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“Kuna Yala San Blas Islands Overnight”

Panama Travel Unlimited - Day Tours
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Attraction details
Owner description: Panamatravelunlimited is a tour operator located in Panama City. We specialize in day tours in and around Panama City and to the San Blas islands. Our day tours include; City Tour, Embera village, Portobelo Ruins, Isla Grande, San Lorenzo Fort, La Pintada cigar factory, San Blas and more. We aim to give superior customer service at budget prices.
West Jordan, Utah, United States
Level Contributor
10 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Kuna Yala San Blas Islands Overnight”
Reviewed May 12, 2013

I was pretty wary of booking the overnight tour to the San Blas Islands through Panama Travel Unlimited (PTU). First, I'd read and heard a lot of different information about getting to the San Blas Islands. Some people insisted you could only get there by plane.

Second, PTU does a pretty good job about almost talking you out of the experience. They have a letter on their website clearly explaining that they are simply acting as a middle-man and that you are going to a remote area with a different culture and where they can't control the weather.

Our experience couldn't have been any better. First, PTU provided me with a safe way to pay for the trip online. They were VERY responsive to all of my emails, INCLUDING the emails when I wasn't sure I would make my flight to Panama and, thus, miss the day we were supposed to go on our excursion. They checked immediately to see if our "hotel" had openings for the next day and were ready to change it if I needed (luckily, I didn't). They were also VERY clear about the extra expenses we would have to pay (fees to enter Kuna Yala and the "port").

Second, the driver provided (a contractor, I believe) was on time and very knowledgeable. The road to the "port" is fairly treacherous (it's a pretty good road but has some bad parts) but I always felt safe. The guy was a little "abrupt" but knew what he was doing.

Third, I can speak mostly only to the trip to the specific island Kuanidup but it was AMAZING. It's one of the most beautiful places you'll ever see. It's tiny, with a beautiful sand beach and crystal clear water. The huts are traditional (no nails even) with dirt floors.

The beds aren't the best you've slept in and it can be hot, even in the night, but you're on a camping vacation rather than a hotel trip, so you deal with it. There's some electricity on the island (lights in the huts, electricity for the cook and the workers that live there) but why in the world will you be using your cell phone in this heavenly place? They had shared bathrooms but they work on a trapped water system, not indoor plumbing. They have to put the water in there themselves if it doesn't rain, so it ran out a couple of times. Again, it's more like a camping trip.

I got nervous that we wouldn't be fed like I thought we were supposed to be. Turns out they just eat a little later than I'd expect. The food is nothing special but it's good (and I don't even like seafood). Many people brought their own food (snacks) and drinks. This is a good idea. I would have also brought a flashlight and maybe playing cards.

There's a volleyball net set up and several hammocks (had an amazing nap in one). It's a place to relax, not a place with a ton of activities.

We were offered 2 excursions. Isla de Perros for snorkeling (those that went, said it was good but didn't really rave about it so I don't know if it was anything special) or to visit a Kuna community. We chose to do that one. This is were the only extra expense came that I didn't know about. The 2 communities on the island we went to charged a total of $3 a person to come visit. Not a big deal. It was an eye-opening experience to see how these people live. Might be heart-breaking to some people. My wife makes jewelry and raved about the stuff she bought from them.

There was a lot of warnings that the Kuna aren't exactly hospitality specialists. I didn't this to be a problem. Actually, the people on Kuanidup were incredible. There's some language barriers there and you're not going to a place that even COULD be a 5-star resort but they are kind people that work incredibly hard just to get the basics done.

In conclusion, this is an adventure, not a resort visit. And it's worth every penny.

Visited May 2013
Helpful?
5 Thank Joshua R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Florida, USA
Level Contributor
40 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
“Spend the night in SanBlas!”
Reviewed April 14, 2013

