Dutch Keys

The palm trees, white sand beaches, and coral reefs on the 363 islands, most no larger than a football field, of the Guna Yala archipelago make it a truly paradise-like place in Panama's Caribbean Sea.

One of the most impressive reefs are the Dutch Keys, a favorite snorkeling spot to swim amidst beautifully colored fish, snapper, moray eels, nurse sharks, and manta rays.

Visitors can spend the night camping on the beach of nearby islands; however, it is important to note that the best camping season is in the dry summer months when it doesn't rain.

In addition to these beautiful natural attractions, you can also visit the islands inhabited by the Guna indians to learn about their customs and traditions.

Location

The Guna Yala Comarca, or indigenous district, is located to the northeast of Panama City and east of the Panama Canal. The first islet in the Dutch Keys can be reached in a 2 hour outboard motor boat ride, and along the way you will be able to take in the beautiful scenery.

Morodup Island is the last island in the Dutch Keys, named after the Guna word (moro) for an animal that resembles a turtle, though larger. Years ago some Guna indians kept these moros as pets.

Galubir Island, which means Island of the Spirits or Land of the Spirits in the native tongue, is the largest in this region.

The distance between the first and last island is about a 45 minute boat ride.

How to arrive

  • Plane: It is about a half hour flight from Marcos A. Gelabert airport in Albrook to the airstrip in the indigenous district.

AirPanama

When you board the plane at Marcos A. Gelabert airport in Panama City, be sure that the destination in Guna Yala is El Porvenir, on an island only 15 minutes from the Lemon Keys and the Cartí area.

  • Car: You will need a 4x4 vehicle. From Panama City, take the Pan-American Highway towards the Darién Province. At the village of El Llano, turn left and northwards to ascend the mountain range and then back down on the other side until you reach the Caribbean Sea. Here the Guna will be waiting with their boats to take you to the different islands.

What to bring

  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimsuit
  • Water bottle
  • Hat
  • Tent if you want to camp
  • Fishing gear
  • Snorkeling gear (diving with a tank is prohibited by the Guna)

Activities

  • Fishing
  • Snorkeling
  • Wildlife observation
  • Camping

Source and photos: Pecari Tours