We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.
The latest reviews. The lowest prices. The perfect place to shop for hotels.

“Coiba Dive Center was fine; poor visibility hurt the dives”
Review of Coiba Dive Center

Coiba Dive Center
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Owner description: The Best Diving in Panama. Coiba Dive Center is located in the heart of Santa Catalina, Panama, just a one-hour boat ride to world class diving. Coiba National Park has been described by many as the "New Galapagos" and the "New Cocos," Isla Coiba is by far the best diving Panama has to offer.
Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
57 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 89 helpful votes
“Coiba Dive Center was fine; poor visibility hurt the dives”
Reviewed 4 June 2014

I did back-to-back day trips with Coiba Dive Center in April, 2014. They were both supposed to be to Coiba, but the visibility was so bad on the first day that we opted for other sites on the second. No issues with the operator. I relied on rental equipment, and, while things were a little used, everything was fine. I've certainly had worse. The diver masters were good -- safety conscious and knowledgeable. The visibility at Coiba was perhaps 15 feet and we really couldn't see anything. Certainly none of the large pelagics that you dive Coiba for. The dive center folks said that this was unusual, so maybe I hit a rare bad patch. Second day, off the Panama coast rather than at Coiba, visibility was better and the dives were better; but the coast is not Coiba. I'll try Coiba again if I'm in the neighborhood, and I would have no hesitation about repeating with Coiba Dive Center.

Visited April 2014
Thank michaelszippy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a Review

125 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Oakland, California
2 reviews
“Incredible time at Coiba Island”
Reviewed 7 March 2014

I should have written this review over a year ago. I'm currently researching my next diving trip and realized how much I depend on tripadvisor reviews; therefore, it's only fair I write one about one of the best diving trips of my life. I stayed at the ranger station with Coiba Dive Center in January 2013. Julie hosted us, and I couldn't have had a better time.

The dive master who took us out to the island (diving along the way), whose name I can't remember, pointed out my first (and only) sighting of a sea horse. I know people that have been diving for 50 years and haven't seen a seahorse. I count myself as lucky.

Everything was perfect! If you love diving and don't need the privacy and luxury accommodations of luxurious resort this is your place.

Visited April 2013
Thank vanessap856
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Level Contributor
69 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“Perhaps some of the best diving in the world!”
Reviewed 18 January 2014

I just got back from an absolutely superb 3-day dive trip (Jan 14-17) to Coiba National Park - Panama... I saw so many magnificent creatures I felt like I was doing my own NatGeo segment (which by the way had a research vessel there)! This was perhaps some of the best diving I have ever done. We saw whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, a squadron of over 50 mobula manta rays, white-tip reef sharks, lots of different moray eels, frog fish, lobsters, scorpion fish, sea horses, stingrays, dolphins, turtles, barracuda, octopus', plus many more!!!... Kevin (Dive Instructor) and the entire team at Coiba Dive Center did a truly outstanding job! Glenn and Julie (owners) have a lot to be proud of! The boats were comfortable, the crew was very competent and accommodating, the kitchen staff well prepared to meet special dietary needs of a few in our group. I had my own equipment, but the others that rented their scuba gear didn't seem to have any issues. Simply stunning! Keep in mind that the cabins on the islands are VERY basic and everything that you need MUST be brought to the island and MUST be taken back. The logistical requirements are tremendous and were seamless to us divers on the trip. I will definitely be back!

