In Panama City, Panama but trying to decide between San Blas or Colon?
Allow me to give you my 2 cents!
Colon Islands vs San Blas, which one will be your happy place?
Many visit Panama for several reasons, and experiencing the exquisite beaches is one.
Panama is one of the few countries where you can drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in 2 to 3 hours. Besides Bocas Del Toro, The Province of Colon and San Blas have the best beaches in Panama.
San Blas and the Province of Colon both have islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
Should I start a debate about Atlantic Ocean beaches vs Pacific Ocean beaches?
Okay, maybe not today.
Both have beaches where you feel the joy of the ocean breeze over your face and the blue dazzling crystal blue-waters.
However, one is heavily promoted on blogs and tour industries, and the other is barely talked about, why?
Let´s always be aware of the communities that are protected, promoted, and cared for and the ones that are not.
My favorite island is Isla Mamey in Colon. This island is my happy place in Panama.
Although, expats and visitors should continue to support both of these marginalized communities.
Visiting the Province of the Colon or the Camarca of San Blas provides more resources and opportunities within these communities.
The Guna Yala and Afro-Panamanians who inhabit these Islands
San Blas islands are controlled by the Guna Yala people, who are 1 of the 7 indigenous groups in Panama. This area is a protected region of Panama where the Indigenous people fought for their freedom and won in 1957. Their laws are different from the main governments of Panama.
The Indigenous have kept most, if not all, of their traditions in their community. I think this is beautiful. However, what this means to visitors is that there is no modern technology.
So, limited cell service, no credit card usage, TVs, indoor plumbing, and paying a few cents for toilet paper is the norm.
Therefore, bring those wipes and cash.
San Blas has 365 islands, but only 50 are suitable for humans.
While I´m not sure of the exact number of islands used for tourism I want to say at least 10. However, I only visited 2 islands and a starfish pool.
Colon has only 6 islands to visit and I have only visited 2 islands. Colon´s islands are in the section called Portobelo. Unlike San Blas, there is modern technology and paved roads but always watch out for dem potholes cause those be everywhere in Panama.
Portobelo and the whole Province of Colon are where colonial Afro-Panamanians settled, as well as Caribbean Afro-Panamanians live.
AKA this is where our cousins be at.
I love this area so much because it feels like home.
The Province of Colon is one of the 3 concentrated areas where Afro-Panamanians live.
Why is the Province of Colon heavily Afro-Populated?
Yup, you guessed it, slavery and the building of the Panama Canal.
Portobelo was one of the ports for slave ships. These sites are still preserved to explore. My friends and I were able to understand a part of the painful history of Afro-descendant people across the world.
However, There is much more to Portobello than slavery. Like the preservation of congo dances, afro inspired art, and of course, food. Everyone who has experienced food from Colon always says it´s better than city food.
Pros of San Blas
More tour companies to take you to San Blas. Honestly, this is needed because you need a 4×4 to access the Guna Yala lands.
The Islands are beautiful! The white beaches, the palm trees, and the crystal blue water. San Blas Islands are a dream. The type of places you see in travel magazines.
In San Blas, you can have a Private Island experience or discover the animals of the sea by snorkeling and witnessing the beauty of different fish, starfish, shells, and much more.
Like, have you seen Patrick (Spongebob) up close?
Me neither until San Blas.
Tour companies typically cover food, travel, and boat fees in their package price. Usually excluded are the Guna Yala entrance fee and any food or drinks you decide to bring.
An overnight experience or a one-day pass to San Blas are the two options you can choose from. I would recommend the overnight. The day pass can be exhausting and feels rushed, less vacation-like, and more like a trip to Disney.
Cons of San Blas
It´s more of an off-the-grid experience with limited cell reception, no wifi service, no modern bathrooms, no stores, islands further from the mainland, no hotels or hostels, and no alcohol, you need to bring your own. Food options are super limited.
The route to get there is difficult and the rainy season, which is most of the year, adds another layer of difficulty to get to the islands. No bathroom options once you get off the main road until you get to the main village of the Guna Yala people.
You have to pay a fee to enter their lands currently the price for visitors is $20 and $5 for residents.
Pros Province of Colon Islands (Portobelo)
Getting to Colon is an easy trip. You can easily rent a car and drive yourself, Hire a driver, take uber or another driving service, take the bus to get to Portobelo, then a taxi to the exact island you want to visit, or buy a day trip with a tour company.
There are hotels on a few islands and the mainlands of Portobelo. The beaches are covered with white sand, palm trees, and crystal-clear waters. You have wifi and cell reception if you need to be able to work, children, or anything else.
These Islands are great for the perfect nomad work experience. Your food options have a little more variety than San Blas islands, and if you like alcohol they have it.
The boat rides are a lot shorter and smoother. My favorite part is being surrounded by Afro-descendant people just living their normal lives and just enjoying life. Portobelo is less of an off-the-grid experience and more of an enjoyable island vacation.
Cons of Province of Colon Islands (Portobelo)
The biggest issue is the trash. While they are doing better in taking care of the islands and the water, trash is still a big issue in the whole Province of Colon. This is because of the lack of timely trash pick-up from Panama´s government.
The people do their best.
I´ve even seen them recycle cans and bottles. However, there is no one picking it up as regularly as they should. The lack of education about pollution is also a contributing cause of trash. However, trash is a whole Panama issue.
The route to Portobelo can be inconvenient sometimes because of immigration checkpoints, especially on the holidays, which causes more traffic.
For people who aren´t dog lovers, many of the islands have stray dogs. However, they are friendly dogs, and there is a local that can help if you.
While everyone visits these two areas for beach time for different reasons. They both provide different cultural experiences for your vacation.
I definitely prefer the ease of Colon islands and the experience of being surrounded by my people. I will always feel at home on the islands of Colon.
However, being able to disconnect from the world for a little bit is a great experience. To be able to focus on the people you love and explore the culture of the Guna Yala a little bit more is a unique experience you will always keep with you.
While I believe everyone should experience both cultures of island life that is near Panama City, Panama.
What island experience will you enjoy more?
Comment below on your experiences of San Blas islands and the Colon islands.
As Always Thank You for Reading My World, My Vision, My Adventure!
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3 responses to “Colon vs San Blas Beaches, Panama.”
This is a comment about hair and not about islands. 🙂 You asked me which hair terms I didn’t know/understand. I think the only hair term I know is a weave. I have to admit that I don’t know much about hair anyway, even my own. I get it trimmed at the local cosmetology school whenever I think about it, which isn’t very often. Now that the blue dye is slowly fading away, I’m going back next week to get another color put on. So if you feel like defining all the hair terms you used in your last post, I’d be fascinated. But of course I realize you, like all of us, have little spare time. So glad you got away to the islands though. I’m only familiar with the mountainous region of Panama, in the west of the country, so reading about the islands was fascinating for me. And BTW, you look great!
Yea just google black hair terms or watch my videos you can learn a lot. Yea, I love the islands here. Also, thank you for the compliment. As Always thanks for engaging and reading my blog.
I will indeed Google “black hair terms,” Biola. How’s the teaching going? Would love to hear how many students you’re teaching and at what level, how many classes you’re teaching, whether you’re doing one-on-one tutoring, stuff like that. I’ve only changed planes in Panama City to fly on to David, in the west of the country, so I’m interested in what you have to say about PC. How’s your Spanish? Mine is, alas, pretty elementary.