Santa Catalina Island or Isla Catalina as it is known locally, is a beautiful island sitting just off the coast of Santa Catalina in Veraguas. Snorkeling and a virgin white sand beach are the highlights of the island. You can expect a peaceful afternoon with tourists rarely venturing out to the island. You can either rent a boat to drop you there in a few minutes or head out on a kayak adventure to Santa Catalina Islands as we did.
KAYAKING TO SANTA CATALINA ISLAND
I was staying at Hotel Santa Catalina, which was the perfect base for my week of adventures in the Santa Catalina area. The great part about Hotel Santa Catalina is that they have free rentals of surfboards, bicycles, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks. With the ocean on the doorstep of the hotel, this is really cool that they offer this to the guests when most hotels would charge extra. If you are staying at a different accommodation you can rent a kayak in the town of Santa Catalina.
We grabbed two kayaks and one Stand-up paddleboard. The key is to wait for the high tide so that you don’t have to carry the kayaks out over the rocks. Impatiently we wanted to get going and carried the heavy kayaks out over the rocks into the water. We then had to navigate our way through the popular surf break, trying not to get destroyed in the process.
There is an easier entry point. You can jump off from Playa Santa Catalina, which is closer to Santa Catalina Island and has no waves to deal with. The issue is you will need to find a way to get your kayak down there from your accommodation. If you rent the kayak in town you will already be there so it is a bit of a bonus if you rent it in the town that you are in the perfect jump-off spot.
3 MOST POPULAR TOURS IN 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
After a few close calls with the surf, we managed to make our way out into the deep blue past the carnage of the surf break. It was an extremely hot day and all we took was a bottle of water each and our dry bag with the drone and a camera. Make sure your dry bag works. I got hit by one big wave and was drenched so if it wasn’t working, goodbye drone.
The kayak to Santa Catalina Island took about an hour as we slowly made our way across to the little island. We slowly made our way to shore to see the beach completely empty. At low to mid tide, this beach has the perfect amount of sand. As we left the tide was high and there wasn’t much sand to enjoy so take that into consideration if you are interested in photos or just want a lot of sand for your private island!
The back side of the island is all rocks and the front side is a long sandy beach. It was a great place to grab a tan and hang out in the sun for a while. We explored along the shore keeping our eyes out for a trail we had heard about. Apparently, the local fisherman had cleared a nature path to the top, which offers a viewpoint of Santa Catalina and even Coiba. We didn’t search too hard but didn’t find anything that resembled a trail. Keep your eyes open you might just stumble upon a great viewpoint! Let me know if you find it!
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There are some rocks to snorkel around at both ends of the island if you are up for that too. We mostly hung out in the palm trees and even found a green snake hanging out on the hot sand!
I heard that developers had tried to build on the island multiple times but the community had blocked it. Much respect to the local community because I know it is hard to resist powerful developers for a number of reasons. The island is a turtle nesting site, which helped keep this island as natural as it is.
The paddle back was quite relaxed but it is a bit of a workout. If you haven’t kayaked much you may find it strenuous but do be ready for at least one hour. If you are confident you can hammer out an hour you will be fine. Otherwise, maybe take a two-person kayak to be safe. The ocean is a dangerous place if you don’t respect it.
My friend took the stand-up paddleboard and although he made it both ways he was incredibly tired. It may be just a little too far for the average person on a stand-up paddleboard so I do suggest a kayak. It’s possible but we definitely enjoyed the journey on our kayaks much more!
ADVENTURE BAG FROM SANTA CATALINA ISLAND
This is an adventure bag. It is full of trash. Every time I go on an adventure I collect one adventure bag full of trash. It’s my small way of saying thanks to mother nature for allowing me to enjoy her beautiful creations. If we have time to go on an adventure we have time to collect an adventure bag on the way back out of the trail once we have enjoyed the waterfall, the hike or the beach. Adventure hard!
HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT MY OTHER PANAMA GUIDES
- 70 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN PANAMA: The ultimate guide to exploring the whole country!
- 26 AMAZING WATERFALLS IN PANAMA: The ultimate guide to waterfall chasing in Panama.
- 6 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS IN PANAMA: The guide for thrill-seekers and adrenaline hunters.
- 37 AMAZING HIKES IN PANAMA: All of the best hiking trails. Many you’ve never heard of!
- 18 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN BOQUETE: Hiking, waterfalls, and volcanoes.
- 12 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN EL VALLE DE ANTON: My favorite place to base in Panama.
- 10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN SANTA CATALINA: Surf, hike, swim, kayak, and explore.
I hope you enjoy my guides and have a great time exploring Panama!