Everything you need to know to plan a trip to the San Blas Islands, Panama (aka Guna Yala)!

Issues are altering quickly – please double verify what’s open earlier than your journey and observe all native tips to maintain your self and others secure! Additionally, adverts are how we pay our payments and hold our weblog free so that you can take pleasure in. We additionally use affiliate hyperlinks; in the event you make a purchase order by way of them, we could obtain a small fee without charge to you.

Aquamarine Caribbean water. White sugar sand seashores. Swaying palm timber. The San Blas Islands are the visible embodiment of paradise. The islands actually appear to be a screensaver: for years, many Microsoft customers have been staring longingly an image of San Blas as their desktop background!

The San Blas Islands are probably the most lovely locations we’ve ever visited, but in addition probably the most complicated. Throughout our 3-day journey, had been by no means actually certain what we had been doing or the place we had been, and between our stunted Spanish and our host’s Dulegaya, communication was troublesome.

However our greatest problem was simply letting go of our want for management: truthfully, all we needed to do was present up, go the place we had been directed to, and revel in ourselves! So why was that so arduous for us? Reply: as a result of we’re anxiety-prone management freaks, after all.

We spent the primary day of our journey confused, stressed, and unable to chill out. However by day 3, we weren’t prepared to depart! We’d discovered our tranquilo and tailored to a lifetime of being absolutely current and completely laid again. For a day or two, anyway.

In case you’re an anxiousness case /management freaks like we’re, the shortage of understanding issues might be demanding, and it’s not tremendous simple to seek out details about visiting the San Blas islands on-line (we’ve tried). So we created this San Blas journey information to assist ease your thoughts and inform you all the things it’s essential to learn about planning a visit to the San Blas Islands, Panama! (For starters, that’s not their actual identify, and so they’re probably not in Panama. Don’t fear, we’ll clarify.)

2021 Journey Tip: Absolutely vaccinated and feeling able to journey once more? YAY! Us too! However issues are altering quickly proper now, in order quickly as you purchase your tickets, be sure to purchase journey insurance coverage in case it’s essential to unexpectedly delay, cancel, or lengthen your journey. We suggest World Nomads and SafetyWing. For extra particulars, head to our travel insurance guide!

Psst: Planning extra adventures? We have now a number of posts on close by locations:


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Couple on a dock in San Blas, Panama.
The San Blas Islands are probably the most idyllic, lovely locations we’ve ever been!

COVID Data for San Blas, Panama

The San Blas Islands are re-opening to international vacationers as of August 14, 2021. Right here’s what it’s essential to know:

  • Anybody coming into Guna Yala should current a damaging RAPID ANTIGENIC Covid-19 take a look at carried out inside 48 hours, even in case you are absolutely vaccinated. You want the identical take a look at to enter Panama (details here) so you might need to e book your journey to San Blas the day after you arrive. In any other case, you’ll need to get this carried out in a big metropolis earlier than you permit (Panama Metropolis or Cartagena).
  • You need to reserve day journeys or lodging prematurely (some sources say 24 hours, some say per week). And not using a reservation it’s not attainable to enter Guna Yala.
  • Your temperature will likely be measured in not less than 3 management factors: earlier than coming into the automotive to the port, on the boat, and on the Island.
  • You need to put on a masks within the automotive and on the boat.
  • The variety of islands and locations guests are at present in a position to go to is proscribed. You might solely be capable of go to a single island. Maintain that in thoughts when reserving your excursions, and in the event you’re unclear, ask for clarification whenever you e book!

Be aware that that is all topic to alter. We’ll do our greatest to maintain this put up up to date!


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All About San Blas/Guna Yala

To plan a visit to San Blas, all you’ll do is e book a tour and decide the size of your keep – your hosts will care for the remaining. Transportation, actions, and meals will all be dealt with for you, with no need your enter. Belief us: it can all be simply effective!

Your time on the islands will likely be rustic, however stress-free. You’ll spend your time studying, listening to the waves, strolling on the shore, swimming, snorkeling, consuming extremely recent seafood, and stress-free.

The place are the San Blas Islands?

The San Blas Islands are positioned off the jap coast of Panama within the heat Caribbean sea.

So that they’re in Panama, proper?

Effectively, to cite Bilbo Baggins, which I do typically, no … and sure. Whereas San Blas is technically a part of Panama, it’s really an autonomous Indigenous province, and it’s run by the Guna folks. It’s one in every of a number of comarcas Indígenas in Panama.

Sound complicated? We’ve really obtained comparable set-ups all around the USA. Once you go to Monument Valley within the Southwest USA, as an example, you might be really visiting a Navajo Nation Nationwide Park, which simply so occurs to overlap on land that we additionally contemplate to be Arizona and Utah.

Since you might be technically coming into an unbiased province, remember that you will want to pay a $22 payment as a non-resident.

Is it referred to as San Blas or Guna Yala? (Or Kuna Yala??)

San Blas is the identify given to this archipelago of islands by the Panamanian authorities. The identify comes from the realm’s location within the Golfo De San Blas.

Guna Yala, nevertheless, has been the official name since 2011. Guna Yala (which can also be referred to as Kuna Yala) is what the native Guna (or Kuna) folks name their dwelling. It means “land of Kuna,” or “Kuna’s land.” 

Each names seek advice from the identical place, so they’re used considerably interchangeably.

Mola textile art for sale in the San Blas Islands, aka Guna Yala, Panama.
Mola textile artwork on the market within the San Blas Islands, aka Guna Yala, Panama. Buying a wonderful, handmade mola as a memento is an effective way to assist the Indigenous Guna group!

