Thursday, August 6, 2015

About Chichime Island in San Blas

 
 
 
 

For those who love adventure, rustic and get out of the routine and busy city life, Kuna Yala (also spelled Guna Yala); at least for us, every time we go there is just love at first sight.  Couldn’t ask for a better cultural experience to live among the Kuna, this is not for everyone but just need  to be prepared. So get out there, be flexible and enjoy.

Chichime is one of the group of islands in San Blas; it is a medium-sized island, walking around takes up to 20 min. It is less crowded as the others islands and Chichime has the most deserted beaches. It has beautiful white sand and palms trees, the water is crystal clear and the beach is just magical with calm and warm water. The snorkeling there is good and the tour offered is focused on snorkeling.

The cabañas have wooden floor and hard roof top, the shared bathrooms are 5 minutes walk away.

Private Cabins (wooden floor) – shared bathroom
  • $170.00 pp.
  • Extra night: $75.00 pp.
  • Departure Panama-City 5.30am
  • Departure Chichime 9am
  • Extra fee for afternoon check-out 3pm: $35.00 pp. (lunch and tour included)

Included           
  • Transportation from/to Panama-City (For more comfort, you can always ask for a private charter)
  • Kuna Yala Taxes
  • Boat transfer to/from the island
  • Snorkeling and sightseeing boat tour (snorkeling in the reef canal, Isla Perro and its shipwreck, the white sand walking pool)
  • Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast
Not included   
  • Water, Soda, Alcohol and snacks
  • Snorkeling equipment is sometimes available. We strongly suggest you to bring your own equipment.

Do not worry, our Kuna friends coordinate very well your pick-up at the dock with our friends from the 4x4 carriers. You might be waiting around 30 minutes at the San Blas dock to have all the logistics ready. Take a rain coat with you and/or but your belongings such as camera, mobile phone in a dry place as it can be raining or the sea can be a little rough.







Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com






 
 



Going to San Blas ? Read this article before to go!



All Paradises have their downside


Based on our own experience, we believe important to share the reality of the small postcards islands with white sand, beaches and palm trees, prior departure, for you to enjoy better your trip and know exactly how it could be.

The San Blas Islands in Panama are run by the indigenous called The Kunas. They have their own rules and Panamanian law doesn’t much exist. Their main income is the tourism and foreigners are not authorized to operate tourisms there. Meaning this, as soon as you embark on their small boats, you are in the hands of the Kunas and it will be difficult to claim back any delays, logistics problems or refunds.

The best is to stay on recommended islands with whom the agencies have confidence to work with (which is something difficult as there a lots of “pirates” agencies who do not care much about the service offered). That’s why based on our experience, we only can recommend two islands (Chichime and Diablo).
 

To explain the “low” service level sometimes offered, you must understand that San Blas is still very basic and they might be a little rude as well (It all depend on the islands). The Kuna operating there have not all studied Hospitality Management, Logistics, Gastronomy, nor Tourism. There has been a big “boom” during the past years and they have not been trained for that and some just want you to experience their lifestyle in their own comfort which is as well part of the trip.
 
About the 4×4 road transportation performed by Panamanians, you can except to be a little squeezed as 7 passengers can fit into the car. As well, you can experience some delays or the car already waiting for you because the pick-up route can change and sometimes others passengers create themselves the delays (alarm clock issues). To avoid that, you can always pay extra fee and request a private charter.
 
Be flexible! You must expect some delays, lack of communication, waiting for someone or something without knowing the cause, rustic cabanas, no fish but pasta, (Yes!, sometimes the fish season is low), fried eggs and bread for breakfast, but in the end, everything works out if you can accept the little discomfort.  Simply enjoy the adventure! And do not forget, day tour are also available!
 
San Blas have a problem with rubbish collection, so you can expect to see some of it on these islands and more during summer season because of the strong current. The main rubbish are coming from the sea, cargoes and sailing boat!
Mandatory items you must take with:
  • Always have your Passport with you and not in your bag as there are some check-point on the way.
  • The 4×4 transportation will stop on the supermarket but at in case it does not, make sure to have at least a gallon of water with you and others small snacks.
  • Towel, swimming and snorkeling equipment
  • Rain coat for the boat ride
  • Ziploc or any hermetic bags to put your valuable items in a safe place during the boat ride as everything can get wet
  • Toilet paper
  • Sun block
  • mosquito repellent (mosquitoes are not much present on the islands but at the port)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

About Diablo Island in San Blas

 
There are many "Cabanas" in San Blas, but we recommend you one Island Isla Del Diablo which is owned by our Kuna friend. It is in front of Isla del Perro (Dog Island). It is a great place for snorkeling, as there is a nice reef and a shipwreck. The island is situated at 45 minutes from the San Blas dock.

