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Playa Santa Catalina
Literally at the end of the road, the tiny fishing village of Santa Catalina sits near some of the best surfing spots in the country and is the closest port to Isla Coiba, Panama's top dive destination. For years, the only people who visited Playa Santa Catalina, technically outside Chiriquí in the province of Veraguas, were adventurous surfers who made the long trip here on rough roads and slept in rustic rooms for the pleasure of riding La Punta, a right point break. The roads and accommodations are better now, and two dive centers have opened. Never fear: This is still a quiet beach town, and you come here to enjoy ocean views through the palm fronds, friendly locals, cheap seafood, and amazing surf and diving.
Santa Catalina virtually shuts down in early fall, with some businesses closed in September or October. Call businesses you wish to plan to visit in advance if you go this time of year. The town's limited night scene is hampered by a fairly well-respected 10 pm closing time for bars and restaurants, which is only flaunted during the busiest times of year like Easter. Most of the area's dirt roads are passable in a basic car, but a truck or 4x4 is a safer bet.
Playa Santa Catalina at a Glance
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