Who’re the Guna folks?

The Guna people are the residents of the San Blas Islands/Guna Yala. They’re an Indigenous tribe with an extended historical past that predates the existence of Panama and Central America.

The Guna folks had been dwelling in and close to the Darien Province in modern-day Panama and northern Columbia when the Spanish arrived within the 1500s. Battle with the Spanish and the difficulties of dwelling within the jungle pressured the Guna to maneuver northwest. They settled into the mainland coast and island archipelago (now often called San Blas), the place they thrived.

However conflicts with different teams, together with the Panamanian authorities, continued even after the Guna settled into their new dwelling. In 1925, the Guna led a revolution towards Panama in an effort to achieve their independence. They had been profitable, however later agreed to rejoin Panama as an autonomous province.

At the moment, Guna regulation and custom are the rule in San Blas. The Guna society is considerably matriarchal. Usually, ladies make choices, personal property, and distribute meals. Their perception system relies on three principal ideas: God, nature, and the cosmos. The Guna’s oral traditions are stuffed with songs, hymns and prayers that inform tales of the sweetness and majesty of the wind, the land and the ocean and of the myths and legends that created and formed the earth. To the Guna, folks and nature are thought-about components of the identical entity. For extra particulars concerning the Guna’s beliefs and tradition, head over here.

You’ll see Guna folks all through your go to to the islands, however you most likely received’t be co-habitating with them: most islands that vacationers go to are devoted fully to tourism, and Guna communities are targeting different islands, not sometimes visited by vacationers.

Beach in the San Blas Islands aka Guna Yala, Panama.
This island seems fairly inhabited, proper? Nope: it is a vacationer island! The islands vacationers go to are uninhabited and are just for tourism. You might get an opportunity to see a Guna group on a day journey or boat trip previous the islands – they give the impression of being very completely different.

Are the San Blas islands inhabited?

When you received’t discover any touristy cities or resorts on the San Blas islands, there are Guna communities on 49 of the 370 islands in San Blas. Some islands are closed to vacationers – in reality, vacationers can’t journey freely all through the islands. The Guna lead excursions and information guests at their very own discretion, which has helped keep the pristine pure surroundings and conventional communities.

About 50,000 Guna dwell in San Blas at the moment, although all the Guna inhabitants numbers round 300,000. The leaders of the Guna dwell on one island —  Acuadup — the place they make a number of choices for his or her communities. 

Is visiting the San Blas islands moral?

This was one in every of our main considerations as responsible travelers. We needed to ensure that our presence on the islands wouldn’t be disruptive or exploitive, and that the cash we spent on our go to would go on to the Indigenous group.

Fortunately, as a result of the San Blas/Guna Yala islands are owned and maintained by the Guna folks, the entire tourism to the islands straight advantages the Guna group and helps their economic system.

By way of financial influence, the Guna economic system runs totally on coconuts, tourism, and art work. They export coconuts to different international locations (which is why you aren’t free to select a coconut in San Blas – that’s stealing!) and host vacationers on sure devoted islands, offering them with meals, lodging, and journey across the archipelago. You might not discover the islands by yourself.

The Guna additionally make and promote molas, patterned cotton clothes designed with lovely embroidered panels. Guna ladies put on these molas and promote ornamental mola handicrafts to vacationers.

You may as well discover molas in Panama and Columbia, however on account of their cultural significance, the Guna don’t enable them to be bought exterior of the area. Buying a wonderful, handmade mola as a memento is an effective way to assist the Indigenous group!


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The way to Plan a Journey to the San Blas Islands

Let’s discuss logistics: how are we doin’ this?? Truthfully, it’s very complicated. There are a number of other ways to go to the islands: you possibly can sail from Colombia, take a day journey from Panama Metropolis, keep in a single day, sail across the islands … it looks as if loads to determine! However don’t fear, I’ll break down every of the choices so you can also make your determination.

It doesn’t matter what you find yourself selecting, you’ll must e book both a tour (day journey, crusing, or in a single day) or lodging on the island (which is actually the identical as reserving an in a single day tour).

Though every possibility differs, your expertise will likely be very comparable irrespective of who you e book with. The rationale for that’s that tourism on the San Blas Islands is strictly managed and controlled by the Guna. The Guna solely permits sure islands to be visited, solely serve a number of sorts of meals, and do not need many luxuries or facilities (assume in-room electrical energy or sizzling water). So there merely usually are not many choices: you possibly can decide a flowery boat or a small boat, a flowery bungalow or a small cabin, or a day journey. That’s … just about it! All the things else is pre-determined.

All your decision-making occurs now, whilst you’re planning your journey: when you arrive, both your boat captain or your hosts will inform you the place to go and what to do, whilst you sit again and revel in.

So first issues first: you’ll must resolve the way you need to expertise the islands. How lengthy will you go to? Will you be staying on an island, or sleeping on a ship? Let’s undergo the entire choices!

What’s it like to go to the San Blas Islands?

