Skip to Content


In the Gulf of Chiriqui province is Coiba National Park. There really isn’t any other way to describe this island region than paradise. We are talking about white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and palm tree laden islands. The most impressive part of the region is not what is above the water it is what you might encounter below. Coiba National Park is a hotspot for whale sharks, humpback whales, sea turtles, stingrays and hundreds of other marine species.
Coiba National Park is 430,825 of tropical bliss, comprised of 38 different islands. The most well known is namely Isla Coiba. Coiba National Park has been identified as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2005.
There are multiple ways to enjoy Coiba National Park but the most common are day trips from Santa Catalina or scuba-diving trips from Santa Catalina. It is possible to stay overnight in Coiba National Park but don’t be expecting glitz and glamour. If you want to stay overnight in Coiba National Park, you will stay at the ANAM ranger station on Isla Coiba, which has basic 2-room cabins with air conditioning.

coiba national park


I was staying at Hostel Santa Catalina, for my week-long stay in Santa Catalina. On my first full day in Santa Catalina, they organized for me to head out with Expedicion Coiba for a Coiba National Park day-trip. It all sounded great to me and the trip ended up being amazing.

We set out at 8 am in the morning and picked up our fins, snorkels, and masks. These items were included in the price of $60 USD. Lunch was also included as was a snorkel guide at our first stop. I actually thought this was a really decent price for the trip. The boat trip was almost 1.5 hours each way so you do get value for money.

After getting the snorkel gear we loaded into a boat near Playa Santa Catalina, and off we went. The boat journey isn’t short but the beauty is that along the way you are passing beautiful coastline and there is always the possibility of coming across marine life. I really appreciate that the boat crew wasn’t just trying to get to Coiba National Park as quickly as possible. They were scanning the ocean trying to spot whales and dolphins. They wanted us to have an encounter we would remember.

coiba national park


The crew knew their stuff and managed to spot a sea turtle on our way out to Coiba National Park. I thought that was a great start along with the awesome weather. But what happened next was amazing. Four whales surrounded our boat and were putting on a show for us. They sprayed out their blowholes and clapped their tail onto the surface as they dove down back into the depths of the ocean. I was prepared for a snorkeling trip but our day-trip had now doubled as a whale watching excursion!

coiba national park


After the excitement of the whales, the journey out to Coiba National Park seemed very quick. Our first stop was a beautiful little cove where we pulled our boat in. We spent the next 45 minutes snorkeling in the crystal clear waters. We saw a turtle and a small eagle ray as well as lots of different fish. The coral was quite interesting and I was impressed with the snorkeling. We didn’t have much time to chill on this island after our snorkel tour but I quickly sent the drone up for a spin.

coiba national park

coiba national park

coiba national park

coiba national park


I feel like a really only scratched the surface with my visit to Coiba National Park and if you are adventurous, I suggest staying a night in the cabins so you can see more of the huge region.

After our snorkel, we headed to Rancheria Island. This is where the cabins are and where all of the tours go for lunch. Expedicion Coiba had prepared a pasta meal for us, which was basic but did the job. It wasn’t like the Philippines with the full barbecue and fruit spread but we were all well fed and the food was tasty.

At Rancheria Island, there is a region out the back of the eating area where monkeys and even crocodiles roam. There was a huge crocodile called ‘Tito’ waiting on the shore, presumably for his daily feed from the rangers. Maybe he was waiting for a slow monkey I’m not sure.

coiba national park


After Rancheria Island, we headed off to one last spot for a relaxing time on the beach. The weather started to turn for the worse and we got hit by a storm. We took cover under the palm trees and then swam in the ocean anyway.

That signaled the end of a great day in Coiba National Park. We had an epic snorkel, experienced some great beaches and saw whales, turtles, eagle rays, crocodiles, and monkeys!

coiba national park


If you wish to get in contact with the Ranger Station to book a cabin these are the numbers you will need: Contact ANAM call (507) 998-0615, fax (507) 998-4387, or the National Park office (507) 998-4271.




Friday 25th of March 2022

What time of the year did you go?


Thursday 25th of November 2021

Thanks so much for your guide. In which hostel did you stay in, in Santa Catalina?

Monday 18th of January 2021

Hmm...if alligators can swim, couldn't there be alligators on Coiba, too?


Sunday 4th of April 2021

No, Alligators can't handle salt water. Only Crocodiles are built for that.

Marie the Quebecer

Saturday 5th of October 2019

Thanks so much for all your insights about Panama. I am planning my trip right meow and your blog helped me a lot! I also very much love your ''bag of trash'' initiative which you collect in all your adventures. Way to go!


Monday 16th of September 2019

[…] Source by reinelyj […]