Panama Day 4- Panama City to Santa Catalina

We woke up early in the morning to head to Santa Catalina. Since Peter had the same plan, we went along with him.

We headed to El Tumbes bus station and got our ticket to Sona. It was $10 and supposedly we had to catch it at 830 in the morning in order to make it to Santa Catalina in one day.

Santa Catalina has no direct bus; you have to either transfer in Santiago and take 2 more busses or transfer in Sona and catch a second bus to Santa Catalina.

The bus was completely full. I was lucky to get the wheel well seat directly below the blasting speaker, whereas others were fortunate enough to get the seats with AC leaking on their heads. They managed to rig something with their curtain to diverge the water which was entertaining to watch.

I had heard from several people that the busses crank the AC and are freezing; our bus started out comfortable then as the day carried on got uncomfortably hot as the AC began to fall behind the weather.

We stopped for lunch about half way through at some gas station which actually had pretty good food.

The ride to Sona was supposed to take 6 hours according to lonely planet but it only took us 3.5 even with the stops so we were confused when we arrived at our destination.

We were told the next bus wouldn’t be there until 130 and we had arrived at 12. Lonely planet said a taxi to Santa Catalina would cost $60 but we found a taxi that offered to bring us for $25 and I talked to another couple that said they paid $40 for a taxi.

This would have made sense seeing that the bus was $5 but everyone wanted to wait for the bus for some reason.

The bus finally showed up and they stashed our luggage on the roof.

This bus was equally crowded and filled with gringos.

The ride lasted about an hour and was equally cramped and uncomfortable. It was good having other travelers with us and it seemed that many of them were in the same situation in that they had no accommodation reservations. When I had checked on hostelworld the night before it appeared there were only 2 hostels and they were full but we figured there must be more.

One of the guys, Christopher, had a phone so called the place he intended to stay and confirmed they had availability. The name was Hibiscus garden and it was inland from Santa Catalina about 10kms. The road to Santa Catalina was very isolated. The hostel was no different.

After being dropped off we had to hike down a road about 15 mins in the sun and heat to the hostel


The hostel was very beautiful on the beach and super laid back and very quiet.

After hanging out in the lounge and having some water, he showed us to our open air loft

They also had some closed rooms available but chose to stay here because, I mean, look at it it was awesome.

The surprised the place had hot water, (super shitty) WiFi, and some AC rooms.

We went for a swim at the beach in the bathtub warm water where we were told to watch out for crocodiles.


Dinner there was excellent, best hostel food I’ve ever had. Apparently there is a well known German chef that chooses to work there for pennies just for an opportunity to live in this paradise. The food was about 3x what we normally pay for food here ($25?) But far less than you would expect to pay for it elsewhere in the world.

We had the woman at the hostel call in and reserve a diving trip to the nearby island of Coiba (world renowned diving location) as well as for a night to camp out on the island.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s