14
May
2012

Tropical Islands: Olympic Escape Idea #2

Imagine a place where there is no traffic, no stress, and no one has ever heard of Boris Johnson. The San Blas Islands in the Kuna Yala region of Panama are quite possibly the most beautiful gems in the Caribbean. Island life is simple but happy and relaxed, with indigenous communities dotted across the 378 islands that make up the archipelago.

The Kuna Indians escaped Spanish invasion thanks to lots of coral reefs and sharp rocks. Even today, shipwrecks poke out from the crystal blue waters as a reminder of the dangers. This place is remote, but it’s easy to fly or take a cruise from Panama City. Or you can sail from Cartagena in Colombia for a few days with organised boat cruises. Budget travellers enquire in boat yards to offer a helping hand during cruises.

Once there, you can swim from island to island, snorkel through reefs or take some time on a completely deserted white beach before paddling back to your boat on a canoe. On some islands there are only starfish, hermit crabs and birds for company, so it really is a world away from London.

Only 49 islands are inhabited and some are more developed than others. Avoid the backpacker islands and head out to explore friendly communities living as they have done for hundreds of years. Elderly ladies with bright red headscarves thrash coconuts with machetes and giggling kids skip through town on their way to school.

These communities haven’t seen the negative side of tourism as much, so visitors are often greeted with handshakes and children scramble to get their picture taken. The sea is beautifully clear and the white sands and palm trees are everything you would expect from a tropical paradise.

Fishermen, craftswomen and fruit pickers are keen to sell their wares on water, so a fish supper is never far away. Eating freshly cooked lobster onboard a sailing boat while watching the sunset ends a perfectly relaxing day. It’s washed down with rum and coke, and as the boat gently rocks its inhabitants to sleep, it lifts all their stresses and strains away.

Fly to Panama City from £693 with budgetair.co.uk.

San Blas is 20 minutes from Panama City with Air Panama. Fly from Panama City to the island of El Porvenir from £23.

Start looking for boats from Panama City or Cartagena here.

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