There are 3 ways to expertise San Blas/Guna Yala: on a day journey, staying on an island for a number of nights, or staying on a sailboat and crusing by way of the islands. Every kind of go to is a bit of bit completely different:

  • Visit San Blas on a day trip: You’ll depart from 5AM in Panama Metropolis, drive 2.5 hours to a water taxi, take a 30 minute boat trip, and hit the seaside at round 9:30 AM. You’ll swim, snorkel, and chill out, eat an included lunch, go to one other island, after which head again round 4pm. By 7pm you’ll be again in Panama Metropolis.
  • Stay on the islands overnight: Whether or not you’re flying or driving in, you’ll take a ship to the island the place you’ll be staying and settle into your room. Your morning tour will depart shortly after you arrive, and also you’ll go to a different island to swim or snorkel. You’ll return for lunch, chill out for a bit, then take a day tour (in the event you like) to swim and snorkel. You’ll return in meal time, then spend the remainder of the night stress-free and watching a completely gorgeous sundown. You’ll go to sleep listening to the waves lap the seaside simply exterior of your cabin, then get up for an additional lovely day in paradise! Rinse & repeat during. yourstay. (Be aware you can both e book a tour like this or an accomodation like this – both means, your expertise would be the identical.)
  • Sail through the islands: You’ll depart from Panama Metropolis by automotive to the port, the place you’ll board your new dwelling: a sailboat (or catamaran, in the event you’re fancy)! You’ll spend a number of hours every day floating throughout the gorgeous blue Carribbean sea, earlier than docking at a brand new island to have an journey: kayaking, snorkelling, seaside volleyball, mountaineering, and even conventional dancing in a Guna group. You’ll eat recent seafood, study concerning the Guna folks, sit round a seaside bonfire on the seaside, and sleep in a hammock. Your information will likely be with you all through your keep and also you’ll get to know them and the opposite folks in your boat. After 4 days, you’ll return to Panama Metropolis the identical means you got here, besides way more relaxed.

Irrespective of which possibility you select, you possibly can anticipate to expertise a unique sort of life whilst you’re visiting.

For starters, on most of the vacationer islands there’s no cell service or wi-fi, and little or no energy. That’s true whether or not you’re taking a day journey or an in a single day journey, so don’t anticipate to be in your telephone all through your keep (we advisable bringing an external battery if that alarms you!)

In case you’re crusing by way of the islands, your expertise will principally depend upon the sort of boat you’re in. Boat choices vary from rustic to luxurious, and the facilities (and price) will fluctuate too. For a rundown of what it’s prefer to sail by way of the islands, Silvia from Heart My Backpack has an ideal put up!

We selected to spend 3 nights staying on Diablo Island in these cabins. Our lodging had been comfy however rustic, though we had what we would have liked: a mosquito web, a snug mattress, and a non-public patio steps away from the ocean (the waves lulled us to sleep each night time)! Energy was solely out there for a number of hours per day – simply sufficient for everybody to cost their electronics. Our hut didn’t have electrical energy, and all the island shared one (well-maintained) toilet. We did have some cell service by way of our native SIM card, nevertheless it was spotty.

It could really feel jarring at first, however you’ll shortly get used to spending your time listening to the waves, swinging in a hammock, studying, swimming, watching the sundown, and strolling on the seaside. It’s very a lot the kind of place the place there’s nothing to do however simply be current, and that was a present that we positively wanted!

If I’m being trustworthy, we struggled to regulate at first. We had been sizzling and sweaty (there isn’t a A/C or followers, simply the ocean breeze). There have been solely 2 hammocks, and another person was at all times utilizing them. We had been bored (I forgot to carry a e book). This wasn’t paradise: it was hell!

However inside a day or two, we adjusted. Our our bodies obtained used to the warmth, and we discovered to chill off within the ocean. Our days tailored to the rhythm of life on the island: breakfast, exercise, lunch, exercise, chill out for some time, dinner, watch the sundown. We stopped refreshing our cell telephones and rebooting our laptops attempting to get service so we may work (though I did take numerous photographs and notes for this put up!) And we spent our time simply having fun with current, listening to the waves, and being absolutely current.

By the top of our journey, we didn’t need to go away!

So, study from our errors: carry a e book (or a number of) some card video games, and a journal, and revel in being completely offline for a number of days. Put together your self mentally for a country, completely distant journey that will likely be principally out of your management, and simply sit on the dang seaside and chill out.

The place to Keep on San Blas

You received’t discover any giant inns or resorts within the San Blas Islands: each lodging is owned and operated by the Guna folks, and growth is stored to a minimal. Personally, I discover that that is a part of the enchantment and appeal of the islands – what number of locations on this planet have managed to remain so pristine?

That stated, in the event you select to remain in a single day on the islands like we did, you do have some selection concerning the sort of lodging you keep in. Whereas we stayed in rustic huts, you possibly can definitely improve. And bear in mind, you don’t need to base your self on a single island in any respect: you can even select to sail across the islands on a sailboat or catamaran!

Listed here are a number of choices. Be aware that no matter you decide, you might be assured that it’s owned and operated by the Guna folks. The choices beneath additionally embrace 2 day by day excursions and actions and all meals, too.

