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Surfing In Santa Catalina, Panama

Panama’s End Of The Road

Panama is home to more than 940 species of birds.

In Panama, you’ll also find 220 different mammals and 354 reptiles and amphibians. Wandering around the wilds of this country, you might come across a howler monkey or a caiman…a tiger cat or a turtle…an ocelot or an American crocodile…a pelican or a toucan, a king crab or an iguana…a Central American tapir, a scarlet macaw, or an eagle.

If you wander around offshore, you might encounter a humpback whale, a dolphin, a hammerhead shark…

This country also boasts some of the best deep-sea fishing, surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving anywhere on this planet. Around its Isla Coiba lies the largest coral reef on the Pacific side of the Americas.

Because of its unique geographical position, Panama harbors a greater diversity of wildlife than any other country in Central America. A natural land bridge connecting the two continents, Panama is home to both North and South American species of wildlife. About 29% of the country’s land area is protected in 14 national parks, more than a dozen forest reserves, and 10 wildlife refuges.

When Lief and I began spending time in Panama, nearly 15 years ago, we recognized these as among the biggest attractions that this country has to offer. In the years since, we’ve enjoyed hiking in the jungles, rafting in the rivers, snorkeling in the oceans, shell collecting on the beaches, fishing in the deep seas, and riding on horseback in the mountains. Our son Jackson’s favorite Panama memory is the first time he saw a crocodile here (he was 4-years-old).

After five years living full-time in Panama City, though, we spend less time enjoying these natural diversions and more time indulging in the more cosmopolitan ones on offer in the capital city.

This is a risk of being a resident living in a place rather than a tourist passing through. You forget to make time to take advantage of all that the place has to offer.

That’s why I like Editor David Sexton’s feature article for this month’s issue of our Panama Letter. In this report, David’s agenda isn’t retirement or investment. Rather, this month, David introduces his readers to a part of Panama that, as he puts it, could best be described as “the end of the road.”

Santa Catalina sits on this country’s Pacific coast past the Azuero Peninsula, past where developers and even most tourists typically venture. This far-off stretch of coastline has been, until now, a well-kept surfers’ secret. The waves are world-class, and surfers come from around the world to ride them.

Otherwise, until very recently, few made it out this far. This could be changing. Panama’s President Martinelli has considerable land holdings in this part of the country that, if the rumors can be believed, he plans to develop. Others with deep pockets have also recently begun paying attention to this coastal outpost with both killer waves and to-die-for beaches. Mel Gibson, for example, spent time scouting this part of Panama a few years ago and invested in a stretch of coastline for which he, too, is rumored to have big-time development plans.

Santa Catalina could be a smart place for an investor to think about front-running all the infrastructure that’s said to be coming. Note, though, if this is an agenda for you, that much of the beachfront land available in this region is rights of possession (ROP) that is, not titled. If you’ve been reading these reports for any time, you understand the risks that reality presents. David reminds you in his Panama Letter report on a particular property offering we like in this part of Panama, where both titled and ROP inventory is on offer.

However, that is not the point of this month’s feature. This month’s report on Santa Catalina is not about profiting from the eventual development of this stretch of coast but about enjoying the natural wonderland that is this stretch of coast today.

If you’re a surfer, a diver, a snorkeler, a beach-comber, a fisherman, or a hammock-swinger, you will love it here.

Kathleen Peddicord

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