San Blas Islands were our first 4-day leg of our Panama tour. We stayed there from December 27th to 30th and loved it very very much!
The archipelago of San Blas
After seeing photos on blogs, I dreamed of staying on these islands within an indigenous community. The Guna Yala Archipelago or San Blas is an autonomous Indian territory in the Caribbean Sea of Panama. Guna Yala has more than 360 islands spread over more than 400 kilometers. In addition to its landscapes of postcards, this archipelago allows to go to the contact and to discover the culture Guna. With a tropical climate and a permanent breeze, these islands are always sunny.
San Blas and the Gunas or Kunas
These 50,000 San Blas Indians want, despite contact with the modern world, to perpetuate their cultures. They were already present on the archipelago before the arrival of Christophe Colom. They live in community, independently and do everything to respect their tradition. I had read that the women Guna put their traditional costume in front of the tourists and that as soon as they left, they got dressed in trousers and tea shirt then left the islets to reach their apartment.
It’s totally wrong. For having stayed 4 days on DE MAR ACHUDUP, I can certify that the Gunas, who have kindly welcomed us on their island, are Indians who do not play comedy. Women are traditionally dressed all the time: Mola, skirts, anklets and arms, gold rings in the nose, red scarves. They live on their island with their families in huts such as those rented to tourists. In some families, men who are more Westernized than women leave their island to work on fields in maize plantations, yuca plantations, others fish, transport tourists on excursions or trade with neighboring islands.
Of course, the Gunas profit from making money with tourism but it is a people concerned about its traditions and far from all that is said.
They greeted us a little cold at first, but very quickly, going to have with some funny anecdotes, we managed to get some smiles and a kind of mutual respect was established. Despite our curiosity, we felt that they did not want to talk to us. They stayed behind and we respected the distance they wanted to keep.
All we learned from them was Victor, the steward who handled the logistics and stewardship for the tourists who explained it to us.
How to go to San Blas Islands?
We went by road from Panama City:
- 5h30 Departure from our hotel in Pic Up to the pier to go to San Blas Islands with our private driver Oziel GONZALEZ Tel: + 507 6004 4721 or + 507 6576 6663
- The journey lasts 2h30 with 1h30 of very bad road through the mountain and the forest. At the entrance to the Caribe region, there is a checkpoint where you have to pay an entrance fee of 20 USD per person.
- We go to the puerto Dibin where we wait almost 2 hours before embarking on a “lancha”! The management of boats is a disaster! The tourists are divided on one side then the other, some luggage protected others not, the last arrived before the first … The registration documents go hand in hand and do not return to their transmitter …
- 10:00 Transfer by sea to the island of MAR ACHUDUP
- 10:50 Arrival on the island and installation in our cabin.
Where to sleep on San Blas Islands?
The Gunas offer traditional accommodation in rustic cabins built of natural materials. They are huts with palm roofs placed on the sand. Simply equipped with beds and luggage rack, there is no air conditioning or toilets inside. There is electricity in the cabins from 18:30 until midnight. In addition, you can recharge electronic devices at the bar during the day. The toilets are shared outside.
The highlight of these accommodations is their location. Indeed, the cabins are placed directly on the beach, under the coconut trees, facing a beautiful lagoon, with a hammock that awaits you for long naps in the sun …
In a place so heavenly, we quickly forget the lack of comfort and we like to live in Robinson Crusoe!
Here is the accomodation DE MAR ACHUDUP where we stayed for 3 nights:
What do we eat on San Blas Islands?
When booking the hotel, it is mandatory full board because there are no other possibilities for restoration on these tiny islands.
The Gunas prepare simple dishes with fish products of the day accompanied by the famous coconut rice typical of the region. To vary a little, from time to time there is chicken. Attention, the full board does not include drinks. Coca, beers, water, sodas are sold on site at 2 USD.
Optionally, for 10 USD you can order a good lobster that they prepare with a sauce with garlic.
Lobster meal in the islands SAN BLAS :
What to do on San Blas Islands?
To find a calm life, simple and cut off from time. Take the time to bask in the sun, read a good novel, play chess, observe the birds including the many Pelikans.
Main activities on San Blas Islands
Swimming, snorkeling especially in “la piscina” and excursions to other islands such as Pelikans Island, Perro Chico Island or Perro Grande Island. To go to the island of Holandeses (one of the most beautiful), you have to pay extra because it takes 1 hour of lancha to access and 1 hour for the return.
At night, gaze at the stars in a sky without light pollution is a real show that can be enjoyed at SAN BLAS then fall asleep slowly to the sound of the waves …
How long to stay on San Blas Islands?
We stayed 4 days, 3 nights. But, as I like to discover, move, walk … I must admit that 4 days is a little too much. To enjoy and not be bored, a small stay of 1 to 2 nights is enough except for those who need a lot of rest.
After the San Blas Islands, we continue our Panama tour