  • Price range Possibility – Isla Diablo Cabins: That is the place we stayed. The cabins are rustic and easy however then, so are the San Blas islands. Your comfy mattress is roofed with a mosquito web, and your cabin has a window and a small patio searching over the ocean. The lavatory is shared however clear, and scrumptious, recent meals are served a brief stroll away within the restaurant lounge (that is additionally the place you’ll discover a energy strip you need to use for a number of hours every day). Our principal gripe was that there have been solely two hammocks, so contemplate bringing your own! Aside from that, our keep was absoultely picruesque and great, and we positively suggest reserving a number of days right here. Simply carry a number of books. Additionally, don’t go away snacks out, as a result of birds will are available by way of your window and eat them.
  • Fancier Possibility – Over-Water Bungalows: These attractive over-water bungalows are the San Blas model of luxurious! You’ll have your personal toilet (simply fear, you don’t want sizzling water, but in addition there isn’t any) and, hey, you’re actually on the water. Chill out in your patio overlooking the ocean and simply … ahhhh. There are two over-water bungalow picks: this one is a little cheaper, and this one is the full monty and priced accordingly (simply bear in mind: it’s nonetheless comparatively rustic). They each embrace all meals and day by day actions and excursions.
Lia walking up to an Air Panama plane.
To get to the San Blas Islands, you possibly can take a small airplane like this one (which was really our flight from Bocas del Toro to Panama Metropolis), or take a jeep + water taxi.

How do you to get to the San Blas Islands?

There are two choices to get to the San Blas Islands: driving or flying from Panama Metropolis, or taking a sailboat from Colombia.

The choices that depart from Panama Metropolis are the quickest and least expensive solution to get to the islands:

  • 4×4 Jeep Taxi + Water Taxi: The journey from Panama Metropolis takes about 4 hours in complete. Most excursions go away early within the morning and embrace a 2.5-hour 4×4 trip to the port, the place you’ll then hop on a 30 to 45-minute boat to the islands. That is sometimes included in most day journeys or in a single day journeys departing from Panama Metropolis, although if it isn’t, you can book it here – simply ask whenever you e book your tour or accomodation whether or not transportation to San Blas from Panama Metropolis is included or not.
  • Flight on Air Panama: Flights depart daily round 5-6am from Marcos Gelabert Airport (PAC) in Panama Metropolis. The flight lasts 45 minutes and prices about $350 spherical journey. In case you go for this selection, remember to let your accomodation know whenever you’ll be arriving to allow them to prepare. to select you up.

Taking a ship from Colombia is another choice and fairly an journey! You’ll be crusing for 4-5 days, and the transportation to get there may be additionally your journey – you’re on a crusing tour of San Blas! There are two choices: you possibly can take a speedboat from Capurgana, Colombia or a sailboat from Cartagena, Colombia.

  • The sailboat from Cartagena is a 5 day journey, two days of that are spent on open water. Truthful warning: seas could be a little tough! You’ll be spending most of your time in transit since you could have extra distance to cowl.
  • The speedboat from Capurgana is a 4 day journey. The largest problem is attending to Capurgana – you’ll must take a bus to Turbo after which take the two-hour ferry within the morning. However when you’re on the boat, you’ll spend much less time touring in between islands and extra time having fun with your self on the sand and within the water.

For a much more detailed breakdown, read this guide that can assist you resolve which possibility is best for you.

Two of our journey blogger mates have nice write-ups of their journeys with San Blas Adventures: Adventures N Sunsets and Two Wandering Soles. One thing to notice is that each of their journeys had been hosted – however this evaluation on Inspired by Maps, who was not hosted, is kind of a bit much less complimentary, so in the event you’re contemplating this selection, learn his put up, too.

Which possibility must you select?

It actually comes right down to value, the sort of journey you need to have, and your journey plans. The price of 4 days staying in a single day in island lodging is similar to the price of a 4-day speedboat, however you need to consider the truth that you’ll must buy a one-way flight to Colombia and from Panama (or vice versa). That may increase the price of the crusing journey fairly a bit!

So if you wish to spend a number of days crusing by way of an idyllic Caribbean island paradise with out the open-jaw flight conundrum, simply e book a crusing journey that departs and returns to the port in Panama.

That stated: in the event you’re traveling long-term and wish a solution to recover from the border from Colombia into Panama, that is your solely possibility apart from flying: the Darien Hole, which separates the 2 international locations, isn’t satisfactory overland! The crusing journey is simply a bit costlier than flying, nevertheless it’s WAY extra enjoyable.

San Blas Adventures charters full day, 1-night, 2-night, and 3-night sailboat and speedboat journeys that embrace meals, snorkeling, and island visits. Sailboat charters vary from round $300 – $600 per individual, and speedboat charters (from Panama to Columbia or vice versa) begin at $445.

San Blas Islands Panama Girl on Dock in Swimsuit Palm Tree
We visited San Blas/Guna Yala through the wet season. See that cloud behind me? That’s it. That’s the “wet season.” (Trace: little or no rain.)

When’s the very best time to go to San Blas?

There are 2 distinct seasons within the San Blas Islands: the wet season (from June to December) and the dry season (from January to Might). However don’t let the names idiot you: the very best time to go to San Blas is definitely through the wet season.

The dry season sometimes experiences sturdy commerce winds, which may have an effect on snorkeling visibility and, , blow sand in your face and stuff. They’re nice for crusing, however not as good for laying on a seaside or seeing underwater critters!

The wet season actually simply implies that rain is extra seemingly, and it sometimes solely lasts for about an hour or so – which, frankly, we see as a superb excuse to only sit and take heed to the rain and chill out for some time! There are occasional clouds, however a lot much less wind. And no want to fret about hurricanes – this space doesn’t get them.

And, since most individuals are inclined to keep away from locations through the “wet season,” you’ll most likely see fewer vacationers, too.

We visited the San Blas islands in July, and it didn’t rain throughout our journey. Actually, I didn’t understand we had been visiting through the wet season till I began researching for this put up! There was good climate and sunny days all through our journey.

Boat and volleyball net on the beach in the San Blas Islands aka Guna Yala, Panama.

How lengthy ought to I keep in San Blas/Guna Yala? 

