Written by Missy Johnston

Kuna Indian Beach

Just off of the eastern entrance to the Panama Canal, sit the San Blas Islands, a beautiful archipelago of around 378 islands and bits of land of which only 49 are inhabited.  The San Blas Islands are part of an autonomous comarca of Panama called the Kuna Yala established in the 1930’s after a Kuna Indian revolt against the Panamanian Government.  The Kuna Indians are the indigenous people to Panama and Columbia and still maintain their culture, traditions, language and unique form of life in their Kuna communities, which is best experienced on a yacht charter cruise through the San Blas Islands.  Explore the world of the Kuna Indians and the beauty of the San Blas Islands on your next crewed yacht charter.

San Blas Anchorage

For boarding a crewed yacht charter to cruise through the San Blas Islands, the easiest access is to fly into Panama into Colon and board your crewed charter yacht in the port of Colon.  After settling on board, leave for Portobelo, some 20 miles northeast. Discovered and named “Beautiful port” by Columbus, in 1597, Portobelo was chosen by the Spanish as the import export port for the area.  As such, for protection, a program of fortifications was begun. Sir Francis Drake attacked and destroyed the fortifications. This attack became Drake’s last stand, as here he lost his life and was buried at sea in a lead casket just outside the bay.  Stop for a visit and explore the ruins of the fortifications with canons still poised to shoot to defend.

Coconut Harvesting

After breakfast, head for Punta Macolla and anchor for lunch, which is only a 20 mile cruise. Enjoy a swim before another 35 mile sail to the start of the San Blas islands.  Look out for coral while cruising slowly through the narrow passages between reefs, which can easily be seen in the crystal clear shallow waters. Sail through the Eden Channel to Lemon Cays to anchor for the night for great snorkeling.

Ahead, beyond the Lemon Cays is the world of the San Blas Islands and the Kuna Indians.  With generally shallow waters, and flat bits of sandy land, the San Blas are a beautiful cruising area with crystal clear water over easily seen and virtually untouched coral and sea formations.  When cruising watch the bottom for giant starfish and the odd sea ray. The San Blas Islands are home to all kinds of coral, including fan corals, several types of brain coral, red rope sponges, vase sponges, tube sponges, staghorn coral and huge sea fans. And of course, the waters are home to multicolored tropical fish such as angelfish, butterfly fish, damselfish, trumpet fish, yellow snappers, silversides, parrotfish, bluehead wrasses, barracuda, and much more. Near Miriadiadup, located in the West Holandes Cays are vast soft coral “gardens” everywhere.

Coco Banderos

Sail to Green Island, on which is located a Kuna Indian Village.   A matriarchal society the Kuna Indians live and work within tribal communities under a tribal government.  They subsist through agriculture, hunting and fishing, however also are industrious with a long history of international trade, mainly in coconuts and lobsters.  Kuna Indians have a tradition of body painting in various colors and designs.  When early Missionaries pushed the culture to wearing clothes, body painting was reproduced in multiple layers of colored cloth sewn together with the original body designs re-created through pierce work and appliqué.  These panels, called Molas, were then sewn together and today create a colorful traditional wear for men and woman.  The handmade Mola panels are also a hot tourist item and are a lovely textile handicraft to bring home as representative of this unique native Indian culture.  Finding Molas for purchase is quite easy as the Kuna women have these readily on display for any visitors.

Kuna Indian Village

Visit the Coco Bandero Cays and enjoy the translucent waters that are almost emerald green.  Look out for the traditional “Ulu” boats that sell fresh lobster, and coconut.  Before heading back to Colon to disembark, visit Tupsuit Dumat and Tupsuit Pippi, two little islands in the far western corner of the Golfo de San Blas. “Dumat” means big and “pippi” means small. On these two islands are also very traditional Kuna Indians villages for another chance to spend more time with this indigenous people and a chance to purchase more molas.  Later that day cruise back to Colon for your final night on board, having spent a great crewed yacht charter exploring the beauty of the San Blas Islands and learning about the Kuna Indian indigenous civilization.

Molas For Sale