Visited January 2014
Thank texasjr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Copenhagen, Denmark
Level Contributor
200 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 186 helpful votes
“Well run trip in an amazing destination – if you dive here please keep it that way!!”
Reviewed 10 January 2014

Our trip with CDC was smoothly and efficiently ran and (perhaps because our expectations were fairly low!) it exceeded our expectations.
We booked the trip reluctantly as we had little info about CDC and Coiba and prepared ourselves to find poor facilities, perhaps badly maintained equipment and basic food (as we had in our previous trip to San Blas) but in fact were very surprised by the whole operation and really enjoyed the trip and the diving.
The trip delivered exactly what had been described during the booking so we didn’t feel let down, quite the contrary. We met on the first morning at 8am when we registered, made payment and were given our fins/masks/suits. We were a bit apprehensive that we weren’t given then the opportunity to check the rest of the gear by ourselves (BCDs, regulators) to make sure everything was in order but as it turned out the gear was in good condition and in the right sizes so nobody had problems with the equipment during the trip.
We had 8 people on the boat so it felt comfortable. Getting in the water was a bit long as we had to enter one by one but it wasn’t really a problem as there were no currents and it was actually nice to float and cool down for a little while. The first day diving was the less impressive, in fact we thought it was a bit average so we were quite happy we had gone for the 3 days as the sites for the following days were much better. Our favourite sites were Fishermen’s dream and Sombrero de Pelo. The guide was very experienced and helpful and you could see he knew the area well and was keen to share it. Coiba is a great destination – not the typical tropical colourful coral reef but rocky outcrops teaming with life: angelfish, frogfish, batfish, puffer fish (every single size and colour!), jacks, barracudas, beautiful morays, rays, sharks (we saw at least 3 on every single dive), dolphins and for the very lucky whale sharks. On land, there is also interesting wild (monkeys, ineque (minipigs or megarats?), birds) and domesticated life (Tito the crocodile).
The headquarters are basic but comfortable and very well looked after. Accommodation is provided in dorms for 8 people (bring earplugs!) with an ensuite bathroom. There are also some shared toilets and showers which were kept fairly clean. Electricity, from solar panels, is provided during the dark hours. Not truly enjoyable sleeping with strangers but is the only option and is OK for 2 nights.
The food was varied, fresh, plentiful and tasty – and should you find it dull there was a vast array of chilli sauces to spice it up. The dining area was quite nice so we enjoyed our evenings chatting with the other divers.
There were hammocks in the island to snooze between dives and also some short walks to viewpoints thought we found that time went by very quickly!
We realised there were some logistics involved to provide supplies, tanks (there is no compressor in the island), etc but this was all done very well in the background and there were some really nice touches that made us feel they really wanted us to enjoy ourselves like having cold beers on a sunset beach after diving!
Cost wise is not as good value as other destinations like Asia (it works out at around $70/dive) but still reasonable and well worth it!.
Only points we thought could be improved: the ratio divers/guide as we had only one guide for 8 people and inevitably you have people with different experience (or discipline!) so at times it feels a bit crowded because some newbie can’t manage their buoyancy and keeps kicking you in the face or some people don’t keep up with the group.
Also things that are outside the control of CDC but perhaps they could bring to the attention to the park management and campaign for more sustainable options: there was a smelly noisy generator running from 5am and some of the islands had large amounts of rubbish on the beach.

Visited December 2013
Thank HendrikM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Panama City, Panama
Level Contributor
14 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“One of the best days of my life! Awesome Experience”
Reviewed 5 January 2014

Used Coiba Dive Center to go diving during our stay to Santa Catalina. We did a 3 tank day and spent time playing on a small island beach as well as lunch on Coiba Island. The dives were amazing! By far the best dive sites I have ever experienced in the Pacific. The staff and dive master were all top notch and very helpful with gear and entering / exiting the boat. My father-in-law is not certified to dive but came along with us and they took him snorkeling while we dove.
We saw several sharks, turtles, schools of thousands of barricuda, dolphins and tons of fish! On the ride back from Coiba Island we spotted a mother Humback whale with a calf playing and the captain was kind enough to stop and let us watch for a half hour or so.
When I return to Santa Catalina, and I will, I will definitely be booking through Coiba Dive Center again!

Visited July 2013
Thank Riley G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers who viewed Coiba Dive Center also viewed

Santa Catalina, Veraguas Province
Santa Catalina, Veraguas Province
Santa Catalina, Veraguas Province
Santa Catalina, Veraguas Province

Been to Coiba Dive Center? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing