San Blas Islands
San Blas Islands
4.5
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The area
Best nearby
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Attractions
2 within 6 miles
See what travelers are saying
  • ellaharvey
    Arlington, Virginia58 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    This tour should be on the TOP of your list!!
    A MUST do if you’re visiting Panamá. The islands are absolutely gorgeous . I’ve visited several San Blas islands with Guna Yala Explorer and have not been disappointed yet. They are very professional, accommodating and the trip is always smooth with them form early morning pickup, ride to the port when you catch the speed boat , visit to several islands and lunch included. My favorite island to eat lunch is isla hierba. Take a few extra dollars for water and pack snacks and if you’d like to add something to your lunch you can do so as well such as lobster or your choice.
    Visited September 2023
    Traveled with family
    Written October 14, 2023
  • Sarah W
    Ohio43 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Guna Yala San Blas Overnight Stay
    I went and stayed the night with my friend at walidup island on over the water cabanas. The views are amazing and the island was well kept. We did the tour of the islands during the day it was a fantastic day and night would suggest. However, I camp normally and I would say this was a bit below my comfort level. There was power from 8-6 which was nice because it had power and lights. I would say to bring a net to sleep in the bugs are BAD.
    Visited October 2023
    Traveled with friends
    Written October 22, 2023
  • Playgrounding
    5 contributions
    5.0 of 5 bubbles
    Heart opening and humbling experience!
    I read the negative review and feel the need to educate the ignorant that probably thought they were visiting some luxurious island to be glamping. The San Blas Island is in the Guna Yala tribe region of Panama. They are autonomous and very primitive. Their only source of income is the tourism and artisanal work they do. I booked my tour online and not aware of the situation, but then I understood why they charge .25 cents to use the restroom at the port where you take the boat to the island. They have toilet paper and the bathrooms are clean, at least they have a flushable toilet and not a portable bathroom. The car drive was a little scary, they have to cross the mountains to get to the beach area, because they live remote from the city, and for obvious reasons. I spoke to one of the tribe members who had just purchased a boat with 12k he got from his father who had just retired. He is a 32yo Guna member who has to support his whole family. They are the only ones that can have a business in the area, but sadly they have not gone to business school. They are trying to to their best with the knowledge they have. He rents the boat to those who are more stablished and only makes $60 a day. Remember Panama uses mostly dollars and the prices are not as low like most Latin countries. We visited two islands and the natural pools. The water is absolutely gorgeous, like a paradise. the food wasn't bad, fried fish, plantains, coconut rice and for dessert, they had the sweetest pineapple I ever had. I enjoyed the experience and mostly learning something new about a culture that frankly seems to be abandoned by society. I will go back to San Blas any day with an open mind and an open heart. I really loved the experience.
    Visited February 2024
    Traveled with family
    Written February 16, 2024
  • brad h
    3 contributions
    4.0 of 5 bubbles
    A breathtaking escape into nature and a unique culture
    We found that the San Blas Islands of Guna Yala offer an unparalleled experience of natural beauty. The pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters create postcard-perfect memories that are truly priceless. One of the most captivating aspects of Guna Yala is its vibrant communities and rich cultural heritage. The colorful traditions and way of life of the Guna people could add a unique value to the experience. However, while the beauty of the islands is undeniable, there were moments where we felt disconnected from the local culture. Despite our eagerness to learn and understand, we found it challenging to fully engage with the community. At times, interactions felt rustic, and there were instances where we encountered unfriendliness. Nevertheless, we remain firm in our belief that the San Blas Islands are absolutely worth visiting. To truly appreciate the depth of this destination, we recommend going with a knowledgeable guide who can bridge the gap between visitors and the local community.
    Visited May 2024
    Traveled with friends
    Written May 28, 2024
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles1,199 reviews
Excellent
839
Very good
172
Average
64
Poor
47
Terrible
77

Jeremy K
Teaneck, NJ48 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2023
To reach the 'port' from panama city there first is an hour and a half ride to get to the turn off into the reservation. Then there is a 2 hour, pothole-ridden ride which needs to be done in a 4 x 4. Somewhere in the middle of the ride you have to present passports and pay money to continue (apparently because it's a reserve and it's run by the indigenous people (Gunas) and because some backpackers/travelers use that as a means to get to Colombia?).
When you finally get to the shore its very 'third world' with gross bathrooms that you have to pay money for yet they do not necessarily have soap or toilet paper.

The port is, again, run by indigenous people and seems disorganized. The boats you get on are very rudimentary wood and fiberglass skiffs. The 35 - 40 minute boat ride on the ocean to our first island was very uncomfortable with wooden seats getting pelted most of the time with seawater so that I was soaked by the time I reached the first island. The first small island was decent with nice sand beaches and they had snorkel equipment there (initially they charged us $5 per set but we reached our tour operator by phone and he clarified that this was supposed to be included in the cost of the trip which was not cheap.)
The next island was not very picturesque but there were primitive cabanas.
The boat ride back was even more harrowing. We had to switch to a larger boat so that they could ferry some of the indigenous people to their islands. They repeatedly had engine trouble as well. All of this got us back to the 'port' an hour and a half late so our poor driver who had been waiting for us had to make the harrowing drive through the pothole-infested roads of the mountains mostly in the pitch dark.
I would recommend that if anyone is considering going to the San Blas islands they should find an operator that at least has a more comfortable boat or catamaran. rather than using the indigenous people's transportation.
Written January 19, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Matt
6 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2022 • Friends
Just want to outline the unprofessionalism displayed here with Paul at Ava Maria.

We didn't sail directly with them but we reached out and arranged a reservation on another boat with them .. the wild card. Which was an amazing experience.

However.. at the very beginning of our conversation with Paul, we explained to Ava Maria that withdrawing such a huge amount of cash would be costly for us, so they advised we could use a service called transfer wise (hadn't heard about this before) which is highlighted below in the attached screen shots.

We planned ahead, created an account, deposited our funds and even reached out before the designated meeting time to acquire payment details for the suggested transfer wise.

Upon doing so we were greeted by a very rude and very unproffesional member of there team who I believe to be the captain of the Ava Maria, Paul.

We had a back and forth exchange and you can see for yourself the unprofessionalism and rudeness used by them.

We were left last minute rushing around , accused of playing games, spoken to in a manner which from my experience is unacceptable in customer service, thankfully we had additional funds aside ( TransferWise took 3-5 business days to return our funds to out account ) to withdraw the amount and had a bank card that allowed such a high last minute withdrawal.

Also upon arrival we realised we were given no prior info like the other passengers. They received a thorough email and itinerary whereas we received a couple of WhatsApp messages so we were left in the dark and feeling unprepared once again.

I can't speak for the Ava Maria boat itself, but I can speak for there lack of customer service, changed in agreed terms and general rudeness.

Basically I'd advise you seek out another boat tour to avoid dealing with this kind of energy. (Most providers offer the same dates and boats so you'd just book through a serious company and not one that treats their customers like this) honestly when spending this amount of money you want to deal with professionals and feel at ease, at the end of the day you're at sea for 5 days and want to feel at ease.

For us personally wild card was incredible and our friend used blue sailing to arrange and they offered the correct info and were very polite
Written April 17, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Maria
13 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2023 • Couples
Wonderful experience. We went on a Tuesday so not too many people there, just for one day. Amazing blue and warm waters. Only 4x4’s can manage the road which is hard, full of curves and goes up and down. Is a 3 hour drive so you need to go around 5:30am. By 9:30 am we were already on the boat that takes you to the islands. By 3 o’clock you need to be back on the car. Is an indigenous reservoir with their own laws so they open at 7 am and close at 5 pm. You will be checked at 2 or 3 points of security so do not forget your passport. Accommodations were very rustic so not to many people there sleeping. Is expensive to get there but is worth the money. Entry to the “comuna”, lunch, boat rides, snacks and other fees were included in the price we paid. If you want to see something different and typical from Panama, then San Blas Islands (GunaYala) is the place to go. I would not recommend this trip for families with small children. The road makes you stomach sick.
Written April 1, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Georgia Tom
1 contribution
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2022
My wife and 2 adult children spent 1 night on a San Blas island because of the rave reviews we saw online. I want to describe our experience. We were there in early July.

The island we stayed on was small but pretty. The water is crystal clear just as advertised. We stayed in huts with sand floors as advertised. The people were friendly and the food (fish) was good. We didn’t have cell coverage but others apparently did, not that we cared. Our island was not a resort and didn’t expect to be a resort. It didn’t have chairs to sit on. There were wooden benches. In that aspect, it was not comfortable.

The ride to the boat was the worst part of the experience. We were picked up from our hotel in Panama City at 5:30 am. Two other people were already in the large suv. We stopped at a gas station about an hour from the hotel to get water and food. That road was fine. After the gas station, we drove up a deeply rutted road for the next 90 minutes. It was awful. The driver had swerve from one side of the road to the other to avoid deep ruts all the way to the boat pick up. It was the same way on the way back to the hotel. It was a good 3.5 to 4 hours from the hotel to the island. That difficult and the uncomfortable ride really took away from the whole experience. I’m not sure it was worth it and I wouldn’t do it again.

