Posted on February 4, 2014
Have you ever heard of San Blas islands, actually the correct name would be Guna Yala? Or are you already that far that you know about this indigenous province in northeast Panama? Guna Yala is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, on the south by the Darién Province and Embera-Wounaan, on the east by Colombia and on the west by the province of Colón.
During my second week in Panama I did a 4-day trip on my own to this beautiful archipelago and I would like to share my experience with you. Firstly, I have to admit that I almost didn’t go there. That would be a huge mistake! But my travel star or spirit told me that I should visit Guna Yala, so I listened and I’m so happy that I went there!
In my opinion, there is not that much information about the trip organization or about where to stay in Guna Yala. There are 365 islands, but not all of them are inhabited or used for tourism. I was looking for a nice island, with a nice “hostel” and a nice (not necessarily a party) crowd. When I was in Villa Vento Surf in Panama city, the guys from the hostel recommended Franklin island. They also booked the transport for me, otherwise I haven’t booked anything like accommodation.
Trip to Guna Yala in brief:
– The transport was arranged through my your hostel.
– The departure is always at 5am by a 4×4 jeep (too early for me!). It was 30$ USD one way, so 60$ for a round trip.
– No one told me that I should book a space on the island in advance. So I haven’t booked anything.
– At the arrival to the port from where the boats depart to different islands everyone asked if I had a reservation. It was chaotic. I didn’t understand if there was space on Franklin island or not. I met two German guys and we followed a group of people that was getting on the next boat that arrived. We were told that the boat was going to “Senidup” cabins. The crowd on the boat looked ok, so we decided to join. Easy as that.
– If you are a larger group or a couple, I recommend to book accommodation in advance.
– The boat ride took around 40 minutes and for some people it was too shaky, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy the car ride though, because I don’t like curvy roads in the mountains.
– Finally we got to Franklin island. It’s a small island, meaning that it takes 4 minutes to walk slowly around the island. There are two “hostels” Franklin and Senidup. I stayed at Senidup which is known more for party (a decent one) and Franklin is more quite and they have a volleyball field. You can visit both parts and also join the party in Senidup, if you are sleeping at Franklin’s.
– I went there alone, but from the moment when I stepped on the beautiful white sand of the island, I was surrounded but nice and funny group of people. Something weird had to happen. We were 9 solo travellers and we all ended in the same cabin. We also spent the whole time together, laying on the beach (that’s what you do there), talking, swimming, snorkeling, eating and partying. That was basically it. Great relax – without internet connection, which made it even better to connect with people.
– The cost of staying at Franklin island/Senidup cabins was the following: 60$ car transport (round trip), 20$ boat transport (roundtrip), 10$ entrance fee to Guna Yala, 26$ for 1 night accommodation, including 3 meals, 15$for a boat/snorkeling trip. The extras that I bought in the bar were: 5l water (5$), beer (1.5$), soda (1.5$), lobster for dinner shared between two (15$).
– Watch out! The coconuts keep falling from the palm trees. I almost got one on my head. Luckily it felt one meter form me, so I used it for my upcoming “unboxing in Panama” video ☺
– The only downside of this place was the meal portion. The portions were kind of small and especially for vegetarians – boring. So I recommend to bring some food, if you like to eat. When you look at it from the other side, it’s a perfect place to loose weight.
– Finally, I would like to thank Nali, who is the main contact person for guests, for keeping a very nice atmosphere on the island and for answering all my curious questions about the Guna Yala culture… and also for dancing with me, cause my merengue sucks! Room for improvement ☺
– Last but not least! Very interesting is that the owners of the islands are Guna Yala WOMEN only. That makes me think that I want to have my own island too. Hm… who knows maybe I’ll discover one during my Central American trip ☺
Photos of this amazing place!
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