Booked the Sanblas day tour with Panama travel unlimited. Everything went smoothly without a hitch. Driver pick us up @ 5:30am, arrived @ the boat launch about 8:30am, get in the boat close to 9:00am, got to El Porvenir around 10:00am. Everything was on time. Mind you though, there's NO "wander the dusty street & have a insight into town life of the Kuna Yale people" and nobody speak English, I speak some Spanish so that really help a lot. We got to El Porvenir island, had some breakfast and take a boat ride to Isla Perro ($2.00 extra per person), spent some time there and went back to El Porvenir for lunch then got back on the boat for the boat launch area again to catch the drive back to Panama city.
Now about the drive from Panama city to Carti. It's a very winding road, lots of twists & turns and the driver drive like a nuts! On the way there we had to stop for one girl to get out and throw up, same as the way back, stop for a young man for the same reason! Boat ride is very very rough from Carti to El Porvenir, I felt like we almost got swamped by the waves sometimes, boat ride from el Porvenir to Isla Perro, we were all soaking wet from the waves but the boat ride back to Carti boat launch weren't bad at all, I think because we went with the wind behind us (?).
Isla Perro was pretty, great for snorkling BUT there's no facilities! Everything was so very rustic and basic in SanBlas! You should always remember this otherwise you will be very dissappointed.
If I had to do it again ( which I won't) I would spend at least one night and choose one of the nicest island hotel ( Yandup or Dad Ibe..) for the facilities, food & conveniences. A day tour to SanBlas is too much traveling times for me and it's not worth it.
Panama travel unlimited did a good job on booking tour and reply to all your request promply. We did another tour with them (Embera village) and it was very nice. I would recommended Panama travel unlimited to everyone but for the SanBlas island, spend the night there, and in my opinion, one night is plenty.

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank aroundtheworld008
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
55 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“Mixed reviews - San Blas tour”
Reviewed March 13, 2013

We did a day tour to San Blas islands from Panama City.

NOTE: if the weather is windy and rainy - it's not worth going at all as the only activity to do on the islands (snorkelling and suntanning and swimming) becomes unavailable.


Positives:
-The company was very good at responding quickly to emails.
-The driver was reachable via the specified phone on the morning of pick-up when he ran 30min late and we called him

Negatives:
-They do CRAM you (seven of you) into a 4wd vehicle - which means a very tight ride over mountainous bumpy roads for 2.5 hours. If you tend to get car sick - you will get car sick.
-They don't only take tourists in the car - two of the people on our ride were actually non-tourists. Not sure what they were doing there but they took lots of space!
-The driver doesn't tell you what's going on when you approach the boat launch. And when you wait for the boat for 2.5 hours without knowing what's going on and with the driver disappearing and avoiding you - it's very confusing.
-When you come back to boat launch to be driven to Panama City, the driver sees you but ignores you for 40 min while you wait for him to finish chatting with people to start driving.
-When non-tourists that are in the same car with you ask to stop for a food break and go to buy and eat their breakfasts or afternoon snacks, you wait on a parking lot for 20 min, while the driver chats on his cellphone.
-BIG negative - one person in our car was actually supposed to be on that tour the previous day but the company/the driver forgot about him despite sending him an additional confirmation email just the day before that. They forgot about him and he waited for hours (i.e. from 5am till 7am) till he could speak to anyone on the phone - at which point they agreed to take him the next day. So, it didn't happen to us but it could happen to someone else!

Neutrals: on the Kuna Yala operations as opposed to actual Panama Unlimited operations:
- they really are as unreliable as the Fact Sheet says. The itinerary we got from Panama Unlimited said leaving Panama City at 5am, arriving to boat launch 8:30, and eating breakfast at 8:30/9. We did arrive to boat launch at 8:30 however the boat didn't pick us up until 11, which meant we only got breakfast at 12. As we got up at 4:30am and were not warned to bring extra food - we were starving. Bring extra food.
And going on a day trip with such unreliable hours meant that we only got 2.5 hours on the islands instead of supposed 5.5 hours.

Conclusion:
Don't bother going for the day tour. It was extremely stressful and the 10 hours we spent being driven in a crammed car + standing and waiting were not worth the 2.5 hours spent on the islands. If you go for two nights then those extra delays wouldn't matter so much. Still, bring extra food and drinks with you.

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
6 Thank nastiki
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Florida, United States
Level Contributor
42 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
“I should give them one star, but...”
Reviewed March 13, 2013

First why I should give them one star - we had a tour scheduled for saturday with pickup between 7:30 and 8 AM. When nobody arrived at 8:20 AM, we started calling them. The land line did not answer, the cell phones were disconnected. We pretty much lost all remaining hope and decided to call other places to see if we can reschedule trips we had for the remaining days in Panama. But we still had an issue with the saturday, it was too late to do anything. So I called them again and I finally got a hold of somebody. And then things got better, we had our tour, the guide was a very nice guy. So overall the two stars.

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Marek C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Farmington, New Mexico
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Airport transportation”
Reviewed February 22, 2013

We used this company to transport us from TPY airport to Sherton Bijao, a trip of approximately two hours. They were waiting at the airport for us. The driver was competent and polite. They also picked us up from the airport and took us to Panama City. The price was reasonable,the van was clean and they were on time. Highly recommend.

Visited February 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Mary T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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