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How to visit the San Blas Islands from Panama City

White sans and turquoise water in the San Blas

Our guide on how to visit the San Blas Islands from Panama City has everything you need for the perfect trip to this idyllic archipelago

When it comes to beaches, we’ve seen some stunners. From remote islands in the South Pacific to indulgent resorts in the Indian Ocean, we thought we’d seen the best of them. And then our little skiff washed up in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.

Here, you will find a blindingly beautiful archipelago that mixes it with the world’s most luxurious beach destinations. During our trip to Central America, we spent a sun-soaked day in this Panamanian vision of paradise.

To help you see it yourself, we’ve put together a guide on how to visit the San Blas Islands from Panama City with the latest information on how to get there, where to stay and what to pack.

What are the San Blas Islands?

Sprinkled across nearly 400km of turquoise water lying off Panama’s Caribbean coast are the islands of the Guna Yala Archipelago, the autonomous comarca (territory) of the indigenous Guna people. More commonly known as the San Blas Islands, the Guna Yala also includes a narrow belt of mainland Panama.

Following the 1925 San Blas Rebellion, the Guna people became the first indigenous group in Latin America to gain autonomy. Ever since, they have managed tourism in the region and therefore benefit directly from the steady stream of visitors to the islands. Tourists must show their passports to cross into the territory and pay a $20 USD entrance fee and a $2 USD port fee. Much of the profits go directly to education, health and land management schemes.

Atlas & Boots A typical scene in the San Blas

There are 378 islands in the San Blas, of which only around 50 are inhabited. Some are little more than sandbanks with a shack serving as a family home while others contain miniature towns. The latest estimates put the population of the territory at around 50,000 with about three-quarters living on the islands.

There is a handful of accommodation options spread across the inhabited islands which are usually simple cabana-style lodgings offering three meals a day. However, many choose to visit the islands on a day trip from Panama City. Gaigirgordub (El Porvenir) island at the western end of the archipelago is considered the de facto capital as it’s home to government offices, a hotel, a museum and a small airfield with direct…

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