason you go to Santa Catalina, the thing that lures you to this sleepy little fishing village in the South of the Veraguas province, are those raw natural amazing invigorating experiences that will force you to upgrade your iCloud memory bank. Don’t pet the sharks while diving at Isla Coiba. Don’t hit the rocks or step on the sea urchins while surfing at La Punta. The nearest hospital is an hour drive away. Surrounding yourself with danger is good for your soul, it makes you feel more alive.
You love Santa Catalina for the waves, surf, aloha, shaka bra, pura vida. There are so many incredible waves. Playa Estero with its sand bottom gentle rollers for the kids, while La Punta pitches tubes for pros over jagged reef and rocks and urchins. Punta Brava will put hair on your chest. Isla Cebaco’s tubes will keep you coming back for more.
You love Santa Catalina for its close proximity to Isla Coiba, once the Alcatraz of Panama’s former dictatorship, where the old jail cells still have prisoners’ love notes engraved in the walls, but now it’s a UNESCO protected national park, and part of the Pacific Marine Corridor boasting the largest reef on the Western coast of the American Hemisphere, surrounded by just about every marine species you can think of, black tip’s, hammerheads, bulls, tigers, whales and whale sharks, eels, manta rays, dolphin, turtles, crocodiles, you name it, they are there. Snorkelers and scuba divers get the salt water taste – while being inside the food chain, literally… it’s an invigorating experience never to be forgotten, and leaves you craving for more.
You love Santa Catalina for the food. La Buena Vida’s huevos rancheros with organic ground corn tortillas & fresh fruit salad sprinkled with native granola & honey. Mama Ines’ fish tacos, coconut rice & patacones with a Cerveza Panama. El Encuentro’s squid ceviche followed by grilled red snapper on a bed of veggies & yuca al mojo. Los Pibes famous Argentine grilled seafood & burgers. Garlic shrimp on a hammock of plantain at Bannaba, makes your mouth water. This is the opposite of Chipotle or Taco Bell folks, this is the real deal, raw homegrown mom & pop style real authentic Panamanian sea food.
You love Santa Catalina for its’ people. The old sun wrinkled fisherman waving as he passes by at sunrise paddling his cayuco filled with fishing nets. The young natives playing baseball on the beach in their undies at low tide with tree branches for bats and no gloves. The young girls eyes sparkle flirtatiously with friendly giggles at the local ice cream shop. The women with soft smiles graciously share the tastes of their families culinary secrets with travelers sitting in the thatched ranchos in the back yards of their humble homes.
They say that if you have not surfed Santa Catalina, you cannot call yourself a surfer in heaven… and if you have not dived Isla Coiba, then don’t expect PADI to renew your open water scuba license. Those are heavy statements, because this is a heavy place. So what are you waiting for? Viva Santa Catalina!