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From Paradise to Disappointment: Ranking the Best and Worst Islands in San Blas

Morodub (the Pool) and the instagram Famous Dog island with its sunken ship have little to offer in common apart from the fact that both are located in the archipelago of San Blas.

Over 12 years operating in the catamaran charter industry is plenty of time to have acquired the understanding and local knowledge to determine which islands offer the best conditions and that uniqueness we seek and what islands simply don’t make the cut.

Catamaran charter in one of the best islands in San Blas, Panama.
San Blas islands, one of the good ones!

A quick peak on social media and online reviews show a variety of mixed experiences by different types of travelers. How can this be possible, isn’t San Blas supposed to be the last remaining Paradise in the Caribbean?

Children playing in San Blas islands.
Children playing ashore

The term "Paradise" can be defined in many ways depending on the background and interests of the traveler. If you think the San Blas in any way similar to the BVI or the Bahamas, think again. There are no crowded bars ashore, no bling and no social opportunities apart from those with the crew and our indigenous friends, sailing the San Blas islands opens the doors to unspoiled natural beauty in an out of this world context. What Paradise is for some, for others can be an excruciating adventure plagued with disappointments and why not, a rip off

There are 3 variables to consider:

Islands closer to the shore or Zone 1 have easier access for day tourists and therefore are the most visited by local Panamanians and day tourists. Loud music blasting 24 hours and crowds are the norm in some of these islands that are in the way of regular water taxis.

Dog island in San Blas is a crowded spot. Not one of the top planes to visit in San Blas.
Dog island is a crowded spot in San Blas.

Isla Perro or Dog island has for years been one of the most famous islands in San Blas. The principal attraction is the old wreck besides it. Franklin's and Isla Robenson both very close to the shore are some of the islands to avoid, specially over the weekends and festivities due to large gatherings, and non stop loud music. Iguana island is definitely a beautiful place and somewhat of a postal perfect island but again, crowds and development of the cabañas (huts) for tourists, mostly backpackers, can be in the way for most of us seeking a true natural environment. Pelican island in San Blas, although still in the route of regular water taxis, has the benefit of being one of the furthest islands from shore in Cayo Limon and that contributes to even clearer water. This island has been made known by the third season of "Money Heist", the most famous Netflix series of all time and that has contributed to bringing in even more tourists.

Large group on a full day tour in highly frequented place in San Blas.
Full day tours in San Blas

Luckily the islands affected by over tourism are only a few and with 365 islands to choose from, it is easy to venture into the wild and unexplored parts of the San Blas.

Best islands in San Blas in Zone 2 are obviously those not only far away from the road entrance and tourists coming in with a road transfer. Less tourists means more untouched nature and equilibrium. The East of the region with the hundreds of little islands are now an easy access from Panama City if you take a 40 minute private leaving from PAC airport in Panama City and landing in Corazon de Jesus.

Aerial view of Coco Bandero, San Blas. One of the best spots in the archipelago.
Coco Bandero Cays

Coco Bandero Cays is only a 30 minute easy sail from the airport and the perfect place to watch dolphins and nurse sharks along the way. Convenient, yet totally amazing set of islands with almost no one around and vibrant reefs teeming with life. Close by is also the Cambombia Island area with Bapurgana island a few hundred meter away. You have not seen anything like this! Snorkelling or Kayaking to the shore nearby, spotting dotted eagle rays and hanging out with the friendly locals are a must. No loud music here. Just when you thought is Doesn’t get any better than this, our captain points to BBQ island and the Pool, both  located in the Dutch Cays, that is, the closest you can get to the exterior sea. Surrounded by shallow clear waters and mangroves, this is the epitome of paradise or how we call it "Paradise within Paradise". To finish your journey, sail over to Maoqui island and meet Jose’s family, he is our Guna indigenous deckhand on board the Salina 48 mambo Diablo, Prepare for the cultural shock!

Aerial view of Maoqui island in the Dutch Cays, another top spot of the San Blas islands.
Maoqui island in the Dutch Cays

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San Blas islands sailing charters


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