(Note: Sorry, no pics right now due to a less than cooperative internet connection.)
We spent four days in the Western Perlas, not a ton of time for sure, but enough to get a feel for the place. We had heard that the Perlas were the San Blas light, nice but nothing to write home about, but the two island groups are from our perspective completely and utterly different, cut from separate cloth.
Where the San Blas are flat sand spits dotted with palm trees, the Perlas rise up from the sea in jagged cliffs or beaches backstopped with jungle. The Perlas are huge in comparison to the tiny San Blas Islands, and the whole place is teeming with lush rainforest. While many San Blas islands are obviously inhabited with Kuna huts built almost on top of each other, the Perlas have a much more subtle population, a tiny village on an outcropping of rock, the occasional privately owned island. Sure, there are touristy places in the Perlas with lots of folks, but overall it seems much more rugged and wild, much like how I imagine the coast of Maine looking, all rocks and forest and surf.
We spent most of our water time in the Perlas scrubbing the bottom of the boat, so we didn’t do any snorkeling. But I get the feeling the reefs just don’t compare to the San Blas. What reefs do?! The water isn’t as clear here, and it’s much colder. We were often alone in an anchorage, just us and about a million dive bombing pelicans. We’ve spent the past few months surrounded by other boats, hanging out with friends and being oh so social, and it’s been refreshing to take a little break, to have a little alone time in quiet anchorages. Pelicans excluded, of course.