How to Visit the San Blas Islands (Even on a Budget)

by | Jun 5, 2023 | Panama, Travel

Are you in the middle of planning a trip to Panama?

Thinking about visiting the San Blas Islands but frustrated by the lack of info on how to get to the islands?

In this blog post, I’m going to help you plan your trip to one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL and IDYLLIC places on the planet—the San Blas Islands of Panama.  

I personally found looking for the most up-to-date and complete information about the islands to be very difficult. It also wasn’t clear how I could book my stay and which islands were the best ones to stay on. Soooooo in this San Blas travel guide, I’ll tell you how I booked my island, how I spent my 3 days on the islands, and whether they were worth the hype.

So let’s get started.

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About the San Blas Islands?

map of Panama

So let’s start with some San Blas basics: what are they and where are they?

The San Blas Islands are a group of 378 tropical islands (49 are inhabited) located off the northern coast of Panama in the Guna Yala autonomous province.

San Blas is actually the old name of the islands. They are now officially called Guna Yala, meaning Land of the Guna. The region or province is actually controlled by the Guna Yala indigenous people. Sometimes you’ll see Guna written as Kuna. However, most Panamanians and foreign travelers still call the islands, San Blas.

Who are the Guna Yala?

The Guna were originally living in Colombia when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. Spain pushed them out of the area, so they moved to Darien province. Eventually, in the 1800s they migrated to where they live today: the islands and coast of Guna Yala province.  

The Guna Yala people control the San Blas Islands with little interference from the federal government. They tightly control who can get to the islands and where you can stay. This makes getting to the islands and staying on them rather complicated.

According to my tour guide, each island is owned by one family. The families cannot sell their island to anyone, including other Guna families but especially outsiders. He said that about 30 of the islands have hotels on them.

What makes the islands so special?

a small island with a few palm trees

I’ve been to a lot of islands in my travels, and I can say that the islands of the San Blas are the best ones I’ve visited. They truly are special. They’re what I imagine a poor traveler’s version of the Maldives to be like minus the posh resorts.  

  • The islands are absolutely breathtaking. Truly they are paradise. I’ve always dreamed of staying in the Maldives. I feel like maybe the San Blas are a bit like that—tiny uncrowded islands in the middle of nowhere lined with pristine white sandy beaches and surrounded by some of the bluest water one has ever seen.
  • The Guna Yala people control the tourism industry on the islands. They have not sold out to large international resort companies or wealthy gringos. They build the lodging and they ferry people back and forth between the mainland and the islands. It’s refreshing knowing that the money you spend on the islands goes to the Guna people.

Check out my 2023 Panama Travel Guide for more tips, tricks, ideas, and inspiration for visiting this beautiful and diverse country. You’ll find travel articles to help you explore the history, culture, food, and natural beauty of Panama.

best time to Visit San Blas

January to April is the best time to visit the San Blas Islands as this is when the archipelago gets its lowest amount of rainfall.

I went in April, and we had one night of heavy rain. The days were hot but not unbearably hot and the nights were cool and windy.

The rainiest months are from May to November, with December getting a bit less. However, you’ll most likely only get one or two hours of showers a day and then the sun comes out.

How to Visit the San Blas Islands?

a sailboat next to two islands in Cayo Holandeses

As of May 2023, you have five ways to see the islands:

  1. Travel by boat between Panama and Colombia. It’ll usually take you five days at cost you between US$500 – $600. You’ll stop off on around four islands, where you’ll stay along the way. There are several companies that do these boat rides.
  2. Stay on a sailboat and sail around the islands. This is the most expensive and costs are usually around US$1800 a day.  However, has a boat that’s US$540 a day.
  3. Stay overnight on one of the islands. You have several islands to choose from and you can always visit other islands on day trips. Costs range from US$60/night to US$150/night.
  4. Do an Island-Hopping Tour. You can stay on a different island each night. Here are 2 tours with good reviews: 3-Day San Blas Island Hopping Tour OR 4-Day San Blas Island Hopping Tour
  5. Do a day trip to the islands. Day trips take you to 2 islands. Expect to pay around US$130. Try this day trip to the island from the Netflix show, Money Heist

Originally, I wanted to do a sailing trip around the islands, but the prices were expensive for me. A lot of blogs are out-of-date and they are no longer US$150 – $250 a day. The cheapest was $200 a day but I also saw websites that advertised US$1,800 a day even. However, ALL of the reviews I read RAVED about how amazing their sailing experience was. So if you can afford it, go for it!

