I thought places like Nubesidub existed only in movies or the lives of billionaires.
Nubesidub is a tiny, secluded island that’s part of the San Blas archipelago, with coconuts growing on trees, white-sand beach everywhere, thatched huts, a sunken ship, and crystal clear blue waters for as far as the eye can see.
San Blas’ 365 islands are part of Guna Yala, a comarca (a type of province) stretching along Panama’s northeastern Caribbean coast, home to the indigenous Guna people. The islands are regularly named as some of the most beautiful in the world by sailing groups and travel publications, including Lonely Planet.
Today, some of the almost 50 inhabited San Blas islands are a major revenue source for Guna Yala. Tourists can be transported from Panama City directly to one of the tiny islands, ranging from totally private and secluded, to somewhat more patronized and social. Once there, if you stay overnight, you’re treated to breakfast with coffee, fish for lunch, and even large, fresh-caught lobsters for dinner.
Of course, the specifics of the meals differ island to island, and, if you want, you can pay less to opt out and bring a cooler with your own provisions. You should check in advance either way. Different islands offer different things. Sometimes you need to bring your own beer, for example.
How Long Can You Stay?
A one-night stay on one of these Robinson-Crusoe islands is generally around US$140 (varies island to island), with most of that cost going to entry and transportation fees. A two-night stay is US$200, meaning your second night costs less than half what your first night cost.
Looking for a longer-term island escape? You could stay on one of these islands for around US$2,000 per month—fees, transportation, and meals included. Just be sure to notify the authorities of your plans and not to overstay your Panamanian tourist visa if you’re on one. The comarca may have some questions if you plan to stay long-term.
Aside from relaxing on a hammock by the water or going for a dive to explore the coral reefs surrounding each island, there are few distractions and not a whole lot to do in this island paradise… and that’s the point.
This is relaxation at its best… island life at its best… Panama at its best.
That said, there are two definite must-sees. The first is the sunken shipwreck just off Isla Perro. The gunboat, said to be a Colombian boat from about 40 years ago, has been taken over by nature and is now home to fish and other marine life.
The second must-see is Starfish Island, which isn’t really an island but an area of extremely shallow water where you can disembark and walk around among the starfish.
The Guna women living in this part of Panama have retained much of their traditional customs and culture. Their brightly colored hand-woven clothing certainly stands out and is representative of the body paint they used to don prior to the arrival of imposing European missionaries telling them to cover up.
If you want a piece of Guna culture to take back with you, buy a mola, a hand-sewn cloth panel with intricate and colorful designs similar to that of the women’s clothing. You could also buy painted conch shells and jewelry, too.
While the Guna are some of the most welcoming people you’ll meet in Panama, their island home isn’t a place you can settle in. Buying real estate and operating businesses in Guna Yala is strictly off-limits for outsiders, including non-Guna Panamanians. The Guna have long held a distinct identity from the rest of Panama, as well as a separate form of governance from the rest of Panama’s provinces. This is Guna territory, and they intend to keep it that way.
As the Guna I met put it, those who pass through this unique and pristine environment should take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.
It’s definitely a place to see.