The San Bas Islands are a vast archipelago on Panama’s Caribbean coast composed of over 345 islands. World wild they are unique in many ways, home to the indigenous Kuna indians, who have best preserved their culture and traditions out of all the tribes in the Americas. At the same time you have one of the most untouched stretches of virgin rainforest and a cruising ground of incredible beauty, all in the same place. The San Bas Islands and the associated mainland territory are called Kuna Yala by the autonomous Kuna Indians who effectively control this quarter of Panama. The land is not divided into individual properties and fences are absent. That is why the landscape still looks much the same as Vasco Nunez de Balboa first arrived.
The Kunas are peaceful, they are accepting of visitors, but prohibit any non-Kuna from permanently setting or intermarrying. Most of them speak Spanish and they come to boats to sell sea products. The women make «molas». These beautiful appliqué shirts are intricately made by sewing and cutting different layers of colorful cloth. Each Mola is unique, and they usually show abstracted forms of birds, animals or marine life. As soon as you anchor near a village the women paddle out in a dugout «ulu» and show you dozens of different molas. They are friendly and don’t say much.
Kuna Yala is a matrilineal society. The women control the money and the husbands move into the women’s family compound. The women choose also the husbands. Traditional Kuna village are picturesque, clean and blend into the surrounding landscape. It’s a trip out of time that you’ll get there, among white sand beaches, coconut trees and clear waters!