So I ended up doing #3 and I’m glad I did because I had a wonderful experience. I stayed 3 nights on one island (Yani Island) and visited the Holandeses Keys on a day trip.

How Long Should You Stay in San Blas?

turquoise blue water next to an island

I think 3 nights is PERFECT. I felt that length of time was suitable for me.

Some people might be bored with 3 nights. But I think if you enjoy lying in a hammock and reading a book, 3 nights is not too long. If you don’t, then you might want to consider 2 nights.

Plus you can fill your day with tours to other islands.

If you do just 1 night, try to arrange beforehand for a tour to another island on your way back to the mainland.

What are the Best Islands in San Blas?

These are the highest-rated places to stay in the San Blas Islands. All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) are usually included in the price. BUT double-check before booking.

None of these prices are super cheap. But be warned that even though you’re paying $86 or $208 a night, your room is going to be basic. I mean REALLY basic. And you’re going to be sharing a toilet with all the other guests.

What you’re REALLY paying for is the island itself.

Oh, and 3 meals a day are usually included in the price. So consider that, too!

IslandsLowest Price/NightRatingBook Your Stay
Isla ChicoUS$558.8 (62 Reviews) – very popular
Isla PerroUS$65No – nice beach
(but lots of day trippers)
Isla DiabloUS$69No – nice beach
(but lots of day trippers)
Isla IguanaUS$859.0 (2 Reviews) – nice beach
Isla YaniUS$868.7 (27 Reviews) – nice beach
Isla WailidupUS$1878.3 (3 Reviews)
Isla Naranjo ChicoUS$2088.8 (70 Reviews)

How to Do a Sailing Tour of San Blas?

If you’d like to sail around the islands, here are some highly-rated sailing trips. These sailing vessels take you to different islands around San Blas.

BoatLowest Price/NightRatingsBook Your Stay
Private Sailing YachtUS$5069.9 (13 Reviews)
San Blas Sailing ExperienceUS$20010.0 (1 Review)
Sailboat AnemoiUS$700No Rating
2-Day Sailboat TourUS$860 for 2 nightsNo Rating YetGet Your Guide

How to Book Your Stay in San Blas?

people standing on a beach

Booking your stay in the San Blas is not as easy as booking a hotel room in Panama City or pretty much anywhere in the world. It’s hard for a number of reasons:

  1. You need to book your lodging BEFORE you arrive at the port (Puerto de Carti). You can’t just show up and expect to find a place to stay.
  2. There’s no central website listing all the islands and all the lodgings available. You have to collect information by visiting several websites.
  3. Some islands have more than one name. Yani Island (where I stayed) is called Waisalatupo on and on Google Maps it’s called Yansailadup.
  4. There’s not much information on each island, so you’re not sure what you’re getting. Will there be beaches? Is the water around the island shallow or deep? What’s on the island?

How did I book my stay for San Blas?

people standing in water near beach

I booked my stay through and I’m really glad I did for a number of reasons:

  • has reviews written by guests. These guest reviews helped me know which islands were the best ones to stay on.
  • If I wasn’t satisfied I could write my own review or I could contact And if I was satisfied with my stay. I could then write my own positive review.
  • has 26 listings for the San Blas Islands—more than any other website.

The downside to reserving my lodgings on is that their descriptions of the places to stay lacked so much detail that it was hard to know what you were getting. I had to rely more on people’s reviews than on anything else or I had to use other sources like Google Maps to make sure that the photos were real.

How far in advance should you book your stay?

