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Ways to Experience San Blas Islands
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All reviews lobster san blas sailing trip kuna yala fresh seafood open sea ave maria chicken boat ride palm trees one night blue sailing day tour snorkeling gear couple of days great snorkeling small boat
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Reviewed 26 April 2014

We are a couple looking for a boat to sail San Blas from 29th of April until 2nd of May 2014. Is there anybody else that would like to join us for a four-place sailing boat?

Date of experience: April 2014
2  Thank IrmaTigers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 April 2014

Visiting the Kuna Yala was an interesting experience. They are incredibly self-sustaining and their skills of survival are clear. While not the most welcoming (clearly tired of the tourism) they did help me hand-select my lobster dinner.

The islands are amazing, the beaches are perfectly clean and the water is amazing. Be prepared, however, for camping conditions in the hut. Not much to do on the islands, so one or two nights should suffice.

Date of experience: January 2014
2  Thank Robert P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 April 2014

We chartered the catamaran Bip Bip through San Blas Sailing in April 2014.

It was a contrast between a truly memorable and incredible experience with some completely deficient transfer service.

The BAD Service

The bad service related to the cars and driver that San Blas Sailing used to drive us from Panama City to Carti and back. The driver was an unpleasant man with a foul, almost menacing attitude and absolutely no concept of service or courtesy let alone any interest in telling our bilingual family about his country or what we were seeing. We had paid $400 for the return trip for 2 adults and 2 children (with lots of extra luggage) for what was confirmed in an e-mail ahead of time to be a "Toyota Land Cruiser or similar". They drove us to Carti in a much smaller vehicle, a 10 or 15 year old Hyundai Tucson that was in bad shape. It was cramped and we were not allowed to use air conditioning for the last hour because the car didn't have enough power to make it up the hills, with the air conditioning on. This was not good, as it was hot and raining and the rain was spraying into the car through open windows. Even with that, the old Tucson could barely make it up the hills, usually slowing to about 5 mph (8 kph) (no exaggeration!) by the top. We do a lot of Latin American driving and know how bad cars can be, but this one was dramatically slow even by local standards.

While we were on the boat we asked via e-mail for a better car or a price reduction for the return trip, and they used a 10 year old Nissan with the same briskly and strictly enforced rule against air conditioning. Driving in an old slow Tucson itself is not a big problem, the problem is that when you are sold and pay for one thing (a Toyota Land Cruiser) they shouldn't use a cheaper lesser quality substitute, or if they have to use one for some unforeseen reason, they should decrease the price to reflect the difference in what was provided. San Blas Sailing wrote us that the Hyundai was an emergency replacement for a damaged Toyota Land Cruiser, but we did not qualify for a price reduction in essence because the Hyundai was comfortable for us and is similar to a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Creeping up hills at 5 mph in the rain with open windows and a menacing driver was not really that comfortable! Also the Hyundai was not at all similar to a Land Cruiser. For those not familiar with the quality of these two vehicles, Thrifty Rental Cars in Panama which carries both vehicles is a good reference. They rent 6 classes of SUV’s, and the Hyundai Tucson is the second lowest priced class of SUV and the Land Cruiser is the highest price one, and the base price per day is $45 for the Land Cruiser and $24 for the Tucson.

Beware of the old bait and switch tactic in dealing with San Blas Sailing, if they do it with cars I assume they could do it with anything!

The OUTSTANDING Sailing Experience

As negative as that was, the experience aboard Bip Bip was truly fantastic. Being on a boat is different than a hotel. You are in close quarters with strangers for a number of days. If the captain and mate aren't right it can be really bad. But Manu and Marie on the Bip Bip were incredible hosts. They were truly welcoming and were always looking to see that our every wish was met. They have the right personalities, Marie keeps a really clean boat, is a great cook and a charming hostess. Manu is a technically competent sailor who knows the San Blas waters well, so you feel safe. He does a great job of mechanical maintenance, which is not easy in the San Blas. He has a great sense of humor and he was really good with our kids, taking great delight on snorkeling adventures etc. With their warm and caring personalities Manu and Marie have also made great friends with the Guna Yala people, which means you get a much richer cultural experience when you are interacting with them. In summary they really went out of their way to make sure we had a fantastic trip and we did.

I would highly recommend Manu and Marie and the Bip Bip for a truly memorable time in the beautiful San Blas. I'd also stay away from San Blas Sailing, and instead I'd spend a little more time on the internet looking to arrange the boat trip and vehicle transfer directly.

Date of experience: April 2014
2  Thank Stevo22_Traveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 April 2014

Only two hours away from Panama City, these gorgeous islands are where time stands still. Just go, stay for two or three days, and feel what paradise is like.

Date of experience: November 2013
Thank ConsVanNispen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 April 2014

We drove to Panama City based on the review of Annie B. They were really on the ball (http://goo.gl/90BUhX). I would like take this opportunity to embellish a few points. First of all it is very important to bring a map because once you turn in toward Kuna Yala you will not have any phone service and will not be able to depend on Google Maps or Waze. During the drive we drove through 2 check points so it's critical to bring your passport but if you are a resident of Panama your Cedula will due. The first hour of the drive on the PanAmerican Highway was flat and easy. But the second half was like a one hour roller coaster ride that wouldn't end. There were tons of steep climbs and drops. making an SUV quite necessary. After that we took a motor boat to the island. The place was gorgeous...absolutely breathtaking. It was like the island that Tom Hanks was stranded on in "Castaway." It was however a very expensive day because the Kuna Indians rip you off left and right. $5/ person to enter the reservation, $15 for the card, $3 to watch the card, $25/person for the boat ride, $5 to use the Island beach, $5 for pets, and $5 if you bring a cooler. In short be ready to be nickled and dimed everywhere.

Date of experience: April 2014
3  Thank Florence B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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