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Travel Guide San Blas

Guna Yala

Called “San Blas Kuna Yala” until 1998 and “Kuna Yala” until 2010, it was renamed to only “Guna Yala” in 2011 due local community consensus about linguistic/political matters. The region of Guna Yala occupies 2.306km2 and is an archipelago with 365 Islands of which only 52 are inhabited.

Despite not knowing exactly the origin of the Guna people, it is believed that they came from northern Colombia to the Guna Yala region of Panama several centuries ago.

The Gunas

The Guna are very calm and peaceful indigenous people, but very proud of their culture and values of their ethnicity, which has led them to always reject any type of submission to colonialism (though their rights are secured constitutionally).

The Guna live in three politically autonomous comarcas or reservations in Panama, and in a few small villages in Colombia. There are also communities of Guna people in Panama City, Colón, and other cities. The most Gunas live on small islands off the coast of the comarca of Guna Yala.

In Guna Yala everything is pure identity. They preserve the Guna language, their dress and their beliefs, keeping even in the religious plane sorcerers and healers; they are administered autonomously, with the exception of education and health, which depend on the Panamanian state; they refuse from foreign investors and celebrate their 1925 uprising as a great victory against colonialism.

Molas and clothes

The mola is a fabric of geometric shapes made on the basis of superpositions . The designs are taken from nature and have religiously inspired names. The origin of the mola, which is used to make garments and home textiles, is very old. The Guna legend tells that a woman named Naguegiryai was chosen to visit the sacred precinct of Kalu Dugbis , where she was ecstatic because of the beauty of the fabrics that decorated her four walls. The drawings of the fabrics were engraved in his memory and he reproduced them. That’s how the mola was born.

Basic Guna words

Here are some words that may be very useful in your visit to San Blas:

Hello! – Naa

Goodbye – Degimalo

How are you? – D egidee nue’ganbi ?

What is your name? – I gi be nuga ?

How much? – _ I gi peanut ?

Boat – U ur

Island – D ubbu

Two of our tours have guna names, such as Badu and Madun, which are ripe plantains and ducks, respectively.

The absence of foreign investment in Guna Yala

Tourism is somehow controversial in the region: for lands that receive more than 100,000 tourists per year for its incredible characteristics and beauty the local community do not persives the expected return profits due their lack of good economic administration.  Under these controversial arguments the Gunas have implemented certain strategies that defend their autonomy of tourism management by expelling foreign investors and creating regulations of an autonomous tourism model.

We recommend bringing comfortable bags or backpacks and no big suitcases. In it do not forget to include:

Original passport Photocopies, driver’s license, university cards, Foreign ID cards or derivatives are NOT valid.

20USD for the payment of region tax. You can also add it to your cart at the time of booking online and we will take care of everything.

Mosquito repellent, sunscreen and a piece of long-sleeved clothing.

Flashlight, since there little artificial light on the islands.

Towels, snorkel goggles and flip flops will be essential. You can take your own or acquire ours during the reservation process.

Cash: for local expenses at the islands, mainly.

A rechargeable portable battery will be very useful in the tours, but it is not essential.

Medicines, there are no Drugstores at the Islands.

If you are a smoker, you will have to carry your own cigarettes. In San Blas they do not sell.

* It is a payment that is used for the maintenance of various programs of the General Guna Congress, such as bilingual education.

Travel insurance?

100% recommended for your trip to San Blas. Soon we will offer the Enjoy San Blas insurance, but until we implement it, we advise hire your own as is recommended for any international trips

Can pets be brought?

Due to community demands, you cannot bring pets to Guna Yala, but if you have questions about what to do with your pet during your trip, we can advise you for free.

Is it safe to leave my belongings in the cabin during the tours?

Totally, but for your peace of mind, you can discuss it with the guide to leave valuables with someone you trust on the island from which we leave.

Where can I leave the backpack before the entrance and after the exit?

Through our Tour guide, you can ask us to keep it at the restaurant on the island. If you are not going to return to the island where you have stayed, you can travel with it (there is a luggage compartment in the boats).

Is there artificial light in the cabins and islands?

There is artificial light in all cabins and islands, but we recommend you bring a flashlight since the restaurants usually turn off the lights around 10pm to save energy becasue they work with solar panels.

