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“Nice staff and The fastes boat in town”
Review of Panama Dive Center

Panama Dive Center
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: We offer SCUBA DIVE products and Services and all PADI Courses at Coiba's National Park, we are the first 5 Star PADI Dive Resort Authorized in Santa Catalina. Coiba National Park and it's main Island, Coiba Island, offers the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine in day trips.
Reviewed 6 June 2014 via mobile

We were in Santa catalina during The Easter holiday and we had asked a couple of other dive shops but they were fully booked. We had to leave the next day, so we were worried that we wouldn't get a chance to dive. But luckily panama dive center had room for us. The staff was very nice, friendly and helpful. We had some decent dives and you couldn't but a finger on the service. The best thing was the big and fast speed boat,which the dive shop owned. The trip to coiba took less than half the time if the normal boats. All in all we had a great day!

1  Thank Tokeren
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PanamaDiveCenter, Propietario at Panama Dive Center, responded to this reviewResponded 1 July 2014

Thanks so much for your opinion.

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"coiba national park"
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"fish"
in 30 reviews
"tuna"
in 7 reviews
"the owner"
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"sandwich"
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"these guys"
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"two days"
in 11 reviews
"safety procedures"
in 4 reviews
"my girlfriend"
in 9 reviews
"white tips"
in 10 reviews
"diving experience"
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"boat ride"
in 12 reviews
"open water course"
in 5 reviews
"reef sharks"
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Reviewed 16 May 2014 via mobile

I was a bit indecisive on the stars for this one....

My partner and some of the others were diving, so we decided to accompany them and snorkel. This trip is not meant for snorkel trips. You pay almost as much as the divers and are pointed in a general direction to go and snorkel, and left to your own in the ocean. I'm accustomed to having someone knowledgeable take you to the reef in these situations so you aren't left staring at 12m deep water and a few shadows of fish in the dark water below.

The first site, for both diving and snorkelling was average. The second was really good, lots of fish, reef sharks etc.

Not the most comfortable boat. No toilet. You do get your money's worth with the long trip out to the reef though and the captain handled the small boat well in a big swell.

It's certainly the laid back lifestyle though so expect delays and expect times to be an estimate only.

The staff are friendly though, and you are provided with a nice sandwich as your lunch (bring other snacks!!) and you get to go to a nice beach to chill out during the day and see a crocodile that I'm convinced will one day decide to get closer with the tourists!

Thank DiL5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PanamaDiveCenter, Propietario at Panama Dive Center, responded to this reviewResponded 1 July 2014

Certainly we are improving our service for the snorkelers. Thanks so much for your comment.

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Reviewed 13 May 2014

We initially went to the dive center to dive but since neither of us had our official open water certificate, we almost had to pay 200 dollars per person for two dives (30-45 min each). We thought this was too high. Therefore, we decided to go snorkeling. To begin with, we waited for an hour because there were problems with the boat. They did not offer us any tea or coffee, let alone an apology for the delay. The boat ride to Coiba takes an hour.. which is a very bumpy and extremely uncomfortable ride. Once their, we were on our own for snorkeling. No guidance, no assistance whatsoever. For lunch we had 1 sandwich.. got back at the normal time (hence the hour lost in the morning was not compensated). All in all bad service, no guide on coiba island.. and too expensive. Waist of our day unfortunately. The people working their mean well just have poor management.

Thank A A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PanamaDiveCenter, Propietario at Panama Dive Center, responded to this reviewResponded 4 February 2015

Definitely, these kinds of comments will help us improve our service, since we have the commitment to give all our client the best experience.

First of all, should we not have explained the reason for the delay and not have expressed our apologies to you, I am sorry. This is not how we usually deal with our clients. I appreciate the comment on the coffee, since it is a very good idea and has already been implemented.

Unfortunately, we can not allow clients to go diving without proof of certification.

In regards to the cost, the operation at Coiba National Park is slightly more expensive than in other parts due to the distance of the island from the mainland (as you mentioned, a fixed distance about which we can do nothing). Moreover, to do a DSD (Discover Scuba Diver Program) you have a personal highly experienced PADI instructor to introduce you to this beautiful underwater world. The professionals are highly qualified and safety is our priority. We have a standard ratio of 2 to 1 (DSD:Instructor), which also increases the cost of the experience, but which we hope is an investment clients will never forget.

