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Panama’s Most Romantic City for Lovers on a Budget

Discover a secluded coastal paradise tailor-made for couples. With its untouched beaches, mesmerizing sunsets, and adventurous spirit, this hidden gem is the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway.

The back of a laptop with stickers and a DJ in Bocas del Toro, Panama

by Betsy Salcedo

30 de ago de 2023

If you decided that Panamá is your destination but you want to avoid the city chaos and touristic vibes and want to try something different and more secluded, you must take your significant other to Santa Catalina and experience the perfect mix of nature and civilization.


We took the bus for less than $20 from Albrook in Panamá city to Santa Catalina. It’s a direct bus and will last approximately 8 hours. It’s perfect if you fly to the city and want to go straight to Santa Catalina. Renting a car would be at least $40 per day and you must add the cost of gas as well.

Where to stay

Once you get to the final bus stop you will only need to cross the street and stay in Sunset Catalina. The prices at Sunset Catalina are around $40 per night for a couple, and for the zone, it’s a great deal! The common areas are not that great but the rooms have a/c and the hostel has a kitchen where you can make your own coffee, have some breakfast and refrigerate your food.

A Coca Cola cool sign in the main street of Isla Colon

The entrance of the best spot in Santa Catalina: Sunset Catalina Photo by Betsy Salcedo

In my opinion, this is the perfect spot because it not only has a kitchen, great beds and powerful air conditioning, but also because downstairs you will have everything you need: a coffee shop, a convenience store and pharmacy, ATMs, the beach and the heart of Santa Catalina one block away. You will be able to do everything without a car and with enjoyable romantic walks to every activity.

Where to eat

For me, this little town is very romantic because it has so many beautiful corners. Bordering the Caribbean Sea, it is bright, saturated and full of interesting plants, animals and people. Each restaurant and hotel is placed in a specific place for each guest to enjoy and experience the magnificent spot.

Here are 4 of my favorite places to eat:

Hotel Santa Catalina: with the best view to La Punta, an infinite pool surrounded by greens. This is perfect for having dinner or drinking something and catching the sunset. Great selection of food, fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. It’s not the cheapest option but it is worth it: $50 per person for a full dinner and alcohol drinks.

Chanos Point: this will not have the best view but I had never tried meat prepared in the Hawaiian style: a combination of flavors prepared for Chano itself. We had the Bojalá with Hawaiian salsa and the pargo with Thai sauce. The environment is private, with great music and cold beers. The prices are between $16 and $50.

Los Pibes: this is a barbecue, seafood, healthy, wine bar owned by a group of Argentinians. This place has the best wine, is very well located and has great music. For me, this is a very good spot to eat because having a trip next to the beach does not only mean having fish all the time. So if you want meat and wine just go with the experts: the Argentinians. The rates for this place go between $15 and $30 per person.

Surfers Point: it’s a small kiosk with lovely tables close to Esteros beach. This spot has the best juices and acai bowls in town, definitely the BEST acai bowl that I had during my time in Panamá. I reserved my mornings for this place because the quality of their fruits is out of this world. The owner is a very kind Brazilian that has lived many years in Santa Catalina and is determined to give you the best service.

Spa next to the ocean in Panama

My daily acai bowl at The Surfers Point Photo by Betsy Salcedo

What to do

Learn to Surf in Esteros Beach Surf School: If you are feeling adventurous and want to have the experience of a lifetime with your significant other this is a great plan that will bring adrenaline to your day. Then, you can follow the exciting morning with a picnic at the beach under a palm tree, have a moment in the sea and enjoy the beach having romantic walks and taking a sunbath.

Coiba Park: schedule your visit to this national park by boat and experience one of the best scuba diving spots in the world. Here, you will get the best pictures and content for your trip. The first time I went, I skipped this tour and after watching all the stories, I decided to go again to Santa Catalina specifically to get on a boat and have a tour of Coiba.

Party in Esteros Beach: you have to party if you visit the Caribbean. In my experience,  the best one in Santa Catalina is the one in front of Esteros Beach. They have DJ sets and you can dance in the sand with your partner and have a night to remember with some piña coladas and reggaeton music.

Prettiest Country in the Caribbean!

You can make this trip on budget and enjoy it instead of spending thousands of dollars and fall in love even more under these palm trees. For my boyfriend and I, Panamá was a destination that we will never forget. This is a very peculiar town and far from civilization where each street has a special place, smell and beauty. You will meet interesting people and connect with the sabor latino and with yourself. Feel free to open your eyes and discover everything this special place has to offer!

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