Do they include sheets?

Yes, and pillows.

Are all bathrooms shared?

Yes, except in Wailidup, where you have the option of staying in a cabin with a private bathroom.

What kind of transportation will take us to the San Blas Islands?

Land: It will generally be our 7-seater Jeep.

Maritime : our boat 27 ” long with capacity for 15 people, properly equipped with life jacket and first aid kit.

The surf in San Blas is never extreme. From March to November the sea is like a lagoon and from December to March it is usually shaken, but the area of ​​the islands is protected by a natural reef that facilitates boating.

Will we be accompanied during the different rides?

Of course! Both on land and at sea, you will always be accompanied by our guide.

What dishes do the restaurants on the islands offer?

The typical food of San Blas Panama is based on fried fish, squid, chicken and rice with coconut, accompanied by patacones, salad and beans. Everything very natural and tasty!

Are there options for food intolerances and special diets?

If you have any specific needs, it is important that you inform us at the time of your reservation to make sure you have everything you need during your visit.

Can you order food at any time?

The kitchen of the restaurants has a breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule marked, but from Enjoy San Blas we will provide you with some snacks in case you want to snack between meals.

To the tours, can you bring your own food and drink?

Of course. On the outward journey of all tours, we stop for about 15-20 minutes at the El Rey Supermarket , where you will find food of all kinds, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, coolers …

Remember that at the San Blas Islands there are not Supermarkets, drugstores or Liquor Stores even thou you can buy soft drinks and beers at the local restaurants!

What is the best time to visit San Blas?

Between December and April is summer time in Panama, so is the best season to enjoy the sun, the sand and the ocean better.

 What activities are on the islands?

Snorkel: in all the islands there are beautiful areas to explore, especially in Isla Perro, where you will also find the ruins of a sunken ship.

Volley or other games with ball : in some islands you will find nets to play and from Enjoy San Blas we put balls at your disposal,

Outdoor training: at Isla Perro they have made a barbell and some dumbbells with wood and stones with which you can train.

Paradisiacal rest: in the hanging hammocks.

What can you buy in the islands?

You can only buy food from the restaurant (at the designated times), drinks until closing time (around 10 pm) and on some islands you will also find snacks.

You will find rental service of hanging and normal hammocks .

In some islands there are women who sell some handicrafts.

NO souvenirs are sold, so from Enjoy San Blas we offer you some exclusive  products at the time of your reservation

Remember that there is NO tobacco on the islands of San Blas.

Can you smoke on the islands?

Although they do not sell tobacco, you can smoke on the islands. Within restaurants, including those that are outdoors, smoking is not allowed.

 Can you take pictures of the Guna?

 Before doing any photo, we ask you to consult with our guide or them directly. Keep in mind that many Native Gunas believe that the photos rob a part of the soul. Respect them!

Can I pay with a credit or debit card?

Currently it is only possible to pay cash in the San Blas Islands, so from Enjoy San Blas we offer you the option to make the full payment of your trip, adventure accessories or souvenirs through our website.

Is there any place to get money on the islands of San Blas?

At El Rey supermarket there are ATMs to withdraw cash, but we recommend that you bring cash directly because sometimes there are problems with European cards.

Do the islands have a mobile or internet signal ?

In the San Blas Islands you will not find WIFI, but there are two telephone companies with a signal : Digicel and Cable and Wireless.

When you arrive to the community, we can provide you with a SIM card to use during your stay. We recommend it to be always communicated.

Where can I charge my phone in the San Blas Islands?

Many of the cabins have an American plug . In case you do not have it, our guide will talk to the restaurant on the island to have it recharged.

How are reservations made?

To guarantee your reservation and start your booking process, we ask you for an initial payment of 15% the total of your booking. You can use credit/debit card or bank transfer. The rest of the amount you can pay before your trip by card or bank transfer or cash at the time of your arrival.

 Can I include payment for additional services?

 Yes. In our reservations section, before paying you can add to your cart all the extras you desire. Also, after booking we will contact you to make sure you have everything you need.

If you pay everything by card or bank transfer, you can also include the payment of 20USD of the tax of the region.

