My first day on Island Hierba San Blas islands
I am convinced that I will remember everything from my trip to island Hierba in San Blas in Panama.
Every single minute of my entire trip was an experience by itself. An unforgettable experience …
Let me start from the beginning.
To get to San Blas islands is not easy. The tourism there is not what you would expect and the tourism in Panama country simply has a lot to improve in general … I could speak about this for ages but if you’ve ever visited Panama or worked with anyone in the travel industry in this beautiful country, then you know exactly what I’m talking about …
Anyway, I literally spent a few weeks trying to plan my San Blas getaway. I don’t even think I’ve EVER spent so much time checking out everything I could about holidays for 2 or 3 days. NEVER. But each time I asked someone about San Blas, they always said go to that island, do not go to that island, go there, do not go there … I mean, there’s supposed to be 365 islands, how in heck am I supposed to choose the best one, for the best price, doing the best activities, with the best travel agency??
Maybe I got overwhelmed … and each time I thought I finally found the best option, I realized because of the Easter time it was just not meant to be … overbooked, sorry. No transportation, sorry. No accommodation, sorry …
I almost thought I was not going to visit San Blas at all and I was also really angry it’s not really possible to visit it on your own without planning. And another thing, I am not a big fan of overpriced places …
But everyone kept telling me San Blas is a must see.
And for some reason, maybe it really WAS meant to be …
When I thought I had to leave San Blas trip for my next visit to Panama, at the hostel I was staying I met a French guy who worked for Cacique Cruiser. I’ve heard of the tour company a few days earlier when visiting Kalu Yala from a friend who also used to work for them.
In the end, I could join the group going on the new San Blas trip the following day.
I was so happy you have no idea as it was literally the last days I could go there as then I had plans made already.
So my San Blas trip started on a Sunday around lunch time at the hostel Luna’s Castle in Panama City. First, we pulled at a supermarket to buy water and anything else we needed (snacks) for our 3 days on San Blas islands. The whole drive to Carti took us around 4 hours. I fell asleep a few times in the car and ate a bunch of bananas.
It was hot and humid, typical Panama weather. Well, at least until we got to Carti where we had to unload the car and take a boat to our island.
As soon as we got to Carti, we were surrounded by a huge number of black clouds, strong wind and drizzling. Not the weather we were all expecting.
”You’re gonna get wet, put swimwear, waterproof jackets or rain coats on.” shouted at us Breno, our Cacique Cruiser guide for the following days.
Well, we never really realized it could get this cold on the paradise islands.
”What do I need to take with me to San Blas?” ”Bikini and a towel.” was the usual answer. So I did … and left almost all my other things locked at the hostel …
So the next 30 minutes on the boat were like hell to me … Freezing, slippery, windy, with the water splashing to my face, my eyes, my mouth … I think I got overload of salt at least until the end of 2016 …
I was sitting there on the boat, trying to hold the edge of it when jumping on the waves, with my eyes closed, all wet and goose bumps all over … usually I get the chills from seeing the beautiful things but now I was so cold I think I spent the entire 30 minutes swearing wtf I was doing there …
I was just praying for a change. Weather, please, change for the next 3 days. Please. I need some sun! That’s why I came here for, right? Sunbathing in the paradise …
But the very first hour on San Blas islands seemed like the worst hell to me …
We finally arrived and pulled our boat over at Isla Hierba, one of the Cayos Limoneses islands (San Blas is divided into islands so it’s easier to navigate.)
60 families own Isla Hierba, the island where we camped at. We were lucky enough to see the change of the families. The first day we stayed there it was Lao with his 2 sweet daughters, a baby boy, his mother and another older lady living there a very simple life in a cottage, drinking coconut water and relaxing in a hammock.
Lao’s family waited for 5 years to get a chance to live on the island for 3 months. It was super interesting to see Lao’s family leaving after our first day as it was exactly the time when the family switch was done and thus we could experience the new family coming to the island, too.
Both Lao and then the head of the new family that came to Hierba Island were selling a fresh coconut for $1 and would even cut it open for you to eat the meat once you drank the water. Being such a coconut lover myself, I did not need more than that to survive …
But the Cacique Cruiser was so professional and nice that they got me vegan meals, too. They were very accommodating when it comes to food, which I highly appreciated as getting any food on the islands is not so easy.
