We left Playa La Barqueta around 11:30am and headed to David, Panama. Once in David we caught a bus $7.50 to Santiago and then another bus ($1.75) to Sona. Once we were in Sona we missed the last bus which would have only been $3.85 to Santa Catalina and had to take a $30 Taxi.
When we arrived in Santa Catalina we immediately had a good feeling about this place. We checked out Cabinas Rolo’s and quickly decided to stay here. The next morning I saw Rolo and he asked me if I wanted to join him for a morning surf session. He was headed to the reef break on his boat and I was excited but scared, because there are dangers of surfing on a reef. I figure what the heck why not and with no time to really think about it I jumped in the boat and surfed my first reef with Rolo and his family. I caught 3 waves, but on the third wave I ended up in about a foot of water with nothing but jagged reef below, I decided to float in the line up for the rest of the session and watch the others surf. We climbed back into the waiting boat and headed to land.
Cabinas Rolo’s is a family run hotel and hostel. They offer private cabinas and also dorms with up to 4 beds. The Cabinas are around $40 and the dorms are $10 per person. We had a fantastic time at Rolo’s and met really good people.
Right next door to Rolo’s were a few small comidor’s. A comidor is a local restaurant and normally very friendly on the budget. We ate here a couple nights and each meal was only $2:50 for a large plate of pollo, vegetables and salad. We made friends with the owner and her daughters. We asked her if she could tell us where we could buy desert so she had her two 8 year old daughters walk us to find ice cream. We started walking up the street and then headed down a very dark driveway. Debbie and I both looked at each other wondering where this adventure was going to take us. We ended up at a house with no lights on until the girls knocked on the door and a lady came out. It was really cool experience. This lady sells to the locals and you get a cup of ice cream for 50 cents. She has no signs and tourist would never even know she was here. It was only appropriate to buy ice cream for our two little guides and the total bill was a whole $2. Its moments like this that really make you smile.
Santa Catalina has so much to offer and Debbie and I really see a ton of potential here. There is diving, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, and so much more. The town has a great vibe and you see little kids safely walking and playing in the streets.
We really wanted to stay, but the one internet cafe where we thought we could work for a few days was not fast enough to accommodate working and using our internet phone. It was also about 2 miles from where we were staying so we would have to walk each day. On the last day we went to send a few emails and the owner said it was not working. I checked it on my laptop and there was signal. I think they just wanted the evening off and didn’t want to bother with tourist.
You can see on the map that Rolo’s hotel is in the main town and it is about 1 1/2 miles from Playa Estero where the beach surf break is located. Debbie and I walked this a few times. The first time it seemed really far, but we got used to walking it and by the last day it was nothing.
Overall we had a wonderful time at Santa Catalina. If you are heading there I recommend reserving a hotel in advance. There are places to stay, but tend to fill up even during the week. We saw several people turned away from Rolo’s because he was all booked.
I will most likely be heading back in March for a hard core week of surfing!