Kayaking and Snorkeling Panama

Destination: Coiba National Park, Panama

| Activities: Kayaking and Snorkeling

Since we're in Panama, we'll kick off the trip with a tour of the Panama Canal to marvel at the feats of engineering and transportation and then we'll head into the wild. Coiba National Marine Park is often referred to as "Panama's Galapagos" because of its exceptional biodiversity. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, it is home to rich marine life, 150 bird species, and 36 species of mammals many of which are endemic to the island, such as the Coiba Island Agouti and the Mantled Howler Monkey. Coiba is the perfect warm weather location for women who enjoy exploring by kayak during the day, pulling up on remote beaches for snorkeling and swimming, and then returning to a secluded and rustic campsite where a fabulous meal awaits and nighttime activities consist of gazing at starry skies and listening to the sound of ocean waves lapping on the shore.


  • Exploring Coiba National Marine Park, considered the Galapagos of Panama
  • Experiencing Coiba's exceptional biodiversity on both land, over 150 bird species, and in the ocean
  • Camping under the stars in a rustic and secluded campground near Playa Machete
  • Daily expeditions that include kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming to different parts of the 38-island park
  • Touring the Panama Canal, the major maritime waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans


  • 1 - 2 experienced AGC guides based on group size
  • Three nights double occupancy lodging in hotels with ensuite bathrooms and four nights rustic camping on a secluded beach
  • All meals from dinner on the first night to breakfast on our final morning with the exception of one lunch
  • Ground transportation in Panama including airport transfers. Airport transportation is included regardless of the day you arrive, as long as you are traveling to the Trip Hotel, and then returning to the airport on the last day of the trip
  • Entrance fees for Coiba National Marine Park
  • All group gear and instruction, including snorkel, camping, and kayaking equipment

What's not included: transportation to and from Panama, one lunch, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, travel insurance, and optional activities.

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

This trip is appropriate for women who are proficient swimmers and comfortable in open water. This trip is a great fit for both women who are new to sea kayaking and want to give it a try in a warm winter environment; and experienced sea kayakers who want to explore one of the most beautiful winter sea kayaking locations in this hemisphere. You should be comfortable with rustic camping and able to kayak up to 2 hours at a time. Rating: [1] [2] [3] 4 5.

We'll kayak, snorkel, and swim in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. No previous kayaking or camping experience is required; your guides will teach you safety skills and basic boat handling and paddling strokes. We'll have 6 single kayaks and 2 double kayaks so everyone who wants to try a single will have the opportunity.

We'll spend the first night in Panama City and the second night in Santa Catalina, both in double occupancy rooms with ensuite bathrooms. We'll spend the next 4 nights camping in roomy tents in a secluded campsite that we have all to ourselves. The campsite is primitive, meaning that there are no outhouses or showers; both are available at the ANAM Ranger Station which we'll visit at the end of the active part of each day. At the end of the trip we'll reverse our route with a night in Santa Catalina, and the last night in Panama City, where hot showers and soft beds will be greatly appreciated.

Our trip cost is based on double occupancy. We will pair you with another traveler unless you request a specific roommate. There are also 2 single supplements available for an extra cost. These single supplements are for the hotel nights only. All camping will be in double occupancy tents. Availability of rooming options for the hotel nights will be clearly noted on the registration form, be sure to note your choice.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Arrival in Panama. Our trip officially begins at 5 p.m. at our hotel in Panama City. We will have group introductions, a trip orientation, and then go out for a welcome dinner. Whenever you arrive, you will be met at the airport by one of our Panamanian representatives and transferred to our hotel. Panama City is quite safe and if you get here early, it's an interesting city to walk around.

Overnight Hotel in Panama City (D)
Today we see the world famous Panama Canal! We'll visit the canal's Miraflores Locks and learn how locks work and watch ships rise (or descend) over 40 feet as they transit through it. The Canal is still vital to world trade today and indeed, without it there isn't world commerce as we know it.

Afterwards, we’ll continue on to Santa Catalina along the InterAmerican Highway, with lunch and stretch breaks along the way. The total transit time is 5 hours. Once there we'll have some time to explore Santa Catalina. Although it is known as one of the best spots to surf and dive in Panama, it's off the beaten track for most travelers and thus a little more laid back than many places of comparable natural beauty. Located right on the Pacific Ocean with beautiful black sand beaches, it's a great place to launch our adventure. Its proximity to Coiba National Marine Park that is the main draw. Often referred to as "Panama's Galapagos", it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. The island's tropical forest is home to 150 bird species, including 21 endemic species and rare birds such as the Crested Eagle and the Scarlet Macaw, which have all but disappeared from the rest of Panama. The marine life is equally rich, including dolphins, barracudas, and various species of eels, sharks, rays, and sea turtles.

