San Blas Islands, Panama.
The Kuna Tribes that live on these islands live a pretty untouched existence off the coast. The people here were chased off the mainland by the Spanish Conquistadors and not much has changed since then, except maybe for the addition of solar panel charged tvs!
The people here are incredibly friendly although most speak spanish as a second language. The kids get so excited about having their photo taken, or they are shy and hide in the doorway of their traditional huts. I sampled some mackerel with rice while I was on this particular island but the real hero here is the crustaceans!
Living on Rock Island, the Chief of the Kuna Indians has some very smart laws in place that the locals strictly adhere to. Only some 49 of the 378 islands are inhabited, however, any of the neighboring islanders can camp out overnight for fishing, collecting coconuts and bonding sessions between males (not so different to NZ?).
I have ventured to the San Blas on two occasions in completely different circumstances. The first was with a backpacker tour on a border crossing from Colombia to Panama. The second was with a 50m private yacht that I was working on. However, both times I was met with friendly faces, abundant humungous crab and lobster and dirt cheap prices. For $5USD you can purchase enough fresh crab straight off the reef to feed three people comfortably . It’s then boiled over an open flame right in front of you in the sand. For $0.50 a local will climb a tree for you to retrieve a delicious coconut to top up with Rum to make the only locally available cocktail, ‘Coco Locos’. So deadly.
If you’re traveling there on a budget I can definitely recommend doing a tour with Kiwi tour guide Adam. It’s a great way of meeting people traveling in the same direction as you. You’ll find you end up bumping into them all along the way North (or South).