San Blas Island

I booked a place to stay about 2 weeks in advance for a stay on April 11-14. Some of the islands were already booked up but there were still enough available to choose from.

However, I knew someone who booked the day before even. It was with one of the lower-rated places on but they said they were happy with their experience.

During the high season, you probably want to book at least a month in advance to get a wider selection of places to stay.

Which island did I stay on in San Blas?

Yani Island in San Blas Islands

I stayed on Yani Island. It’s listed on as “Private Room in San Blas Islands Plus Meals” on Waisalatupo Island. Horrible description, but they were all pretty much like that on

So why did I book this place:

  • It had a rating of 8.7 (26 reviews), which was better than most places that still had vacancies. The reviews were overall positive. No one complained about dirty sheets or bathrooms, lack of food, or rude staff.
  • The photos were stunningly beautiful. To verify that they were true, I also checked the photos and reviews on Google Maps.
  • The rooms were basic but they seemed to be built better than other accommodations on other islands. The rooms on Yani had wood floors. Some listings showed photos of rooms with sand floors and flimsy walls.
  • There were lots of hammocks around the island. I had read one listing that said there were no hammocks or places to sit during the day and another saying that you had to pay to rent a hammock. Some places had no pics of hammocks, just plastic chairs.
  • The price was in the middle (US$86/night)—not the cheapest but also not the most expensive.

How do you pay for your accommodation?

a wooden walkway leading to a red cabin over the water on Isla Yani in San Blas

When you book a place to stay on, you usually pay when you arrive at the lodgings. The downside is that a lot of places in Panama don’t accept credit cards or accept them with a hefty service fee of 3% to 10%.

Sometimes the hotel will contact you asking you to pay ahead of time via PayPal or credit card or bank transfer. That’s what happened to me when booking my place to stay in San Blas.

Pay for San Blas in advance

A travel agency called Tao Travel 365 contacted me via messaging service and told me that I needed to pay for San Blas within 48 hours or my booking would be canceled. Oh and they asked me whether I could change my dates from April 10 to April 11 because Yani Island was booked on the dates that I wanted.

Pay by credit card

Generally, if a hotel did that to me anywhere else, I would tell them to go jump in the lake. But I really wanted to visit the San Blas Islands, so I did what they asked. Plus! I liked that I didn’t have to worry about bringing cash to the islands and paying there. Paying at the island is what everyone else who booked with a travel agency did. Instead, I could just use my credit card.

Tao Travel 365’s website looked legit as well.

In order to pay, I had to send the agency a scanned copy of my passport to prove it was me booking the place and then they sent me a payment link, which was through the very safe Stripe.

Book optional tours ahead of time

Tao Travel 365 also offered an optional tour to another island on the last day for US$20, but I had to inform them that I wanted to do the tour before my stay. I, unfortunately, didn’t read that part carefully enough, thinking that I could decide when I got to the island if I wanted to do the extra tour. Not possible. You need to arrange this kind of tour before you arrive on the islands because departure times are set ahead of time.

What to Pack for San Blas?

Ok. You’re probably wondering what to pack for San Blas. Here’s a list of things that I think you absolutely need for 3 days in paradise. I haven’t included the usual toothbrush and toothpaste. Those are a given.

