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Playa Santa Catalina is the closest embarkation point to Isla Coiba, which has Panama's best scuba diving, but there are numerous other spots nearby. Visibility and sea conditions can change from one day to the next, but in general the diving is better during the rainy season than during the dry season. Many of the dive spots around Isla Coiba require ocean-diving experience, but some closer to town are appropriate for novices or for snorkeling. Within an hour of Santa Catalina are dive sites such as Punta Pargo and Palo Grande, where you might see moray eels, parrot fish, various types of puffers, and big schools of jacks, among other things.
Coiba Dive Center. Coiba Dive Center offers the complete slate of PADI courses, as well as multiday diving excursions to Isla Coiba with overnight stays in the National Environment Authority (ANAM) cabins. Calle Principal, on right before beach, Playa Santa Catalina. 507/6780–1141. www.coibadivecenter.com.
Scuba Coiba. Santa Catalina's first dive center offers boat dives at dozens of nearby spots and multiday trips to Isla Coiba with overnights in the ANAM cabins there. They also offer PADI certification courses and snorkeling/beach trips to other nearby islands as well. Calle Principal, on left before beach, Playa Santa Catalina. 507/6980–7122. www.scubacoiba.com.