Aug 23, 7 years ago

San Blas Islands Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands are an archipelago just off the Caribbean coast of Panama. The archipelago is comprised of approximately 370-some islands and cays that extend over 160 kilometers, 49 of which are inhabited. Here are a few things to explore while in the San Blas Islands.

Local Culture

The islands are the spiritual and ancestral home of the Kuna, an indigenous group that fled the mainland during the Spanish invasion. Many Kuna still speak their native language, Tulekaya, but Spanish is widely spoken, especially among the younger generations, because children are educated in Panamanian public schools. The Kuna are a self-governing people who have managed to preserve their local culture while remaining friendly and welcoming to tourists.


The warm and shallow cobalt waters of the San Blas are a perfect spot. Explore extensive reefs and tropical fish off one of the many uninhabited islands, which are pure and inviting. If possible, avoid the water around the inhabited areas, as pollution and cleanliness of the water and beaches can be a problem.


If you’re a backpacker on a budget hopping the Darien Gap from South America to Panama, or vice versa, one option is to take a boat instead of flying. You’ll spend half what you would on a plane ticket and can arrange for the captain to stop for a night of even a full day on one of the San Blas Islands.


The beaches speak for themselves and don’t need much explanation – white sand, blue waters, palm trees. The more secluded the better.


Due to the remote location and the fact that restaurants are scarce, most lodging takes the form of rustic, all-inclusive hotels and eco-resorts. Be warned that food is simple and cabins are usually basic with limited or sporadic electricity, but that’s all part of the experience.

Photos: CC Images used Courtesy of benkucinski on Flickr


Ryan is a writer, photographer, and teacher living and volunteering throughout Latin America.

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