Located halfway between Panama City and the Costa Rican border, the bustling hub of Santiago is the capital for Veraguas province, as well as being a strategic centre for communications in the Pacific lowlands. It is one of the oldest settlements in Panama, with a tourist trade that is set to boom.
Santiago has an old world charm, specifically relating to its colonial era development, with amazing attractions of the local museum as well as the closely located beaches and eco tourism opportunities. Other famous attractions in the vicinity include Basilica Menor Santiago Apostol de Nata – claiming to be the oldest church on the Pacific side of the Americas. It has beautifully carved wooden statues and every July 25th , a statue of Santiago Apostól, the patron saint of Natá, is paraded through the streets of the town for the faithful.
A mere 25km out of Santiago to Puerto Mutis and then via boat, one has the opportunity of exploring the Coiba National Park, which protects three natural systems; being the Coiba Island, the marine life and the surrounding reef. Coiba National Park consists of 650,000 acres and is made up of numerous islands, as well as the mentioned reef and marine areas. Interestingly a penal colony was established on the island in 1910, and is still in service today. The forest on the island has remained untouched due to its remote and isolated geographical location. For sports fisherman the area is world famous for the blue and black marlin, and although the island has not fully developed its tourist potential, it makes a change to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of snorkelling and diving, not to mention the fantastic flora, fauna and bird watching opportunities.
The Veraguas province is in the central part of Panama, and has the Caribbean sea to the north and the pacific Ocean to the south. One of the most famous beaches in Panama is Santa Catalina, which is a surfers paradise. The tourism trade has embraced the surfing culture and has surfing camps and low budget accommodation. Originally home to the fierce indigenous peoples of the Guaymi tribe, they were relentless fighters never surrendering to the Spanish, and continued fighting their influences. Only now are the Guaymi entering the mainstream of Panamanian life.