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Reviewed November 15, 2015 via mobile

Very relaxing weekend food was ok accommodation barely passable bathrooms yuck - beaches are great fine sand and clear water - although that is true for all the islands

Getting there is easy but takes a while due to a number of check points along the way

Would do the San blas again but not on this island

Stayed: November 2015, traveled with friends
1  Thank Gary L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 23, 2015

After reading countless posts, blogs and websites in preparation for our trip to San Blas, I found very little information to be accurate in comparison to what we actually encountered during our 3-night visit to Guanidup (often listed online as Kuanidup) island, thus, a full overview of our FANTASTIC experience at Guanidup follows. We travelled from Panama City to the Guanidup from 31 July - 03 August, 2015.

We arranged our booking with Panama Travel Unlimited requesting this island specifically given a friend’s previous visit there. The cost for 3 nights was $379.80 per person, all-inclusive (transport, meals, daily tours, etc.) in a private cabana.

Transport arrived at our hotel in Panama City on time at 5:30am. The mode of transport it seems is always an 8-passenger Toyota Land Cruiser. This can be uncomfortable if full of people and luggage, as you traverse approximately 3 hours over the mountains to the Caribbean coast. The ride is at times bumpy and the turns like a roller coaster. I’m 6’1” and had the front seat on the outbound, which was great. On the return I was in the back seat, in the middle, and it was considerably less enjoyable. That said - public or shared transport in Central America is rarely comfortable and thus, there’s no margin for complaint. We did make one stop along the way just outside of Panama City at a huge grocery store where we were able to stock-up on snacks, grab breakfast, and use restrooms after our 5:30am departure.

We arrived at the port where our boat transport to the island was waiting. We jumped on the boat and after a 40-minute cruise through the open sea we arrived at 10am in paradise: Guanidup.

There are 13 cabanas on the island, along with 6 bathrooms (3 with showers, 3 with toilets only). The cabanas are rustic - dirt floor, no lights for when it gets dark, minimal electricity, no mirrors, no wifi. Our first night we were on the front side of the island which undoubtedly has the most splendid views, but found our room to be incredibly warm once we went to bed. The next day we moved to the back side of the island where the cabanas receive a beautiful ocean breeze. Our room consisted of one double and one single bed, with a small table. It’s a dirt floor, yes, but the rooms are clean and the sheets smell freshly laundered.

The beach at Guanidup was stunning! Sparkling turquoise waters that were clear enough at all times to visibly count your toes, and/or the fish swimming nearby that wanted to play. The sandy beach is fine white sand and impeccably clean. At the west end of the island the snorkeling was astounding! A dozen or so pieces of coral offered a safe place for hundreds of fish. We saw a barracuda every day, along with a school of millions of tiny fish that turned the ocean dark as they swam through at high tide.

The food, too, was exceptional. Our first day’s lunch was fried fish with salad and rice. In the afternoon when the fisherman delivered crab for the night’s dinner we bought the two lobsters that he had also caught for a mere $6, which the kitchen staff offered to cook for us. Thus, we feasted on the included crab as well as lobsters! Breakfast each day was a fried egg with either toast or pancakes and coffee. Lunch and dinner always consisted of rice, vegetables and fresh fish - fried corvina, crab, more lobster. They offer an array of beverages for sale at reasonable prices (local Balboa beer at $2.50/can) as well as water and coffee which are always available for free in the dining area.

During our stay there were at most 12 people on the island at a time. The staff told us that during high season when the cabanas are full and people come to the island for day visits, there can be as many as 60 people on the island. Given the size of Guanidup, that would be a totally miserable experience if you are there for rest and relaxation. It’s a very small island - you could easily walk around it in under 60-seconds.

We took tours to Isla Perro where there is a sunken ship for snorkeling. It was…insane. When we arrived we were told we only had 15-minutes to snorkel and understood why - there were nearly 500 people on the beach, dozens upon dozens of boats anchored on the island, loud nightclub music blasting over the island. It was a nightmare, and we snorkeled for at most 5 minutes before returning to the boat. We then cruised out to the open ocean where there is a natural sitting pool that was out of this world crazy beautiful. On the way back home we stopped off at Banedup, a small island where you could buy some Guna Yala molas, bracelets, etc., as well as beers, pineapple, or even have lunch if you wished. Later that afternoon we decided to take a tour to the Guna Yala village. We stopped at Isla Estrella en route to drop-off some other tourists and the island was quite beautiful - the shores packed with starfish, a small kiosk for buying beer, and not much else.

