Until 2009 the only way you could get to the San Blas Islands was to fly into one of the few lumps of sand with a runway carved out. Â This was problematic being that the Archipelago de Las San Blas is one of the most beautiful island groups on the planet and people were dying to get in. Â So flights were few and prices were high…and a lot of times completely booked up.
Fortunately they’ve built a roadÂ connectingÂ Panama’sÂ CaribbeanÂ coast to the rest of the country. Â So these days you won’t break the bank and you don’t have to plan too far ahead. Â The most common andÂ convenientÂ way to get there is to book a “package deal” as there are no buses that make the journey and private taxi’s are only occasionallyÂ allowedÂ in. Â If you fly in you still need to eat, and that is almost always done at your hotel, guesthouse or hut which can fill up quickly.
DISCLAIMER: Â Don’t let the term “package deal” scare you, they can range anywhere fromÂ luxuryÂ packages to a basic hut and rice combo. Â The term “package deal” is used veryÂ loosely.
There are several flights per day leaving from Panama City’s Albrook Airport. Â Round trip flights range from $60 to $120 USD depending on the season and are operated by Air Panama and Aeroperlas. Â Flights can be booked to a variety of locations within theÂ archipelago, some on the mainland and some on the islands themselves. Â Unless your staying near the airstrip, you’ll most likely have to take a boat to your final destination.
The road is pretty rough but at least it will get you there. Â You can hire a 4WD from Panama City or book a tour that will most likely use this option. Â Buses and most cars won’t be suited for this stretch of dirt but conditions are rapidly improving. Â The drive takes about 6 hours and will drop you off at the port of entry, Carti. Â From here you will take a boat to your island of choice. Â There will be a small road tax upon entry into Kuna territory. Â This is the most popular option these days.
The San Blas Islands are inhabited andÂ controlledÂ by the semi-autonomous Kuna people, so the archipelago is free from nearly all modern distractions. Â They speak their own language and enforce their own laws and as a result, some of the uninhabited islands in the archipelago areÂ allegedlyÂ used byÂ ColombianÂ drug runners. Â It’s unlikely that you’ll run into any issues but something to keep aware of if you get too far off theÂ beatenÂ track.
The San Blas Islands are a great place to relax for a few days. Â It would take you forever to explore them all but if you stay on one, you’ll probably get board after a few days. Â Hard to believe, I know! Â Regardless, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.