Rancho Estero

Rancho Estero: Beachfront Cabins in Santa Catalina

In Accommodation, North America, Panama by Sheena5 Comments

Paradise awaits at Rancho Estero, the perfect accommodation for your surfing & diving vacation in Panama – with the beach at your doorstep, find out why these are the best views & cabins in Santa Catalina!

Rancho Estero Location

Rancho Estero is situated in the town of Santa Catalina in Panama. Santa Catalina was just a small fishing village until the 1970’s when it was discovered by surfers in search of the perfect wave.

These days, it’s one of the top surfing destinations in Panama & the whole of Central America, while still retaining a small town vibe.

Santa Catalina is also the most popular base for snorkeling & diving tours to Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site & protected marine reserve.

Then there are beach sunsets like this:

Beach sunset Santa Catalina

Sunset on Santa Catalina beach

There are no ATM’s or big supermarkets in Santa Catalina but come with cash & you’ll still be able to find everything you need from grocery stores & restaurants to laundry & tour operators.

Rancho Estero is a 20 minute walk from Main Street & the centre of Santa Catalina.

It’s in an unbeatable location, with sweeping views of Playa Estero that’s obstructed only by palm trees. From the property, you can also see Isla Santa Catalina & La Punta.

Rancho Estero location

Once you check-in to Rancho Estero, you won’t want to check-out!

Rancho Estero Cabins

Rancho Estero offers a choice between 2 new, wooden cabins with private bathrooms or 4 rustic, bamboo huts with shared bathrooms.

We here at DIY Travel HQ stayed in a wooden cabin, complete with an outdoor porch – it was simply wonderful.

Rancho Estero new cabin

Our wooden cabin at Rancho Estero

We loved the exposed wood styling of the interior & the small seaside paintings on the walls were a lovely touch.

Our cabin had 2 double beds with colourful bedding & very comfortable mattresses. One bonus was the additional space in the annex above – climb the ladder & you’ll find another double bed! With room for 6 people, the cabin is excellent value for groups & families who want to stay together.

New cabin Rancho Estero

2 double beds with a 3rd in the annex above!

The cabin also featured:

  • Hanging space with hangers
  • Two wooden chairs with cushions
  • Towels & soap provided
  • Torch
Rancho Estero cabin

Inside our wooden cabin at Rancho Estero

The owners initially wanted to install air-conditioning but that would’ve compromised the cabin-feel & required significant modifications. We enjoyed the cool breezes through the windows & there is also a fan provided.

Like the rest of the cabin, our bathroom was very clean & spacious, with everything you needed for a comfortable stay.

Bathroom Rancho Estero

Spacious & clean bathroom in our cabin at Rancho Estero

Rancho Estero Common Areas

  • Kitchen

Rancho Estero offers a fully stocked kitchen with everything you need to make a meal & a half! There’s a gas stovetop & fridge plus plenty of cutlery & crockery, as well as 2 large storage fridges to keep your food & drinks chilled.

Free coffee is brewed for everyone in the morning from 7:00am.

If you don’t feel like cooking, there are several restaurants within walking distance.

Kitchen Rancho Estero

Everything you need in the Rancho Estero kitchen

  • Dining / Reception

You can enjoy your home cooked meals with a view, in the open covered patio area in the hub of Rancho Estero. This is also where you check-in at Reception & where you’ll find Elli, Zigor or another staff member if you have any questions.

There’s a table setting for 4 or a longer wooden, picnic-style table & benches, with other chairs & hammocks scattered around.

Rancho Estero is the perfect place to switch-off but if you need to stay connected, WiFi works best in this area but the connection is not always reliable. In that case, switch on the flat screen TV to get your fix, if you must 🙂

Rancho Estero

The main common area at Rancho Estero

  • Tiki Bar

Rancho Estero doesn’t offer a restaurant or bar service but if you stock up at the grocery store in the centre of Santa Catalina, you can serve yourself & enjoy Happy Hour anytime at the bar next to Reception! The wood is so beautiful crafted.

Check out the small book exchange behind the bar too.

Bar Rancho Estero

Tiki Bar at Rancho Estero

  • Patio Deck

Even though we didn’t have time to us it much, our favourite feature of Rancho Estero was the beautiful wooden patio deck, facing the beach – see the cover photo!

The hammocks are under a thatched-leaf roof while you can relax in the open on wooden reclining sun lounges.

This is paradise right here!

Deck Rancho Estero

Soak up the sunshine in chairs & lounges on the patio deck

  • Hammocks

With 6 cabins & minimal guests on a spacious beachfront property, Rancho Estero often feels like your own slice of paradise. You can always find a quiet spot & for us, there was no better place to relish the serenity than in a hammock…

There are hammocks hung between trees at the edge of the hill, wooden poles at the main common area & beams on the patio deck. The best part – they all face the ocean…

Rancho Estero beach

Relax in a hammock looking over to Estero beach

Along with the hammocks, you may find just as many dinosaurs roaming the grounds of Rancho Estero!

Don’t leave Rancho Estero without spending quality time inspecting each hammock & dinosaur 🙂

Dinosaur sculpture Rancho Estero

Meet the dinosaurs of Rancho Estero!

Rancho Estero & Surfing

The surfing in Santa Catalina is world class, with consistent & tall, powerful breaks.

It’s a favourite destination for experienced surfers though Estero Beach in front of Rancho Estero is an excellent spot for beginners or those wanting to learn. Here, the waves are smaller & the ocean is calmer.

Playa Estero

The calm surf at Playa Estero is perfect for beginners

Rancho Estero can arrange board rentals, surfing lessons or surfing safaris for any levels. Elli & Zigor, the managers, are avid surfers who have lived in Santa Catalina for 8 years so they can tell you everything you need to know.

2-4 day Surf & Stay packages are available from $225 a person, inclusive of accommodation, breakfasts, surf lessons & board rental.

Surfboard rentals Rancho Estero

Rent a board at Rancho Estero

How to Get To & From Santa Catalina

All buses to & from Santa Catalina run via Sona. The most popular connections are to David to the West & Panama City to the East.

Let the bus driver know that you are staying at Rancho Estero & you can be dropped off directly there, saving you a 20 minute walk from the town centre.

Rancho Estero cabins

Rustic beach paradise is waiting for you at Rancho Estero!

Know Before You Go

Address: Above Estero BeachSanta Catalina, Panama

Prices: Wooden cabins from $75.00, Bamboo cabins from $40.00

Contact Information:

  • Phone:              +(507) 6415-6595
  • Email:                [email protected]
  • Website:           Rancho Estero

Read Rancho Estero’s Tripadvisor reviews here


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*** The Final Word: Once you experience beach paradise at Rancho Estero, you’ll never want to leave ***

Where in the world have you stayed in beachfront cabins?

* We enjoyed a complimentary stay at Rancho Estero – thank you to Elli for hosting us. We only recommend great value accommodation that we would choose to stay at regardless & as always, all opinions & photos are our own.

Visited in February 2017


  1. I love how close it is to the ocean! The price of the package isn’t too crazy too for including surf lesson and board rental!

  2. This place looks incredible, and so reasonably priced. I would never leave that hammock!

  3. Seems like a really chill place. Maybe a place to split with a group of friends. The self-service bar idea is intriguing.

  4. I live part time in Boquete but this is my first time hearing about Santa Catalina. Definitely a beautiful place I will need to visit in the future. Looks like they do a nice job of taking care of guests, every base is covered.

  5. Rancho Estero looks like such a relaxing place to stay! I love all of the wooden furniture and the hammock overlooking the water. And thanks for the tip about getting cash beforehand!

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