Santa Catalina, a small, laid-back town known for having one of the best surf breaks in Central America, is located 300 km northwest of Panama City, about one hour from Santiago. The scenery and natural environment are breathtaking. World-class fishing, snorkeling and diving opportunities are found all along the coastline and around the surrounding islands. Coiba National Park can be seen from Catalina. From 1912 to 2002, Coiba Island was used as a penal colony, and Panama’s worst criminals were sent here. Nowadays the prisoners have gone, but the prison remains, and makes for an interesting visit. Moreover, the recent declaration of Coiba as a UNESCO World Heritage site prohibits any development on the island, so the wildlife here is simply spectacular. The enormous island is home to a plethora of birds, mammals and reptiles. The surrounding marine park comprises 38 other smaller islands including Cebaco and Gobernadora and is the site of the second largest coral reef in the Eastern Pacific. Coiba’s amazing variety of underwater life makes fishing and diving here incredible. Santa Catalina is a great base for exploring the islands and coastline. The town itself is small, with few attractions, but a surprising number of foreigners have moved to Catalina to start tourist-related businesses, creating an eclectic mix of people. Restaurants offer a good variety of food including authentic Tuscan Pizza and Argentinian style meats. Needless to say, the seafood in this area is to die for.