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San Blas Islands of Panama 🌴

San Blas islands
San Blas islands

The San Blas islands are a group of islands in the archipelago de San Blas, located in the Northwest of Panama facing the Caribbean Sea. There are about 378 islands in the archipelago which are scattered around in an area of roughly 100 square miles. If you leave the Golfo de San Blas by boat you will enter the Caribbean Sea.

The majority of the 378 islands have no inhabitants, but on the few larger ones you will find the gentle native people known as the Kuna’s. These natives can be found on islands such as Aguja Island, Guanidup Island, Chichimei, Yandup Island and El Porvenir. San Blas is an autonomous territory of Panama formally called Kuna Yala, with reference to the native inhabitants. It translates directly to “Land of the Kuna“.

What will you find in San Blas?

Driftwood ans sailboats in San Blas
Driftwood ans sailboats in San Blas

The San Blas islands are viewed by many as the number #1 vacation destination in Panama and presumably in the whole of Central America. It will be definitely one of the highlights of your travel to Panama.

You may wonder why the location is so amazing? Well the islands are not yet discovered by the massive tourism industry and in full control by the native Kuna’s. The Kuna’s protect their lands against mass tourism and keep them healthy, pristine and beautiful. This makes the San Blas islands of Panama unique if you are searching for off the beaten track and untouched nature in combination with some traditional culture. Just check out these pictures of San Blas!

Traditional Kuna canoe
Traditional Kuna canoe

Hop from island to island with the Kuna as travel guides in their canoes or just relax at the white sand beaches and enjoy the bioluminescence spectacle in the sea at night. Eat some fresh lobster or red snapper right from the barbecue and detox from your phone as connection isn’t rock solid in this area. Sleeping in eco-friendly accommodations made by the Guna’s Indians from natural materials which they found on the islands and in the jungle surrounding the area. You will become peace and tranquillity yourself.

Getting there and around

San Blas Islands
Isla Perro San Blas

The most common way to get around in the San Blas archipelago is by sailing from island to island by private or charter boat. You can also ask the locals to hop you around in their canoes or boats. Book flights from Panama City to the airports located on El Porvenir, Playon Chico, Achutupu, Ogobsucum or Corazon de Jesus in San Blas to get to the area fast. But driving to Guna Yala (San Blas) is also possible and probably more fun, as you will have to take a 4×4 jeep from Panama City to Carti.

How many San Blas Islands are there? There are 378 islands in the San Blas archipelago, of which 49 inhabited by the native Kuna Indians. The total San Blas area is approximately 100 square miles.

Kuna

Travel agency in San Blas

San Blas tiny islands
San Blas tiny islands

Travelling on your own to San Blas is probably the most common way to get around for travellers and backpackers. It is easy to find overnight stay in rooms, cabins, tents (camping), hammocks or book various tours and day-trips on different Islands such as Porvenir, Franklin, Nadi, Kikirdub, Asuelo and more. Local operators offer their services in English & Spanish and of course in the Guna language. Day trips are also possible from Panama City but not recommended as you will want to stay on the islands for at least a few nights.

The native inhabitants are called the Guna/Kuna

San Blas Guna indian with molas
San Blas Guna indian with molas

The native people living on the Islands of San Blas call themselves Kuna’s or Guna’s. The district/region in Panama where you can meet the natives is officially named after them and carries the name of Guna Yala or Kuna Yala. The Kuna’s are a community of proud people that have their own laws, norms and values that go with their centuries old culture. Which, is different than the traditional Panamanian culture.

Since the last headcount of all the Kuna Indians an estimated 300.000 live in Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia, only 50.000 of them still live on the San Blas islands. When you visit the San Blas Islands don’t forget to try some of the traditional Kuna food or try out some molas.

Imagine a turquoise archipelago with one island for every day of the year. With white sand and waving palms, these Caribbean islands cheat no one’s version of Paradise. San Blas is Home to the Kuna, an autonomous indigenous group who run San Blas with minimal interference from the national government.

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