While I sit at home during quarantine, all I can do is think about all the fun travels I did last year. Today, I want to share with you my “almost” private island adventures in the Caribbean coast of Panama! To be honest, I did not know that much about these beautiful islands until we did our research for the trip. Per usual, this whole experience was AMAZING! However, what I loved the most about it, was learning about the indigenous community that lives there. ❤
Guna (Kuna) Yala, formerly known as San Blas, is an indigenous province in northeast coast of Panama. This archipelago is made up of approximately 365 islands and cays, of which 49 are inhabited and it is home to the Guna people. We had the pleasure to stay in Playon Chico and had the chance to meet some locals and learn a bit about their culture and traditions… Oh and of course, island hop and swim in clear blue waters!
Fun Fact: If you watched the Netflix show Money Heist, you might remember that on the first episode of season 3, Rio and Tokyo are hanging out in this exact area! 😉
Getting to this island was a whole adventure of its own! First, we flew Air China (random, but it was the best and most affordable option) into the Tocumen airport in Panama City and spent one night there. Then, the next day super early in the morning, we had our connecting flight with AirPanama at the smaller airport Albrook Marcos A. Gelabert to Playon Chico. Warning!! The plane that takes you to the island is quite small and tight, it fits about 8 people. BUT the good news is that the flight is short! 😉
Once we got to the island, we were greeted by one of the Yandup Island Lodge crew members and he took us on a small boat to the island where we were staying.
We stayed two nights in the super adorable bungalows of Yandup Island Lodge! When you book your stay, it automatically comes with all 3 meals and activities, because there is literally NOTHING on the island except the 6 bungalows and a dining area. Another interesting fact, the island is powered by solar panels and there is no cell phone reception! It was actually nice to totally disconnect from the world and enjoy nature.
We arrived early in the morning on a Friday and once we dropped our belongings in our bungalow, we had breakfast prepared by local ladies from the community. We were lucky and there were only two other millennial couples, so it was quite peaceful to be with other people our age. We were all fortunate and spoke Spanish, so it was a lot easier to communicate with the crew.
Then around noon they took us to a different private island to spend a few hours relaxing, and swimming in beautiful, clear waters.
After dinner, we had the wonderful opportunity to visit the island where the majority of the Guna Yala community in Playon Chico lives. Our tour guide/crew member lived in the community, so we met his family and members of the community. He also shared with us a few of their traditions, we enjoyed a dance performance and met the cutest old ladies ever! They were sisters in their 90s, and still kicking!
Fun Fact: The beaded bracelets the ladies from this community wear on their legs and arms are threaded on them and they can’t take them off until they break off on their own.
The next day after breakfast, they took us to another private island (the one from Money Heist) where we hung out for a few hours, snorkeled and soaked up the sun!
Super early on Sunday morning we caught our flight back to Panama City and explored the city the for rest of the day before heading back home that evening. We walked around the old town, visited the cathedral and even saw a traditional Panamanian dance performance, since it was a holiday.
We also visited the famous Panama Canal and ate some fresh sea food next to the fish market and hung out a cool rooftop bar/restaurant.
Overall, Panama exceeded my expectations! I truly enjoyed every minute of my stay, so I highly recommend it and it is not totally overrated. On top of everything, Panama is decently priced and easy to get to from Houston.