San Blas, Panama
If you haven’t already make sure to check out this video I made during my time on San Blas
The trip to San Blas is advertised everywhere for a premium. These All-inclusive packages may sound amazing but I’ve always been a skeptic. I was determined to find the cheapest way to get to San Blas. So I did what we all do. I googled “San Blas on a budget” the first non-advertised hit was an article by Seven Continent Sasha who is a world explorer from down under. In her article, Sasha mentions the Franklin family that she was unable to stay with. Taking her advice I was lucky enough to reserve the Franklin family (thanks to her awesome article). I also decided to stay at hostel mamallena (also mentioned her article) which the tour company knew instantly allowing everything run smoothly. Great hostel by the way.
Tourism in San Blas is still fragile and on small scale, this makes the islands a beautiful place for you to explore. It has one of the best-preserved coral reefs in the world where you are allowed to snorkel. One of the main spots for tourist to try out snorkeling is Dog Island also known as Isla Perro. This island is famous because there is a shipwreck in front of the island reachable by snorkeling and swimming. On the Dog Island, you will also find a very nice beach.
Much of the information below was taken directly from the email received after booking with Lam Tours (contact info at bottom of page)
Panama City hostel to San Blas
Pick Up in the Morning: The pick-up time is between 5-5:40 AM
Land transportation from Panama – Port Barsukun – Panama.
Takes roughly 3-3.5 hours
Boat transportation from Port Barsukun – Cabanas Franklin (Tubasenika Island) – Port Barsukun.
Takes roughly 30-40 minutes
What to do when you get to San Blas
Aside from snorkeling around the island and eating coconuts off the ground, you can get to know thy neighbors. Visit many other islands for $5-$10 bucks. So you don’t have to worry about getting marooned on an island you don’t like (unlikely but nice to have options). You can stay with more than one family so you if you find one you like during your tours, speak to the family you are with to arrange the transition. The community profits directly from tourism so they do not mind sharing tourists with a fellow native.
TOURS: You can make any tour to get to know other islands or the indigenous community, ask for Pali and will help with the cost of the tours that are paid directly on the island. Tours start from $15 per person.
Drink costs I can recall
Balboa beer can 1.50
Coca-Cola can 1.50
Closo Wine – 10/box? (surely not 10 bucks a glass right?)
How much does it cost in total? Below are figures that the Tour Company does not include in your total. Make sure to bring cash with you as It does not seem like they take VISA.
NOT typically INCLUDED:
– Entrance Fee to San Blas $20.00
– Port Taxes $2.00
– Any Types of beverages: Water, sodas, beers, etc. (Your driver will stop at the Grocery Store on the way).
Total Breakdown of one person
a 4×4 trip to and from Guna Yala Port: $60
Boat ride to and from San Blas islands: $30
Entrance Fee/Port Tax: $22
Total including Entrance Fee/Port Tax/RoundTrip Transportation= $112
…Then it’s just a matter of how long you want to stay.
$26 dollars a night for shared cabin (includes 3 meals a day)
+$18 more per night for Private which will most certainly put you directly on the beach with ocean view.
I recommend you stay for at least 5 days. The hardest part is getting there so soak it up while you can.
My money saving TIP: Keep in mind I booked a shared cabin and received an empty cabin so depending on the time of year couples may not have to pay more for privacy. You can always change your reservation on the island (given its available) so you may be able to get by booking shared and upgrading based on the population of the shared room.
Are you a picky eater? Great, I am too. Youll is happy to hear its mostly edible. The scariest thing was a fried fish (where it looks like it jumped out of the ocean and into a deep frier). They have options for lobster as well for those of you who want to splurge.
What did I eat?
Breakfast: fried egg on Untoasted bread served with tea and coffee
Lunch: fried fish with rice and vegetables served with tea and coffee
Dinner: fish and papa fritas (french fries) served with tea and coffee
Try the cinnamon tea it’s amazing.
How will you know when it’s time to eat?
A man blows a Conch! The island is small enough you will definitely hear it!
Additional info about the Gala/Yala Kuna community
As you can see, San Blas will remain informal until the Panamanian laws are effective in the region of San Blas, and no one can force them to change their laws because they are independent, the government of Panama may require that they must respect as his first law, the Constitution of Panamá.
Mandatory Documents Requirements: DON’T FORGET YOUR ORIGINAL passport, Migration and Border Police will review all passports before arriving in San Blas and out of San Blas. Must travel with your original passport or cedula Panamanian as will go through a review of migration and border police, will review the entry stamp to our country, and no one can be illegal crossing borders to go to Colombia or arriving from Colombia (ORIGINAL passport – DO NOT ACCEPT COPIES – THERE IS NO EXCEPTION).
Drone footage: Despite the Drone footage you may see on my page. Please be advised Drone footage is strictly prohibited on the Franklin Island. I found out the hard way. The drone footage you see was taken during the brief moments I did not know about this policy. I took down my drone immediately upon learning of violation and implore those who go in the future not to mimic my behavior.
Pictures of indigenous people: There was a moment when a man was paddling his canoe down the river, I grabbed my phone to take the shot and was informed by the boat driver not to. It’s easy to forget about sensitivity and privacy (especially when you grew up in North America) however it’s always a good idea to ask permission before taking shots of people on and around this community.
Starfish: Never bring starfish above water, you can kill it this way.
Contact info to arrange San Blas Trip from Panama City
I recommend using WhatsApp as Judy is very on top of it, she responded quite promptly to my messages starting at 8:30pm. Her English is exceptional and she made Booking this trip a breeze.
Judy E Lam
USA: 1 (704) 469 – 9146
Panama: 507 395 – 7105
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