Trip to the San Blas Islands

Trip to the San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala)

Mini-guide to the San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala) in Panama

I have recently been discovering the magical world of photography, which fascinates me and amuses me but which, on the other hand, makes me realize how sometimes a photo can capture images that in reality are not exactly as they are represented by the final result.

There are few places whose real beauty is greater than that seen in photos. But they exist!
One of them is the archipelago of Saint Blaise an archipelago of 380 atolls belonging to Panama but with its own jurisdiction, home to the indigenous people YOU’RE FOOLISH.

I arrived in San Blas for the first time in 2011, flying from JamaicaI had glimpsed a photo of the islands on Google images, and even though I had been advised against going to Panama this image, only one but beautiful, I decided to discover this archipelago in the heart of the Caribbean and whose name I had never heard of.

Arrived in Panama, one of the rainiest countries in Central America with the suffocating heat of February, I prepare for this adventure that I wasn’t sure what it would have in store for me.

I go shopping at the supermarket, at the time not even boats included the galley, I buy the protection cream 50 because they tell me that the sun beats down especially there, I begin the long journey in what, to this day, remains one of my favorite archipelagos and which, at the time, was really a pearl for only a few pioneers, or generally for backpackers, despite the significantly higher costs than the rest of the country.

Have you found plane tickets? See also on Traveljourn
Read also: How to get to the San Blas Islands from Panama City

If you are looking for solutions trip to San Blas by sailboat or catamaran contact me on Butterfly Experience. Since 2015 I have been collaborating with numerous skippers in San Blas and together we will be able to find the best boat for your adventure in the Kuna Yala archipelago.

San Blas islands

From the travel diary in Panama (February 2011)
We are in the Caribbean seabetween Panama and Colombia, sailing between 365 islets just like the days of the year, and sailing through waters that couldn’t be bluer.

They call them islands, but these small atolls they seem more like “spits” of white sand with palm trees whose circumference is a maximum of a few hundred meters.
I don’t have a watch not even a cell phone and so I calculated the time to measure the circumference of a small island with a cigarette, it took about 3 minutes to return to the starting point and be able to throw ourselves back into the water among dolphins, lobsters and tropical fish causing us to be cooked by one of the strongest suns I have ever feared.

The sun burns, the protection 50 carefully spread all over my body does not block the rapid coloring of my skin, in 48 hours I no longer recognize myself and the white bikini makes my now pitch black skin stand out even more.

The boat rocks and the days pass between snorkeling and fishing, reading books surrounded by a world that I believed existed on the other side of the globe, because that’s how I imagined Polynesia.
With the only difference that here for a few days of pure relaxation I didn’t have to wear my underwear too.

L’San Blas archipelago I discovered it by chance on the internet, when I was undecided whether flying from Jamaica to Central America was worth stopping by or not. An intuition, which over the years has become the norm in choosing destinations, makes me type Panama into Google Images. And scrolling a little I find photos of this place unknown to me, and I believe to many,.

“I have to go there, no matter what the cost!” I say.
10 days later I was at Panama City or rather at the supermarket in Panama City to buy a series of sun creams for this place where it never rains and the sun shines undaunted.

And there, right in that supermarket where for the first time in my life I bought a cream with protection 50, my adventure inpurest and most incredible corner of the world where the indigenous traditions are still intact and I, an intruder eager to do nothing except swim, read and sleep, am giving myself the time to study and understand them, despite their way of doing things as resistant to external agents as I believe I am Right now.

saint blas

If during the day I swim and savor every moment of doing nothing in which the main activity is to spread the famous cream which never seems enough, in the evening I like to be outdoors, the wind always rises at the same time. I learned to be punctual for the appointment with this volatile suitor.

In the darkness of this place where there is no electricity and when there is it is supplied by a generator, I like to fall asleep at the mercy of the wind which with the noise of the waves seems to want to remind me that I am in a special place.
For all the nights spent in the archipelago he continued to repeat the same things over and over again. Today I think I understood the message.
Even if it’s repetitive I like listening to it.

When to go to San Blas

The seasons in Central America are divided into dry and rainy.
The rainy season runs from May to December while the dry one gives January until April. The San Blas archipelago enjoys a strategic position, in fact this archipelago enjoys good weather and little rain even during the rainy season, the wind is usually calm.

