North America,  Panama,  Travel

Panama: Which San Blas Island is the Best [2024]?

White sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters and swaying palm trees: Panama’s San Blas Islands are a slice of paradise in the Caribbean sea. There are approximately 365 islands and cayes in this breathtaking archipelago – that’s enough to enjoy visiting a different island every day of the year! But with so many to choose from, how do you decide which of Panama’s San Blas Islands is the best for you? 

Ready to find your tranquilo? In this blog post, we’ll explore the beauty of Panama’s San Blas islands, what makes them special, and help you decide which San Blas island is the best fit for your next tropical escape.


The San Blas Islands, also known as the Guna Yala Islands, are located off the northeastern coast of Panama. Stretching along the Caribbean coastline, this archipelago is part of the semi-autonomous Guna Yala region, one of several comarcas Indígenas in Panama. 

While the San Blas Islands are technically part of Panama, the area is an autonomous Indigenous province owned and governed by the Guna people. You may also see the islands referred to as ‘Guna Yala’, meaning ‘Guna’s Land’ or ‘Land of the Guna’

Isla Diablo



With white sand, palm-fringed shorelines, and no Wi-Fi, the San Blas Islands are the perfect place to unwind, ignore the rest of the world, and just exist. You won’t find resort-style accommodation, all-you-can-eat buffets, or happy hour cocktails on these Caribbean islands. But there’s a sense of calm that it’s difficult to find elsewhere in Central America


If you’re feeling up for an adventure, your tour itinerary will also usually include a series of small (optional) trips. These may be to a snorkelling site, beautiful cay, or to visit another island. You can also find cultural tours to experience how the Guna live firsthand. 

Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I can’t get enough of those tropical blue oceans (we don’t get them in North England!). In addition to swimming, the islands have some great snorkelling, we saw colorful fish and starfish, but if you’re lucky you might also see rays and sea turtles. You can also book onto a multi-day island hopping tour. 

Most travellers will likely be interested in:

  • Snorkelling! There’s some amazing snorkelling in the clear waters around each island. Despite what you may read online (and yes, this is why I have trust issues with AI-generated blog posts) the Guna do not allow SCUBA diving in and around the San Blas archipelago. But you can snorkel to your heart’s content. 
  • Swimming in the Natural Pool and visiting Starfish Cay. Remember not to remove the starfish from the water as this can kill them. 
  • Visiting Isla Pelicano, the island made famous from the Netflix show “Money Heist”
  • Paddleboarding around Isla Pelicano 
  • Playing beach volleyball. Most of the islands have a volleyball net. 
  • Sunbathing or relaxing under the shade of a palm tree
  • Eating fresh seafood. The Guna have close ties with the land and ocean as this is their source of food. 
  • Multi-day sailing tour. If you’ve got the time and money, you can book a multi-day island hopping tour, sailing through the San Blas archipelago. Some adventurous souls also sail the 5-day route from Panama to Columbia, the only way to get between these countries without flying!


Ecotourism in San Blas emphasizes respect for the local culture and traditions of the Guna people. The Guna are 100% in control of their territory and they set the rules. This means that you can engage with the community in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner but on their terms. Your visit will also support the Guna economy, which is centrered around tourism, coconut exports, and selling of artisan crafts. 

Your trip to the San Blas archipelago is also likely to be low-impact tourism. The rustic accommodations in San Blas are automatically ‘eco friendly’, with no A/C or electricity. As resources are limited, the Guna practice living in a way that reduces waste and conserves water and power.

Swimming in the ocean from Isla Diablo


Now the question you’ve all been waiting for, which San Blas island is the best?

Although the ‘best’ island in San Blas will depend on what you want from your trip, we think you’d find it hard to be disappointed with any of the islands. Pretty much all the islands have that white sandy beaches, turquoise water and swaying palm trees vibe. They’ll all feel fairly remote. And all of the islands are perfect to relax and unwind with a Pina Colada and a good book. I wouldn’t overthink it! 

That said, some islands stand out for specific things you can do there. Here, we’ll go through everything you need to know about picking a San Blas Island (or multiple!) for your trip. We’ll cover everything you need to know about activities, accommodation, and more!


