Getting There & Away
By Bus -- Santa Catalina can be reached by public bus from David or Santiago (if coming from Panama City). From Panama City, take the San Isidro bus line to Soná (5 hr; $6/£3 one-way); from David, take a bus to Soná ($6/£3; about 5 hr.). Buses from Soná to Santa Catalina leave at 5:15am, noon, and 4pm, and cost $3.75 (£1.90) one-way; or you can take a taxi for $25 (£13).
By Car -- The best way to arrive is by rental car so that you can stop and take photos with some truly beautiful surroundings. But getting here by car from David and following the logical shortcut through Las Palmas to Soná is not easy -- there is an absolute lack of road signs. From Panama City, it is a little more straightforward. Drive the Interamericana Highway west to Santiago, about 3 hours. Drive through town and past the cathedral, and 2 blocks later turn left. Drive 45km (28 miles), almost to Soná, turning left at a well-signed exit for Santa Catalina. Drive another 45km (28 miles) and turn left at the sign for Santa Catalina at El Tigre Amarillo, continuing for 20km (12 miles) more until you reach Santa Catalina.
From David, the right-hand turnoff to Soná is just past El Piro. (If you pass the left-hand turnoff for El Prado, you've gone too far.) The road is tiresomely potholed, and though it is supposedly a straight line to Soná, there are many paved and semipaved roads that branch off and can be confusing before you reach Soná -- but then again, the countryside is lovely, with tiny villages dotting the road. If you don't want to hassle with getting lost or dealing with unpaved roads, drive the extra 56km (35 miles) toward Santiago, turning right at the sign for Soná and La Peña, and continue following the directions from Panama City.