Camping in the San Blas islands
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Apr 4, 2013 11:50 PM Last Post By: drienke
Nov 30, 2012 5:51 PM
Camping in the San Blas islandsHi all,
I am trying to find out about camping in the San Blas. There is an agency in Panama City which sells a 4 day tour ($280!!! yikes!!!), but they have no availability over my dates (Christmas). Do I really need to do this with a tour operator?
Can 4x4 transport to Cartí be arranged independently? What about a boat to the islands (Coco Blanco)? What about boats between the islands?
Do I need to book the camping on Coco Blanco weeks in advance? Should I talk to my hostel (probably Mamallena in Panama City) just a few days before arrival? Or can I just show up at Coco Blanco with certainly there will be a spot to camp available?
These are my questions in trying to find the best and cheapest way to spend 4-5 days camping in paradise. Any input much appreciated!
Dec 1, 2012 10:45 PM
1if Mamallena didn't hook you up with that travel agency (I'm guessing not, but you never know), it might be worth asking them.
In theory, you could do that trip independently, but maybe not on the island you mention. You've probably seen there are a few islands that have accommodations. I don't know if there is any protocol about allowing camping in lieu of renting a room.
There are SUVs leaving Panama City to San Blas every day - you should be able to arrange a ride through Mamallena. Once you get to the dock in San Blas, you could ask around to see if what you want is available. Knowing Spanish will help enourmosly. If you're not lucky, you could go to an island with room rentals, and ask again. I stayed on Franklin Island - a small island with bamboo & palm leaf cabins on the sand, and decent snorkelling.
Dec 2, 2012 1:04 PM
2Great and informative response, wulfruny! Gracias!
The travel agency I contacted was the one on Mamallena's website. If r/t transportation is $60 and accommodation starts at $22/night... three nights should NOT be costing a total of $280.
I contacted Mamallena directly, and now read your reply. You both say it should be fairly easily independently, so I will do that. I speak Spanish (con fluido) and don't foresee too many problems.
Now... which islands to visit.
I am looking to stay at a picture-perfect sand-and-palm-tree-only island - one with a maximum of only a few permanent residents, and maybe a half-dozen other guests. I plan to make day trips to other islands.
From what I've read on Thorn Tree and elsewhere, Coco Blanco seems like a wise pick. But I realize there are hundreds of islands altogether.
Can anyone recommend Coco Blanco? Is there a better small and little-populated island? Any islands to definitely avoid? Thanks y'all!
Dec 3, 2012 8:17 AM
3i am in the same boat as you. i am heading to san blas in late mar with my 8 yr old son. i really would love to camp on different islands over several days. it appears that the best place to snorkel is out at the holandeses cays. LP guide book says that it will cost between $50 -$75 round trip to reach these cays. the hostel you refer to is advertising this area for camping. (???)
i do feel that the advertised camping fee is a little steeper than i want to pay and that i could "possibly" do it on my own for cheaper. because of the risk and the unknown, i am leaning towards staying at one of ther cabanas. at the price of $30 - $75 you are provided with lodging, 3 meals and daily tours. i am not sure what the cost of hiring a fishing boat to shuttle you around but i would think a minimum of $10 per multiple persons and more if you are solo. in the u.s it cost about $30 for an hour of fuel to operate an outboard.
if you are a diver or have snorkeled at pristine locations it seems that for most spots you will need transportation. as to coco blanco, it supposedly did have a nice coral reef from the shore though. another "big" issue with trying to organize a daytrip from one of these islands would be keeping your cost down by sharing the expenses. you may end up being the only person on the island or other travelers are not interested.
last spring on the corn islands i spent too much time trying to get a group to go diving for a day, and then trying to get a couple people to go spear fishing for a morning to keep the cost down. when you have limited time at a remote location and want to do a specific activity it can be a little frustrating because "caribbean" time is extremely slow.........
at this time i have emails into cabanas but no response in the last 2 wks. let us know how your planning goes because there is not alot of specific information being posted. good luck. nolan
Feb 13, 2013 4:09 AM
Feb 13, 2013 12:53 PM
Feb 19, 2013 7:46 AM
Mar 29, 2013 8:19 AM
Just got back. Stayed, among others, on Chichime in a tent for 20 US. Tent includes air- and normal matresses. I used the latter, slept like log. Very comfy.
Most beautiful i saw was isla Iguana. But there are a 100 or more similar to this.
Stayed in Carti Sugdub in private, simple, room for 8 US. Just at the dock. If you want to see how Kuna live this and the neighbouring islands (Tupila) are a great experience. Loved it. You will probably be the only non Kuna for the night on the island.
Go before the islands are completely overrun by us.
The road is completely surfaced now and it will not be long before the romance of this spot is gone. No way back.
Apr 4, 2013 8:34 PM
8Nice of you to post back. Whatapitty nobody else had time for that.
Can you please post more details on how much was 4x4 to get to Carti?
Did you have your own tent? Does it make sense to bring own tent? Is it necesarry to bring drinking water?
What were other prices for accomodation?
Apr 4, 2013 11:50 PM
4 wd to carti was 30us one way, from Lunacastle. I did not stay there but just booked the ride. The road is almost completely surfaced so 4 wd is not necessary anymore. Some people try to get a lift at the corner of the panamericana. i think it is a matter of (short) time before 4wd are without work and cheap competition (bus?) will start to go to carti.
Bringing your own tent is not necessary but gives you more freedom and probably cheaper.
I rented a tent on the island. Water, bring some, just in case. I finally used it towash myself. For drinking i did not really need it. used other drinks ;).
Other prices would be around 20us pp. For simple (hammock) shared rooms.
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