Have you heard of the San Blas islands? A group of 365 islands east of the Panama Canal with only 49 of these islands actually being inhabited.
Doing a San Blas Island Tour has become one of the must see activities when traveling to Panama. If you are coming from Colombia via boat then you will also pass the islands, which I heard is an incredible experience.
I had booked the San Blas Islands Tour over the tour booking desk at El Machico Hostel where I was staying at that time in Panama City. In general, tours usually leave from Panama City.
San Blas Islands Tour: What’s included?
For a one night stay on the island including food and transportation I paid $110. The island that this tour will take you to is called Ina Island, where probably most backpackers end up.
You will also have to pay a tax fee of $22 when entering the port. You will also need to show your passport when entering, so make sure to bring it along.
The ride to the port is quite curvy as it will go through a national park and could be a little difficult for people who get car sick quite easily. 4WD’s will pick you up at your accommodation sometime between 5 and 6 in the morning and the I’m guessing the total journey including the boat ride takes about 4,5 hours.
There are also other tours to different islands but they are most likely more expensive and I haven’t given them a try yet, so if you did please feel free to let me know how it’s been.
Pick up and arrival on the island
On the day of the tour I got picked up at my hostel at 5:30am. Getting up was quite difficult especially because I was still jet legged. There was one other guy from my hostel on the tour and we picked up three Spanish guys a few blocks away and two Colombians.
I was the only one in the car that didn’t speak Spanish, as usual. I’m proud to say that it has gotten a little better ever since. We stopped on the way to buy some booze or water or whatever else we felt like buying.
After arrival at the port we had to wait for a boat to arrive that would take us to the island. I was really scared my stuff was going to get wet but it all went fine.
On the island we registered that we where there and paid the rest of the money that we still had left to pay. After, we were shown our cabins. These cabins where just like normal dorm rooms minus the blanket and pillow. I had to use my towel as a blanket which was fine since I was kind of exhausted anyway.
On the island we were free to do whatever we liked. We could wander around the island, which was really beautiful. I also borrowed some snorkel gear and looked out for some fish.
It actually took a little time until I made some friends, because a lot of people were traveling in groups, but as soon as I met people we were just hanging out on the beach and enjoying the island life.
San Blas Islands Tour: Boat Tour
I paid a little money extra to go on a boat tour while being on the island. I’m not sure how much exactly but it must have been like $10. There were about 8 of us and they took us to several places in the area.
First we went to a natural pool were the water was really shallow and you could stand in the middle of the ocean, which was really impressive. There were a lot of sea stars which were actually really big, I didn’t expect that.
After, we went to an island which was so different to the one we were staying at. There were people living on this island as well, in little huts but it was still different. I actually thought this island was much more beautiful so I really liked the boat tour.
Last but not least we went to another island were we could snorkel. That was fun but as a scuba diver, snorkelling isn’t that interested anymore. At least for me.
A night on the island
After dinner everyone hung out with some beers. We played card games and there was a bonfire on the beach as well. Some people even went into the sea which I don’t think they were allowed to at night, but each their own.
We were just sitting around, having some drinks and it was a lovely ending for a good trip.
It didn’t get that late though, as we were leaving at around 7am again in the morning to head back to Panama City.
Back to Panama City
In the morning we all gathered for breakfast and waited for the boat to take us back to the port, where the 4WD’s would be waiting for us.
I was looking forward to a shower as all my belonging were covered in sand and it also started raining really badly. This led to the temperature dropping quite fast.
On the way back I probably slept most of the time, because the ride back suddenly was a lot faster. And they also didn’t ask for our passport again as we were leaving the zone this time.
Overall, it’s been a fun trip. But it also wasn’t my favourite experience in Panama. I really enjoyed Bocas del Toro, all the way up in the North. But then again, the weather wasn’t the greatest when I was doing the San Blas Islands Tour.
It has been an incredible experience though to live on a kind of deserted island for a day.
Would you go to the San Blas Islands? Or are you planning a trip to beautiful Panama?
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