I'll start by saying this place isn't for everyone. If you're going to whine about things like electricity or cry because you don't have Western-style lodging, then you really shouldn't stay here. However, if you are open-minded and can handle nature and an interesting culture for a few, then try it out. It was my favorite experience in Panama.
I traveled to Panama as a solo female. I booked online through the Lodge's site. At 4 am, I was picked up in a 4 x 4 at my hotel in Panama City, taken through the rainforest, and onto Kuna Yala land. We arrived at the dock to Carti Tupile, where there is a tiny waiting area for Kunas to travel to and from the little islands in the San Blas archipelago, which is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The Kuna are an amazing, proud people, and live true to their culture. As a Westerner, you do feel out of place, but in a fantastic, humbling sort of way. My driver waited with me until a young Kuna guy picked me up in his canoe. Landed on one of the island, Carti Tupile, which was so small, you could walk the whole of it in 5 minutes or so. Walking on dirt roads, we passed by huts and a school and a tiny store to the back of the island, to the lodge. The lodge has a bathroom, which isn't always functional, but welcome to the islands, man. The bed was comfortable enough and I loved the view, and the balcony. There was a parrot walking around but it's not dangerous. Hung out with Antonio and Pepe.
Pepe took me around to the other islands in the canoe, I had a chance to go the playa (beach), get a wicked tan, enjoy the water, walk under coconut trees, as well as visit slightly larger Kuna-inhabited islands. It was so much fun riding btw the little islands in a canoe, especially when the waters got a bit choppy (but it never tipped over!). I even went to a Kuna museum and saw some kids practicing for a dance ceremony and play basketball. It was so cool hanging out with and getting to know the Kunas. I speak limited Spanish and no Kuna, but we were able to communicate and laugh and share stories. It was pretty cool hearing about how the Kuna had fought off the Panamanians and Western conquerors for centuries and maintained their culture.
That night, Antonio, who takes care of the lodge, had prepared an amazing dinner for me. I also walked around the little island with the lodge and bought tons of beers (only a buck a pop) and shared them with some of the Kuna men hanging around. We also talked, laughed, sat on the rocks, enjoyed the sunset. Talked to as many Kuna as I could. They are very friendly and I was the only foreigner/tourist on the island at the time. Hung out with Antonio/Pepe at the Lodge and then went to bed. There is no electricity or Internet but that is the magic of this place. You are around eternal beauty and nature so you don't need any of that other stuff. But the folks here really take care of you. I never once felt unsafe.
I only stayed one night unfortunately. Everyone wakes up at the crack of dawn - due to the roosters and lack of electricity. And the day begins anew. I left that morning by canoe and was sad to go. I was picked up by my same driver at the "bus stop" and returned to Panama City. I had a blast with Antonio and Pepe. Miss you guys!
Much love, Josie.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Anbabnega Lodge is a beautiful 10-room eco-friendly hotel nestled on an island inhabited by Kuna Indians, living as they have for hundreds of years. The structure was built by the Kuna people using traditional materials, but has the conveniences of running water (showers/toilets) and solar powered lighting. Three delicious meals and daily trips to see other beautiful islands are included in our prices. We have staff that speaks English, Spanish, French, and Kuna. Anbabnega Lodge is not a five star resort! We provide basic comforts and the opportunity to explore the beautiful islands of Kuna Yala while also experiencing Kuna life and culture. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Anbabnega Hotel Carti Tupile