The Road to Santa Catalina, Panama [map]
At the beach, which is black sand and a half-mile long at low tide, the stars are reflected onto the sand and you can actually walk on the heavens. The dirt road that leads you there will bust up your tires right down to their rims, so don’t drive it. Park at the beginning of town. That’s a major selling point for this road. It continues on to paradise, but you should walk.
If you do try the road and blow out your tires, stay here for the rest of your life. There’s one telephone in the center of town; several people claim to have cell phones but almost none of them get reception. There’s no internet obviously, but the seafood is divine and the beer is cheap. Also, at certain times of the year the waves are 12 feet high, making Santa Catalina the sleepiest major destination for surfers in Central America.
The road is for the most part deserted. It’s paved, but the wet season demolishes its surface. The best bet is to take it slow so you see the potholes coming. Set aside three hours, even if the map says it should take you a third of that. Civilization falls away. It’s a magnificent drive.