The Kunas have their own legend story about Isla Diablo. The island was named Isla Diablo because there is a friendly devil called William walking around this island at night… If you want to know the entire story you must stay there and at night, our Kuna friends will start a bonfire and tell you a bit more about William.

This island is beautiful and make you forget about everything, the water is calm and crystal clear, the beach is pristine white and the snorkeling is very good. The rich sea life and reef around the islands is very good for snorkeling and if you are a good swimmer, you can swim to the famous shipwreck in front of Isla Perro.



TOURS INFORMATION
Private Cabins – shared bathroom
  • $167.00 pp.
  • Extra night: $50.00 pp.
  • Departure Panama-City 5.30am
  • Departure Diablo 9am
  • Extra fee for afternoon check-out 3pm: $25.00 pp. (lunch included)
Dorms – shared bathroom
  • $157.00 pp.
  • Extra night: $40.00 pp.
  • Departure Panama-City 5.30am
  • Departure Diablo 9am
  • Extra fee for afternoon check-out 3pm: $25 pp. (lunch included)
Camping (tent provided) – shared bathroom
  • $152.00 pp.
  • Extra night: $35.00 pp.
  • Departure Panama-City 5.30am
  • Departure Diablo 9am
  • Extra fee for afternoon check-out 3pm: $25.00 pp. (lunch included)

Included   
  • Transportation from/to Panama-City (For more comfort, you can always ask for a private charter)
  • Kuna Yala Taxes
  • Boat transfer to/from the island
  • Snorkeling and sightseeing boat tour (Isla Fragata, Star Fish Pool and others)
  • Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast
Not included   
  • Water, Soda, Alcohol and snacks
  • Snorkeling equipment is sometimes available. We strongly suggest you to bring your own equipment


Do not worry, our Kuna friends coordinate very well your pick-up at the dock with our friends from the 4x4 carriers. You might be waiting around 30 minutes at the San Blas dock to have all the logistics ready. Take a rain coat with you and/or but your belongings such as camera, mobile phone in a dry place as it can be raining or the sea can be a little rough.




Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com


























Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fishing in Panama Canal and sightseeing ?


On the Panama Canal your experience begin with Miguel, he was born, raised and still living in a fisherman and farmers little town in La Chorrera. With a big smile on his face he remembers when he was little and how he used to play and swim at the shores of the Lake Gatun; with no clothes.
 
When he was younger, he worked as a fisherman on his spare time so he could pay his studies and helped his family. Graduated from the university, he started to work for a private company, unfortunately he lost his job in 2006 and then decided to take the risk and  buy a little boat to open a new business.
 
Nowadays, Miguel is a grown up man, he is a field tester for Rappala and is certified by the ACP ( Autoridad del Canal  de Panama ) for security and transportation of people and tourism in the area of Gamboa and Lake Gatun, he perfectly knows the flora and fauna in the area.
 
He remembers with joy and sacrifice how difficult was on the early days and his purpose now, is to teach to the new generation his passion and offer his personal service to visitors and tourist of what he knows best… Lake Gatun!
 
Tours available:

 
  • Monkeys Island:
    • $205.00 (1-3 persons)
    • Duration (without transportation): 2 hours
    • Departure Panama-City 8 am (45 min)

  • Embera Tribe
    • $160.00 (1-3 persons)
    • Duration (without transportation): 1.30 hours
    • Departure Panama-City 8 am (45 min)

  • Fishing
    • $355.00 (1-3 persons)
    • Duration (without transportation): 4 hours
    • Departure Panama-City 6.30am (45 min)

  • Combine your trip!
    • Fishing, Monkey Island and Leisure at La Represa village-restaurant
      • $360.00 (1-3 persons)
      • Duration (without transportation): 5 hours
      • Departure Panama-City 6.30am (45 min)
    • Emberas tribe, Monkey Islands and Leisure at La Represa village-restaurant
      • $340.00 (1-3 persons)
      • Duration (without transportation): 6 hours
      • Departure Panama-City 8 am (45 min)
    • Emberas tribe and Monkey Islands Tour
      • $295.00 (1-3 persons)
      • Duration (without transportation): 4 hours
      • Departure Panama-City 8 am (45 min)
Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com






 





Sunday, May 31, 2015

Embera Village Tribe community tour






Many years ago the Embera which means people, were known as the Chocoes. They’re not generally known to be widely seen in the City as you might see the Kunas, because they have lived deep in the forests of El Darien.

