In a lesser known part of the Caribbean in the most southern waters lie the San Blas Archipelago with approximately 365 islands, one for each day of the year. The tropical beauty of this archipelago is notorious for its crystalline waters, palms dotting white sand islets, connected by breath taking reefs populated by few. The few that do populate these islands are the Guna aka Kuna indigenous people. Having sworn off most of modern technology and amenities, the archipelago has remained undeveloped and unspoiled. The San Blas islands, one of few places where you can immerse yourself in tropical nature, undisturbed by human infrastructure.
With so many island chains, it is easy for days to become weeks when sailing through the Cayos Limones, Cayos Holandeses, Cayos Coco Banderos, and continuing east towards Colombia. With calm lagoons and schools of tropical fish dancing beneath the surface, the Southern Caribbean is a lesser known paradise, offering dozens of captivating wrecks and vibrant reefs to explore, flourishing with colourful marine life. There truly is no best time to visit San Blas as there is no hurricane season nor extreme weather – just peaceful tranquility year-round. There are 2 seasons – rainy (June through December) and dry (January- May).
The rich culture of the Guna who live in semi-autonomy from the Panamanian government live as they have for centuries and are very welcoming to travelers. Visit one of the island villages or escape to a secluded beach as Guna paddle by offering their fresh catches of lobster, red snapper, and squid.
If you have the time and desire below we outline some key attractions to visit while sailing through the San Blas islands, because there truly isn’t any other way to experience this archipelago in its entirety except by sailing.
EXPLORE CAYOS HOLANDESES
The Cayos Holandeses also known as the Dutch Keys are a group of 7 islands forming part of the San Blas Archipeligo. These are some of the most untouched and least visited islands in all of San Blas. Only 3 of the islands are populated by the local Kuna Yala Indians and all are surrounded by virgin white sand beaches, the perfect place to enjoy a couple of days of peace and tranquility. The Cayos Holandeses are engulfed by a coral reef, providing for calm waters and excellent underwater exploration.
It is a place where the immense crystalline and turquoise seas merge with the blues of the sky. Off shore of these numerous islands, yachts and sailboats drop anchor to dive in the abundant reefs, while others entertain themselves by pulling lures to catch tuna, barracuda, red snapper, grouper, or Mahi. The breeze and the gleaming sun accompany the stillness of the environment.
EXPLORE ISLA PERRO
One of the most recommended islands to visit, Isla Perro boasts many tourists and backpackers for many reasons. The sunken ship known as Perro Chico or Small Dog has created a marine culture boasting an extensive variety of fish and marine life. The surrounding coral reef connects the nearby island of Isla Diablo with Isla Perro. An island managed by 10 Kuna families, tourism is the main source of income for the families, providing rustic accommodations and meals to visitors. If snorkeling or diving, be sure to catch a glimpse of the white spotted manta rays that populate the area.
EXPLORE CAYOS COCO BANDEROS
Located south of Cayos Holandeses the Cayos Coco Banderos is a bit more sheltered from the open waters of the carribean with a handful of more populated Kuna villages. Spotted with islands no bigger than a few paces in either direction, you will only notice them by their one or two palm trees marking the islands existence.
Visiting one of the local Kuna Villages really allows you to immerse yourself in the culture and purchase some artisan handiworks such as the beautiful hand stitched molas, one of the primary income sources for the women.
What are the Temperatures like?
This varies very little through the year as the seasons don’t change much in this tropical paradise. Average day time temps vary between 27° C to 35° C (82° F to 95° F) while average sea temperature are anywhere from 25° C to 27° C (77° F to 82° F).
Whether you have a few days or weeks, San Blas has so much to offer to those looking to change up their average vacation and sail through this indigenous island nation.
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