Quite a bit farther south and east down the archipelago, less than 100 kilometers from the Colombian border, is yet another island cluster with several inhabited, fairly traditional islands and a number of small, uninhabited private islands. The former include Mamitupu, Achutupu, and, farther away, Ailigandí.
Don’t confuse the Achutupu here with the little snorkeling spot near El Porvenir . This one is a densely inhabited island, in the middle of which is a huge gathering house. These long thatch-roofed buildings are the center of community life in Kuna villages.
If you’re lucky, a puberty ceremony or community meeting will be taking place on the island during your stay. If you’re very lucky, you’ll be allowed to observe some of it.
Immediately to the east of Achutupu, about a minute away by boat, is Uaguitupu, also known as Dolphin Island. About half the island is taken up by Kuna huts, while the other half is home to the long-established Dolphin Island Lodge , also known as Uaguinega. The island is pretty and offers tranquil views. However, it doesn’t offer much in the way of a beach.
This is primarily a place to collapse in a hammock for hours on end, and for that it’s just about perfect. There are two newer places to stay in the area, Akwadup Lodge and Dad Ibe Lodge, adding to the sense of this area as a center for relatively upscale lodging. Each is on a private island a short boat ride away from the mainland.
About 20 minutes north of these islands are a series of coral heads. If the sea is calm and the visibility good, the snorkeling here is okay. Sadly, though, intensive fishing in the area makes it unlikely you’ll see much besides tiny fish. In fact, I’ve found the snorkeling in this densely populated part of the archipelago to be disappointing in general. The area’s charm comes from the beauty and peace of the surroundings and the proximity to more-or-less traditional inhabited islands.
Other tour possibilities include trips to the nearby inhabited islands of Ailigandí or Mamitupu, forest hikes, and a tour of a Kuna cemetery. Several tours to more distant locations are available for an extra fee.
This section of the archipelago is quite a hike from more commonly visited areas, and distances are much too great to take a small boat from any of them. There are airstrips at both Mamitupu and Achutupu; if your hotel is meeting you, be sure to agree which airstrip you should use.
Aeroperlas (tel. 315-7500, www.aeroperlas.com ) flies to Mamitupu (sometimes spelled Mamitupo) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and to Achutupu on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Flights leave Panama City  around 6 A.M. to either destination and return at about 7:55 A.M.
Air Panama (tel. 316-9000, www.flyairpanama.com ) flies to Mamitupu on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Flights leave Panama City around 6 A.M. and return at about 6:55 A.M. Air Panama does not currently have scheduled flights to Achutupu.
The flight takes around an hour and airfare is US$68.27 each way to either place. Destinations are confusing down here; make sure you get off at the right place.