An archipelago of nearly 400 islands off the north coast of the Panama Isthmus, the San Blas Islands are a popular destination due to their unspoiled beauty, indigenous people and simple way of life. Of all the islands, only about 49 are actually inhabited, serving as the home of the friendly Kuna Yala tribe. The most visited of the San Blas Islands include Robinson, Coco Blanco, Kangantupu and Achutupu.
Electricity and modern conveniences are limited on the islands, which offers a relaxing atmosphere and appealing solitude to many tourists. Additionally, the geographical position of the archipelago protects it from hurricanes. Although small in size, El Porvenir is the area capital and features a hotel, museum and landing strip where many tourists arrive by plane. Boats transport people between the islands.
Time spent on the San Blas Islands consists of sunbathing on the pristine, palm-lined beaches as well as swimming, snorkeling and diving among hundreds of tropical fish species. Hiking trails amid lush vegetation offer views of colorful birds and calls of howler monkeys. Visiting the Kuna Yala Indians is a good way to learn about their language, traditions, music and distinctive dress. The tribe members often host festivals and dances as well as sell handicrafts, which make good souvenirs.
Most of the restaurants on the San Blas Islands are found within hotels on the larger islands and offer a variety of international menus. Local dishes of the Kuna Yala tribe include fresh seafood served with coconut rice. The smaller islands usually have one primary bar that serves both locals and tourists. Because water is piped unfiltered into the villages from streams, foreign tourists are advised to bring their own bottled water and drinking containers.