The island’s name, which translates to ‘Dog Island’, originates from its shape, resembling a dog lying down. Isla Perro is renowned for its clear waters and vibrant coral reefs. With a sunken ship full of corals that you can wade out to, Isla Perro has some of the best snorkelling in the San Blas Islands. 

Special Activities: Ship wreck snorkelling: Jump into the crystal-clear waters to explore vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. There’s a sunken ship within 20 metres of the island that you can snorkel to, climb on, and jump off! Make sure you have snorkeling gear with you as you can’t rent it on the island.

Accommodation: Rustic wooden cabins. Double rooms and dorm rooms are available. You can also hire overwater cabins with a ‘private balcony’, although these are still very basic facilities. There’s a shared shower and toilet block. 

Food: Basic Guna Yala cuisine, usually fish or chicken with rice and vegetables. Decent sized portions. Meals are at set times but chips/fries and packaged snacks are available all day.

Beach: One of the most famous islands in the archipelago. There’s a white sandy beach, a beach bar, crystal clear waters, a beach swing, hammocks, and a volleyball net!

Note: This Island charges $3 USD per person for entry if you aren’t staying there. It’s well worth it for the snorkelling!

Stormy day on Isla Perro Barco Hundido 


Isla Diablo, also known as Niadub, is undoubtedly one of the best known islands of the San Blas Archipelago. It’s just a thirty minute boat ride from the port, making it perfect if you get sea sick (like me!).

We stayed on Isla Diablo during our two day tour of the San Blas Islands. It’s just across from Isla Perro and close to the famous ‘sunken ship’, so also great for a snorkelling-based adventure. 

Special activities: Starfish Caye. Isla Pelicano, Diablo, and Perro are all within a stone’s throw of the Starfish Caye, a stunning shallow area of the ocean with clear water and starfish! Remember not to pick them up and take them out of the water, as this can kill them. 

Accommodation: Rustic wooden cabins. Private double cabins, luxury en-suite cabins, and dorm cabins are all available. There’s a shared shower and toilet block. 

Food: Basic Guna Yala cuisine, usually fish or chicken with rice and vegetables. Decent sized portions. Vegetarian/vegan option is just rice with veg, so I’d advising bringing some fresh fruit or extra snacks! Meals are at set times but packaged snacks are available all day. 

Beach: One of the most famous islands in the archipelago. There’s a white sandy beach, a beach bar, crystal clear waters, a beach swing, hammocks, and a volleyball net!

The best sunset from Isla Diablo


Look familiar? Isla Pelicano, also known as Gorgidub, featured at the beginning of the third season of the famous Netflix Series, “Money Heist”. Just 40 minutes from the mainland, Isla Pelicano is a super popular place for fans of the show to visit.

But it’s not just for Money Heist fans! This small, picturesque island is perfect for anyone looking to relax and unwind. The Guna who own and run the tours to this island are known to be some of the friendliest, and will be happy to chat with you about their culture. 

Special activities: Bored of relaxing? Isla Pelicano has paddle boards and snorkels available to borrow as part of your stay. Why not paddle around the island? Or borrow a snorkel to explore the underwater world or visit nearby Starfish Caye.

Accommodation: The only option for staying overnight on this island used to be camping in tents, falling asleep to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore. Now, with the island becoming a more popular option, there are a handful of cabins available, with and without private bathrooms.

Food: Basic Guna Yala cuisine, usually fish or chicken with rice and vegetables. Normal-sized portions. Vegetarian/vegan option is just rice with veg so bring some protein snacks if you don’t want to go hungry!

Beach: Small but very pretty with crystal clear water. There are a number of plastic beach chairs available if you don’t want to stretch out on a beach towel. Oh, and beach towels are included for each guest, free of charge!


Isla Yanis is a little exclusive. The island has only been open to tourism since 2019 and is only available to visit through select tour operators. Pristine Isla Yanis is perfect for nature lovers; there’s nothing better than waking up in the morning surrounded by the scent of the ocean. 

Special activities: Isla Yanis is just a few meters from a gorgeous sandbar. The crystal clear, shallow water creates a natural pool, which fades into the various shades of turquoise and emerald of the Caribbean Sea. This island is also home to Lola parrot, who is sure to make you laugh with her chitchat.