  • Beach Towel – you may not be given one
  • Swimsuit – of course
  • Flashlight – no electricity in the rooms and between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm
  • Phone – for photos
  • Phone charger – you can charge your phone
  • Power bank – gives you additional battery life on your phone and Kindle
  • Kindle or something to read – a lot of downtime on the island
  • Clothes for hot weather and the beach – of course
  • Wrap or Rip-skirt to quickly put on when going from the beach to lunch
  • Fleece or something warm to wear at night – it was quite cold and windy in the evenings
  • Insect repellant – not many mosquitoes but there are sand flies and some other fly that I couldn’t identify.
  • Chapstick – the salt and wind chaps your lips and cracks them and can cause them to bleed – Mine bled for at least a week after visiting the islands
  • Aloe Vera gel – good for sunburn
  • Sunscreen – it’s the tropics so it’s gonna be hot and sunny
  • Sandals or flip flops – of course
  • Snorkel gear – my island had snorkeling gear for rent
  • Water shoes – always good to have but in general the beaches and sand on the bottom of the ocean are not rocky
  • Water bottle – you’ll need it to keep yourself hydrated
  • Cash (not big bills) for buying drinks and tipping if you want
  • 1 – 2 jugs of water – for drinking, brushing teeth, and washing your face
  • Water bag – keep valuables in bag to keep dry when taking the boat to and from the island
  • A little bag to carry your things as you walked around the island – I kept on leaving my sunscreen or water bottle around the island as I walked from a hammock to the beach.
  • Passport – you must have it to enter Guna Yala province
  • Open mind – you won’t be staying in a 5-star resort. Accommodations are REAL basic.  

Don’t want to stay overnight in San Blas? Check out this day tour through Get Your Guide! Get Your Guide is a fabulous online travel agency with AMAZING customer service. If you have problems with your tour, you can easily contact them immediately!

How to Get to San Blas?

a speed boat next to a sandbar in the San Blas Islands

You can only get to San Blas from Panama City. If you’re coming from Boquete or Bocas del Toro, you’ll need to go through Panama City.

The BEST way to get from Panama City to San Blas is with private transport arranged ahead of time with your lodgings in San Blas or through a travel agency.

Step #1: Book Your Transport to San Blas

Tao Travel 365 arranged my transport for me. I had to pay them US$55 for transportation from Panama City to the port (Puerto de Carti) and on my last day back to my hotel in Panama City.

In addition, I had to pay US$50 for the boat from Puerto de Carti to Yani Island and back again on the day of departure.

Total: US$105. THAT is not cheap! All paid ahead of time by credit card.

Two days before my trip to San Blas, Tao Travel 365 sent me a WhatsApp message with my pickup time:  4:55 am. This time is typical for transport from Panama City.

Step #2: Departure from Panama City

At exactly 4:55 am, my driver texted me via WhatsApp that he was waiting for me outside of my fabulous hotel, Panama House Bed and Breakfast.  

After picking up 2 couples (a total of 5 passengers), we headed out of the city. Both couples were going to different islands.

Step #3: Rest Stop

I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until we arrived at a convenience store in El Llano. THIS is the last stop to fill up with gas, get coffee and food, buy drinks and snacks to bring with you, and use the toilet before you get to the islands. It was full of foreign travelers also on their way to or from San Blas. It was around 7:30 am.

The convenience store also marks the point where you get off the highway and you start your journey on a very bumpy road. THAT’S why you need a four-wheel drive vehicle.

However, on our way to the port, the road was under construction so I have a feeling that by the time you get to the San Blas Islands, the road will be much smoother.

Step #4: Pay the entrance fee

On the way to the port, we stopped at a checkpoint to pay US$20 cash for the entrance fee to the Guna Yala autonomous province. I believe it is now US$22.

They also checked our passports.

Step #5: Arrive at the Port

people waiting to take the boat to an island in San Blas

We eventually arrived at the port at around 8:30 am. We each had to pay US$2 for an “island fee.” I believe the fee is now US$3.

The manager of my hotel on Yani Island was there to meet his guests. He checked off my name from a list of guests. He wasn’t the friendliest guy—he didn’t bother to introduce himself even. I only found out he was the manager after we got to the island. THIS lack of good customer service is pretty typical in not just San Blas but also all over Panama.

Make sure you have insect repellent with you. The mosquitoes around the port are pretty bad.

Step #6: Take a Boat to the Islands

4 people sitting in a boat on the way to Yani Island in San Blas

Then at around 9:00 or 9:30 am those of us going to Yani Island got into a small speed boat. No worries—you don’t need to step in the water to get to the boat.

The first part of the ride was a bit rough but after a while, the water smoothed out and it was a pleasant ride passing by tiny island after tiny island. I didn’t get splashed on once, but I did hear from others that they got wet returning from the island that same day.

