Santa Catalina, Time For Some Sun and Waves

After a month in the cold, humid and rainy highlands of Panama, we decided it was time for some sun and waves. We packed our mold infested clothes and equipment and drove out to Santa Catalina on the Pacific Coast.  Santa Catalina is a well known surf spot and we heard it also has nice sand beaches to hang out on.  After negotiating some dirt roads with no signs, and after stopping and asking directions a few times (if you do not like asking for directions, do not drive down here), we finally rolled into the town of Santa Catalina. There really isn’t a whole lot going on in “town” here besides a few restaurants, hotels, and dive and surf shops. Just as we decided to drive on the beach road in search of a potential campsite, the sky opened up and torrential downpour came down upon us. Although nice and warm, these are not the best conditions to set up camp, so instead of camping we found ourselves a “nice,” cheap hotel for the night in hopes of sunny skies the next day. The only “nice” thing about our hotel was that our room was on a second story and had an amazing view of the main surf break in the morning. The room however was pretty nasty. There was a resident bat, who did not really bother us much and he left the first night. There was mold on the pillows and distinct body shapes on the sheets! Yeah, I am sure they changed the sheets between guests -not! It is a good thing we have all our own bedding and pillows (not to mention cleaning equipment :) ).

The view from the balcony of the hotel. Not a bad place to wake up.

According to locals and other travelers we talked to, the main break, which is only surf-able at high tide because of the rocks, is one of the best in someones book. The downfall of the break as we saw it was that it is a pretty small break and every morning there are 20 to 30 surfers out there waiting in line.

Santa Catalina's famous break

After a couple of nights in the hotel -after all the view is awesome, it was very cheap and we put a lot of work into cleaning the room- the weather finally decided to cooperate with us, so we found a great place to camp right on the beach at the Oasis Surf Camp. the nice thing about stayin a couple of days at “roach motel” was that it gave us a chance to scout the area for a good camping spot. There is one interesting drawback to the Oasis Surf Camp: you have to drive across a small river to get to it. The river is only a few inches deep at low tide, but impassable by vehicle at high tide, so you have to plan your entry/exit by the tide chart.

Wimpy crossing at low tide, don't even think about crossing at hight tide :)

We set up camp right on the edge of a nice long beach and hung out and enjoyed for a few days. We had only planned to stay here for a day or two, but found ourselves here for 5 or 6. The beach was great for walking and soaking up the sun, and had a nice mellow break for beginner surfers. We also enjoyed some fantastic sunsets here, and had some delicious dinners some made by Luis and some at a restaurant called Los Pibes, owned by two Argentinean brothers. Argentineans really know how to grill!

We where too "in the moment" to take pictures of some sunsets, but here is one of them

It felt great to be living in the Landcruiser and our Campinglab tent again. We had forgotten how comfortable we have become with our living set up after staying at the house for so long. There is something that feels right about staying outdoors in a beautiful place, sleeping in our own comfortable bed (even if it is on the roof of our truck) and waking up in the morning to enjoy coffee cooked out of the back of our truck. Life couldn’t get much better than this :)

Our Campsite among the nice bungalows of Oasis (photo taken from the low tide mark)

A great campsite with beach view is our favorite campsite.

On a nature loving note, we totally fell for all the local crabs. Hermits, ghosts, land, red sands. We even saw a large hermit climbing a tree! We had never seen that before.

This beautiful kingfisher came to the same spot everyday and spent hours "fishing"

We definitely recommend a visit to the sleepy town of Santa Catalina (well, maybe not the town itself). If you are in the area you do not need to be a surfer to enjoy this areas beauty, there is good fishing and definitely good beaches.

A question for one of our readers (all three of you :) ). What tree do these seeds come from? Please! We know in Venezuela they call them “pepa de samuro,” but what tree are they from.

Miles of beachcombing gave fruit to our collection of these seeds from an as of yet unkown (by us) tree. Help us find out what tree they come from.

And as a parting shot: an artsy photo we both like ;)

The remnants of a conch in the creek

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12 Responses to “Santa Catalina, Time For Some Sun and Waves”

  1. John says:

    Love it guys! Can’t wait to head south. We are 4 groups, Mexico for a couple of months before we head that way. Looks like you are enjoying where you are and for sure taking it as it comes. It’s the good life! Maybe we’ll catch up with you at some point.

  2. Deirdre says:

    Three readers?! You crazy. I guess at least 100 :) I tried searching for those seeds (a little obsessively haha) and can’t find anything!

    • Lacey says:

      Thanks for the confidence boost Dierdre! Hahaha. Somebody found the seeds for us, they posted on our facebook page if you want to check it out. We searched pretty obsessively on the internet ourselves before the post with no luck. :)

  3. JP says:

    Hi –
    Randomly stumbled along your blog, while looking for something else. The seeds are from a tropical vine, not a tree, and are colloquially called ‘sea beans.’ See this website for lots of botanical/ecological info about them –
    They travel a long way from the banks and shores of tropical rivers and beaches (I have seen the vines in Bahia, Brazil, growing near the beach, and have found the ‘seabeans’ as far north as Long Island).
    Cheers, have a great trip!

    • Luis says:

      We hope you enjoyed sumbling upon our site :) Thank you so much for the link and the answer about our seed question! The amount of seeds that washes along the shores of the Pacific side is spectacular.

  4. Juliette says:

    I read your blog regularly and really liked this post. It was well written and the photo’s did a great job tying it together. (it would have been amusing to see the bed sheets in a photo tho!)

    Enjoy your travels and thanks for sharing.

    • Luis says:

      Thanks for reading! We are still learning to write, but we are feeling a little more comfortable with it.

      The sheets! Yeah, we thought about taking pictures of the sheets, but specially the pillowcase… that was nasty, but I guess you get what you pay for. Apparently the owner of the hotel changes the name of the hotel regularly due to bad reviews by the online community. We heard some interesting stories about the guy, but it was all hear say so we decided not to disseminate.

  5. Tony says:

    Stumbled across your site….I’m heading to Panama on Wednesday and going to Santa Catalina. How is the weather? I’d like to surf the mellow break, I don’ t have a car so will bus it. Any idea where I should stay (cheap hotel)? Oasis?

    I lived in Costa Rica for a few years. Some folks think the seeds are good luck when you’re in the water. I usually keep one in my surf trunks especially on big days..

    • Luis says:

      I am glad you stumbled upon our site! To be honest with you, it will be rainy, very rainy. But it should be fun, because you will have a few hours of sun every day almost guaranteed. If you want to surf the mellow break, I would say the best place to stay would be the Oasis or perhaps the Rancho Estero, because they are both really close to the break.

      Good luck and enjoy…

  6. Anthony says:

    Santa Catalina is a great place! Some buddies and I went down there last summer and surfed and ate a whole lot of fresh seafood while there! Even sat downtown and used the internet like you probably are! Enjoy! I wish I were on the trip with you!

    • Luis says:

      Santa Catalina was indeed awesome. We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and the great weather (not to mention “Los Pibes” restaurant food)

  7. tony says:

    seagrape seeds , they are all over the florida keys where i live

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