Monday, April 6, 2015

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


All paradises have their downside.  Based on traveler feedback and our own experience, we believe important to share with you the reality of the small postcards islands with white sand beaches and palm trees to enjoy better your trip if you know prior departure exactly how it looks like.

The San Blas are run by the indigenous called Kuna Indians. 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. It means that as soon as you embark on their small boat after the 4x4 transportation or your flight landed, you are in the hands of the Kuna and it will be difficult to claim back your agency 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 which do not care much about the service offered). That is why we, based on our experience and feedback from others travelers, only can recommend Diablo Islands. You will deal directly with the 4x4 transport company and Kuna that we trust and offer good quality service.

To explain the “low” service level sometimes offered, you must understand that San Blas is still very basic and 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 live their lifestyle in their own comfort which is as well part of the trip. 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, etc… but in the end, everything works out if you can accept the little discomfort and simply enjoy the islands. About their hospitality, they might be a little rude as well. (It all depend the islands).

San Blas have a problem with rubbish collection, so you can expect to see some on the paradise islands and more during summer season because of the strong current. The main rubbish are coming for the sea, cargoes and sailing boat!

About the 4x4 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.

Mandatory items you must take with you:

1.      Always your passport with you, in hands and not in your bag and as there are some check-point on the way.

2.       The Taxi will stop on the way to the supermarket but at in case it does not stop, make sure to have at least a gallon of water with you and others small snacks.

3.      Towel, swimming and snorkeling equipment

4.      Rain coat for the boat ride

5.      Ziploc or any hermetic bags to put your valuable items in a safe place during the boat ride as everything can get wet

6.      Toilet paper
 
7.   Sun block

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Embera Village Tribe community tour














 
It has been an amazing private tour spent with the Embera. They are so proud to share with you their culture, way of living and traditions. You will hear everything directly from them.  Upon arrival on the "port" of Lago Alajuela, and depending on the water level of the river while "sailing"  if you are lucky you can see some Toucans, monkeys, turtles and more,  you will be taken to a waterfall where you can take a delicious bat or swim.  Once you arrive to the vaillage they will greet you with music and  will show you their dances, how they made their body paintings and their jewelry, woven baskets and more.

For lunch you will have: friend plantains and fried fish.

The price for this experience is: USD200.00  per person (minimum 2 persons - 1 person costs usd 300) including transportation from Panama City and also a local english guide. 

 Prices for groups are reduced.

Contact us for more information:  secretofpanama@gmail.com
 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Where To Stay in San Blas (Guna Yala) ? Private cabins, dorms or tent


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.

They offer also free snorkeling gear and free hop on / hop off islands Tours. Tours are also offered to the deserted Cayos Holandeses, prices to be confirmed. This place is amazing specially if you want to mingle with the Kunas and experience a bit about their culture. It is one of the few islands with afternoon departure to Panama-City most of the others islands bring back tourists to the port around 9am.

2015 Prices: USD 180.00/persons (morning check-out) in Private cabins, minimum 2 people (4x4 transport from the city round trip, taxes, boat to the islands round trip, the night with breakfast, lunch and dinner, free snorkeling gear and day tour. 

Or USD 200.00/persons (afternoon check-out), you must leave your room in the morning but can stay until 3pm on the islands. The extra USD 20.00 includes a lunch.

Extra night costs USD 50.00/persons
 
Dorms USD 165.00/persons the night (morning check-out) and includes the same as for the private cabins.

Or USD 185/persons (afternoon check-out), you must leave your room in the morning but can stay until 3pm on the islands. The extra USD 20.00 includes a lunch.

Extra night costs USD 40.00/persons

Camping (tent &airbed provided) USD 160.00 /persons the night and includes the same as for the private cabins. 

Or USD 180/persons (afternoon check-out), you must leave your room in the morning but can stay until 3pm on the islands. The extra USD 20.00 includes a lunch.

