There are few pristine paradises left in the world, but the San Blas Islands is one of them. Strung out like pearls on a necklace in Panama’s Caribbean, the San Blas Islands are comprised of 378 islands and cays, of which only around 40 are inhabited. But while absolutely stunning, a trip to the islands isn’t for everyone—you won’t find luxury accommodation and amenities, and the islands aren’t the easiest to arrive at. That said, the islands are as picture-perfect as they come, and it’s this very lack of development that makes San Blas such a charming destination in the first place.
Want to hear more? Here are just a few things to expect from this paradise in Panama:
San Blas is regularly considered to have some of the world’s best snorkeling. With crystal-clear warm water, a plethora of animals and some of the oldest reefs in the world, it’s hardly any wonder why. There are plenty of places to explore underwater, but Dog Island is considered the best. Expect encounters with sea stars, sand dollars, sea urchins, colorful fish and more.
One of the most unique characteristics of the San Blas Islands is its rich and vibrant culture. Indigenous Kuna people inhabit the islands, and even with increasing tourism, they have managed to maintain their independence and cultural traditions. In fact, the Kuna people own and rule the islands separate from the Panamanian government. You’ll still see the Kuna wearing traditional clothing (molas), traveling between islands in hand-carved canoes, and living in bamboo and thatch buildings.
Perhaps the best part about visiting the San Blas Islands is the solitude. You don’t come here for the nightlife or the tours, but rather to be one with nature—to swim in the sea, to frolic on the sand, to drift to sleep on a hammock under an expansive, starry-lit sky. It that sounds ‘boring’, then perhaps consider a visit to Panama’s Bocas del Toro instead.
The easiest way to visit the San Blas Islands is to arrange a tour out of Panama City. Alternatively, it is possible to fly (on teeny tiny planes) with Aero Perlas or Air Panama to various destinations in the San Blas islands.
A handful of small B&Bs and lodges are on the islands. Typically they are full-service, and rates include accommodation, food, transportation and sometimes activities. If traveling with a tour group then accommodation will vary, but it might be as simple as tents on the beach.
Another popular way to visit the San Blas islands is via a sailing trip around the Darien Gap. If you have to cross the Darien Gap anyway, why not include a stop in paradise?
Have you been to San Blas before?