San Blas - Panama - Which islands to choose ?

Old Sep 16th, 2015, 06:47 PM
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San Blas - Panama - Which islands to choose ?

All paradise have their downside

I believe important to share my own experience (I am travelling to San Blas every 3 months since 2007 and very closed to a Kuna Family running two islands - By the way I am always spending X-Mas with them and I think it is the best place to spend Xmas in Panama!) and the reality of the small postcards islands with white sand, beaches and palm trees before you decide to go to San Blas for you to enjoy better your trip and know exactly how it could be. The are lots of review on this forum with positive and negative feedback which probably create hesitation.

The San Blas Islands are run by the indigenous called The Kunas. They have their own rules and Panamanian law doesn’t much exist. Their main income is the tourism and foreigners are not authorized to operate tourisms there. Meaning this, as soon as you embark on their small boats, you are in the hands of the Kunas and it will be difficult to claim back any delays, logistics problems or refunds.

The best is to stay on recommended islands with whom the agencies have confidence to work with (which is something difficult as there a lots of “pirates” agencies who do not care much about the service offered and proposed a listing of 20 islands because they are looking for profit and not to make their customer happy, additionally, travelers are hesitating on which islands to go: They are all beautiful. That’s why I only recommend to travelers I meet in Panama-City the two islands I am always staying for the hospitality of the Kuna Family, the service, the security, the food, tour offered included with the night price and the overall quality versus the price paid. I will not promote the islands on this tread but just ask me if you are interested to get more details.

To answer to some review and the “low” service level sometimes offered, you must understand that San Blas is still very basic and they might be a little rude as well (again that is why it is important to choose the correct island and family. The Kuna operating there have not all studied Hospitality Management, Logistics, Gastronomy, nor Tourism. There has been a big “boom” during the past years and they have not been trained for that and some just want you to experience their lifestyle in their own comfort which is as well part of the trip.

About the 4×4 road transportation performed by Panamanians, you can except to be a little squeezed as 7 passengers can fit into the car. As well, you can experience some delays or the car already waiting for you because the pick-up route can change and sometimes others passengers create themselves the delays (alarm clock issues). To avoid that, you can always pay extra fee and request a private charter.

Be flexible! You must expect some delays, lack of communication, waiting for someone or something without knowing the cause, rustic cabanas, no fish but pasta, (Yes!, sometimes the fish season is low), fried eggs and bread for breakfast, but in the end, everything works out if you can accept the little discomfort. Simply enjoy the adventure!

San Blas have a problem with rubbish collection, so you can expect to see some of it on these islands and more during summer season because of the strong current. The main rubbish are coming from the sea, cargoes and sailing boat!

Hope you will find this review helpful.
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