It was a 45-minute boat ride to Yani Island.

Step #7: Arrive on Yani Island

Yani Island in the San Blas Islands

My first impression of seeing Yani Island from the boat was that I had hit the jackpot! The water around the island was some of the bluest water I’d ever seen in my life. And the island looked like a small idyllic postage stamp from the boat.

After we arrived at the island (there’s a dock so no wet landing!), we checked in and went to our rooms. This was when those who hadn’t paid for their stay or one-day tour, paid in cash. So glad I had already paid.

You might be interested in…

Looking for something to read during your stay in San Blas? Here are some great books set in Panama:

What’s Yani Island Like?

two people walking along a dock to Yani Island in San Blas

The moment I got on the island, I was further convinced that I had hit the jackpot. Maybe I’m someone who is easily satisfied, but I really thought this was paradise.

The island is flat and covered in trees. Lots of coconut trees so you’ve got to be careful to not sit under any.

Yani Island is ringed by beaches and shallow water that looks like it came from your bathtub. The one negative is that the water is pretty shallow around the island. Except for one spot, you have to go out pretty far to get deep water to swim.

a hammock on a beach on Yani Island in San Blas

The photos did not lie. There were indeed hammocks EVERYWHERE! Enough so that when you want one, you can find at least one available.

In addition, to the hammocks, I found lots of places to lie down on the beach under a tree to get some shade AND far from the other guests to give you privacy and right by the ocean making it easy to go for a swim..

There were also a couple of hard wooden lounge chairs that I found too uncomfortable to lie down on.

The coolest thing was the swing sitting in the water—great for photos!

Is there a lot of noise on the island?

The other thing that stood out for me was how absolutely quiet it was. Except for the waves from the ocean, there were no other sounds–no barking dogs, drilling, pounding, yelling, screaming, etc.

Were there lots of people on the island?

lounge chairs on a beach and a swing in the water

I had heard that some islands are overrun with day trippers so it’s hard to find a spot to relax.

That was not what I experienced on Yani Island.

During my stay, there were around 20 overnight guests, 5 day trippers, and less than 10 locals who worked or lived on the island. A local family lived on the island, but I only really saw them when I bought coconuts from them.

Is there a lot of trash on the island?

a surfboard leaning against a tree

I had also heard that the islands weren’t very clean—trash everywhere.

Well, Yani Island was NOT like that at all. I NEVER saw any trash on the ground.

Is there electricity on the Island?

There’s a generator that comes on at 6:00 pm and runs until 6:00 am.

In the restaurant, there are plenty of power strips for guests to recharge their phones and other electronics. Just make sure the power strip is turned on. I thought my phone was recharging but it turned out the power strip was off.

I recommend bringing a power bank with you as another way to ensure you always have a charged phone.

Is there internet on the island?

Nope. There wasn’t WiFi on the island during my stay.

I can’t tell you, though, whether you can get a signal from your mobile network. My SIM card had run out of data.

Is there fresh water on the island?

No, there isn’t fresh water. You’ve got to bring your own or buy it from the island.

I used one gallon jug during my stay.

What are the Rooms Like on Yani Island?

There are 4 types of rooms at Isla Yani.

  • Dormitory
  • Private Room
  • Private Beach Cabin
  • Private Cabin Over the Water

Private Cabins Over the Water

3 cabins over the water on Yani Island in San Blas

There are 3-4 basic cabins over the water.

Private rooms and dorm

a long one-story building surrounded by palm trees

 The private rooms and dorm are in one building (above photo).

Private rooms

My room was simple but clean. The floor was wood like I expected. There was a double bed with clean sheets. A blue table beside the bed provided a place to store/place my backpack. There were lots of hooks to hang my stuff.

a bed in a room at Yani Island in San Blas
an open door inside a room looking outside

Are there mosquito nets?

There was a mosquito net, but I never used it. I never saw any mosquitoes during my stay. However, there was some kind of bug that came out at night and bit me on the legs, so I think it’s a good idea to at least put on mosquito spray in the evening.

