18 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN VERAGUAS, PANAMA
Veraguas is a province in the center/west of Panama full of hikes, waterfalls, and epic adventures. I spent several weeks exploring some amazing spots in the region. The terrain ranges from dense rainforest to dry rolling hills to tropical islands. Veraguas really has it all! Veraguas is also the only province in Panama to border both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After three weeks in the region, these are my favorite things to do in Veraguas.
CERRO TUTE HIKE
Cerro Tute was the first hike I did while staying in Santa Fe. It takes about four hours return trip and offers panoramic views from the rocks at the summit of the hike. The final ascent is quite steep but despite the photos looking a little dangerous, it is a pretty safe hike and summit.
I really loved Cerro Tute and it was a great first experience in Santa Fe, Veraguas. I recommend doing it as your first Santa Fe hiking trail even though it is quite long. You will get great views of the area and can even pick out a few other peaks you might want to summit also! It’s one of the best hikes in the region and one of my favorite things to do in Veraguas province.
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Santa Catalina is a popular surf and island-hopping destination in Veraguas, Panama. Most tourists take a boat tour to Coiba Island, which has beautiful islands, snorkeling, and marine life. However, it is quite popular and can be a little crowded. Less than an hour away from Santa Catalina by boat is another amazing destination for whale spotting, snorkeling and island hopping. Cebaco Island is a beautiful palm tree-laden paradise and the best part about it, you will be the only one there!
There is only one hotel on Cebaco Island called Cebaco Sunrise and there are less than 300 locals living on the island. I spent 48 hours on Cebaco Island and didn’t see another tourist or even another local. From Cebaco Sunrise we were completely isolated in our own little paradise. I walked up and down the coast in solitude, exploring lagoons, waterfalls, and caves. It’s not often you feel like you have an entire island to yourself!
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SEE AN EPIC SUNSET REFLECTION AT LA COQUITA BEACH
La Coquita is one of my favorite beaches in Santa Catalina because of the reflections. It reminds me of Bali beaches, which give epic black sand reflections every night. When the sunset gives you some color you want to be at La Coquita.
It is one beach further on from Playa Estero and you just walk down Estero and then go across the rocks at the end of the beach. This is easiest at low tide and when the reflections are the best.
Because of the huge stretch of sand, it is a popular spot for horse-back riding and we even took the cruiser bikes all the way down here. On our visit to La Coquita, we watched an insane storm come straight past us as the horses were riding through. It was a pretty surreal ten minutes and the storm never even touched us. Visiting La Coquita for sunset would have to be one of my favorite things to do in Santa Catalina because of the reflections.
ALTO DE PIEDRA WATERFALL HIKE
Alto de Piedra waterfall hike is one of the most popular things to do in Sante Fe, Veraguas. Because it is such a short hike it is frequented by a lot of travelers in the area. There are several short trails to different waterfalls all in the same little area.
The first waterfall was a beautiful 20-footer that quietly flowed into a small blue pool. Vines and ferns crowd the small amphitheater in what as a very peaceful spot. I hung out here for almost half an hour by myself taking photos and then I just sat on the rocks taking the tranquility in.
I continued on to another trail that I stumbled across and this waterfall was quite unique. It was several tiers in a slot canyon. The landscape here was quite bizarre with water flowing in all directions. I had never seen something quite like it and climbed down as far as I could to explore.
At the bottom of the third trail was a huge waterfall, the biggest of the day. I felt like the waterfalls in this region just never ended but that’s Panama for you. A shallow pool once again collected the water at the bottom of this pool. It wasn’t the best place for swimming in waterfall pools. However, there were lots of swimming spots along the route. Just none at the foot of a waterfall per se. Having a shower under the waterfall would definitely be possible.
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KAYAK TO SANTA CATALINA ISLAND (ISLA SANTA CATALINA)
Santa Catalina Island or Isla Catalina is it is known locally, is a beautiful island sitting just off the coast from 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. For me, this is one of the best beaches in Santa Catalina if not the best beach. However, it takes some effort to get out there.
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 to 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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DAY TRIP TO COIBA NATIONAL PARK
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SALTO EL SUBI WATERFALL
El Salto Subi Waterfall is quite amazing with the flow crashing down in multiple directions. I always love when a waterfall is chaotic and smashes down the drop in different directions and different levels! It isn’t too far from Santa Catalina, which makes it a great little adventure if you get sick of sun and sand.
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BERMEJO WATERFALL HIKE
Bermejo Waterfall was a scene of beautiful destruction. As I sat atop a wet rock, alone in the amphitheater of Bermejo, I could only envision the events that had unfolded over the years to leave this magical place in the state it remains today. Boulders the sizes of houses are covered in moss with trees growing readily from their surface. Freezing cold water swirls viciously, inviting you to test the danger. And then there is the waterfall itself. A multi-tiered, dual-directional flow of pure aggression, which slices through the earth in the middle of the Santa Fe Jungle with an exclamation point.
