7 reasons why you should visit San Blas in Panama

Discover San Blas.

Island hopping along the Caribbean Coastline of Panama.

7 reasons why you should visit San Blas in Panama

The palm leaves rustle and gently sway in the wind. You are lying in the warm sand watching the crystal clear water sparkling in the sun. During the day you discover the small islands and the underwater world of the archipelago. Picture yourself in a hammock with a book enjoying the sweet idleness. In the evening, you watch the sunset and fall asleep to the sound of the waves in a small bamboo hut just three steps from the sea. Sounds good? Then keep on reading. In this article I will give you 7 reasons why you should visit San Blas in Panama and everything else you need to know before you go.

San Blas in Panama - reasons for a visit, a packing list and tips for your arrival

On the San Blas Islands you feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe. If you are looking for a few days of pure rest and can compromise a bit of comfort, this island paradise is just right for you. The archipelago is located only 3 hours drive from Panama City. It consists of a total of about 365 islands, of which only about 50 are inhabited. In this article you will find reasons why you should put the San Blas Islands on your list when visiting Panama. A packing list, tips for booking a trip to the islands and other important information can be found further down in this article.

Looking for tips on packing and organizing your next adventure? Find some of my absolute favorite travel essentials in this post. Especially for this remote island trip, some items have been incredibly helpful – such as a power bank, mosquito repellent, a head torch and my e-reader.

#1 - Experience a tropical island paradise far away from mass tourism

Palm forests, white sandy beaches and turquoise clear waters. There are few corners left in the world that are so quiet, remote and pristine despite their beauty and fame. San Blas is home to the indigenous Kuna or “Guna” people. Due to the autonomous administration of the Kunas, the island world has so far been spared from mass tourism and is a true natural paradise. The islands are small, a few of them are equipped with a few bamboo huts which is why they can only accommodate a tiny group of people. Some islands are so small that there are only a handful of palm trees on them. Others are more like a sandbank.

#2 - Connect with nature and slow down in paradise

No electricity, no internet, no distractions – just you and the beautiful nature. Read a book in the hammock, enjoy a walk on the beach, go for a swim. Fall asleep and wake up with the sound of the sea. Pure relaxation.

#3 - Discover the underwater world of San Blas

Do you enjoy exploring the underwater world? Well, then don’t forget to pack your snorkel and a mask and go for a dive! Discover starfish and other colorful sea creatures. You can even explore a shipwreck just in front of Isla Perro.

#4 - Enjoy island hopping in the Caribbean Sea

You can discover other islands in the archipelago by boat. Visiting Isla Pelicano was the most impressive for me. As you approach the island, you’ll be blown away by the scenery. I remember my jaw dropped when we arrived – it just looked so surreal. The water as turquoise and perfect as you could only dream of. We were lucky enough to even see a dolphin gliding gently through the water a few meters off the island.

#5 - Walk in the footsteps of Rio & Tokio from 'The Money Heist'

Did you know that Panama is one of the film locations of the popular Netflix series ‘The Money Heist’? In addition to Panama City, several scenes were shot on the San Blas Islands. To be exact, the beautiful Pelican Island is the island that Rio and Tokio used as a hideout while on the run. Here they disappeared for some time and enjoyed the simple island life in paradise.

#6 - Witness magical sunsets in paradise

On the San Blas Islands I experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets. The quietness and seclusion of the small islands and being there with such a small group of people makes the sunsets very special and somehow magical. Together with a cool drink, guitar music and good company, the nights are unforgettable.

#7 - Learn about the handicrafts of the indigenous Kuna

The Kunas are known, among other things, for their sewing artwork, the so-called molas. These handmade, rectangular pieces of fabric with different colorful motifs decorate the blouses and shirts of the Kunas.

By the way, money grows on trees here. The Kunas use coconuts as local currency. So, better do not to pick up coconuts lying on the ground.

How to get to the San Blas Islands

From Panama City you can either book just the transfer to the pier, a day trip or a package with an overnight stay on one of the islands, meals and additional excursions to other islands. We chose the latter with trips to Isla Pelicano and Starfish Island (3 days/2 nights incl. meals 140,- USD per person). You can book the trip in some accommodations in Panama City or via the internet, e.g. at GetyourGuide.com. I personally love using Get your Guide for booking experiences, tours and entry tickets during my travels. I’ve integrated their San Blas Island options (day trips as well as multi-day trips) in this post. 

Since you don’t need much for your stay on the San Blas Islands (see packing list below), you can often leave your big luggage at your hotel in Panama City. Just check with your accommodation before you start your trip.

The pick-up at the hotel is usually very early in the morning, as the journey to the pier takes about 3 hours in an off-road vehicle leading through winding jungle roads. On the way, in most cases, there is another stop at a supermarket to stock up on snacks and drinks. Since the meals on the islands are sometimes a bit small and the possibility to buy something on site is limited or non-existent, you should take the chance to take some fruits, snacks and water with you. The subsequent boat ride to the island takes usually around 20 minutes. Please check these details with the provider you’re booking.

Tip: If you have more time or plan a longer trip, there is the possibility to explore the San Blas archipelago by sailboat and combine it with a trip to Colombia.

Packing list for the San Blas Islands 

Good to know before you visit the San Blas Islands.

The San Blas archipelago is a remote paradise. In fact, it’s so remote that I can’t find our accommodation on Google Maps. In all likelihood, you won’t find any luxury hotels here. The accommodations consist of bamboo huts equipped with a bed and some storage space. Three times a day, the locals ring a bell to gather everyone for serving the food: the meals consisting of rice, salad and fish are rather simple. At least, this was our experience. There is no internet and in most cases no electricity – this is the perfect place to slow down, enjoy the beautiful nature and experience such an island paradise far away from mass tourism. 

So if you feel like relaxing in paradise and can compromise on some comfort, you should definitely plan to visit the San Blas Islands during your Panama trip! A day trip, where usually several islands are visited and food and snorkeling equipment are partly included, can be a good alternative. I hope these 7 reasons why you should visit San Blas in Panama have triggered your thirst for adventure!

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