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The official name is Guna Yala

Guna Yala region

Guna Yala, San Blas, Kuna Yala or Comarca de Kuna Yala which one is correct? Well the short answer is; all of them! But, there is always but; the official name for the region is Guna Yala since October 2011. This name means land of the Kuna or Guna Mountain and represents all the land within Panama that is controlled by the ethnic Indians named the Guna.

But why is Guna Yala called San Blas?

But why does everybody call it San Blas? Well until October 2011 the region was called Kuna Yala and before that San Blas. After 2011 it gained some privileges from the Panamanian government and thereby the ethnic Guna’s changed its name. The name San Blas was given by the Panamanian government a long time ago because the region was located in and bordering the Golfo de San Blas. This is a large, by reefs and sandbanks, sheltered Golf that borders the Caribbean Sea.

Comarca Kuna Yala is the official name of the San Blas area.

Is Kuna Yala correct?


Where does the name Kuna Yala come from? But the Guna do call them selves Kuna. It is complicated because the name changes aren’t fully integrated among the locals and ethnic Kuna’s. This is why people expect it to be called Kuna Yala, which is wrong but acceptable. Another easy answer is that every foreigner can’t pronounce Guna right and says Kuna. Since when speaking English you won’t hear the difference. The Kuna themselves often refer to them in English as Kuna. This is just some kind of translation for the word in English.

Comarca de Guna Yala

What does Comarca de Guna Yala means? Well Comarca is a Spanish word county or shire. They sometimes have region or state privileges such as the Guna does. Nevertheless since the region is now called Guna Yala it is often referred to as Comarca de Guna or Kuna. Strange thing is that world maps and for example Google maps still calls the region San Blas. This is probably due to the fact that the region is located in the waters of the Golfo de San Blas.

In sum, you can call the region whatever you want

When you ask directions to San Blas in Panama everybody will tell you how to get there. So don’t worry about the correct name for the region since everybody knows this tropical paradise under its different names. Nowadays everybody calls Guna Yala still San Blas but this will probably change in the future.


Lets make it all clear in a short summary.

Official name: Guna Yala
Official region name: Comarca de Guna Yala
Foreigners name for the region: San Blas Islands
Common acceptable mistake: Kuna instead of Guna
Waters located in the region: Golfo de San Blas
People living in San Blas: Ethnic Kuna or Guna indians.