Kayaking in San Blas, Panama

While the sailboats provide constant views of beautiful tropical scenery, the best way to get closer to the verdant rainforests and commune with the seas of the San Blas islands is by kayak (cayuco). These canoe-like boats are easy to use and are perfect for exploring the many small, deserted islands of the archipelago. Paddle out to a postcard perfect islet, sit beneath the coconut palms, and it’s easy to imagine being Robinson Crusoe. When you quietly paddle through the gorgeous turquoise waters of the San Blas islands, don’t be surprised if fish jump right next to the boat, if you get close to floating sea turtles, or if dolphins come to check you out. Many animals are also more accepting of the presence of a quiet and discrete kayak compared to other watercraft.

A kayak is also ideal for exploring one of the tropical rivers that wind their way through rainforests in the Kuna Yala. As you leave the sea and enter fresh water, the whispering of waves and salty air is replaced by the sounds, sights, and scents of the jungle. The humid, forest air is filled with the sounds of hidden insects, frogs, and other animals. Parrots and parakeets occasional fly above the forest in screeching flight, toucans awkwardly flap between massive rainforest trees, and rustling in the branches reveals a family of Spider Monkeys. The best part about experiencing the jungle from a kayak is that you don’t need to sweat it out as you walk along muddy trails through the forest. Instead, you just slowly and silently paddle your way upriver and thus tend to see more animals.