Tips when Traveling to Guna Yala/San Blas

 The San Blas Archipelago / Guna Yala is home to the Guna people. This province consists of numerous small islands and keys and part of the mainland. It is known picturesque scenery that consists of white deserted sandy beaches with palms, transparent blue waters, seafood and the colorful Guna culture.

For EcoCircuitos it is important to manage expectations to all destinations, but particularly San Blas Archipelago/ Guna Yala territory.  We would like to highlight the following:

  • Very rustic, it is not a luxurious destination nor a snorkeling or diving destination. It is a cultural destination.
  • Lodging is rustic with basic amenities
  • Take precautions for mosquitos, chitras, bats and other rodents
  • Be flexible, you will be on Guna time
  • Remember everything in this area of the country is operated by the Gunas under their rules and regulations
  • Tours can change due to climate and weather conditions

Flying to Achutupu or Playon Chico: Domestic flights to San Blas are operated in small planes that seat around 12 people and have the strict check in baggage limitations. Each person is allowed to check in 14kg and can carry a small bag. Don’t be surprised if the airline representative asks to weigh you as well.  They are very conscious of how much weight the planes can carry. This flight is approximately 30 minutes long.

When flying to Achutupu or Playon Chico it is possible your plane could make multiple stops, be sure to listen to the captain at each stop when he announces the name of the area. If you do not hear name of the stop, please ask the captain.

Achutupu Airstrip: When you arrive to Achutupu you will see an airstrip and a small one room concrete structure. Your host will be waiting for you to transfer you approximately 15 minutes to your lodge.

Playon Chico: When you arrive to Playon Chico you will see the airstrip and a long walking bridge that connects the airport area to the Playon Chico island. A representative from the lodge will be waiting for you to take you to your lodge, which is less than 10 minutes away.

Arriving by car to Carti (Please remember your passport): From Panama City to the coast of San Blas it can take approximately 3 hours. You will travel east along the Pan American Highway passing the Tocumen International Airport in the direction towards Darien. You will pass through one checkpoint. Eventually you will veer to the right and travel down a windy and curvy road that will take you through the Guna Yala Territory to the coast. There will be two check points, one will be a police check point and the other will be to pay Guna tourism taxes. The road is like a roller coaster and we recommend travellers with that are sensitive to motion to take motion sickness medicine just in case.

Once you arrive to Carti you will be met by your local host and will be transferred by boat to your lodge, this boat transfer could take approximately 20 minutes.

To take: enough cash ($100 max each for two nights/ three days, better to take more than less just in case. Also useful for some Kuna handcrafted products to buy on the island), a mosquito net, mosquito spray, toilet paper, shower gel and shampoo, sunglasses and high protection sun cream (the sun is really hard in the tropics), hat, towel, snacks and water, raincoat and camera/ gopro of course! Better to wear long clothes during the night.

*After reading this document and you still have questions or would like more details, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com or marketing@ecocircuitos.com

     

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Volunteer vacation in Mount Totumas Private Reserve

Reinaldo, our local guide

Sample Itinerary (subject to change according to group preferences)

 Day 1: Panama City – Arrive in Panama City. A representative of EcoCircuitos will meet you at the airport and transfer to a hotel in Panama City. Check in and overnight at Marriott Finisterre or similar.

Day 2: Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve – At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Domestic Airport in Albrook for your flight to David (approximately 1 hour flight time), located in the Chiriquí Province west of Panama City. You will be met by an EcoCircuitos representative that will transfer you to the town of Volcan located to the west of Volcano Baru. Before beginning the next part of your adventure you have lunch at a local gourmet restaurant, Cerro Brujo.

After lunch you will be met by your local host to begin your journey to Mount Totumas, it will take you at least 2 hours to reach your destination nestled in the middle of a 400 acre private reserve First you will proceed on paved road to a windy dirt road crossing small streams until the final kilometers where you will go up a 4WD road to reach your destination. Admire the views from road and keep your eyes out for wildlife. Once you arrive you will learn about the lodge and go for a short afternoon hike to get oriented with the reserve. Overnight at Mount Totumas, (B, L, D)

 Day 3 – 6: Volunteer and Experiential Learning- During these days you will learn more about the reserve and assist in the daily activities; this may consist of trail maintenance, working in the greenhouse or with other agricultural activities. Any special skills that can contribute to the reserve are welcome. This amazing experience faraway from civilization is a once in a life time experience, enjoy the peace and beauty of the Chiriqui Highlands.

Day 7: Return to Panama City – Today prepare your backpack to return to Panama City. You will have the afternoon to relax and explore Panama City’s downtown. Farewell dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight at Marriott Finisterre or similar (B,L,D)

 Day 8: Departure –  After breakfast, transfer to international airport for your flight out.

For details of prices contact us directly.  annie@ecocircuitos.com