San Blas is superbly easy: swimming, sunbathing, and stress-free is nearly all there may be to do. It’s a tremendous expertise, however most likely not one it’s essential to lengthen for too lengthy. A day journey or single night time is sufficient to get a style of the fantastic thing about San Blas, and by the point you get again to the mainland, you’ll most likely be prepared for a bathe anyway. 

That stated, we spent 3 nights on the island. The primary day or two, we had been sizzling, sweaty, bored, and uncomfortable, and truthfully, we couldn’t wait to depart! We had been contemplating leaving early – we had been that cranky.

However by day 3, we’d relaxed and eased into the zen of getting nothing to do particularly. We had been having fun with the sound of the waves, lengthy walks on the seaside, and the day by day excursions to swim and snorkel on close by islands. And we ended up wishing we’d stayed for a bit of longer!

If it’s essential to absolutely unplug and chill out, a 3-4 day journey (in a single day keep or crusing journey) is the right period of time to essentially expertise San Bas.

In case your time is proscribed and also you select a day journey, remember that may embrace a number of touring in a brief period of time. But when that’s on a regular basis you’ve obtained, otherwise you’re not excited by roughing it island-style, you possibly can nonetheless expertise San Blas. Take a look at these guided day trips that provide island hopping, snorkeling, and plenty of tropical sunshine!

Two palm trees frame a boat in the blue waters of the Carribbean ocean off of a bright, white sandy beach in San Blas, Panama.

Are there many issues to do in San Blas?

There’s a quick record of issues you are able to do within the San Blas islands as a customer. Right here it’s: Swim, snorkel, chill out, relaxation, purchase molas, eat recent seafood, watch the sundown, chill out.

Now, that’s to not say that there aren’t some particular points of interest to go to, like a wonderful pure pool, Canine Island, Pelican Island, and many others. However as a customer, you don’t actually get a selection of the place you go or what to do: that’s fully as much as your hosts and the Guna group.

In case you’re crusing by way of the islands, you’ll be visiting islands every day, spending a while snorkeling or stand-up paddle boarding or swimming, after which persevering with onwards. You might or could not know the place you might be at any given second, nevertheless it doesn’t matter: you’re gonna have a blast.

In case you’re staying on the islands in a single day, every day throughout your journey, you’ll be taken on two outings: a morning tour, and a day journey. It should contain a ship trip to an island, the place you’ll most likely be capable of swim or snorkel, and then you definately’ll return dwelling in time for lunch or dinner.

You received’t essentially know which island you’re on or what you’ll be doing that day prematurely. Simply flow! No matter you do will likely be enjoyable and secure, and in the event you don’t prefer it, it received’t final for very lengthy earlier than you’re headed again to your “dwelling” island.

Because you don’t have a lot of a selection of the place you go or what you do inside Guna Yala, there’s no sense in making an inventory of “must-do” actions. Simply chill out and go along with it! (That is additionally the excuse I’m giving for why my notes from our journey had been … extremely missing. Usually I’m attempting to write down down the names of completely all the things we see and do on a visit to fact-check later. This journey? I kinda simply gave up!)

Island floating in the Caribbean in the San Blas Islands, Panama at golden hour.
Right here’s a bonus tip: don’t miss golden hour and sundown! The sunshine is simply *cooks kiss* magical!

Extra Suggestions for Visiting San Blas 

  • Convey money for all the things: There are not any ATMs in San Blas. There isn’t a lot to spend your cash on, however carry small payments for issues like water and drinks. You might also need money for incidentals, souvenirs, or the $22 Kuna Yala entrance payment.
  • The meals is superb, however in order for you snacks, carry them: Whereas your Guna hosts serve three scrumptious, recent meals every day (like pink snapper, lobster, and coconut rice), there aren’t any snacks out there. Many excursions embrace a cease on the grocery retailer on the best way to the port so you possibly can fill up on snacks. However observe that in the event you go away meals in baggage in your room after which go away a window open, birds will come eat all of your meals. We converse from expertise.
  • The islands are very rustic: Don’t anticipate luxuries like 24/7 electrical energy, A/C, or sizzling water – a flushing rest room is a luxurious in San Blas (much more so if it’s not shared). Set your expectations to a practical stage and also you’ll have a way more pleasurable time. One factor that wasn’t preferrred for us is that there wasn’t actually wherever comfy to sit down on the islands. We wished that we’d introduced our personal hammock or seaside chairs! Now THAT could be luxurious.
  • Convey bug repellent: Jeremy obtained dengue fever throughout our journey to Panama – it wasn’t harmful or severe, nevertheless it was annoying and he kinda felt like crap for a number of days. Truthfully, I don’t assume he was bit throughout our time within the San Blas Islands – extra seemingly it occurred whereas we had been in Bocas del Toro or Boquete. However nonetheless, it sucked! To be secure, deal with your clothes with Permethrin earlier than your journey, and canopy your entire uncovered pores and skin with bug repellant. We swear by this lightweight picaridin lotion that has a lightweight, nice odor and doesn’t go away a greasy residue. We’ve obtained hundreds extra packing ideas beneath!
  • Get all of your journey vaccines earlier than your journey: You’ll need to be vaccinated for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever and Hepatitis B (and, clearly, COVID). You don’t necssarily must take malaria remedy, ut San Blas is close to a location the place there may be malaria (the Darién Gap), so if that freaks you out, simply discuss to your physician and take malaria capsules throughout your journey, no massive deal!
  • Do NOT contact the starfish: The seashores and clear waters of San Blas are dotted with brilliant orange starfish. They’re lovely and a pleasure to take a look at, however DON’T TOUCH! Touching them will damage and kill them – sure, even in the event you’re mild and put them again aferwards. Admire them from afar, please!