Is there lots of privacy?

Even though it was my own private room, it was not completely private. The walls did not go all the way to the ceiling. They stopped several feet from the top to allow fresh air to circulate. But this big gap also took away from your privacy, so you could theoretically hear what people were doing in the other rooms. I never heard anything, though.

The door to my room did not lock.

Is there electricity in the rooms?

During my stay, there was electricity running on a generator from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am. However, there was NO electricity in my room.

Bring a flashlight!

Overall, it was better than I expected. I knew my room would be simple and bare. That’s what I got. All I asked for was that it would be clean and not too many bugs. That’s also what I got. Never saw a single bug in my room. Just geckos.

You might be interested in these travel guides…

What are the Bathrooms Like?

bathrooms next to a water tank

There were two bathrooms far away from where everyone slept.

The toilets were basic sit-down ones. Still very clean and there was always toilet paper available.

There were two sinks with soap and hand sanitizer.

We had only one night when there was no water to flush the toilets or wash your hands.

The only thing I didn’t like was the showers. There was one outdoor shower and one shower with a door that didn’t really lock so it was very easy for someone to open it while one’s taking a shower. The showers were also not very clean and there was nowhere to hang your clothes or put your soap.

Be aware that there’s no freshwater on the island so you’ll be taking a saltwater shower and washing your face and hands with salt water. The lack of fresh water to bathe is probably the main reason that I didn’t want to stay longer than three nights.

I would recommend washing your face with water from the freshwater you brought with you. Of course, don’t brush your teeth with the salt water.

What’s the Food Like on Yani Island?

a surfboard leaning against a palm tree in front of a restaurant on Yani Island while visiting the San Blas Islands

We had set meal times. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:30; lunch from 11:30 – 12:30; and dinner from 6:45 to 7:30. Unfortunately, meals did not always start on time.

Food was basic Panamanian food. Still pretty good.

Breakfast was huge—scrambled eggs and pancakes. Coffee was ok.

a plate of fish, rice and a salad for dinner on Yani Island in San Blas
a plate of chicken, boiled potatoes, and a salad of tomato and cucumber slices

We got fish for lunch and chicken for dinner or vice versa.  

Basically, the food was enough to fill me up. I never needed to snack between meals.

The island sold cold drinks: beer (Balboa for US$2 and Corona for US$4), soda (US$2), water, and fresh coconuts (US$2). I don’t remember what else they sold. And yes the drinks were very cold!

Buy the coconuts from the island. I know US$2 is a bit expensive for coconuts. But after you finish drinking the coconut water, ask to have your coconut chopped up so that you can eat the actual coconut meat (the white part of the coconut).

I had bought two huge gallon jugs of water in Panama City before my trip, so I never needed to buy any at the island. Only used one jug.

What Can You Do on Yani Island?

a man walking through shallow water on Yani Island in the San Blas

I was NEVER bored on Yani Island. That’s probably because I’m a bookworm and I can spend a whole day reading and never get bored. As long as I was able to recharge my e-reader, then I was happy.

But reading is not the only thing to do on the island.

  • Paddleboarding
  • Kayaking
  • Playing volleyball
  • Swimming
  • Snorkeling
  • Doing tours to other islands

You might be interested in…

You’ll have a lot of downtime in San Blas, so why not pick up some books on Panama? Here’s a list of my favorite non-fiction books on Panama:

What Tours Can You Take to Other Islands?

a sandbar in the middle of the ocean in Cayos Holandeses
A sandbar in Cayos Holandeses

My biggest complaint about Yani Island was that they didn’t let people know which tours they were doing on which days.

You had to ask and if you didn’t, you never would have known.

These are common island tours:

  • Isla Pero (Dog Island) – sunken ship and natural pool – $20
  • Isla Diablo – $20
  • Islas Holandeses – beautiful blue waters, even more remote than other islands – $40
  • Pelicano Island – Money Heist Island

On day 1, they did a tour to Isla Pero. This is the island with the sunken ship in front of it and the natural spring. The manager of Yani Island said I could do that tour for free. But I chose to stay on the island, thinking I could go on another day. Nope. They do a different tour each day, and on some days they don’t do any tours.

