The archipelago of San Blas is a set of 365 islands located in the Panamanian region of Guna Yala or Kuna Yala. This land is inhabited by the Guna people, an indigenous group that is responsible for the management of tourism and administration of these islands.
The beaches of San Blas are ideal to enjoy the Caribbean and all that it can offer. In this article, we talk about everything you can find in this area, as well as the different alternatives.
How to get
The San Blas archipelago is located in the Guna Yala region, east of the Panama Canal. There are different transport options to get there, some cheap and others more expensive.
By road, there are several options. The most comfortable is to hire a car with a private driver that arrives at the port of Cartí, from where the boats leave for the islands.
Another alternative is to go by bus from the Albrook Terminal, in the city of Panama, to Cañitas. The bus does not reach the port, so the driver must be instructed to stop at the junction to San Blas. From there to the port, the only option is to hitchhike.
Once in the port of Cartí, take a boat to the island that is chosen, which are at a distance of between 10 and 18 km. Keep in mind that different fees are paid along the route: one of 10 dollars for entering the area, another port (of 2 dollars) and one last for the round trip transport by boat, which varies depending on the island.
You can also arrive by air, taking a flight from the company Air Panama. Their planes depart from Albrook Airport. The destination varies, although they usually reach the island of El Porvenir, capital of the region.
A different alternative is to arrive from Cartagena, Colombia, in a sailboat. This offer is much more expensive than the rest, but it provides a unique experience. You can also go by boat from Capurgana.
The archipelago of San Blas is composed of a total of 365 islands. However, there are some that stand out above the rest:
- Dog Island
It is one of the most famous because next to it there is a sunken ship in which you can snorkel. In addition, there is a coral reef that reaches Diablo Island, where you can swim. It belongs to the Leones Cays.
- Isla Aguja
It is larger than most, although, like the rest of the islands, you can walk without the problem of walking. It has some cabins where you can stay for the night.
- Pelican Island
It is located near El Porvenir. It is quite lonely and does not have infrastructures, so it is perfect to isolate you from the world and relax. Another small island is Kuanidup.
- Dutch Keys
It is the most remote area of the mainland of Panama. It consists of a set of around 10 islands perfect to taste the fish that the tuna fish or enjoy diving.
What draws Narganá’s attention is that you can cross to the next island, Corazón de Jesús through a bridge. It has the most infrastructures since it has a hospital and a school.
Although on many islands there are cabins and camping areas, there are some that are almost entirely formed by a resort managed by a Guna family. To reach them you have to travel by boat or plane to some more main island and the family itself is responsible for picking you up.
You must bear in mind that they are not luxury hotels because the resources of these islands are scarce. However, they have everything necessary to spend several nights in them. These are some of the most outstanding:
- Narasgandup Bipi
Narasgandup Bipi has five cabins: three are on the beach, while two have been built on the sea. Each of them has its own bathroom. This complex is also known as Naranjo Chico.
- Sapibenega The Kuna Lodge
At Sapibenega The Kuna Lodge you will sleep in cabins with private bathrooms. In addition, it has two restaurants and a bar. The word sapibenega means in language guna nature.
Kuanidup is a small island of white sand in which there are twelve cabins to spend the night. In it the gunas organize excursions.
- Akwadup Lodge
The bungalows of Akwadup Lodge are also located on the sea. In addition, it has a restaurant and gardens. It is located five minutes from the island of Achutupu. In this video you have aerial images of the island:
- Yandup Island Lodge
Yandup Island Lodge is located near Playón Chico, where there is a small airport. It is composed of six cabins, two of them on the water. It has electricity throughout the day, as well as a restaurant and private bathrooms. It is an island surrounded by coral reefs.
What to do
If you plan to spend your holidays in these islands, you will see that you will not have time to get bored, because there is a range of activities that you can enjoy. Some of them you can do on your own, while much of the tours or excursions are organized by companies. The prices of these vary a lot.
An interesting activity that you can do is to know the culture of the gunas and their traditions. One of the most outstanding is the so-called mola: the traditional dress of women, formed by colorful embroidery.
In relation to the sea, you can sail on a sailboat or catamaran, as well as practice free snorkeling, windsurfing or kite surfing. If you want to live an experience as a backpacker, you can camp on one of the islands, fish and make a bonfire on the beach.
You cannot leave the archipelago without trying the typical gastronomy, which consists of fish and seafood such as red snapper, lobster, and crab. Another star product is the coconut, which they take directly from the palm trees and with which they can make some drinks.
The climate of the islands of San Blas is tropical maritime so that throughout the year there are high temperatures and a remarkable humidity. The average temperature is 27 ºC and does not usually fall below 20 ºC. The time when it rains least is between January and May.
The sea may be somewhat more active between May and January since rainfall is more common. However, there are usually no major storms and there is no danger of hurricanes.
Therefore, here you find a perfect time to bathe and enjoy the sea. So, you do not have to forget to take swimwear and sunscreen, as well as the necessary objects to practice some activities such as snorkeling.