 Is it safe card payment?

 Completely. As usual, at the time of payment you will be redirected to the Paypal platform , which is one of the most used and secured online payment platforms

 Can I cancel the trip?

 Of course, do not hesitate to consult our cancellation policies.

 Are my data protected?

 Sure it is! If you need more information about it, you can consult our security policies.

If you travel with your family:

We recommend Isla Aguja, for its wooden cabins with private bathrooms, which will give you greater comfort and privacy. In addition, it is the closest island to the port, so the boat trip is the shortest of all (only 5 minutes!). Ideal if you are traveling with children or seniors. Another option is the quiet environment of Wailidup Island, as it has excellent facilities (the highest level), among which you will also find private bathrooms.

If you are a youth group:

We recommend Isla Diablo or Isla Perro, as there is a lot of atmosphere (their names leave no doubt!). In fact, in Isla Perro allow to make bonfires at night, around which very animated groups are created. To tell you a secret, these two islands are very close to each other and, although it is not allowed to swim from one Island to another many people does it.

If you are a young couple:

If you are looking for privacy and tranquility, go for Isla Aguja. If you want to move, your islands are Isla Perro or Isla Diablo, both with great atmosphere (even at night).

If you are an older couple:

In Isla Aguja you will find closeness, tranquility and family atmosphere. Wailidup Island is also a good option, since it has a very quiet environment and facilities and cabins of higher level. On both islands there is a private bathroom, which will give you a lot of privacy.

If you are looking for comfort in the rooms:

The best cabins, with wooden floors and private bathrooms, are located on Isla Aguja and Wailidup Island, with Wailidup being the highest level (and price).

If you are looking for privacy:

In the Wailidup Island, the cabins are very far from the restaurant, both are separate by a wooden path over the sea. If you are looking for an extra privacy, you will love the floating cabins of this island!

If you want to practice photography:

Isla Diablo has a wide flora, a large stretch of beach and a very close island, Isla Perro, that will appear on the horizon of your photographs.  On the other hand, in Wailidup Island you will find idyllic images with floating cabins as protagonists.

If you want to snorkel:

All the island as are good for practice! Of course, in Isla Perro you can browse the ruins of a sunken ship.

If you travel as a family:

If you go with very young children, we recommend the Badu Tour, for the convenience and proximity to the pier. In case the children are a bit older, you can opt for the Kabi Tour, which is very complete, and you will not be bored.

If you are a group of young people:

The Kabi and Madun Tours are very complete and have a lot of activity. During the various boat trips, you can meet a lot of people!

If you are a young couple:

You will love any Tour that goes through the natural pool, like the Kabi Tour, the Madun Tour or the Tain Tour. The quietest of all is the latter, since it involves very few trips and you spend the day in the beautiful Chichime Island, but if you want to visit more variety, choose the Kabi or the Madun.

If you are an older couple:

In this case the Badu Tour is perfect, since there is very little displacement and is designed to spend a day of rest in the tranquility of Isla Aguja. In case you want to visit a different island, opt for the Tain Tour, which passes through Isla Chichime.

If you are looking for comfort and few trips:

Without a doubt the Badu Tour: a nice relaxing day in Isla Aguja, which is also very close to the port and involves very little travel. Once there, you can enjoy a postcard break in the hanging hammocks that we will provide.

If you are interested in knowing the culture of Guna Yala:

Choose our Guna Tour, designed to visit San Blas and learn about the Guna culture, as we travel to one of the main communities, Carti Sugdub, on a guided tour where we will tell you all about guna (in Spanish and English).

If you want to see as many islands and attractions as possible:

With the Kabi Tour you will visit a total of three islands (Perro, Diablo y Fragata) and the natural pool. It’s a complete tour! Another option is the Guna Tour, with which you will discover the community (Carti Sugbud), Pelican Island, Diablo Island, Fragata Island and the natural pool.

If you want to snorkel:

Choose the Tour Keys! The Dutch Cays are surrounded by a coral reef where you will find all kinds of marine life: turtles, ray fishes, lobsters, shark sharks (not aggressive), barracudas … You can also choose any of our tours that go by Island Dog, where you can explore the ruins of the sunken ship and all the fish that swim around it.