For many years the beautiful collection of pristine islands of San Blas seemed far, expensive and unobtainable unless traveling by small planes.
Today the road to San Blas is perfectly paved with the exception of a few sections where the pavement has washed out exposing dirt and rocks. The drive takes approximately 2.5 hours from Panama City’s Corredor Sur “the southern highway” all the way to the port of Carti.
Once you exit the Corredor Sur, keep driving straight passing the towns of 24 de Diciembre, Pacora and Chepo, until you turn left at the entrance of El Llano and drive another 40 km to the port of Carti. This route is very scenic with views of lush and pristine tropical jungle and foggy mountains.
Around 20 km into the drive you will find a SENAFRONT (National Border Services) check point where local authorities will request your personal ID if Panamanian or a resident and your passport (original not copy) if a foreigner. Be sure to have the appropriate identification since at this point and after all the driving, you don´t want to be sent back to get your passport.
A few yards after the check point, you will be approached by the Guna General Counsel where you must pay admission to the Guna territory. The fees may vary and there is a $5.00 charge for your car as well as for each Panamanian or resident while foreigners should pay $20.00.
The closer you get to Carti, the windier and steeper the road gets, so for safety reasons authorities only allow 4×4 vehicles to embark on the journey. There have been a few 4×4’s that have lost power in the middle of a steep hill but this also depends on the driver’s skills and the condition of the vehicle.
There are 3 ports, Carti, Yandup and Tupile with Carti being the main port and our destination. When you arrive in Carti, you have to drive along the airstrip to reach the port, where you will be charged $3.00 to park your car and $2.00 per person to enter the community. The port is active and people are coming and going. Here you can grab a quick bite and use the facilities before going to your island of choice. The locals will charge you $0.25 to use the washroom which is perfectly fine because not only do they keep it clean, they remind you to wash your hands! At all times keep your admission receipts. Boat tours start from $35.00 per person ,but depend on your destination.
When you start the journey remember: first and foremost RESPECT, respect the law, respect the culture, respect the people and respect nature. If you want to take a picture of a native, please ask for permission and be aware that you will most likely be charged for taking a Guna photo.
Here different boat drivers offer different tour options and since we were on a day trip, we decided to explore several islands. We started at (S) Isla Aguja, (EN) Needle Island, (G) Icodub (dub means island), located 15 minutes away from the port. This tiny relaxing island has beautiful white sand, is palm fringed and perfect for camping.
Most Islands have a General Manager, or a person in charge who is not the Chief or Cacique. The Chief is an honorary position which is not involved in the daily management of the islands, nor administering laws, the laws are handled by the Guna General Congress.
You can camp on Icodub but if you don’t feel like carrying a tent with you, you can always rent one of rustic huts that are suitable for spending the night. Even though this island is extremely pristine, Icodub has public bathroom facilities. You are allowed to bring your own food and snacks and the island has a restaurant just in case you don’t want to deal with cooking. Icodub is so small you can walk around it in
less than 3 minutes.
If you want to camp or arrange lodging facilities on the island contact: Mrs. Sara at +507-6986-8548
Just 8 minutes from Icodub, you will find (S) Isla Anzuelo, (EN) Hook Island, (G) Achuerdub. Achuerdub is very similar to Icodub but slightly larger and has a rustic restaurant.
If you want to camp or arrange lodging facilities on the island contact: Mr. Russo Tel +507-6782-5842
The farther you go from the coast, the more pristine the islands become, that is why (S) Isla Perro, (EN) Dog Island, (G) Achudub, is so famous!
Just 35 minutes away from the port of Carti, Achudub offers bright turquoise waters, exotic sand, including a shipwreck that has become the habitat for several species of fish and the perfect spot to snorkel. The island has a good restaurant that constantly feeds the crowds with fresh lobster, crab, fish and coconut rice, while offering refreshing drinks and cocktails to the visitors. This island is a bit larger than the previous 2 and tends to be crowded on important holidays, which is why sometimes we jump to the next island, as beautiful but more private which is (S) Isla Perro Grande, (EN) Big dog island, (G) Achudub Tummad.
Here you can bring your food or kindly ask the local family to cook for you (you must pay for their services). On these islands where there are no restaurants, you can get incredible deals from fishermen selling lobster, crab, octopus and fish. The island also has public restroom facilities.
In this area the most iconic island is (S) Isla Pelícano, (EN) Pelican Island, (G) Korkidub. A small and pristine islet with absolutely no
facilities but with the most exotic setting and great snorkeling. There’s a family who lives here.
Near Pelican Island, there’s a spot in the middle of the ocean called the “Natural Pool”. It is a great place to spot starfish, but be aware
that the moment you pull a starfish out of the water, you kill it, so we recommend not to touch them.
The local people are extremely friendly and many of them sell local crafts consisting of Molas, fabrics with geometrical, anthropomorphic, mythological and zoological designs, as well as elaborate and beautiful beaded arm and leg bracelets called Chaquiras.
Remember to bring small denomination bills, $1, $5, $10 and $20. Some of the islands have an admission charge of $1 or $2 and you will not get change for a $100.
Also, there are no ATMs on the islands.
If you want to arrange your boat tour in advance, contact:
Mr. Germain Pérez
+507-6734-3454 / 6141-9518