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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San Blas Islands Experience in One day

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.“

This quote by Shakespeare simply describes how I feel about this place.

The San Blas Islands are located in the Caribbean at the east side of the Panama Canal and consists of 365 islands.

After a two hours and 30 minutes drive from Panama City to San Blas, through the Guna Yala Mountains, I arrived at a little port from which small boats depart to the outer Islands.

We floated for about 10 minutes through a small river, surrounded by beautiful and green secondary forest, when we entered the Caribbean. At that moment I was stunned. Hundreds of small islands facing towards me and as I came nearer Franklin Island I could not believe how blue and clean the water was. The coconut palms and the small huts added to the picture. Moreover the people of Guna Yala were most welcoming and friendly hosts.

San Blas is a perfect place to relax and pamper oneself. I snorkeled through shoals of fishes and searched for sea stars. I tanned myself in the sun and played basketball with the locals. The Guna Yalas provide breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The evening and night faded away with a bonfire and some rum. Under the clear starlit sky we counted the stars and listened to music. I felt like Robinson Crusoe stranded on an island. In the morning I was waken up by the locals calling for breakfast by blowing through a huge shell. The days felt so long but in the end it was just short trip to San Blas.

Sadly I had to leave San Blas after two days of relaxation and immersion into paradise to return to Panama City. I will never forget this amazing place and I can highly recommend visiting San Blas to escape a few days from reality.

Please do not hesitate to visit our website www.ecocircuitos.com to find out more information about San Blas or contact us directly at 1-800-830-7142. We are looking forward to organize a trip for you!

 

By Marc Vedder