On day 2, I found out that they were going to Islas Holandeses (also called Cayos Holandeses). These islands are supposed to be the most beautiful ones in San Blas. The colors of the water are supposed to be different shades of blue. They’re also the farthest away from the port.

It cost me US$40 to go to these islands, which is more expensive than the other tours (US$20).

The other people on my tour said that the islands in Cayos Hollandeses were ten times better than Isla Pero.

Day Tour to Cayos Holandeses

a view of Turtle Island in Cayos Holandeses from the water
Turtle Island in Cayos Holandeses

Holandes Keys (Cayo Holandes) are the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been to. They’re a group of islands in the eastern part of the San Blas Archipelago. It took about 45 minutes over very rough waters to get to the islands.

What makes it so special is the water’s multiple shades of beautiful blue, its remoteness, the beautiful sandbars, and the many uninhabited islands.

We stopped at three places:

  • A sandbar in the middle of the ocean. We got out of the boat and walked across the ocean (a block) through shallow water to find some baby stingrays.
  • Another sandbar –  you can snorkel off of it to the healthiest coral reef I’ve ever seen
  • Turtle Island – A beautiful island with only one guy selling drinks. No lodgings on the island and no one really living or staying on the island.

Want to do an island-hopping tour instead? Check out these 2 tours through Get Your Guide:

How to Get Back to Panama City?

a view from the beach of the dock on Yani Island in San Blas

After 3 nights on the island, I felt like I had had enough. Paradise was great but the problem was not bathing with fresh water. My skin and hair never felt 100% clean. I never saw a mirror on the island so I never know what I looked like.

Plus there’s no internet connection on the islands.

Before you arrive on the island, your departure time is already arranged. Mine was set for 8:00 am. Make sure you’ve confirmed this with whoever you booked your tour with. Another couple who left at the same time as I did had some trouble. Their agency sent them a time of 8:00 am, but the people on Yani Island thought they weren’t leaving until the afternoon, so they didn’t tell them about the boat departing at 8:00. The people on Yani were wrong. So double-check and confirm with the people on Yani about your departure time.

The boat ride back to the mainland was for the most part pretty smooth.

We arrived on the mainland and had to wait for about 30 minutes for a 4×4 vehicle to pick us up. By the time I got to my hotel/hostel in Panama City, it was around 1:00 pm.

Hey! Want to do an island-hopping tour instead? Check out these 2 tours through Get Your Guide: 3-Day Island Hopping Tour AND 4-Day Island Hopping Tour. You can definitely rely on Get Your Guide. If you have any problems with your tour, from my personal experience using them many times you can easily and quickly contact them.  

Final Thoughts

the feet of a person lying in a hammock as the sunsets over the ocean

Are the San Blas Islands worth it?

Yes, most definitely. I’ve traveled all over Central America, and San Blas has the best beaches and the best island experience.

Probably the BEST place I visited during my 2 months of living and traveling in Panama.

Try to stay overnight rather than do just a day tour, even if it’s for just one night. Everyone I talked to who did a day tour to Yani island said that they wish they had stayed overnight.

Bocas del Terro versus San Blas Islands?

Definitely San Blas. Bocas is fabulous but San Blas is special.

If you want to visit San Blas, you can book your island herePanam AND if you want to stay on Yani Island, book here.

PRO TIP: No one likes to think about insurance, but accidents do happen. I highly recommend getting travel insurance. During my travels over the past 2 years, I’ve been using SafetyWing for my insurance. They’re very affordable for all ages, and digital nomads can use their insurance long-term.

Are you on Pinterest?

Hey! How about saving one of these pins to Pinterest to read for later?

And feel free to follow me on Pinterest, where you’ll find lots of travel articles for everywhere around the world.

San Blas Islands Travel Guide Pin
How to Visit the San Blas Islands Pin


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About the Bamboo Traveler

The Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.

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