The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Panama's San Blas Islands

© Joe Cooke / Unsplash
© Joe Cooke / Unsplash
Photo of Brittney Schering
30 January 2018

Visiting Panama’s extraordinary collective, San Blas, is an experience unique to this archipelago of more than 350 remarkable islands dotting the Caribbean Sea. It is often argued that a trip to Panama is not complete without a visit to San Blas, also known and referred to as Guna Yala by locals and the indigenous people who take great pride in calling it home.

Panama beach | © lapping/Pixabay

San Blas is no resort town, and it has no signs of modern luxury. It is, instead, an example of nature’s awe-inspiring beauty, simplicity and incredible authenticity. It’s so different from anything else – just you, the islands and the natives who call it home, and very little else. The coastal collective is home to the Guna people who have lived there for hundreds of years, thriving on the land and creativity.

San Blas is a picture-perfect place of art and peace, of nature’s whispers, free of modern luxury.

Don’t expect to see any large buildings, just small, basic huts for minimal shelter. The islands are surrounded by the most serene, crystal-clear, turquoise water and silky sand with palm trees dotting each beach.

Isla Iguana, Panama | © José Manuel Castrellón / WikiCommons

Islands to visit include Aroma Island and Dog Island. The drink of the land is the Coco Loco, which is literally a coconut with rum in it. Meals are made straight from the land and sea – expect delectably fresh-grilled fish, coconut rice and watermelon.

The handwoven Mola is the clothing made by the indigenous people, and it is intricately woven with bright, beautiful, kaleidoscopic colors and incredibly elaborate patterns. If you seek a special souvenir, the Mola is the best you’ll find.

Local guides will help you get around, though their English is very limited. The San Blas Islands are a remarkable collection that time will take away in just a few decades – the ill-fated islands are sure to sink under the sea in only a matter of fleeting time. Be sure to see them while you still can – a most treasured gem of art, sea and admirable simplicity.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"