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Trip Report

Panama 2-Week Itinerary for Nature Lovers: Bocas del Toro, Santa Catalina, and Valle de Anton

Discovering the diversity of a small country between two oceans

  • Santa Catalina+ 3
  • Bocas del Toro
  • Bocas del Toro
  • Panama 2-Week Itinerary for Nature Lovers: Bocas del Toro, Santa Catalina, and Valle de Anton
About Me:I'm a passionate traveler who loves to discover nature, connect to people and learn from where I travel to. read more

North AmericaPanama19 days / July - August 2023

Highs & Lows

Diving with sharks

Rainy season made the Bocas islands quite wet

Itinerary Overview

I was entering by land from Costa Rica to the beautiful islands of Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean Sea, where I spent 2 weeks. The islands greeted me with a big storm on my boat ride and did the same when I took the boat back to the mainland two weeks later. Next stop was on the opposite side at the pacific coast, Santa Catalina. Here I spent 4 days before I went to Valle de Anton for a week and Panama City for another week. I was surprised by the diversity of the country  and its amazing nature. Panamian people are very friendly, helpful and open-minded. Food-wise, Panama is perfect for seafood lovers and I absolutely adored the coconut rice. On the Bocas Islands, you can find locally grown cacao and even visit a cacao farm. 

  • 14 Nights: Bocas del Toro
  • 5 Nights: Santa Catalina
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Bocas del Toro

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Bocas del Toro has been rainy and stormy most of the time. But in Martha's little hostel I found the perfect place to slow down my travels and enjoy the ocean breeze, the sound of the waves and even the impressive force and endurance of the storms. I was happy to have some very beautiful sunny days as well, where I explored the marvelous nature of the islands. Getting around is easy, you just hop on a taxi boat or book a tour. Wildlife is extremely diverse, from tiny spiders that look like stars to sloths next to the beach and enormous rays in the sea. Even though the coral reefs are in quite bad condition, the underwater world is still fascinating. I saw star fish, sea cucumbers, octopus, shiny jellyfish, dolphins, an enormous ray and a few colorful fish. On Solarte, I found the red frogs in the jungle. 

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Santa Catalina

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The main reason I came was diving in Coiba Island which is one of the best spots in the world to dive with sharks. Apart from that, Santa Catalina has nice beaches and surfing. The warmth of the pacific water is really a pleasure and inviting you to hang around in the water forever. Beware of the strong sun though, I got quite a sunburn...

The diving trip I did as a day tour going to three different spots around Coiba. It takes about one hour to get there by boat but we saw dolphins and even jumping rays on the ride. Diving with the sharks was one of the most special things I did on my journey. They are so peaceful and curious. I also saw the biggest morays I've ever seen! 

Apart from that, there is not much in and around Santa Catalina, but it was worth the detour that it takes. 

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    I would have booked my diving trip in advance to be able to go with the diving school I wanted to go with.
  • Anything go wrong during the trip?

    Sadly I didn't see the whale even though it was whale season.
  • Restaurant recommendations?

    Restaurante Mama Nivia, menu del dia.
  • Tips you would give a friend?

    Bring or organize a go pro for the diving or snorkeling excursion. Book your diving trip in advance, the good schools get fully booked and spontaneously it might not even be possible to go within a week.
  • Packing tips?

    Sunscreen! Cash because the only cash machine is always out of money.
  • Transportation Tips?

    Taking the bus is fine and even a normal car can drive there. The bumps on the road to Santa Catalina were not as bad as people warned.


  • "Hostal on the Sea" which is, like the name says, directly above the sea, so you are hearing the waves of the ocean all day and night. It's a very small, family-style hostel. The owner is a panamian lady, Martha Brown, who is known by almost everybody in Bocas. She can tell you a lot about life in Panama.

  • Urbanos jungle hostel. I was in a private cabin, very lovely. Staff was super nice and I adored the cat with her babies.