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Panamanian Paradise

We’re all about island paradises here at Trufflepig; there is nothing more satisfying than leaving all the work and world behind and retreating to a remote, azure-water-surrounded island. You can feel the city’s slickness slipping away from you. You can feel those hunched shoulders drifting down and your breath becoming slower as you take in the languid pace and setting sun.

It is also rather pleasing to have a little culture thrown in with your beach time, and so it was on a recent visit to Guna Yala (formerly San Blas or Kuna Yala), on the Caribbean Coast of Panama. Panama is an interesting land, the last outpost in Central America before giving way to the massive South America; it is the thinnest point in the Americas, an isthmus connecting Costa Rica and Colombia.

In Guna Yala I stayed at Yandup Island Lodge, an island with just 10 villas (some over-water) scattered around the small green island’s edges, and a restaurant with a palapa. It is owned and run by the Guna (or Kuna) community, an indigenous group that inhabit a separate island close by. As well as enjoying terrifically calm waters, perfect for snorkeling and swimming, and boating to uninhabited islands to lounge by a beer cooler, you can also visit the Kuna people in their own environment.

We enjoyed a fascinating visit to the Playon Chico Kuna Yala community, for a wander around the village with its wooden huts and joyful and multitudinous children, always playing and smiling (the community has lots of kids, as they believe their happiness wards off bad spirits). The community is wholly self-sufficient and hugely impressive. It is a colourful place with something always going on; at one point a dance was taking place with the boys gyrating in sequence and playing wooden flutes, and the girls playing maracas. A perfect balance between energetic culture and the quiet island isolation you came here for.

Anton loves his big city life, but if he can’t be where all the buzz is, he’ll settle for a swinging hammock on a secluded island.