Download this app if you will have access to internet signal with your smartphone http://www.waze.com/download/
It will help you with directions and also any traffic, construction or police check points along the way.
Driving to Santa Catalina from Panama City will take about five hours and cover a total distance of approximately 250 miles/400 kilometers. Your major directional cities are Santiago, Soná and then Santa Catalina.
Leaving from Panama City can be a challenge. After crossing the Bridge of The Americas over the Panama Canal you will take the Pan American Highway west toward Santiago. Make a right turn at the sign that says Autopista and La Chorrera. Make a left turn shortly after at another sign that says La Chorrera or Pan American Highway. The La Chorrera/Autopista sign bypasses the town (this is the one you want), the Pan American Highway sign takes you through the town on a road currently under construction.
Stay on the Pan American Highway to Santiago, approximately 150 miles/240 km. When entering the town of Santiago prepare to make a left turn at the Delta gas station (on the left). If you reach the McDonalds on the right you have gone too far. After you make the left turn (Avenida Central) this road will turn into a one-way street (going your way) passing several banks and shops and then directly heading towards a large white cathedral. (*Remember that Santa Catalina is a very small village with no banks or ATMs. Any shopping or banking can be done at this time.) As you reach the front of the cathedral you will see a large overhead sign that says Puerto Mutis and Soná. Stay to the left side of the cathedral. Now make a right turn at the first road behind the cathedral. You will then pass the Museo Regional de Veraguas on the right. Make a left turn in two short blocks at the store. Soná is you next turn in approximately 30 minutes, 29.3 miles/47.15 km away.
As you reach your next turn you will pass over a large bridge. Prepare to make a left turn at another Delta gas station just before reaching the town of Soná. (There is a road sign there for Santa Catalina.) We have recently painted a large mural on the side of a local store there helping you to not miss the turn. Drop in a grab a cold beverage or a snack from Tomas.
Drive approximately 29.8 miles/48 km. This road has some minor construction and has brand new (slippery when wet) pavement so be careful. It will take about one hour before you make another left at Los Tigres to Santa Catalina.
You’ve got only 10 miles/16 km to go. After 6 miles/9.65 km you will need to slow down as you reach a Police Station and a sharp curve to the right, (Hicaco) and just 4 miles/6.4 km more to the village of Santa Catalina. Soon you will cross a single lane bridge. As you reach the center of Santa Catalina you will pass a paved road on your left and the main store. Do not turn. Coiba Dive Center is a large white building about 200 yards further on the right side (look for the dive flags). We are located between Hotel Brisa Mar and the Police Station.
There is new pavement all of the way from Santiago to Santa Catalina. The fresh pavement after the Sona turna can get very slippery when it is wet. The roads are in good shape with the occasional pothole. Please obey the speed limits especially in all of the small villages as children play freely near the roadside. If you are traveling at night exercise caution as cattle, horses and dogs are sometimes on the roads.
Make your way on the Inter-Americana highway east to Santiago, then follow the directions above or below if arriving by bus.
The bus option will cost around $15.00 and takes between six and seven hours. The first step is to take a local bus or taxi from your location in Panama City to the main Albrook Bus Terminal. This is a huge terminal where all buses, local and country-wide, board. When arriving at the terminal you have two choices: you can take a full-sized luxury motor coach to Santiago or a smaller coach directly to Soná. If you decide to take the Santiago coach you will need to transfer to a smaller bus to get to Soná from Santiago. If you are travelling with a large quantity of bags the Soná option may be less effort. When arriving in Soná you will have to take the local Soná/Santa Catalina bus. This bus leaves Soná at 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm and will take two hours. Ask the driver to let you out at Coiba Dive Center next to the police station (policia).
Here is a link to the most current bus schedules: Panama Bus Schedule
(Times are subject to change)
At this time, there are no commercial flights into Santiago or Santa Catalina.
Contact each company below for current pricing.
Air transport from Panama City to Coiba is approximately 1.1 hours.
My Flight Corp.
Plane: $1,500.00, carries 5 passengers.
Plane: $1,400.00, carries 5 passengers.
Caravan: $2,750.00, carries 12 passengers.
Islander: $2,500.00, carries 9 passengers.
Twin Otter: $3,550.00, carries 20 passengers.