I’m just speaking to my experience. I’m sure there are islands with nicer accommodations. However, getting to the islands was the bad part. I wouldn’t do this for just a day trip. We spent one night and left the next afternoon around 4 pm.
Written August 3, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Localinpty
Panama City, Panama12 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2022 • Couples
San Blas is an amazing place but I want to highlight the communities I visited with local guide who speaks perfect english, spanish and Kuna language which is their language.

We stayed in a private hut over the water and we had our own kitchen and bathroom. We really enjoyed meeting locals and spending the time with them playing dominoes, volleyball, basketball and football. How amazing experience with those Kuna guys Yohan, Yaneiro and Atilio with his leader Victor.

This is a great experience if you really want to get to know the Kuna culture instead going only to the beach area which we also enjoyed but the highlight was visiting the communities with them.

Here is more details in case you want to experience the same as we did on this 2 nights and 2 days experience.

Go with them!! No doubt!!

Send them an e-mail localinpty@gmail.com or WhatsApp +507 61187621.

Top!!!
Written June 9, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Lisa G
Boulder, CO6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2021
We just got back from a 4 night tour on the Intrepido with Alex and Anabel. AMAZING. I have traveled all over the world and this was one of my favorite trips ever! The islands are gorgeous, meeting the Guna Yala was such a privilege, Alex and Anabel were incredible and gracious hosts. The tour company that we booked through provided stellar service - sailboattrips.com as well as the transport company - lamtourspanama.com. It was all seamless!!!
Written January 17, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Playgrounding
Miami Beach5 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Feb 2024 • Family
I read the negative review and feel the need to educate the ignorant that probably thought they were visiting some luxurious island to be glamping. The San Blas Island is in the Guna Yala tribe region of Panama. They are autonomous and very primitive. Their only source of income is the tourism and artisanal work they do. I booked my tour online and not aware of the situation, but then I understood why they charge .25 cents to use the restroom at the port where you take the boat to the island. They have toilet paper and the bathrooms are clean, at least they have a flushable toilet and not a portable bathroom. The car drive was a little scary, they have to cross the mountains to get to the beach area, because they live remote from the city, and for obvious reasons. I spoke to one of the tribe members who had just purchased a boat with 12k he got from his father who had just retired. He is a 32yo Guna member who has to support his whole family. They are the only ones that can have a business in the area, but sadly they have not gone to business school. They are trying to to their best with the knowledge they have. He rents the boat to those who are more stablished and only makes $60 a day. Remember Panama uses mostly dollars and the prices are not as low like most Latin countries. We visited two islands and the natural pools. The water is absolutely gorgeous, like a paradise. the food wasn't bad, fried fish, plantains, coconut rice and for dessert, they had the sweetest pineapple I ever had. I enjoyed the experience and mostly learning something new about a culture that frankly seems to be abandoned by society. I will go back to San Blas any day with an open mind and an open heart. I really loved the experience.
Written February 16, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ellaharvey
Arlington, VA58 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2023 • Family
A MUST do if you’re visiting Panamá. The islands are absolutely gorgeous . I’ve visited several San Blas islands with Guna Yala Explorer and have not been disappointed yet. They are very professional, accommodating and the trip is always smooth with them form early morning pickup, ride to the port when you catch the speed boat , visit to several islands and lunch included. My favorite island to eat lunch is isla hierba. Take a few extra dollars for water and pack snacks and if you’d like to add something to your lunch you can do so as well such as lobster or your choice.
Written October 14, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

brad h
3 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2024 • Friends
We found that the San Blas Islands of Guna Yala offer an unparalleled experience of natural beauty. The pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters create postcard-perfect memories that are truly priceless.

One of the most captivating aspects of Guna Yala is its vibrant communities and rich cultural heritage. The colorful traditions and way of life of the Guna people could add a unique value to the experience.
However, while the beauty of the islands is undeniable, there were moments where we felt disconnected from the local culture. Despite our eagerness to learn and understand, we found it challenging to fully engage with the community. At times, interactions felt rustic, and there were instances where we encountered unfriendliness.

Nevertheless, we remain firm in our belief that the San Blas Islands are absolutely worth visiting. To truly appreciate the depth of this destination, we recommend going with a knowledgeable guide who can bridge the gap between visitors and the local community.
Written May 28, 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Gottagosumware
British Columbia, Canada280 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2023
I read Jeremy K's review, and he describes it pretty well. Beautiful? yes, Unique? Yes. We did stay on a catamaran, and you don't by-pass the "travelling" part of the trip by doing so. I would only recommend visiting if you can afford to fly in. It was quite pricey when I checked it out, but the shared SUV & panga ride is a lot of effort, and quite uncomfortable. Our 3rd row passengers actually got car sick. The islands of Chiriqui are just as nice, and not nearly as difficult to get to. btw, the Molas that are sold in San Blas can also be purchased at almost every gift store, and also in the airport.
Written February 9, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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San Blas Islands - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024)

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