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Things you need to know when visiting San Blas Islands in Panama

Updated: Feb 6

After spending a weekend on San Blas Islands, I have a lot to warn you about!

Here are the things you need to know when visiting San Blas Islands!

  1. Check the weather

  2. No proper infrastructure to do it yourself

  3. Go with a reputable tour agency

  4. Make sure you are aware of all the 'local' taxes and island entry fees

  5. Have cash with you

  6. Don't expect luxury

  7. Stay at least 2 days/1 night

  8. Make sure to check out the Natural Pool

Check the weather

Traveling during the dry season does not guarantee you perfect weather. Although you will avoid grey skies and rain, you can end up caught up in the strong wind. During the dry season, the wind is much stronger. So weather wise you need to check the wind situation before you go!

Go with a reputable tour agency

Unfortunately, there is no infrastructure in place for tourists so this is a trip you can't really do on your own. Firstly, the territory is guarded by the local community and you need permits to enter. Secondly, the roads are horrible and you need 4x4 to get to the 'port'. Thirdly, the port is not really a port. It is a pier with 30 chaotic people walking around and 'organizing' the boats so people waiting can get on their islands. So unless you speak perfect Spanish, know locals from the local community in San Blas, and have a 4x4, you will need to go with an agency.

And here I warn you to be very careful. There will be loads of local guides advertising on Facebook and other social media platforms but please go with a reputable company that has good reviews on Tripadvisor. I always tend to go with locals but this is not the case. You need a guide that is organized and sticks with the plan!

Said this, one thing you need to check with an agency before you book is everything that is included and everything that is NOT included. Agencies tend to leave out all the local taxes and entry fees you will need to pay to enter the local community and specific islands. So ensure all that is included or that you are aware of how much extra you will need to pay once in the islands.

Have cash with you

There are no ATMs on the islands so make sure you have some cash with you!

Don't expect luxury

The island life is very basic. So unless you are booking one of the few 5* resorts, you will stay in a very basic lodge with cold water and an outside bathroom.

Stay overnight on the islands

I highly encourage you to stay overnight on the islands. Firstly, because it will take you 5h just to get there from Panama City. Secondly, a lot of people come only for a day trip, so around 11am the islands start to get very busy, but if you stay overnight on the island it's yours all morning - Just a few people (those who also stay on the island), your morning coffee, and the Caribbean sea.

Those few quiet hours in the morning are priceless!

Make sure to check out the 'Natural Pool'

If there is one thing I want you to definitely make sure of is to check that the agency has included a visit to the Natural Pool in your itinerary! Probably one of the coolest parts of the area. Realistically, it is shallow but it gives you a feel as if you are submerged in a pool in the middle of the Caribbean sea, a very unique experience. Also, make sure you have your snorkelling gear with you, as you can encounter starfish there!

You can see all that in my San Blas video:

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