There was a defining moment. A fork in the trail. The waterfall could be heard to the left but I thought I would stick to the straight trail. This turned out to be a mistake but an adventurous one. If you want to visit the waterfall you need to take this left.
It’s an aggressive waterfall without a place to swim directly below it. However, the first pool is deep enough to at least cool off. I definitely suggest packing lunch and hanging out in this area for a few hours to appreciate the region and recover from your trek in!
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EL SALTO WATERFALL HIKE
On my last day in Santa Fe, I decided to head out to find El Salto Waterfalls. It was an incredibly hot day and a pretty strenuous hike up some serious hills. However, after arriving in the small village, what I found was nothing short of amazing. El Salto is a collection fo 22 waterfalls (if not more) in the middle of the mountains near Santa Fe. I explored two by foot and one other with the drone. It is possible to explore all of them but takes expert knowledge of the area, ropes and some serious skills and planning.
When I arrived at the waterfalls, I was pretty tired. I didn’t think this was such a big trek from the bus stop. I had gone for a 10-kilometer run that morning, which was an indication of what I thought this adventure would be like. The hike in was incredible. There were beautiful views of the mountains in all direction, maybe the best I had in Santa Fe. You can even see several waterfalls on the other side of the valley as you near the village.
I finally, made it up the hill and was ready to see what El Salto had in store. The first falls were a great little spot with two waterfalls coming down into a small pool. This is the spot where I swam in the refreshing water. The striking part about El Salto was the huge boulders that were scattered throughout the canyon. I always love to consider the crazy situations in which these sorts of landscapes were formed. Just imagine the force needed to drop a boulder the size of a house into the river.
The second waterfall was where things started to get very impressive. Three waterfalls streamed down the flat cliff. It was almost like a water feature. It wasn’t a booming fall like Golondrinas, it was an elegant, triple waterfall tucked away in a corner. From the observation spot of the second waterfall, I spotted the third.
Up in another canyon, a third waterfall looked even more impressive. It was the waterfall you could see on the other side of the valley while on the hike. It looked very tempting, but the rocks were very slippery, I was by myself and I just thought it was an adventure for another time. I did, however, explore it quite thoroughly with the drone and it was my favorite of all three waterfalls. If you can it would be explored to explore the third waterfall with ropes or a guide and maybe even more of the 22 waterfalls in El Salto.
It’s definitely one of the longer Santa Fe hiking trails but you usually get out what effort you put in and it’s is true in this case. Remote paradise!
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EL SALTO DEL LIMON WATERFALL
Multiple streams poured over the edge of the cliff, like lines of tears seeping out of the earth. El Salto del Limon is a beautiful waterfall that has a quiet, peaceful atmosphere rather than an aggressive show of raw power like many of the other waterfalls in Panama.
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LA SILAMPA WATERFALL HIKE
A rocky path carves it’s way through the rolling hills of Calobre. For an hour of steep trekking, curious hikers can only imagine what paradise may be found at the end of their journey. The trail finally ends, and what is found is truly an oasis, a crystal clear oasis. Flowing down for a river through the mountains, a waterfall cascades into the azure blue water, which then flows into several small lagoons before finally free-falling into another waterfall to disappear into the river below. This my friends is a mountain paradise.
Silampa is one of my favorite places in Panama and its the perfect location for an all-day hangout with a packed lunch and good company. The trek is only an hour one-way, which makes it the perfect weekender.
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NUCA DEL TORO HIKE
Amidst a myriad of amazing waterfalls and trails, Nuca Del Toro, is a basic trail without much of an epic viewpoint. However, if you give the trail a chance it can be a fun afternoon activity with a change of scenery from the Panamanian Jungle. Huge pine trees surround you on top of the hill with snippets of the mountain range visible depending on what giant boulder you can clamber onto.
It’s always an adventure in Panama and this short but fun hike was no different.
The trail led to the top of the hill, where I found two crosses. I think this may be a burial site at the top of the hill. Trekking to the top took less than ten minutes again. I had prepared for a couple of hours of hiking but it turned out to be a hill, not a mountain. The environment was much different from the other hikes. Pine trees and a forest vibe were par for this hike.
At the top there as no real viewpoint, which is a bit disappointing. Not because you have hiked for hours but because the bus journey and the effort to get here is quite a lot for being stuck in the middle of some grass. I decided to power on and found my way onto some huge boulders. Here I had a decent view of the mountains beyond Nuca Del Toro.
There was a rock platform in the middle of the pine trees, which turned out to be my favorite part of the entire hike. I hung out here for a while in the middle of this little forest, on the hill all by myself taking it all in. The drone had a little run from this rock also.
If you only have a couple of days in Santa Fe I recommend some of the other Santa Fe hiking trails and waterfalls in the area but if you are into your second week in Santa Fe like myself, then it is a fun little adventure!
