Peaceful little Portobelo on Panama’s Caribbean coast with its unrivalled sea views, secluded white-sand beaches and backdrop of lush, tropical jungle should be a busy tourist spot. It remains, however, a tranquil town with an African art and music scene whose roots lie in Congo. It’s hard to imagine that this was once one of the busiest ports in the Americas, a major trading hub, and the embarkation point for gold and silver, which was brought by mules from Peru and Bolivia and was destined for the Spanish Main. Vestiges of cannoned fortresses endure and watch over the spot where Sir Francis Drake came to rest in 1596.
In contrast to the West-Indian influenced Bocas del Toro islands, the archipelago of San Blas hosts the indigenous culture of the Kuna Yala indians, who have enjoyed autonomy since the 1920s. The string of 400 islands includes tiny islets with a just few coconut palms to over forty which are inhabited. The Kuna Yala maintain a deeply traditional, communal lifestyle based at their bamboo, palm-thatched residences, surviving from fishing and agriculture. These conservative people welcome sensitive visitors to their gorgeous palm-dotted beaches; a few days here is a unique experience.
Things to do
We proudly offer the widest range of activities, excursions and one-of-a-kind experiences across all our destinations, tried and tested personally by our travel experts.
Explore Spanish fortresses and pirate history
Go snorkelling in the Panamanian Caribbean
Meet the Kuna indians of San Blas
Panamanian Caribbean kayaking adventure
Where to go when - our guide to Portobelo and San Blas Islands
The weather in Portobelo and San Blas Islands is wide and varied
Portobelo was once one of the busiest ports in Latin America, while the San Blas Islands sit at the most northerly point of the isthmus extending out into the Caribbean Sea. This region is best visited in Dec - Apr, when rainfall is liminal and temperatures remain balmy and warm. The rest of the year ushers in monsoon-like downpours.View our Portobelo and San Blas Islands weather guide
Your edit for Latin American inspiration
Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.View Extraordinary Inspiration
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert
Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.
Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert
After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.
Alex Walker - Travel Expert
A globetrotter since her childhood, Alex spent a year studying abroad in Guadalajara and has returned to Latin America countless times since then.
Ben Line - Travel Expert
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.