San Blas (Kuna Yala), Panama

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What to See

Isla Perro Shipwreck

Colombian Shipwreck on Isla Perro great for snorkeling
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago

Between Isla Diablo and Isla Perro in the Cayos Limones is a shipwreck that is easily accessible. It is just off the beach on Isla Perro, but you can also swim to it from Isla Diablo. The ship, we were told, is a Colombian ship that sunk about 40 years ago. The wreck is in shallow water and is visible from the surface. Both Isla Diablo and Isla Perro rent snorkel gear (about $3 for the day).

Kuna Museum Of Culture, Art & History

Consider stopping by the Kuna Museum
by Drdang about 6 years ago
Consider stopping by the Kuna Museum

The Kuna Museum of Culture, Art & History has a history fair project kind of feel. You can pick up bits and pieces of knowledge about the Kuna history and culture here. It's located in a Kuna hut on Carti Sugtupu, one of the Carti Islands. Not a must-see but informative. The owner/curator gives a 30 minute presentation and there's a question and answer session at the end. It's open 8am - 9pm daily and costs $3 to enter.

What to Do

Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing for Permit in Kuna Yala
by Mattfromtexas about 6 years ago

Off the shallow end of Devil's Island (or Isla Diablo) is a rocky reef flat that runs about 200 meters off the beach before it drops off to deep water. Permit can be found schooling up and feeding on this flat. I didn't discover them until my final morning here, so I only got to cast at them but one time. You will need a wading shoe with a solid bottom as the ground here is mostly reef rock.

Island Hopping

2 islands, 3 nights in San Blas - $35/night
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
2 islands, 3 nights in San Blas - $35/night

A typical day in San Blas goes something like this. After rolling out of your hammock, you'll put on your snorkel gear, swim to the neighboring islands, check out the shipwreck, avoid the barracuda, feast on coconuts, swim back to your island, dine on lobster, and stargaze through the palm trees. Why did we leave? I'm not sure! We organized our trip to Isla Chichime and Isla Diablo at Luna's Castle in Panama City. Other options were available but we were pretty happy with this package. Total cost was $25 transportation to San Blas + $2 Kuna tax + $35/night.

Where to Stay

Isla Diablo

Try to get a big hammock so you can stretch out at night
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
Try to get a big hammock so you can stretch out at night

We slept side by side in this hut on Isla Diablo. Sleeping in a hammock--there is a way to lay with your back straight--takes getting used to. It's not the most comfortable thing. But, after spending the day in paradise, can you really complain? Bring a sweater and something to cover yourself with. It gets chilly at night. Also, I would recommend sleeping with your face covered. Two words: falling cockroaches.

Isla Tigre

6 huts on Isla Tigre - Sandy floors, basic beds
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
6 huts on Isla Tigre - Sandy floors, basic beds

When we stayed on Isla Tigre, there were 6 huts reserved for tourists, all located on one end of the island away from the community. Isla Tigre decided to enforce this division, we were told, after a tourist visited the island and harassed the community. The huts are basic with 2 proper beds. Some of the horizontal slats were missing, however, making it somewhat uncomfortable. If you have a bad back, you may need to skip Isla Tigre. The huts came with locks for the door. And though most Kuna toilets are built over the water, on the tourist end of the island, you have an outside shower and toilet.

Where to Shop

Arts & Handicrafts

Mola Art from San Blas - $5-20
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
Mola Art from San Blas - $5-20

It's easy to tell the difference between good molas and bad molas. Look for strong colors; multiple layers (the more the better); clean edges; invisible stitching; and complicated patterns. The nicer the mola, the more you should expect to pay. I have personally spent between $5-20 for a piece. On more populated islands, you will have more to choose from, and there is a bigger difference in prices. Have fun mola shopping. These pieces of artwork make beautiful gifts!

Getting Around

General

Touring San Blas Islands - How much does it cost?
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
Touring San Blas Islands - How much does it cost?

There are at least five costs you need to consider when doing tours from Carti: (i) transportation to Carti; (ii) boat taxi to islands (varies depending on distance); (iii) accommodation and meals (between $25-35 pp per day); (iv) island taxes ($1-2 per island); and (v) Kuna tax ($6 to enter the comarca). Luna's Castle charges $30 each way for the 3-hour trip to Carti. You can pay less by going through any of various transportation companies. We went through Transporte y Carga Kuna Yala and paid $25 one way and $20 on the way back. Their office number is 225-4900 or 225-2387. Based on my estimation, the real cost is more like $3-5 pp each way, but good luck getting it for that price!

What to Avoid

Falling Coconuts

Coconut Concussions
by Mattfromtexas about 6 years ago
Coconut Concussions

You're sitting on your deserted island watching the paradise all around you when, all of a sudden, a THUD! A coconut falls from a 40-foot high tree, forming a crater in the sand next to you. If you had set your towel down three feet to the left, you'd be looking at a concussion at best. Falling coconuts are no joke! Look up at the trees above you, and don't set up your hammock underneath these ticking time bombs from above!

General Advice

Taking Photos

How much do you have to pay to take photographs in San Blas?
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
How much do you have to pay to take photographs in San Blas?

Before leaving for San Blas, I read a lot about tourists who were asked to pay $1 to take photographs of the Kuna Indians. Putting aside messy questions about how that actually works (i.e., individual v. group photos, photo v. session, etc.), I wondered how much I would be willing to pay to bring back photographic memories of my visit to the islands. I mean, in a typical day abroad, I take hundreds of photographs. Although some Kunas may think it profitable to ask, I think others do it out of mistrust. In my own experience, I find that once you get to know your hosts and show real interest in their lives, culture and traditions, you don't get asked for the $1 very often.

What To Bring

What to Bring
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago

You'll do good to bring the following: water (for some reason, lunch and dinner are not served with drinks), toilet paper, bug spray, snacks, snorkel gear if you have it, a head light, cash, and something warm to wear at night. It does get mighty chilly after hours. Music and movies are also a plus since there is literally nothing to do after 8pm.