Tourism is important for them who have decided to keep their culture by giving tours in some small communities around Panama City as their way of living.  Music, dancing, talks, handicrafts are some of the thing that you will experience.

Enjoy the ride, it is a window into their lives, culture and way of living.

TOUR INFORMATION
Emberas tribe Tour
  • $160.00 (1-3 persons)
  • $190.00 (4 persons)
  • Duration (without transportation): 1.30 hours
  • Departure Panama-City 8 am (45 min)
  • *if you are more than 4 persons, please ask for a quotation  

Included
  • Transportation from/to Panama-city
  • cooler with ice provided
  • sodas and beers for sale if requested in advance

 
Contact us for more information:  secretofpanama@gmail.com









 

  
 

Isla Iguana in Pedasi - beach, snorkelling, whales watching and fishing with our friend Eytbar





Relax, friendly, scenic, cultural, loving, warm and chilling describe easily Pedasi. 

Pedasi is a district of the province of Los Santos in Panama, it is an easy going town with many activities to offer such as snorkeling, fishing, surfing, nature and folklore.

It is the home to the first female President of Panama, Mireya Moscoso (1999 to 2004) and her private airport has been develop into a public one with 3 weekly flights (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) of around 40 minutes. Otherwise, if you would like to drive it is a 4  to 5 hours drive from Panama City, you can also take a bus from Albrook at Panama City  (Terminal de Buses de Albrook) to either Chitre or Las Tablas, then need to take a connection bus up to Pedasi. Easy!

All the tours we are promoting will be experienced with our friend and captain Eytbar who is a very cool and energetic young man. He loves to share his life experiences and interests (fishing, surfing, nature) with everyone. When he was a young boy, he used to go Playa Arenal waiting for his dad to take him out fishing and observing the whales with always the objective to learn from his dad and educate future generations.

Today he owns his own boat “lancha” and has almost 8 years dedicated to the tourism in Pedasi, bring clients to Isla Iguana, fishing, surfing and whales watching. He is also a member of an environmental association in the Pedasi area. He is as well a member of a foundation for childrens with leukemia and cancer. Peace.

Please contact us to coordinate your trip with Eytbar. Secretsofpanama@gmail.com 

 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Is there any Day Tour to San Blas available ?

 
 
 
Day tours are now available as the new road allow to arrive in San Blas in 2.5hours vs. in 5hours some years ago.

It can be a good alternative if you do not have the time to stay over night or if you wish to keep the comfort of your hotel room in the City :-)

We suggest you to avoid weekend or national days off in Panama. The San Blas day tour starts with transportation from Panama City to Carti with a shared 4×4 leaving between 5am and 5.30am. They can take up to 7 passengers and you might be a little squeeze.

The journey to Carti on the San Blas island mainland is around 2-3 hours through the rainforest. In Carti you will be picked up by our Kuna Friend who will take you to Isla Diablo where you will have the time to go snorkelling, have lunch before to go for a two hours tour around the others islands. The day tours of the islands will finish around 3-4pm and you will be transported back to Carti Port and meet with the 4×4 transport back to Panama City, you will arrive back in Panama City between 6 and 7pm normally.

Day Tour Price:  USD130.00 per/person (all included, incl. taxes) to be paid to the transport company. Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com


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Saturday, May 9, 2015

How to get to San Blas (Guna Yala)




You have 3 options! Plane, boat and by Car:

 1) By car, we do not recommend you to go there with a rental car as you will have to pay more taxes (5 dollars to enter into Guna Yala + USD 5 the night) and your car will stay overnights at your own expense but we have posted a map on how to get there with your own transportation.

The road to San Blas through the densely forested jungle highlands of Panama is operated by licensed 4×4 transporters.  Our friends are the pionners of the road to San Blas since decades, they leave Panama City daily between 5am and 5.30am or at noon. The drive is approx 2.5-3hrs, depending on road and weather conditions.

