Day trip in San Blas: meet the Kuna

When I was informed about our day trip in San Blas, I thought about some beaches, sand, palm and blue sea. Not that I was against things like that, but maybe the idea to wake up at 5 wasn’t really my cup of tea on holiday.

Anyway I started to look for some information about the place and i found that San Blas Islands is an archipelago with approximately 378 islands, most of them not inhabited. Seriously? 378 islands are not very easy to figure.

archipelago san blas map

They are home to the Kuna, the local indigenous who are in charge and control the whole “Kuna Yala” comarca, indipendently from the panamanian government.

The archipelago is about 4 hours by car from Panama City so it’s not odd to get there just for a day trip. You have to drive partly on the Panamericana but mostly in the middle of a forest, crossing hills and meeting amazing butterflies and other animals. The road is almost all paved but there are unpaved parts also, a bit difficult with a small car especially after the rain. So if you rent a car a mini jeep or SUV is suggested.

So we woke up early heading north with a stop at the supermarket as BEWARE there’s nothing to eat or drink in most of the islands. Well you can decide to go to some of the inhabited islands, but these are the busiest. So you could probably prefer to bring your food&drink on a desert and quiet island.

Day trip in San Blas Panama

After the long road you arrive at the entrance of the Kuna region, where you have to pay to get in the reserve. In a couple of kilometers you get the customhouse, as the Kuna Yala is an independent area. So don’t forget to bring your passport.

Don’t be scared by the swastika at the entrance: as in other cultures, it’s a symbol of vital force not linked with political stuff at all!

You’re almost there. From the makeshift harbor you can take a ride to get the island you prefer. If you already know some particular island you want to get, just ask to the boatman, otherwise he will get you with the other tourists in the busiest one, probably.

We went to the Isla Pelicano and we weren’t disappointed at all!

Isla pelicano day trip in San Blas Panama

On the island you can find just palms, grass,sand, grabs and a Kuna hut! The hut belongs to a Kuna family who doesn’t live there but use it as a “shop”. They sell the Mola, crafts made by the overlapping of different coloured pieces of fabrics which they use as dresses, and typical beaded jewelries.

They also manage a delivery business (they’re very cutting-edge using smartphone. There is signal in most of the islands), meaning you can order beer, just caught fish (to be cocked, by yourself or by the Kuna) and other stuff which will be delivered directly to the island. As long as cutting edge they’re businessman! It’s quite impossible to negotiate (the elderly don’t speak any english or spanish – I’ve desperately tried to communicate with a very nice old woman and it was very funny – while the youngsters pretend not to understand!) and their prices are quite high compared to the rest of the country. But it’s understandable, considering they just live with fish and tourism.

Isla pelicano day trip in San Blas Panama

Don’t forget to arrange your coming back with the boatman before to get the island and enjoy your full day as a posh castaway.

San blas islands panama

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