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The San Blas Islands look like paradise. Photographer Scott Sporleder has proof.

ONLY A 20-MINUTE plane ride from Panama City is an archipelago called the San Blas Islands. It consists of around 378 islands and cays, of which only 49 are inhabited by the Kuna Indians. They have managed to remain somewhat autonomous from Panama, maintaining their own economic system, language, and culture.

Another way to access the islands is by Kuna merchant ships from Colón. Snorkeling is a major attraction as the islands are home to some of the oldest reefs in the world. For years I’d been wanting to travel to the San Blas Islands to photograph them and the Kuna Indians, ever since I saw an image of a woman wearing a colorfully decorated dress. My time finally came.

Travelers Stoked on this Gallery

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Photo Essay


About The Author

Scott Sporleder

Since graduating from San Diego State University, Scott has dedicated 3 months a year to travel and photographing the world's unique cultures. While not on the road, you can visit Scott every summer at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach. You can also view his travel photography at

  • Rudy Mejía

    It such a beautiful island

  • Jenny Williams

    Those starfish blow my mind!

  • Global Yodel

    sign me up – great photos!

  • Risseth Yangüez

    this is so beautiful! I’m panamanian and I’ve never went there, maybe I’ll go in November. Awesome pictures! Glad you liked that little part of my country :)

    • Scott Sporleder

      Risseth… it is a beautiful area is all of Panama. I would highly recommend making a trip to the San Blas if you get a chance!

  • Mosoke Francis

    oh nature. I really do lack words to extend how I feel see these wonderful touristic sites. it is really beautiful.

  • Susanne Cheekyface

    Love your photos. I’d never heard of that island before now….it is so beautiful, however the people look desperately poor, but happy. I guess its all in your perspective of life isn’t it.

    • Maylin Swiecicki

      I am from Panama. The Kunas, as the Emberas and the other natives of Panama fight to preserve their lifestyle as it is. What it is for us to be poor, for them is just life as it has to be. I hope they conserve their traditions as long as possible :)

  • Lorena Oberlin

    Great job my traveller friend! I´ve been there last August and I can say you´re showing thankfully this amazing culture like it is to the world. About this people, apart from the fact they don´t know how to treat garbage and they´re throwing it to the sea and we must help them immediately with this, they are such an interesting rich culture to discover.

    • Scott Sporleder

      Lorena, so true… it is an interesting topic, that of trash. What the Kunas (as well as other island indigenous cultures) should do with their trash. That being said, they are a beautiful people and the islands they live on are straight out of a dream!

  • Dan Lester

    Yes, beautiful. But you forgot to show pictures of the electric wires hanging around the main island, the 45 inch flat panel TVs in the houses, and things like that. They DO provide an interesting contrast between the traditional mixed with (or compromised by?) the modern.

  • Maylin Swiecicki

    Great pictures, thanks for sharing them and for appreciating a part of the world that is still virgin from five start hotels and millions of tourist.

    • Malgorzata Rzeszotarska

      Amen :-)

    • Vanessa Sanders

      Wuhu ive been there:)

  • Ina

    Very happy to see all the pictures. proud to be Guna Indian who now live in USA.

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