What to Pack for San Blas

Most of your time in San Blas will likely be spent within the ocean, swimming or snorkeling! You’ll even be in brilliant Caribbean daylight. So your most important objects will likely be for the seaside, for the water, and for solar safety.

For the Seaside

Right here’s what to pack in your baggage to carry with you to the seaside:

  • Several Swimsuits: There’s probability you’ll be leaping into the water daily, so that you’ll need to carry alongside a number of pairs of swimsuits so that you at all times have one thing dry to placed on! I’m a measurement 16/18, and my favourite swimsuit is this one, which I actually have in 3 completely different colours. It’s superb. It’s good. It’s a freakin’ steal! I additionally love this swimsuit, and that is my favourite one piece. For extra swimsuit picks, take a look at my information to swimsuits for curvy girls.
  • Travel Towel: There’s completely no assure that the towels at your accomodation are going to suit round your waist. Frankly, they hardly ever match round my left thigh. Plus, they’re heavy and ponderous and you may get in bother for bringing them out of the lodge. So simply to be secure, I at all times carry my very own travel-friendly, light-weight, quick-drying travel towel!
  • Travel Clothesline: Newsflash: your lodge’s moist, darkish toilet is absolutely the WORST place to hold your clothes as much as dry. As a substitute, hold this tiny travel clothesline up someplace that will get loads of airflow and solar, like on a curtain rod in entrance of the window! Your moist swimsuit and travel towel will likely be dry very quickly.
  • Sand Repelling Beach Mat: I hate sand SO MUCH and this mat is made with magical sand-repelling qualities. If sand doesn’t make you need to go dwell in an igloo ceaselessly, you possibly can at all times simply use your towel as a mat as an alternative!

On seaside days, we pack up our day bag with all of our seaside gear and a full bottle of chilly water to remain hydrated (our insulated water bottle retains water chilly for an unbelievably very long time). And naturally, tons and lot of sunscreen – don’t overlook to re-apply!

For extra beachy packing ideas and curvy-girl particular options (ahem: do you could have chafe balm but??) head over to our beach vacation packing guide!


The 6 Best Swimsuits for Curves: Comfortable, Cute, & Field-Tested

Curvy girl in a swimsuit amidst palm trees on an island in San Blas Panama
Every day throughout your journey to San Blas, you’ll be visiting islands like this and diving into the gorgeous water! Please take care to not hurt marine life by packing reef-safe sunscreen and NOT touching these attractive orange starfish.

For Swimming/Snorkelling

There are a number of important items of substances you’ll need to carry to maintain your self – and your underwater mates – secure and glad.

Right here’s what to pack for swimming and snorkeling:

  • Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You want to put on reef-safe sunscreen. Except you hate coral, fish, and likewise all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and never hurt ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift demise from local weather change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, put on reef-safe sunscreen in the event you’re going into the ocean! Be aware that though reef-safe sunscreen is at all times mineral, not all mineral sunscreens are reef-safe. Sunscreen should use “non-nano zinc oxide” particles to be reef secure(more details here). That is my favorite reef-safe sunscreen, and I take advantage of this lightweight sunscreen on my face.
  • Rash Guard/Swim ShirtI’m gonna be trustworthy with you: reef secure sunscreen will not be the best to use. It’s thick and doesn’t soak in simply. However like, I really like animals and the surroundings. So my resolution is definitely to cowl up my pores and skin as a lot as attainable so I don’t HAVE to put on sunscreen. Win/win! Certain, you might need to showcase your tremendous cute swimsuit, however after sufficient terrible sunburns after hours of glad swimming or snorkeling, I’ve discovered my lesson. I extremely suggest bringing alongside a long-sleeved rash guard, which is specifically designed for swimming in salt water. It feels the identical as swimsuit materials, dries shortly, and provides you loads of solar safety (additionally safety from stinging bits of jellyfish floating by within the water. Yup, I converse from expertise).
  • Swim Leggings: My butt is at all times the very first thing to burn after I’m snorkeling. However swim leggings present full-coverage solar safety whereas letting you progress underwater with out restriction. Fast-drying swim leggings are designed to carry up in saltwater and chlorine and dry shortly when you’re out of the water (they’re additionally extremely comfy to stroll in, and stop the dreaded post-swim chub rub). I really like Waterlust’s swim leggings line as a result of the model is tremendous sustainable and helps conservation and anti-racism initiatives, plus their leggings are 100% chlorine, solar, saltwater and sunscreen resistant and comprised of recycled supplies. Oh, and their leggings have POCKETS! Sizes go as much as 3XL. For extra particulars, head over to the full review of my swim leggings!
  • Snorkel Mask & FinsFor years at any time when we traveled to a snorkel-tastic vacation spot, we at all times wished we’d introduced our personal snorkel gear. We had been so envious of these individuals who rolled as much as the boat like “oh, we don’t want rental gear, we have now our personal.” Each time I met somebody with their very own gear on a tour I used to be like oh, you should be an skilled – right here, you go first. They most likely obtained higher photos simply because we had been intimidated. Snorkels equal energy. Anyway, then we purchased our personal gear, and I used to be like … why did we wait so lengthy to do that?! Certain, my snorkel mask could look ridiculous, however I guarentee you it’s higher than something you’re going to get from a tour firm!
  • Anti-Fog Spray: Even in the event you don’t carry your personal snorkel gear, not less than carry your personal anti-fog resolution. Each time we hire snorkel gear, we find yourself surfacing to furiously spit in our masks ever 10 minutes. So annoying! A bit bottle of it will prevent a LOT of irritation.
  • Water Shoes:  For each minute that you just’re not sporting flippers, you’ll need to be sporting water shoes. I swear by my trusty leather-based Tevas, and Jeremy additionally likes basic close-toed water shoes.
  • Dry BagDon’t set foot on a ship with out placing your stuff in a dry bag, simply in case. You by no means know when a wave/rogue sea lion goes to splash your sh*t. This one is superb, with a mesh part within the entrance that we use for moist bathing fits or towels. Plus, it comes with a telephone protector too, so you possibly can put on & use your telephone safely whereas white-water rafting, kayaking, or snorkeling!
  • Travel Towel: Towels usually are not sometimes supplied on snorkelling excursions, so we at all times carry our personal full-sized, quick-drying travel towel
Dock on Isla Diablo in the San Blas Islands, Panama
San Blas is loads nearer to the equator than the USA, and meaning the solar is way stronger! Take particular care in the case of solar safety.