The 4×4 transporters can hold up to 7 passengers, it can be a little squeeze. It is recommended to take only small bag with you for your stay and leave your main luggage at your hotel (if possible). For they way back, they will pick you up at the port between 9am and 10am or in the afternoon around 4pm. They are always in touch with our Kuna friends to coordinate your arrival, don't worry, just be patient sometimes.

Both way: USD 60 Kuna Yala entry taxes: USD 20 (as from Jan1st 2015),Kuna Yala Port taxes: USD 2.00 If you do not want to share the taxi with 7 people and would like more space, they also offer private charter for USD 400.00 (both ways)

 2)By plane, you better take the plane if you want to go to the south of the San Blas Islands. Check Airpanama.

 3)By boat, (transport and sailing boat) are passing through the San Blas Islands. You can take them from Colon (Panama) or Cartagena (Colombia). There also some "lanchas" going from Miramar (Panama) to San Blas. As we have not experienced it and listen more bad stories than good stories, we cannot recommend you this mode of transportation. 

Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com



 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sailing in Panama





We had the opportunity to visit, inspect and travel on this beautiful all-wood design sailboat which can accommodate up to 30 persons, the boat has 4 private cabins, all equipped with private bathroom and shower and air conditioning. It also has a large salon and a sun deck. Quality & Security are in all crew members mindset.
 
We have experienced the Partial Panama-Canal transit which was an amazing and spectacular experience even being local and living in Panama! The partial crossing of the canal on this “lady” is a unique experience. Pictures don’t do it justice.  
 
They also offer the following tours:
 
Day tour to Taboga Island: Upon arrival at the beach on Taboga Island, they will anchor and you can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, swimming and jumping off the boat.  Taboga Island is an amazing place with a varied history.
 
Evening tour: A typical evening charter will depart the marina and sail around the spectacular Bay of Panama.  From their magical viewpoint you will be able to see the lights and skyline of our vibrant city – but this viewpoint is like no other in Panama!
 
Overnight tour to Las Perlas or others: This tour only allow 8 passengers, the perfect trip for couples, family or good friends.
 
Do not hesitate to contact us  secretsofpanama@gmail.com
with your wish list and we will contact the Captain for a quotation



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

SAN BLAS - Isla del Diablo with our friends - VIDEO!

Our friend Pascal who visited us in January posted our San Blas trip on Youtube. This is the island we highly recommend to travellers. Secretsofpanama@gmail.com 

Monday, February 16, 2015

How look the cabanas in San Blas ?



We took the opportunity during our September 2014 trip in Isla del Diablo to take picture of the cabins as many of you are asking us about what to expect ?

Again, all cabins are very basics in San Blas and you must be flexible!. Herewith the picture of the cabanas inside/outside and the bathrooms.

Cheers! Secretsofpanama@gmail.com 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Recommendation about an exclusive mountain place ? Yes, we do and love it! Altos del Maria 1.5 hours from the city




We have decided to publish our secret place, Altos del Maria.

Altos del Maria is a private residential community between 500 and 1000 meters above sea level and just 1.5 hours from Panama City and 30 minutes from the beach.

For us, staying in Altos del Maria over our weekends is an escape, fresh air, beautiful natures, trails, canopy towers, lakes, it is like living in a national park and better than any others mountain places we have visited so far (El Valle, Boquete, Cerro Punta). They have done great job in creating easy access to over 10 nature trails (including one along the river) over 1.6 miles in length, more than 12 look-out points where you can see the Caribbean and the Pacific Oceans, 3 bird watching towers and an artificial lake has been built at 900 meters above sea level with more than 20,000 fish stocked to attract eagles and other species of birds. Statistically, over 30% of the 944 species of birds in the country have been spotted in Altos del Maria. For this reason, a large handful of serious bird watchers have made of Altos del Maria their permanent home. But still... travelers can get there (you will need to rent a car) and we can recommend you some cabins through our expat friends living there. The night costs between 65 - 150 dollars for a small house or cabins (for 1 to 4 people) + 25 dollars cleaning fee for your stay. We usually spend two night there and sometimes we also take the opportunity to go to the beach and return to sleep in the mountains. There is as well a private paved road which goes to El Valle to enjoy the Sunday's market.

We definitely highly recommend Altos del Maria. Please contact us for any booking with our friends living there. Herewith some pictures of Altos and small houses for rent. By the way, the featuring houses are for sale as well! secretsofpanama@gmail.com