The Guna Yala village was… interesting. Personally, I’m not one who enjoys invading an indigenous culture for the sake of tourism but was persuaded by my travel partner. I wish I hadn’t gone. Not because it was depressing or dirty or poor, which it was, but because it simply felt so wrong. I have to question why only the Guna women still wear traditional dress while the men cruise around in Nike and Reebok street clothes. That they ‘celebrate their daughters’ with a huge party during which all the men get drunk was strange. That the only interaction with small children was their asking in English for “one dollar” and nothing more was troubling. Sure this could be true of many places in the world - but on a small island of 2,500 persons it turned my stomach. It seemed that the women were being forced to exploit their culture for the benefit of the men.

The staff at Guanidup are what made us really fall in love. From the moment we arrived and met Osorio, the elder of the island, his gentle and calm way of being created an instant comfort. Jorgen, who prepared all of our meals, was incredibly kind, a great chef, and very social. Jairo organized the tours for us each day and was a constant source of good energy with an enormous smile. There was almost no English spoken whatsoever, but each of the above were completely fluent in Spanish. A few other staff members were much less comfortable with Spanish but still very friendly and helpful.

Room Tip: Choose the backside of the island where the view isn't as great, but the ocean breeze blasts through your room at night.
  • Stayed: August 2015, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
9  Thank sivartyad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 21, 2015 via mobile

Be aware! If they tell all the excursions and non alcoholic (like Coca cola) are included - they are not! Price is random we payed 3$ per beer 2.50$ per Coke another girl 2.50$ for both. For almost every island they brought us they charged us between 2 and 6$.
Also check the weather or talk to other guestes what spots they have been to! We asked for a snorkeling trip to a sunken ship they told us it would not be possible due to the weather. On the way back we met guests from the island next to us they have been there the same day! Food was very easy and dry - i missed the cooking skills Kunas are known for. Lobster is available if they want but not for us again on the other island they had. Cabanas are easy and the island and buildings could be cleaned up better. So you do best if you enjoy environment and don't care about money and staff!

Stayed: May 2015, traveled as a couple
2  Thank Carmen H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 8, 2015

I've been raving about this trip since returning a week ago, so thought I'd share the love.
It's funny reading different reviews, as some people seem to have gone with mad expectations. This is a tiny island - 12 huts - and they're basic...like really basic - think walls made of sticks with gaps in between. But you're not there for the luxury, you're there for the beauty and the peace and the amazing experience.
We found the guys running the island to be really lovely people. Very gentle, non-obtrusive, just generally great guys.
We had incredible food for the 2 nights that we stayed, some of the best we had during our whole trip - lobster, fish, an incredible seafood stew. Maybe we got lucky, but the food really was great. There is free water available which wasn't made clear to us when we booked so we lugged about bottles of water that we didn't need. If you run out of snacks or drinks they also sell alcohol pretty reasonably.
The island is small but the trips are good. We spent a few hours at Starfish beach one afternoon, and also visited the Kuna community the next, which was a really interesting trip.
We heard from others that this was one of the cleanest islands they visited, and that food on some of the others wasn't great.
If you aren't expecting glamour, and want to chill out in an incredible setting, swinging in hammocks as the sun sets, then I highly recommend this place.

  • Stayed: April 2015, traveled with friends
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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4  Thank Claire C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 7, 2015

beautiful island
very happy with our choice
booked through panama travel unlimited
rained a bit and we had to switch kabanas due to a leak
sand floors so hard to keep bed clean but its an island so not bad
bathrooms /toilets were ok- bucket flush
the water for showering is brownish but ok for a couple of days
the food was pretty bad
the last night was good-fried fish and I know the fish was fresh because i saw them pick it up
however on the first day lunch and dinner it was disgusting!
no lobster for us because there was a ban on harvesting due to mating season

got by with beginners spanish okay but no english spoken
mostly couples on the island

decent scuba diving right off the shores
but bring your own equipment because theirs is really beat up!

bring snacks and toiletries

cute little pool table and common area with booze for sale

the day trips provided were not so great for us. the local kuna yala village was ok to see but i was hoping for more nature trips/snorkel

we also went to isla estrella which had nice star fish to see, but be careful on the beach, i was attacked by sand flies, i literally had over 30 bites each leg after being on the beach there and it was so itchy.

the tour guides for the day tours and the boat drivers were not super friendly - even to those fluent in spanish. but the island hosts were accomadating and friendly.

i think staying on the island was way cooler than chartering a sailboat, because you get to spend more time relaxing on the island. good choice!

  • Stayed: March 2015, traveled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Service
1  Thank annabanana565
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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