San Blas Archipelago: Islands to Visit and What to Do
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60 unhabited islands
San Blas itineraries
islands to visit
San Blas archipelago itineraries
Visiting the San Blas Archipelago isn’t your normal beach vacation. The remote destination is a place where travelers can get a look into a different way of life while also seeing some of the most gorgeous locations in the world. Whether you choose to take a single-day trip to the region, sleep on one of the islands, or book a San Blas Islands catamaran tour, you’ll have the experience of a lifetime. So, which islands should you visit, and what should you do there?
We’re going to cover the top islands in the San Blas Archipelago, activities in the area, and other good-to-know information. Planning a trip to such a remote and mysterious destination can be a challenge. So, stick with us, and we’ll make sure you’re ready to go!
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Traveling in San Blas Archipelago
Of the more than 300 islands in the San Blas Archipelago, only 49 of them are inhabited. The autonomous region is controlled by the local Kuna (or Guna) people and is well protected. There are no public transportation or typical accommodation options. So, traveling in the San Blas archipelago is a little different than other destinations.
Visitors aren’t exactly allowed to explore freely. There are several restricted islands and cays, and more often than not, you’ll need to book a guided tour to see certain areas (unless you’re on a sailing trip). But you’ll have no trouble seeing everything the San Blas archipelago has to offer.
Oh, and when you visit any of the islands, inhabited or not, leave the coconuts alone. Coconuts are a big source of income for the Kuna people. So, when you see coconuts in or around trees, think of them as someone else’s property because they are.
Islands to Visit in The San Blas Archipelago
Fun fact about the San Blas Archipelago: Each island has three different names–a Spanish name, a Kuna name, and an English name. Some islands have also the exact same name. What can be confusing when you are not with a guide or if you don’t have a captain to explain you where you are.
Depending on how much time you have will determine how many islands and cays you’ll be able to visit. We put together some of the most popular locations in the area and what you can expect from them. A good base for a charter is to do 1 island per day or 2.
El Porvenir, is right off the coast of Panama and has one of the main ports in the San Blas archipelago. Whether you’ll be sailing or not, it’s likely where you’ll start your trip. On the island, you’ll find a handful of accommodation options, which are rare in the area. It might not be the most sought-after island to visit, but there are beautiful beaches to relax at and places to explore. Some people choose to make El Porvenir their homebase as they take day trips to other parts of the region.
Heading over to Isla Perro (Dog Island) can’t be missed. it is a good destination in the San Blas archipelago. In typical San-Blas fashion, the island is gorgeous. Just off the shore in the beautiful turquoise water is an old shipwreck. The site makes for an excellent snorkeling spot where you can investigate the vessel. On land, there are beach huts you can rent and a bar to have a bite to eat and a drink. Sounds like paradise, right?
Aguja is another easily accessible island right off the coast of Panama. It’s one of the few parts of the San Blas Archipelago with electricity! Hang out at the bar, take a swim in the water, or hop on a boat to explore more of the region. The island is a wonderful spot to start your trip before heading deeper into the region!
The Cayos Holandeses consist of the most remote islands in the San Blas Archipelago. They’re about 9 miles (15 km) off the coast of Panama and absolutely gorgeous. Only a few of the islands in the cluster are inhabited, so you’ll feel like you’re in your own little world. It’s a great area to snorkel around a coral reef and see marine life. Don’t miss out!
Despite the cow skull that welcomes guests to the island, Banedub is nothing but spectacular. The waters stay nice and calm, and the pristine shore is the perfect place to sip on a cold beverage. Keep your eyes peeled for squid and other sea life. At night, the jellyfish illuminate the water–it’s an incredible sight.
Chichimei is a top island of the San Blas archipelago, in the area that doesn’t get overly crowded. It has picture-perfect white beaches that are more spacious than others in the region. People who are in the mood for physical exercise can make use of the volleyball court on the island. Chichimei does have a few cabins to stay in, but it’s also just wonderful for a day trip or to anchor at.
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Traveling in San Blas Archipelago
Islands hopping boat tour to San Blas Archipelago
Signing up for an island-hopping boat tour is a sure way to hit the best spots in the San Blas Archipelago. Tours range from single-day adventures to multi-day trips. Your guide will take you from island to island, where you’ll have the chance to hike the jungle, paddleboard, snorkel, and see a different way of life.
Kayaking The San Blas Archipelago
Kayaking is a popular activity in the San Blas archipelago and a great way to get around. You can rent kayaks and have a local guide you from island to island. Similar to the boat tours, you’ll have single and multi-day options. Choosing to kayak the area is an excellent way to experience the archipelago.
The Ultimate Way to Experience the San Blas Archipelago
When it comes to having the ultimate experience in the San Blas Archipelago, there’s no better way to do it than chartering a catamaran. Your captain will take you around the region’s loveliest destinations. You’ll have the comfort of a spacious vessel, a private cook, and endless opportunities to enjoy yourself– what more can you ask for? Click here for more information on Catamaran charters in the San Blas Islands. Enjoy your trip!