San Blas is still not a well-known destination, so it’s good to enjoy this idyllic place while it’s not too crowded, right? The islands of this archipelago, controlled by the Kuna Indians, have wonderful beaches and are perfect for those looking for more exotic destinations.
Are you excited about the idea? If you are like me and Paulo, and like to visit little explored and different places, you will love this trip. I will tell you some very important tips for your tour to take place in the best possible way!
How to get
To reach San Blas you will have to go directly by car and boat or be part of the route by plane. In the first case, there are two options. You can rent a 4 × 4 car in any city in Panama and go to the port or hire an agency that will pick you up somewhere, like your hotel, and take you to where the boats are. The road to the boat terminal is full of curves, ups and downs. Oh, don’t forget to bring a map or have a map on your cell phone to help you find it!
Arriving at the port, which may be the Barsukun or Carti, you will go to the island of your choice with any of the available boats. The time from these ports to the islands varies widely. The closest to the coast is approximately 15 minutes away. Another very cool way and one of the best, is to go to the sailboat islands. He takes you on several of them and you can stay on the boat!
If you want to avoid this route by car, the plane is a good way out. You leave Panama City for El Porvenir Airport. Once there, you will take a boat that will take you to the chosen island. To get around the islands, all the routes are made by boat and you solve this when you arrive at each one 😉
NOTE: don’t forget to take your passport! The Kuna Indians are responsible for controlling the entry of people to the island and it is very likely that they will ask for your document. It is not time consuming and they are very calm about it, but it is important to have a document that identifies you.
When to go
The best time to visit San Blas is during the drought. So you enjoy the beaches well and don’t have too much trouble with the sea more agitated than normal. The ideal months for you to enjoy your trip very well are between December and March! October and November are the rainiest months, so try to avoid this season. The temperature of the islands is almost always higher than 20ºC, that is, you will not be cold even in the months with milder temperatures.
Of course, the climate in the region does not always follow these rules, but it is good to plan your trip in the most “sure” months.
I already tell you that you have no option of super starry accommodation or something extremely comfortable. Some of the islands offer small huts as accommodation. Among these facilities, some are a little more comfortable and others are more rustic. It is the Kunas who take care of all the island’s tourism and they offer what they can. Most islands do not provide electricity 24h, that is, go prepared and take external batteries for the cell phone and cameras. The internet signal is practically nonexistent – which is not a bad thing for those who need to disconnect on vacation, right?
For those who want to stay in a more cozy environment, Isla Coco Blanco is a great option. It is exclusive for guests, that is, it does not allow visitors to spend just one day there. Other options are Isla Aguja and Isla Chichime Grande. The huts are simpler, but still have good accommodation options. Another form of accommodation, which was chosen by me and Paulo, is the sailboat!
For those who enjoy a simpler trip, there is also the possibility of camping on some islands. The cost for this is usually $ 50 per person per night. Remember that most islands don’t even have electricity and you will be there on your own.
There is no ressophisticated restaurant on the islands, because everything there is very rustic and simple. Meals are only served on islands that have some type of structure, usually the most visited. In this case, the food is prepared by the Kunas – or the crew of the sailboat – and most of the base of the dishes is made with local products. Good news is that most island lodges offer packages with all meals included, meaning you don’t have to worry as much about it.
Fish and seafood are the most typical foods there. They are usually served with a good serving of rice and sometimes salads. Rice can always be complemented with some other very tropical ingredient, like coconut milk. Chicken is also one of the options served by some of the Kunas families! Although the cuisine is very simple, the spices make the dishes different and delicious.
Ah, it is always good to bring some snacks to eat over the days and lots of mineral water. Do not take anything that needs to go to the refrigerator, because the huts do not have a fridge. Another very important tip: do not drink tap water at all, as they have no treatment system.
What to pack
Most islands have no structure like a market, mall or clothing store, so you’ll need to pack everything. However, do not overdo it and take only what you think is necessary. I recommend that you bring light clothes, beach and bath towels, sunscreen, toilet paper, waterproof bag and external chargers. Other very important items are sleeping bags or sheets, as not all huts offer this.
In relation to money, take small bills, because kunas can refuse large bills. They do not usually accept cards, so their only option is to withdraw the money before embarking to any of the islands and exchange the money as soon as possible.
If you are vegetarian, vegan or do not eat seafood, I recommend that you bring some foods too. Some beans and snacks cannot be missing!
As I always tell you, be sure to buy international health insurance! Unforeseen events happen and it is always good to be prepared for them. The islands are small and the minimum trade in them is aimed at crafts. This means that there are no pharmacies there. So be sure to pack medicine and plenty of sunscreen. Repellents are only necessary if you go to any of the islands that have mangroves! It is also recommended that you get the yellow fever vaccine, but I explained more about that in this post about Panama!
If you prefer to have the trip more organized and with the destinations previously scheduled, you can hire an agency specializing in tours around San Blas. Some of them offer day packages, perfect for those who will be spending a little time in the country. There are other options that include several islands, where you can choose which route you want to take and which vessel to take. Some of the best known companies in the region are Sailing Life Experience, Cacique Cruiser and San Blas Experience.
I am completely in love with the San Blas islands. And did you already know this paradise? In addition to these tips I also selected the best islands for you and made a post with the activities that can be done there 😉