9 Best Sights in Guna Yala (San Blas), Eastern Panama


A short trip to the west of Achutupo is the island community of Aligandi, which played an important role in the Guna revolt of 1925. There is a small museum and cultural center focusing on the Guna Revolution. You'll see the Guna flag displayed here, as well as a statue of the local revolutionary Simral Colman, one of the architects of the autonomous Guna Indigenous Preserve.


This rustic port is the only part of Guna Yala accessible by land, via the Llano-Cartí road, which winds its way over the lushly forested Serranía de San Blas between the Interamerican Highway and Cartí. There is no community here, just a few buildings and docks, but it is a relatively busy place most mornings, because people and goods moving between more than a dozen Guna communities and Panama City pass through here. Lodges near El Porvenir and Río Sidra can pick up guests here.

Cartí Sugdub

The closest community to the port of Cartí is the densely populated island of Cartí Sugdub (aka Cartí Suidup). Here visitors will find a collection of thatched huts, cement stores, and plenty of handicraft hawkers. Near the school is a large thatched building called the Casa de la Cultura, where sahilas (chiefs) from across the province gather once or twice a year. Aside from an opportunity to experience life in a Guna community, the island has a tiny museum dedicated to traditional Guna culture.

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El Porvenir

Though it is technically the provincial capital, this island is practically uninhabited. It has a police station, an office of the Guna congress, a rustic hotel, and an airstrip, which makes it the arrival point for many travelers when flights are available. There are two small islands nearby that hold traditional Guna villages and rustic lodges, and are visited by cruise ships: Wichub Wala and Nalunega. These islands are fascinating to explore, but their lack of sewage systems means the sea around them is unsafe for swimming. However, there are several uninhabited, white-sand cays a short boat trip away that are idyllic swimming and snorkeling spots.

Museo de la Cultura Guna

This small, family-run museum is housed in a typical Guna home, with a thatched roof, cane walls, and sand floor. It's packed with the accoutrements of traditional Guna life, such as sleeping hammocks, woven baskets and fans, ceremonial wooden staffs and statues, and traps and gear for hunting and fishing. There is also a display of skulls of the animals they hunt for meat in the nearby rain forest.


The slightly larger island of Nalunega lies just to the south of Wichub Wala. Like Wichub Wala, it has a collection of huts and cement structures, including a primary school, small museum, and the archipelago's original lodge, the rundown Hotel San Blas, founded in 1972. This is a good place to see how the Guna live, and where you can purchase handicrafts.

Río Masargandi

The Río Masargandi, a small river that flows out of the mountains near Río Sidra, provides access to the rain forest and a 30-foot waterfall. Local lodges offer half-day trips to the mainland for an additional charge. Excursions to see wildlife are best done early in the morning, but slather yourself with insect repellent.

Río Sidra

To the east of Cartí Suitupo is the island community of Río Sidra, which is a good place to visit if you want to experience how the Guna live. Several sparsely populated islands, which are farther out, have lodges on them. To get here, lodges pick up guests in Cartí and El Porvenir.

Wichub Wala

This tiny island, just south of El Porvenir, is home to a crowded Guna village with a mixture of thatch-roof huts and cement buildings that are separated by narrow sand paths. Papaya and breadfruit trees grow in back patios, dugout canoes crowd the shore, and children play in the sandy streets. Expect to encounter a number of women trying to sell you molas and other handicrafts as you explore, because this is one of the village's main sources of income.