Overnight Santa Catalina hotel (B, L, D)
We'll set off in the early morning for this island paradise with a local boat captain. During our 90-minute ride we'll keep an eye out for pelicans and brown-footed boobies flying by. We'll register at the ANAM (the government agency that protects this area) Ranger Station and tour the Natural History Museum. After a thorough paddle and safety talk, we'll take a short paddle (less than a mile) to the secluded bay of Playa Machete, where we'll set up our base camp for the trip. After lunch, you can take a swim, lounge in a hammock, or enjoy a snorkel right from our own beach with the potential to see rays, sharks, turtles, and puffer fish. Our camp is often visited by capuchin monkeys, tiger herons, kingfishers, and hummingbirds. We'll finish the day with a tasty meal, a beach-side fire, and gazing at the brilliant night sky.

Overnight camping Coiba Island (B, L, D)
After a hearty breakfast, we'll get ready to paddle about 1.5 miles east to Isla Pepita where various sea life await! We'll have a beach lunch and a snorkel circumnavigating the island, where we'll see a variety of marine life, which may include sea turtles, white tip reef sharks, and a wide variety of tropical fish. If you don't want to snorkel, you can enjoy the beach and swim in its aquamarine bay. After a rest, we'll get back into the kayaks and pass by the ANAM ranger station, where we'll stop in be to have a fresh water shower before heading back to our secluded home on Playa Machete. Appetizers, dinner, and more stargazing await you in the evening before the sound of the waves rock you to sleep.

Overnight camping Coiba Island (B, L, D)
Surrounded by golden finger coral, 'Granito de Oro' (little grain of gold) is on every visitors list! We'll have coffee and breakfast and then pack our kayaks and paddle 2.5 miles to Granito de Oro, enjoying the shores of Isla Coiba along the way, keeping our eyes out for the many sea turtles that call Coiba home! We'll land on a small white sandy beach and have a short swim or snorkel before lunch and the opportunity to circumnavigate the island and see a variety of sea life. After our snorkel we'll relax on the beach before we kayak back along the ranger station, again enjoying our fresh showers before heading back to our beach. This is island life! Spending the days outdoors, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, relaxing - far away from cellphones and the latest news.

Overnight camping Coiba Island (B, L, D)
Just west around the corner we'll kayak 1 mile past the northern-most tip of Coiba Island and land on a beach in beautiful Bahia Rosario! We'll get our gear ready and swim and/or snorkel along the coast of the island to the point where barracuda, trigger, and parrot fish abide. After our snorkel, we'll enjoy lunch and relaxation on the beach before paddling back to the bay we now call home. Are we ready for it to be our last night on the island?

Overnight camping Coiba Island (B, L, D)
After coffee and breakfast, we'll pack up our gear and base camp and paddle back to the ANAM station to drop off our kayaks. A local boat captain from Santa Catalina will pick us up and take us to Mango Beach, where we'll take a 1.5-mile hike and experience the tropical moist forest of Coiba with its strangler vines, ceiba trees, and various bird species. After our short hike, we'll make our way by boat to Afuera Canales or Playa Rancharia for our final lunch and swim in our beautiful marine park. With a 90-minute boat ride back to Santa Catalina, we'll return to our hotel, where hot showers and beds await us, and the sounds of parrots will greet us. We'll celebrate our tropical adventure with a delicious meal at a local restaurant, sharing memories and stories of the time we've spent together.

Overnight Santa Catalina hotel. (B, L, D)
Today we drive back to the capital city. There is free time to explore the city on foot before our farewell dinner. We'll share one final delicious dinner in Panama City at a nearby restaurant.

Overnight Panama City hotel. (B, L, D)
This morning we bid a fond farewell to this country we have come to know and are transferred to the International Airport for our flight home or on to other adventures.


(5 reviews)
4.8 Food
4.4 Lodging
5 Safety

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

Sort By:
Most Recent

Christine T.
1 year ago

Yes - totally

Maxanne W.
1 year ago

Lora G.
2 years ago

The remoteness, lack of crowds and experiencing nature in its raw form.

Isabel A.
2 years ago

Charlotte L.
2 years ago

  1. I have never kayaked before, is this the right trip for me?

    This is the perfect trip for new and more experienced kayakers. The first day your guides, who are experienced kayak instructors, will give you instruction on safety and basic kayaking strokes. That being said, you should have sufficient upper body conditioning to be able to kayak for a couple of hours at a time and be comfortable with rustic camping.
  2. Where do we eat?

    In town you will be eating in restaurants where you can order off the menu. While you're camping breakfasts and dinners will be cooked on a camp stove - you'll be amazed at just how good camping food can be. Lunches will be packed lunches or picnics.
  3. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  4. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room, and that is only available for 3 of the 7 nights. Single tents are not possible while you're camping. We’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.