Anyway, back to the story …
Once we got to Isla Hierba, the storm was finally over. I could change into the only not wet clothes I had in my tent. Yes, we were camping there on the island. I had a single tent for myself, with blankets and an inflatable mattress.
There were just another 4 tents on the island, a small toilet, 2 huts and our open hut which was used as a kitchen and dining place. Then just 2 hammocks, hundreds of palm trees and coconut shells.
Once we relaxed a little bit, we jumped on the boat again and were taken to Isla Elefante (Elephant island) to have dinner at a restaurant there. As far as I remember, Isla Elefante is one of the very few San Blas islands with electricity, toilets and even a disco.
After dinner, we had a bonfire made out of dry coconut shells back on our Island Hierba. I could dry up my wet clothes by the fire, was so grateful you have no idea! It didn’t rain any more but we were all tired so wet to our tents pretty early …
Being an insomniac, I did my best to sleep at night but it was such a difficult task. The wind was so strong that at times I thought it was going to swipe me together with the entire tent off the ground and land us somewhere in the Caribbean. I slept with all my clothes on, was really cold. Far away from the hot tropical weather I was expecting …
I wanted the night to be over, and so the wind and the occasional rain …
After maybe the only hour of sleep I got that night, I woke up around 5am and decided to get up. I was the only one up from the group so I could enjoy the most stunning sunrise in silence. I sat down on the sand, closed my eyes and meditated for a while until I could feel the sunbeams warming up my face. Then I walked around the island three times. It just took around 5 minutes to walk it all if you walked fast.
Wow, I am experiencing Isla Hierba, a San Blas island in the Caribbean surrounded with hundreds of my favorite meal (coconuts), walking barefoot on the sand, playing with the sea shells and observing the sunrise! Pinch me! Now I know what they meant heaven on Earth. I finished my alone time swaying in a hammock with big black birds flying around me.
Once everyone else woke up, Breno and Sandra served us breakfast. It was way better than I expected – a lot of fresh fruit, a cake, eggs, toasts etc.
Then we could just hang out, sunbathe, swim and simply indulge in the luxury of the island … at least in my eyes all we had there was a sort of luxury, as personally I did not need more …
I spent a few hours playing in the sea and with the cute Kuna family daughters, marveling at the shells and different pieces of sand, checking out the sky with no clouds, and even practicing some yoga. I needed that alone time like never … no phones, no wifi, no laptop … just me and the voices in my head … ”Thank you, weather, that you stopped the storm and took the clouds and the wind away. Thank you.”
Another group came later on and we all had a delicious lunch together sitting under the palm trees.
Suddenly, it was so hot we all prefered the shade and some guys looked pretty pink already. Now we all prayed for some breeze. Do we, humans, always really want what we do not have?
Later in the afternoon, we spent some time on another island – Nalunega island, which was a completely different experience again …
We finished the day with dinner on Isla Elefante and another bonfire on our island …
After the first few hours on Isla Hierba that seemed like hell to me, after the sunrise everything changed… it was a real day in a paradise.
Thank you isla Hierba and San Blas islands for such a unique experience. Thank you for my precious hours in this paradise.
My trip to Isla Hierba San Blas islands was organized by Cacique Cruiser as part of my Adventure and Spa project. Thumbs up for such a good organization, for accommodating my mostly raw vegan diet and for all the laughs and conversations.
***It took me more than 5 hours to write this post.
I see, definitely great nomadic concept. One must have it in DNA to tolerate so intensive lifestyle.
Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler
Yeah, patience was the word 😀
Dejan - Punta Cana
Hi, great post…I like those photos of sunset with that lonely palm…Definitely something I was dreaming about…Thank you
Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler
Nice scenery, right 🙂 Glad you like it too!
Hmm, what interests me a lot is the fact the island is owned by 60 families and they change. Do you know how does this work? Do I get it right, that they live somewhere else and they come over for some time and then leave again?
Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler
Yes, that’s right. Each family is on a waiting list and once it’s their turn, they go and live on the island for 3 months only. Before and after they live in communities on the mainland, as far as I know. Very interesting, but better to have a private island for your family and a few tourists only at least for 3 months than never, right? 🙂