Extra night costs USD 35.00/persons

Day tour also available for USD 135.00/persons

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



















Où se loger à San Blas (Guna Yala)? Cabanes privatives, dortoirs ou tente

Il ya beaucoup de "Cabanas" à San Blas, mais nous vous recommandons l'Isla del Diablo qui est détenue par notre ami Kuna. L'Isla del Diablo est en face de Isla del Perro (Dog Island). Cette une île idéale pour la plongée, car il ya un joli récif et une petite épave avec plein de joli poisson surtout le matin afin l'arrivée des touristes sur Isla del Perro.

L'île est située à 45 minutes du port de Carti. Nos amis offrent également des équipements de plongée (masque-tuba) et un tours gratuit d'environ 3 heures dans les îles alentours. Des tours payant sont également offerts aux Cayos désertes "Cayos Holandeses", prix à négocier sur place suivant le nombre de personnes.

Prix: 180 USD/personnes (cabane privative, min 2 personnes) - Check-Out le matin, transport 4x4 Panama-City et retour, taxes, bateau aller-retour, nuit en cabane privative, petit déjeuner, déjeuner et dîner, tuba, masque et tours compris dans le prix.

Ou 200 USD/personnes pour check-out l'apres midi vers 15heures avec dejeuner

Le tout a payer au chauffeur. Nuit supplémentaire 50 USD/personnes à payer sur place.

Dortoirs 165.00 USD/personnes - Check Out le matin
Ou 185 USD/personnes pour check-out l'apres midi vers 15heures avec dejeuner


Le tout a payer au chauffeur. Nuit supplémentaire 40 USD/personnes à payer sur place.

Camping (avec tentes et airbed fournies) 160 USD
Ou 180 USD/personnes pour check-out l'apres midi vers 15heures avec dejeuner

Le tout a payer au chauffeur. Nuit supplémentaire 35 USD/personnes à payer sur place. 

135.00 USD/personnes pour le 'day trip' aller-retour le meme jour.

Ne vous inquiétez pas, nos amis Kuna coordonnent très bien votre arrivée/départ avec nos amis du transport terrestre et soyez flexible!

N'hésitez pas à nous contacter: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com

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

A quoi ressemblent les "cabanas" de San Blas ?

Nous avons profité de notre séjour en Septembre 2014 sur Isla del Diablo pour prendre des photos des cabanas étant donné que beaucoup d'entre vous nous demandent à quoi s'attendre?

Encore une fois, toutes les cabines sont rustiques dans les San Blas et vous devez vous montrer flexible ! Ci-dessus, dans notre article en anglais, vous trouverez les photos des cabanes prisent de l'intérieur et depuis l'extérieur ainsi que les toilettes et douches depuis l'extérieur.

Saluations! Secretsofpanama@gmail.com 

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 

Sunday, February 15, 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) Feel free to contact us: Secretsofpanama@gmail.com

 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. Secretsofpanama@gmail.com 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fishing in Panama Canal and sightseeing ?


We love spending our Sunday's with our friend Luis fishing in the Panama-Canal, this is a very different way to visit the canal... All our friends who have been with us just loved this experience close to the city. It is amazing to be on the canal in a small fishing boat at 20 meters from a huge ship! You will also enjoy the wildlife, see some monkeys, birds, etc and enjoy fishing Peacock Bass or Oscar.

Afterwards you will take a break in a fresh water secret pool and cascade before to have a lunch and a ceviche with your own freshly caught fish on a small island. Our friend only provide tours during week-ends and you need to book in advance as he works outside the city.

The trip start from 6am from your hotel until 2-3pm or before if you wish to be back earlier.

Total price includes transport from your hotel to the dock, the boat, and captain, fuel, fishing gears, baits, lunch, coolers with ice  and water. USD 250.00 for 1-3 persons and USD 380 for 3-4 persons (bigger boat). Beers and Soda for sales on the boat!

Feel free to contact us Secretsofpanama@gmail.com.





 





Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Unique trip from the City ?





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



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