Found within Panama's Comarca de Kuna Yala, the San Blas Islands are fast-becoming a prime world tourist destination. The Kuna Indians earned autonomy back in the 1950"s, and they are the controlling faction of this region on Panama's northeast coast. You might choose to stay at a nice hotel in the nearby Colon Province if you are looking for luxury. Otherwise, the San Blas Islands hotels present a rather rustic selection. This is just fine by most, who come to enjoy the outdoors here more than anything. Cultural tours of Kuna villages are high on the list of San Blas things to do, and heading to your own, private island for a day is surely not a bad way to go. Planning ahead is a good idea if you are visiting this region, and it's generally recommended to book your San Blas accommodations through a tour or travel agency. On the mainland, the city of El Porvenir offers a nice variety for those without a hotel room. You can then arrange your island excursions from there. The following are a few San Blas Islands lodging recommendations should be heading to this tropical paradise.
San Blas Islands Hotels - Coral Lodge
The Coral Lodge is a top pick for luxury San Blas accommodations, though it is not found on the islands. Instead, it rests just near the Comarca de Kuna Yala border, providing sufficient proximity to all that the San Blas archipelago has to offer. Guests here generally arrive at the city of El Porvenir, and you will generally pay a bit extra for transportation to the hotel. The guest units here are actually thatched "casitas", or little houses, that straddle the water. Amazing Caribbean sea views are all around, and you can enjoy them from your casita's hammock, large bathing tub, or private sundeck. Local art and nice furnishings help to set a nice island tone, and each casita features air-conditioning and a comfortable king-size bed. Spacious, full of character, and complete with private bathrooms, these accommodations are sure to make for a great experience. Fresh seafood, wine and cocktails can be enjoyed at the hotel restaurants, of which there are two, and you can schedule a list of activities, such as tours of nearby Portobelo, or horseback rides on the beach. Rates here are a bit pricy, but they include your room, meals, alcohol-free drinks, a daily activity and freedom to use the eco-lodge's kayaks and snorkeling gear.
Staying on the western side of the Comarca, you will find more choices for discount San Blas accommodations. There are hostels available here, on islands like Nalunega and Wichubwala. Priced a bit above the hostels, the Cabanas Kuanidup San Blas accommodations are perfect for those truly looking to get away from it all. Found on Isla Kuanidup, this hotel is rustic indeed, and guests share bathrooms and showers. But that doesn't stop guests from loving the place. The cabins here are not overly spacious, and they might not be ideal for all. The foam mattresses are comfortable enough, and there is a nice little foyer area. There is a nice little beach that you can enjoy, and the owner keeps it clean as can be. You can also schedule to visit the owner's private island to have the ultimate in privacy. There is no electricity at Cabanas Kuanidup, and kerosene lamps provide light at night. Meals are provided, but if you want anything other than seafood, you will have to arrange it in advance. Most guests here fly to Río Sidra instead of El Porvenir, as the connecting boat ride is 20 minutes shorter on average.
Kuna Niskua Lodge
The Kuna Niskua Lodge is a good pick for discount San Blas Islands lodging, and though it doesn't have ocean views or its own beach, it just may have one of the best owners. He is Kuna, and thus knows all the ins and outs of the islands and the people. Solar-powered electricity is a plus here, but you might bring a small lamp for evening reading perhaps. The rooms here are nice and clean, though once again, you will be hard-pressed to find anything in the way of luxury San Blas accommodations. You do have your own, private bathroom, which goes a long way for many, and the ability to interact with the local Kuna is a big part of what makes a stay here so great. Enjoy some shopping, or simply listen to the stories they have to tell. Local tours are included in your affordable rates, as are seafood-based meals. Extra tours can be arranged for a fee.
Sapibenega Kuna Lodge
The eastern region of the Comarca de Kuna Yala is less-visited by tourists, but there are better deluxe San Blas Islands lodging choices to be found here. The Sapibenega Kuna Lodge arguably provides the most "luxurious" San Blas accommodations, with rooms featuring private bathrooms and around-the-clock electricity. The best way to get here involves taking a flight to Playón Chico, where you are just 5 minutes away from the lodge by boat. There are few over-water cabins here, with the remaining 11 cabins being ground level. As you might imagine, the newer water cabins offer more comfort, as they do space. Each cabin has a tiled shower in the bathroom and nice hardwood floors. There are two restaurants here, and a bar, and daily tours are how most guests spend the bulk of their time. Relaxing and taking it all in is also a favorite Sapibenega Kuna Lodge pastime, and the birdwatching is excellent. Rates here are a bit high, but should fit into most budgets. It's sure worth the experience.
The Dolphin Lodge is another one of the nicer eastern San Blas Islands hotels. Priced a bit lower than the Sapibenega, it offers a similar experience and is worth consideration. You won't find internet access at too many other San Blas Islands hotels. Private bathrooms and comfortable beds help to make this a great choice for those who want the castaway experience without roughing it too much. The larger "junior suites" have 24-hour electricity, and the cheaper standard units offer it for the better part of each day. Flying to Mamitupo and taking a boat from there is generally the way to go, and there isn't much more to the immediate area than a stunning tropical beach. Very relaxing, indeed. The restaurant here serves pretty good food, and there is also a small bar. Guests can enjoy the volleyball nets and schedule any number of fun tours. Great for eco-tourists with a bit extra to spend on San Blas accommodations, the Dophin Lodge is a wonderful choice.