As for the climate, diving is an activity which if the weather is not good, one has to deal with waves, rain, wind and cold. A dive center cannot control this. We aim to make the ride as smooth as possible for our clients when this is the case by reducing the speed of the boat (lengthening the trip, but making it less bumpy) and by having knowledgable captains who have the clients safety and comfort as a priority.

I am sorry you felt dissatisfied with our service and hope you have a better experience somewhere else.

Cheers.
Camilo

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Reviewed 8 May 2014

My family and I were in Santa Catalina in late 2013. After checking out all the local dive operations we settled on PDC. Camilo and the team at PDC were fantastic. I've been diving all over the world for over 25 years and the operation and experience with PDC in Coiba was great. Safe, attentive, absolutely professional staff; new serviced gear; fast, safe boats for the trip over to the park. Camilo is one of the best Dive Masters I've ever had the privilege of diving with. Just a great operation and experience.
Did three days and 8 dives with the PDC team over in Coiba. It was just one great memory creating experience after another. Lay floating on our backs watching a school of mantas feeding over top of us on one dive. Watching mantas soaring around the boats while on surface intervals. Stopped counting green and golden spotted morays at over forty on another dive. Lost track of the number of white tips that we saw. Watched a huge school of over 200 four foot tuna swim under us while waiting for the stragglers to hit the pool on another dive. Surrounded by massive schools fish at other times. And through it all a dive master who had a bigger grin on his face than I had on mine.
Loved Coiba, can't wait to go back and PDC is the only operation in Santa Catalina that we will use.

Thank iTorch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PanamaDiveCenter, Propietario at Panama Dive Center, responded to this reviewResponded 1 July 2014

Thanks so much for your comment we still want to improve based in your comments.

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Reviewed 19 April 2014

A friend and I visited Panama recently with the explicit purpose of learning to scuba dive. We decided on Coiba as it seemed to be one of the best places in the world to scuba and off the beaten path. After reading the reviews for the various dive shops, we actually contacted all of the Santa Catalina dive shops and got responses from each place. We had the best feeling from PDC after corresponding with Camilo (the owner) and organized a multi-night trip to Coiba complete with our scuba instructor (Eugenio), boat captain (Raul), divemaster (Rigo), and chef (Luis). They were the dream team.

We had an amazing time on our trip, and it was the memory of a lifetime. We took the Open Water course at Coiba, with training exercises at various other isolated, pristine, islands in the area. Eugenio was our personal instructor and could not have been a better teacher. Thorough, patient, and an all-around good guy. We completed the course by the end of our second day at Coiba, and Camilo arranged for a night dive that night. It's a phenomenal experience for those willing to try it and can feel like being in a black hole if you shut your flashlight off. On our third day we did 3 more dives before heading back to Santa Catalina in the later afternoon. At Coiba you're pretty much guaranteed to see tons of exotic fish, manta rays, eel, lobster, starfish, and white tip reef sharks. We saw dolphins from the boat. We attempted to search for a whale shark but didn't have luck.

As mentioned, the entire team was great. Raul and Rigo have been doing this forever and you can tell they know the water and terrain like the back of their hands. Luis is a great chef, and I question whether he secretly has earned a Michelin star at some point. If you get Eugenio as an instructor you know you're in good hands.

After we came back to Santa Catalina, we went to dinner with Camilo, Eugenio, and Marta (who works at the dive shop). Camilo even went out of his way to give us tickets to a documentary premiere on the Santa Catalina surfing establishment for our final nights in Panama City, which was another experience in itself.

Please note that if you plan any water activities at Santa Catalina itself, that day will be very dependent on the conditions, which are not nearly as controlled as Coiba. Moreover, Santa Catalina is a surfing haven and therefore isn't necessarily the best water to be learning basic scuba skills. We were originally supposed to have a 4-day itinerary starting with skills at Santa Catalina, which got compressed to 3 days at Coiba. This did not affect the experience in the end.

Thank you Camilo and team for your wonderful dive shop. If you put your trust in Camilo you will not be disappointed.

1  Thank jhoya
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PanamaDiveCenter, Propietario at Panama Dive Center, responded to this reviewResponded 1 July 2014

Thank you very much for this comment. We appreciate it.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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