I visited Coiba first time in 2008 after i was reading some good reviews.
Santa Catalina - the getaway to Isla Coiba - was then a tiny town,
no Internet, frequent power failures and a few cabinas and small hotels.
Santa Catalina is well known for two reasons:
1: World Class surfing and probably the best surfing in Panama
2: Access to Isla Coiba National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site
The boat ride to Isla Coiba is about 45 minutes to 1 hour and usually you do a snorkel/dive tour on the way, move then to the pristine beach where the Ranger Station is and after lunch a second snorkel or dive on another site. and then hide back to Santa Catalina.
Isla Coiba has at the Ranger Stations some 6/8 bed cabins to rent and some of the dive operators offer multi night stays directly on Coiba. The reason for that is that staying on the island it is possible to reach the more remote snorkeling/dive sites of the Islands around Coiba.
I was this year lucky that Coiba Dive Center - the dive center i always dove with - already planned a trip during my stay in Santa Catalina, so i could join the party.
We stayed 3 days and spent 2 night on Coiba, staying in one of the Buildings just on the beach. Julie from Coiba Dive Center was leading the trip with the help of a cook, the boat captain and the snorkel guide. Their service was absolutely perfect, tasty and abundant food was always ready when we came back, they set up at 2 a.m. a power generator to run the ventilators in our rooms as the power on the Ranger Station failed and Julie lead the dives with her long experience diving the Coiba National Park.
Visibility ranged between 45 and 60 feet and water temp between 75 and 85 but the incredible amount of marine life was again and once more unbelievable. Unfortunately we could spot no whale sharks and manta rays while diving - last year in same time of year i saw plent of them, but hey come and go - but the dives and days in Santa Catalina and Coiba where simply great and Coiba Dive Center did their work professional and with a incredible knowledge.
Sleeping on Coiba was a very nice experience and i will do it certainly again.
Staying on Coiba is not a 5 star resort, you will sleep in 6-8 bed rooms and have to share the small bathrooms, but dawn and dusk on Coiba, fullmoon over the bay and the great, remote dive sites make the simple but clean accommodations more than worth.
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