If you’re dreaming of a Robinson Crusoe-like getaway on an unspoilt island with white sand beaches and warm waters, then the San Blas Islands are the perfect escape. This archipelago of about 365 islands lies in the Caribbean Sea just off the north coast of Panama, and only 50 or so islands are inhabited.
Since 1925, the archipelago has been governed by the indigenous Kuna people, who maintain political autonomy from the mainland. And that’s great news for the ongoing tranquility of the islands, as the Kuna control the tourism industry on their own terms. They carefully manage the number of visitors, keeping the tourist crowds at bay. There are no hotel of restaurant chains, no foreign-owned businesses, and none of the excesses often associated with tourist hotspots.
Instead, you’ll stay on a pristine island with only a few other tourists, sleeping in eco-friendly accommodations made by the locals from natural materials found on the islands. It’s a paradise for swimming and snorkeling, with some of the worlds most untouched coral reefs. Scuba diving is prohibited, but the reefs are in shallow waters making it easy to snorkel in search of harmless sharks and barracuda.
When you’re not in the water, you’ll always find a perfect spot to relax on the white sand beaches under the shade of a coconut palm. The local Kuna will cook for you and take you to some of the other islands, and are happy to show you their culture, which is distinct from the rest of Panama. Festivals take place frequently in villages across the islands, providing a great opportunity to see the traditions of the Kuna. Apart from that, you’ll be largely left alone to enjoy the peace and quite of these unspoilt islands.
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