Discover the nature and people of Panama and Costa Rica on the elegant 32-cabin Safari Voyager, refurbished in 2016 and offering great amenities, service, facilities, and activities.
A Guna Yala Cruise offers the perfect blend of culture and nature, with plentiful activities and relaxation options so that you can have the perfect Panama cruise that you’ve been dreaming about. Previously known as San Blas Islands, Guna Yala is located in the northwest of Panama and next to the Caribbean Sea. It is where the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the man after whom Panama’s currency is named, was beheaded. Other turbulent past events have occurred in the area, though today Guna Yala is known more for its excellent tourism and friendly locals.
Made up of more than 350 small islands and islets, the area is home to the Guna people, a Native group, and it is said to be one of the best-preserved indigenous cultures in all the Americas. You can learn more about the local culture, customs, traditions, and heritage whilst on a cruise to Guna Yala, Panama. Your visit may be part of a longer trip from Panama to Costa Rica, though it is sure to be a favourite part of any Panama cruise.
Top things to do and see in Guna Yala
Guna Yala is a magical and enticing destination in Panama, and there are so many things to see and do from your Guna Yala small ship cruise. Here are some highlights:
White Sand Beach Islands - With hundreds of island and islets scattered through the Guna Yala area, there is certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches to enjoy. White sandy beaches meet pure waters, with swaying palmtrees providing plenty of shade and adding touches of green to the landscapes. Sunbathe, relax, swim, or feel the sand between your toes as you take a stroll - the choice is yours.
Snorkeling - The waters around Guna Yala are teeming with fascinating marine life. Although diving is prohibited in the waters around Guna Yala, you can still enjoy marvellous underwater discoveries with snorkeling adventures, popular on adventure cruises around Guna Yala. Marvel at one of the world’s most untouched and intact coral reefs, with great visibility in the clear shallow waters. Huge schools of fish swim through the waters, creating multi-coloured and moving visions that stretch far into the distance. Sea turtles may also pass you by, and you might come face to face with an octopus, a starfish, or a harmless but fearsome-looking whale shark.
Fishing - Sports fishing and fly fishing are other popular activities on a Guna Yala cruise. You might even catch your dinner! The locals use fishing as a major means of sustenance, hunting in the shallow reefs and sandbanks. Do as the locals do and see what you can catch. Fish that live in the waters include red snapper, grouper, marlin, tuna, sailfish, and king fish. If you don’t hook anything, don’t be despondent; you can still enjoy plenty of fresh seafood and fish for dinner.
Other Active Adventures - Guna Yala boat cruises provide a number of great activities for those who are keen to try new things or already have favourite hobbies that they can’t get enough of. Head off the boat and go hiking, exploring the landscapes, enjoying the views, and seeing local wildlife. The rich forests are filled with interesting flora and fauna. Hop into a kayak and paddle around the coastal areas, getting close to land and feeling at peace as you enjoy the tranquil environment on your own terms. Get a great workout with paddleboarding, similar to surfboarding but where you use your arms to propel your board across the water. Lie on your board and peer down into the clear waters. Traverse the waters in a dugout canoe. There are many possibilities!
Meet the Gunas - A major reason for many to opt for a Guna Yala cruise as part of their cruise from Panama is the fact that you can meet members of one of the most interesting Native groups in the Americas. Be welcomed by the Guna people and wander through small villages with traditional homes. Thatched roofs dot the landscapes, and you can see how the local people live, as well as learning about their fishing methods and heritage.
Buy Local Handicrafts - Females of the Guna group are known for their brightly coloured and ornate clothing. You can help to support the local community and take home local handicrafts such as molas, items that are part of these wonderful traditional garments.
Top Tips for visiting Guna Yala on a cruise
- Have currency in small denominations if you plan to buy local handicrafts to prevent problems with finding change. Note, the local currency in the Panamanian Balboa, with one balboa divided into 100 cents.
- Having your own snorkeling equipment is often more comfortable than using the ship-provided gear. An underwater camera or GoPro is highly recommended for snorkeling trips.
- An umbrella and a wet-weather jacket is advised if visiting during the rainy season.
- Binoculars are ideal for keen ornithologists.
- Do NOT forget your camera! There are many opportunities to capture great photos to reminisce over in years to come.
Best time to cruise through the Guna Yala
The best time to take a Guna Yala cruise is during the dry season, which is generally between the months of December and April. Activities, such as kayaking and hiking, are much more enjoyable and accessible. October is usually the wettest month, with the rainy season typically falling between April and November. If you are hoping to see whales though, the wet season offers the prime conditions. There is little temperature variation throughout the year, and people may take a cruise at any time. Plan ahead and book your Guna Yala cruise to avoid disappointment.
Where do Guna Yala cruises depart from?
Panama small ship cruises to Guna Yala can leave from Panama or Costa Rica. Panama’s main departure points are Colon and Flamenco Marina, in the nation’s capital of Panama City. Primary cruise departure locations in Costa Rica are Herradura and Puntarenas. You will probably fly into Panama’s main airport of Tocumen International Airport (PTY), located in Panama City. There are many flights to and from various places around the world and it is a major gateway to Panama. From the airport, it is easy to reach the different cruise points by air. Colon is served by Enrique Adolfo Jiménez Airport (ONX) and both Costa Rican locations are within a short driving distance, of around an hour, from the main Costa Rican airport in the capital of San Jose - Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO).
Our reservations team can help you book your next cruise to Guna Yala, Panama. Contact us today.