Accommodation: Another island that used to offer camping only. Now there are a handful of private cabins available, or you’re free to pitch a tent wherever.

Food: Same as most of the islands; Breakfast will be pancakes with fruit and egg, and lunch and dinner will likely be fish/chicken with rice/fries and vegetables. If you have dietary requirements, make sure you have enough snacks to fend for yourself. The Guna diet consists mostly of what they can farm or catch and they won’t always have the ability to cater to special diets.

Beach: Shallow and crystal clear, but there can sometimes be seaweed nearer to the island, so you might have to swim a few metres further to find that aquamarine ocean you’re dreaming of. 

Starfish Cay and Natural Pool are a popular boat trip from most islands


Isla Chichime, also known as Wissudub, is one of the larger islands in the San Blas archipelago, but it still only takes 10 minutes to walk around the entire island! There are four cabins, a small lagoon, and a large beach. The Guna hosts are apparently some of the nicest hosts in the region too!

Special activities: Chichime is known for being the island with kayaks! There are plenty of opportunities for kayaking and snorkeling here and the locals have a couple of each available to borrow. Like Yanis, it’s also near the natural pool, which you can visit for a swim.

Accommodation: Accommodations on Chichime Island are typically rustic. There are 3 types of accommodation: shared dormitory, private cabins, and private cabins with ensuite. There’s a shared toilet and shower block too.

Food: Guna Yala’s Master Chef resides here; the food on Isla Chichime has been reported consistently better than many of the other islands. Drinks are reasonably priced at ~$2 USD per drink (beer and water are equally expensive!)

BeachThe beach is wide and spacious with the same white sand and swaying palms you’ll find elsewhere in the area. There’s a volleyball net and beach bar available. 

The San Blas islands are the best place to catch a sunset!


Closest to the mainland, Iguana Island used to be a popular party island in the San Blas archipelago. The Guna got fed up (rightfully so!) and closed this island to tourism for a while. But now, the island has re-opened, and is ready to welcome you to its sandy shores. 

Special activities: Isla Iguana is often seen as one of the most authentic islands in San Blas, with traditional sandy-floored thatched cabins showing a distinctive picture of the Guna lifestyle. It’s this authenticity that sets Ariyaladub apart from the other islands. 

Accommodation: You’ve got the option of shared (dormitory) or private cabins. Toilet and shower facilities are shared. 

Food: We couldn’t find many reports of the food on Iguana Island, but I imagine it’ll be similar fare to the other islands. Expect rice, fish, chicken, plantain, and bring snacks so you don’t go hungry between meals!

Beach: The beach is typical of any island in the San Blas archipelago, with the same white sand, clear blue ocean, and swaying palm trees. There’s a volleyball net and beach bar available. 


With the same sun, sea, and sand as any other island in the San Blas archipelago, there’s nothing particular about Aroma Island that makes it stand out against any other. But this has kept Aroma Island as a hidden gem. You can’t jump into the ocean from a partially sunken ship or borrow paddleboards. But this ‘lack of adventure’ promises a calm and tranquil place to relax and unwind with fewer visitors than other islands.

Special activities: None, but that’s what makes it such a hidden gem!

Accommodation: You’ve got the option of shared dormitory-style cabins (sleep 8-10 people) or private cabins. A couple of the private cabins also have their own bathroom facilities, but there’s a shared shower block for everyone to use too. 

Food: We couldn’t find many reports of the food on Aroma Island, but expect traditional Guna cuisine. Meals will be simple – rice, fish, chicken, plantain, vegetables – but decent portion sized. If you have dietary requirements you may consider packing extra snacks as there’s no guarantee the Guna will have the resources to cater for you.

Beach: The beach is pristine with crystal-clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs. You can’t borrow snorkels here, so bring your own if you want to make the most of the underwater world! 

Another day in paradise 


Ultimately, the best island in San Blas depends on your preferences. All the islands are miniature tropical paradises with stunning beaches, clear blue waters, and endless opportunities for relaxation and adventure. It would be hard to be disappointed with any of the islands here. So don’t overthink it! Pack your bags and get ready to discover the enchanting wonders of the Guna Yala Islands!


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Alice is a UK travel blogger who advocates sustainable travel and being more eco-conscious on a budget. She loves coffee, her houseplants and summiting mountains.

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