Passport and Visa Requirements
Panama divides tourists into two groups – those that need a tourist visa, and those that only need a passport. Citizens of the following countries only need a passport to enter Panama:
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States.
It is important to note, however, that this list can change. Check with your home embassy for the current requirements before traveling. All travelers entering Panama must have a return or onward ticket out of the country.
All guests of Discover Coiba must bring a valid passport on the boat. Once we are inside the park, the rangers will check the date of the stamp in your passport to make sure you are in the country legally. You will not be permitted to board the boat without a valid passport (or cedula for Panamanian citizens and residents).
Best Time to Visit
All year long you can experience warm, tropical weather in Panama. There are two seasons here, a wet season and a dry season.
Dry Season – falls between December and April/May and is the highest time for tourism. This is also the time that the water is cooler and rich with plankton, bringing the manta rays, whale sharks, and large pelagics. (The only time we offer overnight trips to the islands where we sleep in tents/hammocks is during the dry season.)
Whale Season – July through November is whale season when humpback whales come to Coiba to give birth to their calves. Whale season lasts until the beginning of November. (During whale season we do not offer trips for camping on the islands because this is also the wet season, but you can join our overnight trips in a hotel close to Coiba National Park)
Our expeditions put you close to nature and this includes the tropical weather. There are two seasons here, a wet season and a dry season. The dry season is from December – April/May. The wet season is from May – November, and October is the month with the highest amount of rainfall. We do not offer trips during the month of October for this reason. If you are traveling during the wet season, we recommend that you bring a light rain jacket to protect you from the windchill. Just because it is the wet season does not mean that it will rain every day. Sometimes there are weeks of uninterrupted sunshine during the wet season. It is common to have sunshine during the morning and light showers late in the afternoon. We use the local weather advisory to check the daily weather and are always prepared for any kind of weather.
We do not offer scuba diving on our trips, but we highly recommend if you are a diver that you do some diving before you leave Santa Catalina. Coiba National Park has been described by many as the “New Galapagos” and offers world-class diving. There are 5 dive shops in the village, and we recommend making a reservation with one of them before you arrive. Spots on the boats can fill up quickly, especially between December and April.
Santa Catalina Hotel Recommendations
- Catalina’s Hideaway (catalinashideaway.com) is a beachfront resort located in Lago Bay that offers a free shuttle service for drop off and picks up to the Discover Coiba Panama office.
- Sol y Mar Hotel (solymarpanama.com) is located along the main street, close to restaurants, Santa Catalina beach, and Discover Coiba Panama.
- Casa Brava Ventura (CasaBravaVentura) is a private 3 bedroom/3 bathroom house above Santa Catalina with an ocean view.
There are several base camps located around the islands that we sleep on. There are proper showers and toilets at one of the base camps, so this is where we will sleep unless ALL members of the group decide to adventure to one of the other base camps.
Departure and Arrival Times
We will meet at our office on the main street of Santa Catalina (next to Yolo pizza, across from Bodhi hostel) at 7:30 am. We will return on the last day of the trip sometime in the late afternoon. Come in and see us in the office between 3-6:30 pm before the day of your scheduled trip to check in. Please present a valid ID (passport, driver’s license, cedula) upon check-in. If you are arriving late in the evening and are unable to check in before 6:30 pm, please let us know in advance.
Cash in Santa Catalina
Santa Catalina is a small village and currently, there is only one ATM machine. The last bus stop before Santa Catalina is the town of Sona, where there are ATM machines and a bank. While some of the restaurants in Santa Catalina accept credit cards, others do not. There are frequent power outages and when this happens you will not be able to use your credit card.