Solar Safety

Listed here are the necessities to carry with you in your journey to guard you from the solar:

  • Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You want to put on reef-safe sunscreen. Except you hate coral, fish, and likewise all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and never hurt ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift demise from local weather change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, put on reef-safe sunscreen in the event you’re going into the ocean! As a enjoyable bonus incentive, it’s really required by regulation in Hawai‘i. Though reef-safe sunscreen is at all times mineral, not all mineral sunscreens are reef-safe! Sunscreen should use “non-nano zinc oxide” particles to be reef secure (more details here). That is my favorite reef-safe sunscreen, and I take advantage of this lightweight sunscreen from Sephora on my face.
  • Mineral Sunscreen: That is the least dangerous kind of sunscreen, in accordance with science. Mineral sunscreens use two pure minerals—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—as energetic elements. They mainly merely sit on high of your pores and skin and shield it by bodily reflecting away UV rays, like tiny little mirrors. In the meantime, common chemical sunscreen soaks into your pores and skin and results in your bloodstream (and breast milk, in accordance with this study) which squicks me out. Mineral sunscreens don’t soak into your pores and skin (in accordance with this study). So regardless that mineral sunscreens can really feel a bit heavier than chemical sunscreens, I desire to make use of them anyway! I take advantage of this one for my physique, and for my face (which is extra delicate) I take advantage of this lightweight mineral sunscreen.
  • Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm: Don’t overlook to guard the fragile pores and skin in your lips from sunburn, too!
  • Sun Hat: Who says solar safety isn’t cute? This comfy hat protects your face, neck, and chest from the solar and goes with each outfit. The adjustable band across the rim ensures that this hat will suit your head completely, and the neck twine means you possibly can put on it even when it’s windy! That is my go-to on a regular basis hat.

Along with on a regular basis solar safety, you’ll need to take additional care on days you’ll be spending extra time than typical out on the water, like on a snorkeling or kayaking tour and even simply whenever you’ll be swimming within the warmth of the afternoon solar.

I’m an enormous fan of sporting swim garments to guard your pores and skin and minimize down on the quantity of sunscreen you’ll want to make use of! I extremely suggest bringing alongside a long-sleeved rash guard and a pair of swim leggings for solar safety throughout water sports activities.

Bear in mind: the extra your physique is roofed, the higher you’ll be protected against the solar, and the extra environmentally pleasant your seaside trip will likely be! Psst: For extra eco-friendly and accountable journey ideas, head over to our Ethical Travel Guide.

  • Journey Tip: In case you DO get sunburnt, a bottle of aloe vera will assist. However an excellent higher sunburn remedy? Apple cider vinegar! It smells horrible nevertheless it works miracles to take the sting out of a nasty burn and velocity up the therapeutic course of. Plus, it doesn’t really feel sticky and gross in your pores and skin. I carry a little spray bottle stuffed with ACV on each seaside journey.
Beach path in the San Blas Islands aka Guna Yala, Panama
You might not see bugs on this photograph, however belief me: they’re there! Your room will most likely have a mosquito web, however we’ve obtained a pair extra options to ensure you don’t get bit.

Bug Repellant

Nothing ruins a visit like a sleepless night time spent frantically attempting to disregard your itchy legs. Or worse, mosquito-bite-induced Dengue fever, which Jeremy caught in Panama as soon as (yeah, it sucked).

However the place there are lovely locations ready to be explored, there are bugs! So we’ve discovered to make our peace with them – by way of the usage of extraordinarily efficient bug repellants. We completely swear by these 2 important bug repellants, and we hardly ever get bitten throughout our journey!

