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Coiba National Park In Panama: Everything You Need To Know

Coiba National Park In Panama: Everything You Need To Know
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


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


Coiba National Park, located off the coast of Panama, is a diver’s paradise. The park is home to a diverse array of marine life, including whale sharks, manta rays, and schools of colorful fish. The clear, warm waters make for ideal diving conditions, and the park’s remote location ensures that the reefs remain largely untouched.

One of the highlights of diving in Coiba National Park is the opportunity to see whale sharks. These gentle giants are often spotted during the months of June through September, and diving with them is an experience that you will never forget. The park also boasts an abundance of manta rays, which can be spotted year-round. In addition to the larger marine life, there are also a variety of smaller creatures to discover, such as seahorses, octopus, and a plethora of tropical fish. With its crystal clear waters, healthy coral reefs and diverse marine life, Coiba National Park is a must-see destination for any diver.


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.


I hope you enjoy my guides and have a great time exploring Panama!

cerro picacho ola panama


These are the three most popular activities for tourists in Panama. Personally, I love the San Blas Islands boat trip!

  • San Blas Islands Boat Trip: Explore the tropical paradise of the San Blas Islands, the most beautiful region in Panama. Easily the most amazing activity I did in Panama.
  • Taboga Island Catamaran Cruise: Admire Panama from the water on a sightseeing catamaran cruise to Taboga Island. Admire the city skyline, dive from the boat for a swim, relax on a beach in Taboga, and enjoy snacks and an open bar.
  • Half-Day City Tour & Panama Canal: Connect with the beautiful and modern Panama City on this shared or private city tour. Stroll the narrow streets of the Old Town and watch ships sail through the Panama Canal


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Thursday 8th of February 2024

Hola. One new travel option that opened up a few months ago is private charters to Lago Bay. Lago Bay is a 15 minute shuttle to Santa Catalina. More information can be found at to set up a flight. Saludos.


Sunday 26th of March 2023

Did you boat back in the storm? How choppy was the ride back?


Thursday 2nd of March 2023

Hi Jackson! Great post, I can’t wait to visit Coiba. You mentioned you were there one day out of your week in Santa Catalina. Where else did you go for the rest of the week? Thank you


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?