San Blas Islands - paradise on earth! Crystal clear, turquoise water and lonely white sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. Here you can relax, enjoy the sun under palm trees or explore the 365 islands by boat. Many of the islands are uninhabited and spread over an area of about 100 square miles. Only the larger islands are inhabited by the Kuna Indians. They have been given the archipelago by the government and run it autonomously, i.e. they have control over all decisions, such as the arrival and departure of tourists.
The starting point of our trip to the San Blas Islands was Panama City. There we stayed at the Hostel Mamallena and spent the last day with some sightseeing and the return of our rental car. Since we had booked and arranged the tour from home in advance, we could end the evening quite relaxed. Our accommodation works with the agency "Panama Travel Unlimited", which offers different tours to the islands. We had chosen the "Ultimate San Blas Island" tour and booked an overnight stay in a shared cabin for $155 per person. This price includes the pick-up at the hostel, the boat trip, all meals and also the entrance fee to be allowed on the islands at all.
The next morning we were picked up at about 05:00 and on the way to the ferry port we collected more tourists. The drive to the port Puerto de Carti takes about 3 hours and is not for weak stomachs. At first, half of the route is on a well-built main road. After a short stop at a gas station, where everyone can stock up on snacks and drinks, it gets exciting. The road becomes more and more narrow and curvy and is provided with huge potholes, which the driver tries to avoid as much as possible. And when you finally think you're about to arrive at the port, the next hill and the next bend come along and it's onward and upward. After a good hour on the winding road we reached a border post. From here on is the territory of the Kuna, who demand entrance fee from the tourists at this crossing, which as already mentioned is included in the ticket of the tour. In addition, passports are checked, you should have them handy. The driver will take care of the formalities and you just have to look out of the window at the passport control. From here it takes about 30 minutes until you arrive at the port with a slightly queasy stomach. Briefly unload the luggage and then it is first of all to divide among the various providers and boats.
Our guide named Kevin greeted us with a friendly "Servus", which made us pause for a moment. Could it be that we had just been greeted on the other side of the world, in a remote part of Panama by a local, a Kuna, in Bavarian? He remarked that we were very surprised and explained in German that his brother and aunt lived in Munich and that he had visited a few times. Of course, also at the Oktoberfest. Ok, all right, that explained everything! And the connection to Germany was also evident on his boat. Besides the colors black, red, gold, his boat had also been decorated with the lyrics of a well-known German party song. Or a few tourists were allowed to let off steam here, who knows....
At the beginning of our crossing to Isla Iguana we passed the main island of the Kuna. On the island of Carti, most of the locals live together in a very small space and so it seemed that there was no free spot left on the island. After the short stop on the island, we went further out to the open sea. Passing deserted islands and dreamlike beaches, the crystal clear water shimmered below us in all imaginable shades of blue. Arrived at the camp and accordingly on our island, we first had to check into our rooms. On the island, there are a few bungalows and cabins in addition to the main building, which houses the kitchen and restaurant. We decided to stay in a cabin with several beds, because it was only one night and all private bungalows were fully booked. There was also a sanitary house with toilets and showers. What must be noted is that the islands are of course not connected to the power grid and thus roars the whole day a diesel generator before itself, but this does not bother most places on the island.
After lunch, we immediately continued with the day's program. An excursion to the neighboring island of Isla Perro was on the agenda, so armed with snorkel and life jackets we got back into our boat and enjoyed the short crossing. Once on the islands we could decide for ourselves what we wanted to do. Whether to work on our tan in the sun, read a book in the shade, snorkel in the sea or drink a Cuba Libre with Kevin and the rest of the Kuna. Yes with rum and coke you are well supplied by the locals! After about two hours we sailed back to our main island and could spend the time here until dinner with beach volleyball or swimming.
In the evening, quiet quickly returns to the island, in the truest sense of the word, because from about 8 p.m. the lights are turned off here and then it's good night. The next morning, before we drove back to the mainland, there was a visit to Isla Pelican. Island is a bit exaggerated here, because actually this consisted only of sand and a few palm trees and was circled on foot in 2 minutes. Here we spent about an hour and on the way home we passed a heavenly spot. An island? No, in the middle of nowhere our boat stopped and Kevin just said "Ok guys, off into the water!". A bit baffled, we followed the instruction and swam to a sandbar just a few meters away. We reached this one, where you could stand waist deep in the open ocean and could hardly believe our eyes. In the crystal clear water were countless colorful starfish. And so we explored the unique underwater world with snorkel and diving goggles.
Pure Caribbean as far as the eye can see! We were both thrilled. From the people, the atmosphere, the water, the islands, from everything. Accordingly, the San Blas Islands are in our opinion a must if you plan a tour of Panama! After one last meal, we had to say goodbye to both the paradise island archipelago and Panama itself. Our trip through Costa Rica and Panama was coming to an end and so was a breathtaking adventure that couldn't have had a better ending than the San Blas Islands. The next day the plane back to Germany was already waiting for us and also the dreary November weather! Oh how beautiful is Panama - yes Janosch was right!