Right here’s what you’ll want to inform mosquitos to again the f*** up throughout your journey:

  • Permethrin SprayLet me introduce you to our favourite factor ever, Permethrin Spray. It’s a bug repellent which adheres solely to materials, leaves no odor or residue on garments, and doesn’t hurt human pores and skin. Consider it like a magical, invisible armor on your entire garments! We suggest stocking up on a number of bottles earlier than your journey and spending a few days spraying down your entire clothes, paying particular consideration to hems, cuffs, and socks (and extra-special consideration to no matter you’ll be sleeping in). Ensure you do it exterior, hold pets away, and put on a masks, as a result of no person needs to inhale chemical substances (which, incidnetally, is why I hate aerosol bug sprays). Permethrin spray lasts for as much as 6 machine washes, however … nicely, we don’t wash our garments fairly often on trip (ssh, don’t choose). Now you’ll solely must give attention to protecting your pores and skin with bug repellant, which brings us to …
  • Insect Repellant LotionMost insect repellents usually are not definitely worth the disagreeable oily feeling you get after making use of them, the icky hacking cough you develop after spraying them, or that skin-burning feeling you get after making use of 100000% chemical substances to your pores and skin. There’s, nevertheless, one insect repellant that avoids these pitfalls, and it’s this superb lightweight Picaridin lotion. You rub it into your pores and skin and it absorbs loopy quick with no oily residue. It lasts all day and the protection is superb. It doesn’t odor disgusting, leaves no sticky or oily residue, and it’s by no means made my pores and skin burn. I like it, I swear by it, and sure, we positively hoard it in 1-gallon jugs. That is one in every of our tried and examined journey necessities, and we sometimes get a LOT fewer bites than our journey companions! Decide up a few travel-sized 2oz bottles of lotion to absorb your stick with it baggage, or go all out on the quart or gallon-sized dispenser and replenish some empty bottles like us!
San Blas Islands Panama Boat at Sunset
You don’t want a lot else whenever you’ve obtained a sundown view like this, ya know? However. …we do have SOME options.

Different Necessities to Pack

Right here are a number of different necessities to pack in your suitcase:

  • Anker External Battery: You received’t have very a lot entry to elecricity. However in the event you plan to make use of your telephone in any respect (even only for taking photographs), you’ll need it to remain charged. This exterior battery is our favourite – it lasts for a number of expenses and might completely refill your telephone tremendous quick.
  • GoPro: You didn’t come all this solution to NOT get underwater footage of your self dwelling your greatest mermaid life, did you?? You gotta have a GoPro! They’re palms down the very best digital camera for capturing footage underwater. Simply ensure you additionally decide up the Standard Housing,  the waterproof case that you just’ll positively want earlier than you go underwater! For a extra budget-friendly possibility, this waterproof motion digital camera may even do the trick.
  • Solar Powered FlashlightThis flashlight is superior, and tremendous helpful for locating the toilet or navigating at night time. You’ll by no means want batteries and also you’ll at all times have a bit of mild whenever you want it. We hold ours clipped onto the surface of our backpacks so it’s charging at any time when we’re exterior. Environmentally pleasant AND handy!
  • e-Reader or Kindle: A superb e book is an absolute important for the San Blas Islands! There’s nothing higher than spending a complete, luxurious afternoon laying in a hammock studying a very good e book. However books are heavy and take up a number of house in your baggage, so we desire e-readers! Our Kindle Hearth is our fixed journey companion. (Besides we solely have one, so we’re always preventing over it.)


What to Pack for South America: 32 Backpacking Essentials

Are you excited to tough it island model? Will you be choosing a crusing tour, day journey, or in a single day go to to the San Blas Islands? Inform us within the feedback beneath.

Psst: Planning extra island adventures? We have now explored a number of islands! Discover all of them here or take a look at a few of our favorites.

xo Lia & Jeremy signature graphic


Psst: Save this put up for in a while Pinterest!

Our Prime Journey Suggestions & Sources

Listed here are our favourite journey ideas & sources for saving cash and planning journey logistics! For extra ideas, take a look at our travel tips resource page or our guide to planning a trip.

  • Reserving Flights: To attain flight offers, search on Skyscanner or Kayak. Cash-saving ideas: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on solely on a price range airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Lodging: We often keep in budget-friendly, trip leases, boutique inns or personal rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to e book inns (we love their versatile cancellation coverage) and Hostelworld to e book hostels (low deposit, simple change/cancellation, and wonderful evaluations). For trip leases, we desire to e book utilizing VRBO (they have decrease charges and higher assist than Airbnb, and we’re not followers of Airbnb’s unethical monitor document.) You may as well e book trip leases on Expedia and Hotels.com. We have additionally used TrustedHousesitters as each hosts (for our dwelling and our fur-child) and vacationers!
  • Journey Insurance coverage: We at all times, at all times, ALWAYS purchase journey insurance coverage for worldwide journeys, and we STRONGLY recommend it – go to our Travel Insurance Guide to seek out out why. We suggest both World Nomads or SafetyWing for worldwide journey insurance coverage. SafetyWing is likely one of the few insurance policies that covers Covid-19, and so they have wonderful month-to-month insurance policies which might be good for Digital Nomads and long run vacationers!
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the journey guides on the CDC website to analysis advisable drugs and vaccines for worldwide journeys. We at all times suggest getting each vaccine advisable by the CDC! You may get them at your main care physician’s workplace or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Excursions: We love reserving guided excursions, particularly meals excursions and strolling excursions, to get an area’s perspective and a historical past lesson whereas sight-seeing! We e book our excursions utilizing Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to determine tips on how to get from place to position utilizing public transit, and e book native transportation on-line utilizing Bookaway wherever we are able to. Once we e book a rental automotive, we use Kayak to check rental corporations and discover the very best deal.
  • Baggage Storage: At any time when we’re testing early or profiting from an extended layover, we use Stasher or LuggageHero to soundly retailer our baggage whereas we’re operating round. On Stasher, you need to use the code PW10 for 10% off!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we carry on each journey. We even have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and plenty of extra. Check out all of our packing guides!


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