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The San Blas Islands, Panama

The San Blas Islands have quickly become one of the top undiscovered destinations of 2017 with many travelers seeking to soak up the beauty of pristine of these deserted islands. All three hundred and sixty five islands (originally named Kuna Kala) are incredibly rare spots that have only recently found itself attracting foreigners from around the world. But as beautiful as these islands are, they are extremely rural and desolate which takes a certain type of traveler to come visit. One who unafraid to break free of the chains of bustling Panama City and brave enough to explore their curiousity and take a leap outside their comfort zones. These islands allure those looking for the real “off the beaten path” experience while surrounding themselves by crystal clear waters and white sand beaches.

The people living on the San Blas islands are the native Kuna Indians. They are a small community of around 300,000 who boast extreme pride in their culture and traditions making them particularly protective of their islands and those who visit them. There are multiple ways to experience the San Blas Islands with most of your options requiring the help of tour operators. I’ll say that I'm not much of a fan of organized tours for my personal taste, but after much research and speaking with some Panamanian friends of mine- this seemed like the best way to experience the islands.

Now don’t go expecting to visit all 365 of the islands. The Kuna only select specific islands that tourists are allowed to stay on and that changes on an almost monthly basis. The reason being is that the Kuna themselves actually change where they live almost every month as well. Now that’s island hopping at it’s finest.

Once we got closer to our home for the next few days, we came upon an island that literally looked like it was straight from a scene in a movie. I could see the entire island from front to back, side to side, all from up close. Now if you are going to stay overnight on the islands like we did, prepare to be living VERY basic. I’m talking 5-6 basic beach huts, a small wooden “restaurant” where we were going to be fed while having a few actual Kuna people living there as well. The Kuna women wear beautiful garments with jewelry up and down their arms and legs. They are shy, and tend to stay out of the way of tourists- which was hard for someone like myself who loves to converse and hang out with the locals. But after being told many rules by our chief Kuna guide, I wasn’t sure what was appropriate behavior.

The next morning we were up and ready for our Kuna guide to come get us and explore other parts of the San Blas Islands. We rolled up to Isla Perro (an island most tourists will go to) and spent the day frolicking around, sunbathing and reading. Apparently everyone had gotten the memo of BYOB and food. ***This is the part where I HIGHLY suggest bringing food and drinks. We pretty much found ourselves hunting for food (we had a guy climb up a tree and chop down a coconut for us) There was a group next to us who busted out champagne and a smorgasbord and I swear we must have looked like scrawny unfed puppies in the corner because they ended up inviting us to indulge in the feast. Thank you kind strangers!!

Overall, would I recommend The San Blas Islands? Yes and no. I love pretty waters and nice beaches, but I also like a king size bed and comfy sheets. What's important to remember is that everyone has their own preferred way of traveling and experiencing things each their own!

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