A few months ago we heard about how amazing the San Blas Islands are, and a must visit location if you are in Panama. Well last week we had the opportunity to experience this first hand. There are three really important parts to this story.
First of all is the journey to actually get to the Islands. It starts with a 4am wake up call so that we can catch the ride that we booked at a hostel in Panama City. By noon we are at the docks loading up on a boat that is basically an over sized dingy with a large outboard motor. We loaded up the 20 or so passengers all excited about heading to these amazing set of Islands and no one having a clue what we are about to get ourselves into. About 60 seconds after we depart the small port we arrive to the area that opens to the Atlantic Ocean. From the port you could not see this area, but as we exited the port the waves begin to rise. At first they brought the bow of the boat gently up and down with a slight spay of salty sea water. Another couple of minutes pass and now the boat is engulfed in huge spays of water that soak everyone on the boat and nothing is left dry. After a couple more minutes the waves are now 3-4 meters and wreaking havoc on this small boat.
One thing that was left out by the friendly tour operator is that you are going to get soaked on this trip. About five minutes into the trip Debbie is asking if we can turn around. She was not a happy camper. We are being pounded by waves of salty sea water every 20 seconds. After 2 hours of this, a few people sick, Debbie asking me if we were going to survive and the captain asking me to hold onto the wheel of the boat while he goes to tie something down we arrive to an area behind the protected reef that is called the San Blas Islands.
We were soaked, tired, beat up by the pounding of the waves, but it was amazing and true unspoiled paradise. After dropping each group at the Island they reserved in advance we arrived at our chosen Island. A trip that our tour operator said would be 3-4 hours turned out to really be 10 hours.
The second part of the story is our arrival and accommodations for the next 3 days. We were staying on Robinson island at Cabina Iron. When we arrived Iron himself greeted us and showed us around the cabinas. The cabins are very basic, but have clean sheets and towels. There is no electricity except for a few hours in the evening when they fire up the generator. They do not have running water so you have to use a bucket after you go to the bathroom and shower by pouring the water over yourself. Once I got over the fact that I would not have running water which means no shower or toilets I settled in nicely. The food was excellent and was a fresh assortment of fish, chicken, rice, salad, fruit.
Each day you can relax around the island or take a boat to one of the Islands near by. We decided to go to Isla Perro and it was truly picture perfect. There is a sunken ship there and it is great for snorkeling. I loved swimming through the ship and challenging myself to go in on hole and exit at the other end.
We Woke up every morning with the sound of the birds chirping and went to sleep lulled by the ocean waves. Debbie’s quote pretty much sums the trip up – loved it, it is worth the painful ride to see this beautiful place it was gorgeous, but take a plane. A few of our casualties on this trip was our brand new Ipod and cell phone.
The final part is our journey back. On the way back we came prepared. We filled up 3 large bottles of clean water, packed our bags in large garbage bags, put on our bathing suits, lathered up the sunscreen and Debbie adjusted her snorkel and mask.
I know we will return to this amazing place one day soon!