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NATURE NIGHT TRAIL IN SANTA FE
Take a walk into the dark, armed with your flashlight! In the jungle at night the creatures come out to play and we had an epic time exploring. We saw frogs, snakes, a shy sloth, cicadas, butterflies, tarantulas and all kinds of crazy bugs.
The interesting part is that in Santa Fe there are lots of motion-sensor cameras and Edgar showed us the photos they had captured within the last 2 years. It is pretty shocking. Jaguars, Ocelots, Pumas and lots of other large mammals are out here in the jungle, but they are seldom seen!
We walked for about 1.5 hours total admiring all of the amazing creatures along the way. Let’s just see the bugs are bigger in Panama. If you are interested in this experience I do recommend it. Just drop into Hostal La Qhiaand let them know. Edgar is so stoked on the creatures and you can tell he really loves that part of being involved at the hostel. It was $25 per person and the only paid tour I did in Santa Fe. The rest of the Santa Fe hiking trails were free!
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SURF THE #1 BREAK IN CENTRAL AMERICA AT LA PUNTA
La Punta has built a reputation as being one of the best waves in Central America because of its year-round offshores and consistency seen almost nowhere else in the region. It breaks right every day between April and October. With a tide sweeping in and out by quite some distance, surfers wait for high tide to paddle directly out from Hotel Santa Catalina or nearby entrance points.
The most popular section at La Punta surf break is the outside section. It gets dispersed down the long point, especially during high tide. The offshore winds get strong in the afternoon.
LOMA GRANDE WATERFALL HIKE
Loma Grande Waterfall near Santa Fe, Veraguas is one of the most spectacular little spots to visit in the region. Not only is this waterfall an epic natural sight but the amphitheater within which it is found is out of this world. Slopes on either side are covered in tropical plants, dripping from the spray of the waterfall. Moss covered rocks are scattered throughout the stream that leads up to the fall. The best bit, however, is the unexplainable pool of blue water that sits to the side of the waterfall.
The trail down to Loma Grande Waterfall is pretty raw. Along the way, you will find banana plants and huge century old trees. I was waiting for a jaguar, a huge snake or something to jump put the whole way. I really felt deep in the jungle and I guess I was. Santa Fe was miles away and so was Guabal. There was nothing out here except the promise of an epic waterfall.
A few cuts and bruises later, I laid my eyes on Loma Grande and what a sight she was. This amphitheater really blew me away. It was almost like the pool of youth next to the fountain of youth. An unbelievably blue pool sat still, next to the beast of a waterfall, which came crashing down just meters away. I think this might have just been my favorite Santa Fe hiking trail.
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LEARN TO SURF AT PLAYA ESTERO
If La Punta break looks a bit too crazy or advanced for you, that is no problem in Santa Catalina. Just down the hill at the other end of the village is Playa Estero. This huge stretch of beach is home to some kinder, rolling waves. These are perfect for beginners of all ages. Kids and first-timers can be seen catching their first ever waves here all-day long.
You can rent a board for $5 right on the beach from local surf vendors who also offer lessons. If you have never surfed before I suggest taking at least a half hour lesson so you have your feet right and your technique under your belt. Learning to surf is one of the best things to do in Santa Catalina.
LAS GOLONDRINAS WATERFALL
I had heard about this goliath waterfall but never envisioned it to be quite so epic. Las Golondrinas Waterfall is a mammoth falls near Santa Fe, Veraguas. The trek to the falls takes only 20 minutes but leads you through a wonderland of vines and river crossings before revealing the gigantic waterfall.
The trail is very clear to follow and has handrails in some points. However, because of the conditions, it is very muddy and you will get wet and dirty on this trail. If the trail doesn’t get you wet, the river crossing will.
You need to cross the river at least two times to reach the waterfall if you access the waterfall from the left trail. It was pouring anyway so it didn’t matter to us. After about ten minutes we got our first glimpse of the waterfall. From this far back, it looked incredible. I let my friend, Angel, wander ahead and shot a few photos of him on the rocks for scale. It felt like a magical place. Two small adventurers in wonderland, no-one else about. Just the roaring thunder and rain hammering down on us.
Finally, after lots of photos, rain, and adrenaline running high, we reached Las Golondrinas Waterfall. What a beauty! There was a slalom at the very top of the waterfall that weaved in and out before it all came crashing down with extreme force into the pool of blue water below.
There are several nice viewing spots to the sides or you can get up close and personal… and wet if you so desire. It is one of the shortest but most rewarding Santa Fe hiking trails for those who want an epic waterfall without all the effort.
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VISIT PLAYA SANTA CATALINA
Playa Santa Catalina is the second black sand beach of Santa Catalina. It is the hub of activity as it is situated right in the heart of the town. Cafe’s are situated nearby as well as scuba, kayak and snorkel rental stores.
During the day the beach is a great place to hang out and it never gets too busy. Groups of locals take to the volleyball court in the evening with fun social games that even tourists are welcome to join. Down near the water, the soccer games get into full swing on the slick black sand. I had an epic sunset soccer game and it was one of my favorite things to do in Santa Catalina.