What a joy it was to share a few nights with Claudio and Laura aboard CUSH.
This wonderful couple sailed the world and have seen the most epic beaches in the world and they chose San Blas to lay anchor. If you want to truly find paradise there is no better place than the San Blas islands, and to get the most out of your trip, there is no better Captain than Claudio.
The Kuna who welcome you onto their lands are beautiful, creative, and gregarious people.
I am so grateful to Laura for being such a curious student of their culture and passing her knowledge on to her guests. After an incredible dinner and a lovely chat with Claudio and Laura, I would stay up and read a beautiful book Laura has about the women of Kuna Yala and their Molas. With a glass of Panamanian rum, it was the perfect ending to perfect days spent meeting these people and enjoying their islands.
There is a clear mutual respect between Claudio, Laura, and the Kunas as evident by simple exchanges, children leaping into Claudio’s arms, the women greeting Laura by name, Claudio finding a fresh hook for a fisherman, Laura preparing coffees for two Kuna men in their canoe as they deliver fresh produce, fishermen selling the days catch to the catamarans. The Kuna are very welcoming to all but you can sense they have a genuine love for Claudio and Laura not necessarily shared with all boats.
On this trip, you will literally feel like a castaway. At times I found myself laying on the white sand, under a palm tree pretty certain I was the only one on the island. Barefoot "hiking" through miniature coconut farms, dangling my legs into the water from the perch of a fallen palm tree, snorkeling alongside manta rays and sea turtles. It is as if the small boat that transfers you from the mainland to the catamaran is a time machine. Gorgeous, untouched islands — some completely isolated while others have a few Kuna families or fishermen living on them — with the most cerulean waters I’ve ever seen...(and I’ve dived throughout the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and the Great Barrier Reef).
Yet this place which on its surface appears to be one of the last unspoiled paradises on earth still manages to strike you with the stark realities of today’s modern world. There are small but tangible examples of climate change as islands fade away literally in front of you, palm trees uprooted from the sand, plastic bottles from the ocean pile up on inhabited islands, coral bleaching in some areas, and one of the few native people with the ability to do so — carefully protecting their lands from mass tourism. Don’t get me wrong, San Blas is a truly beautiful place. But it’s worth noting and in my opinion worth seeing now. Claudio and Laura are true stewards of ecotourism and sustainable living in general.
With that, they are also able to deliver a truly luxurious experience for their guests rooted in their own traditions — from Italy. Laura bakes fresh bread every day. They taught me how to make homemade pasta ON A BOAT. We shared many glasses of wine and “shots of espresso” — Italian coffees. There was always a cold beer waiting for me when I got out of the water. But let’s talk specifics on the food: lobster and pasta, fish risotto, paella, octopus and tomatoes, lobster and chickpeas, and every morning the best pancakes and freshest fruit. Just incredible!
A few notes on logistics. I traveled solo and would 10/10 recommend for solo travelers. I can also see a family having the most wonderful time with them. They did sail the world with a small child so they know a thing or two about kids and boats. I think 2 nights should be your minimum, I did 3 but could have stayed 3 months ( if they’d have me)! They keep the boat spotless, the cabin is comfortable and bigger than I anticipated. Claudio connects you with a third party that provides all your transportation needs. They were also good but if I were traveling with more than 3 people, I’d book the private transfer instead of the group to cut out some waiting time. Listen to what they say about limited luggage. From a chronic over-packer, you truly only need 3 bathing suits and a cover-up dress or shorts to put on for dinner, maybe a light sweater. Lots of sunscreen, lots of after sun (plus Laura has fresh aloe growing on the boat), no make-up. It’s an Italian boat but Claudio had some adapters for us 120 volters.
Claudio and Laura have a carefree ease and sense of understanding to them that I believe can only come from taking a true leap of faith, really “seeing it all,” and actually living out a life of adventure. Whatever type of traveler you are, I’m confident you’ll be inspired by and feel at home with Claudio and Laura.