This season thanks to the calm wind and calm water with good visibility is a pretty good time to visit them, the only problem could be the slightly overcast sky which could compromise the beauty of the color of the waters and beaches.

The dry season instead it offers blue skies and shining sun, the only problem could be the wind being too strong but with a good skipper the problem is solved. February is an exceptional month!

For more information read: Best season to go to San Blas

san blas islands

How to visit the islands of San Blas – Sailing boat vs sleeping on the islands

The islands of San Blas can be visited mainly in two ways: sail boat or sleeping on the islands who have organized a reception system (very basic and essential).

In my experience, I’ve tried both sailing boat allows you to travel the archipelago in the best way as you can spend days on totally uninhabited islands reaching the more distant ones, provided that you dedicate at least 6 full days, having an idea of ​​the archipelago for what, unfortunately, is no longer already in the islands in particular that work with the backpackers and which today are also overcrowded.
There is no better way than sailing to visit this splendid archipelago.

The itineraries can cover from 4 to 10 days my advice is to at least go there 7 days so you can reach distant islands and enjoy these atolls in total solitude.
Prices depend on the duration but also on the category of boat you prefer, in general they start from US$200 per day per person galley included.

Be careful when choosing the boat because horror stories are not uncommon in the islands where some improvised skippers have made this journey a nightmare.

For a few years I have been collaborating with skippers on the San Blas Islands and I am happy to be able to help you choose the right boat and better coordinate your trip if this is the solution you want!

Costs per person on a sailing boat start from US$200 per person per night (about $350 per night on a catamaran), all included. I remember that there are no minimarkets or shops on the islands, up to higher prices for those who prefer more comfortable boats such as catamarans.

Sleeping on the San Blas Islands – Economical solution

Alternatively, if the boat is not of interest or is too much beyond the budget you wish to spend, island hopping or sleeping on the islands and then taking day trips is another popular solution especially among backpackers and is definitely the cheaper.
Costs are around €450 for 4 days and three nights and including transportation to and from Panama City.

Check out these tours that may be of interest to you (keep in mind that accommodations are very basic!).

What to know before organizing a trip to San Blas

If you have decided to treat yourself to a few days of well-deserved relaxation in San Blas, there are some important things you need to know and remember:

  • Travel light and with soft luggage – In San Blas you will not wear clothes (bathing suits and sarongs will suffice) and you will not wear shoes. You won’t need anything else. If you have heavy luggage, leave what you don’t need at the hotel in Panama City and take the bare essentials with you. Furthermore, if you are traveling by boat or catamaran, remember that rigid suitcases are not allowed, only bags that can be stored safely or folded and not take up too much space.
  • The official currency of Panama is the balboa. The balboa exchange rate is linked to the US dollar, in fact one Balboa is equivalent to one US dollar. Panama does not print its own paper currency and instead uses the US dollar as its legal tender.
  • The official language in San Blas is Spanish and Guna but on the islands they also speak English and the boat captains, being international, usually speak three or 4 languages, many also speak Italian (or are Italian!)
  • San Blas is the safest region in Panama with little or no crime so you won’t have any problems in terms of safety.
  • Get travel insurance. San Blas is far from Panama and the larger international hospitals, so consider the time it takes to reach one (there are small medical guards on the larger islands), but remember to Don’t leave without insurance which could be useful in case of illness or even cancellation and repatriation due to illness or sudden urgency.
  • Even if you book a nice catamaran or a nice sailing boat, remember that San Blas is a remote archipelago and requires open-mindedness and, sometimes, adaptability. Be flexible and don’t expect perfection, a trip to San Blas is oriented towards relaxation in the middle of nature. The skippers and on-board staff will do everything possible to make you feel on board but they literally live on those boats and want to make you feel at home and in the family. Approach San Blas informally and I’m sure you will be able to enjoy the archipelago to the fullest.

Disclaimer: In this post, some of the links provided are affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. However, this does not incur any additional cost to you. The commissions I receive through these affiliate links they help fund and support my blog, thus maintaining its independence and lack of sponsorship. I always strive to provide you with the best information and advice possible, based on my personal experience and research. I would like to underline that your support is essential to keep this blog alive and continue to provide you with quality content. Thank you for your support!

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