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San Blas Islands Review

San-Blas-Islands-Review

Ah, the beautiful San Blas islands, the stuff dreams are made of seslichatsohbet.net, white sand beaches, palm trees, rustic cabins by the sea, this is where you come to get away from it all. Can you imagine a few days at San Blas? This is a pristine habitat that is inhabited by the indigenous Kuna Indians that should be included in any visit to Panama.

The San Blas islands, or Kuna Yala, comprise of 365(one for everyday of the year they say) islands located along the Caribbean coats of Panama. Granted semi independence in 1925, the Kuna Yala is run by an elected Congresso.

Some 40 islands are inhabited and run by a chief who is a representative to the Congresso. The Kunas have managed to fiercely retain their culture for over 500 years, despite repression by first the colonial Spanish and then Panamanian governments. They have their own customs and laws and in many cases Panamanian law doesn’t apply in Kuna Yala.

Life in the islands is still very traditional, many live as their families have done for generations.  As a native people they have fought hard to maintain their dignity and culture and must be one of the most successful indigenous groups in the world for having done so. 

The advantages Of San Blas Island

The Kunas guard their San Blas islands by only allowing Kunas to own property within their areas. Foreign, or Panamanian , owned businesses are not allowed. Only some communities have running water and cooking is still often done over open fires.

Most people still sleep in hammocks in communal areas inside their huts. The women still wear brightly coloured clothing, wide skirts and multi-coloured beaded bracelets wrapped the whole length of their lower legs and arms. It`s not uncommon to see Kuna women dressed like this in all parts of Panama.

Tourism is allowed in San Blas only at their discretion and at times they maintain strict controls over it.   It’s very difficult for a non Kuna to live within the boundaries of San Blas and practically impossible for a Kuna and non Kuna to marry and remain in San Blas.  It’s also forbidden for outsiders to operate businesses within Kuna Yala.

Tradition And Legacy

Cayuko is a relic that the inhabitants excavated before the arrival of the Europeans to the island. The Guna tribe only wears a few clothes and adorns their bodies with some plants and leaves and adorns their bodies with various colors that really attract human attention.

When pushed and ordered to wear clothing by the minority, they copy this design into their mola which they wore before.

The Guna family with their traditions and their traditional dress, they also worship a god named Erragon, who they believe came and died only for the people and inhabitants of the island.

The settlers were driven out of Panama during the Spanish invasion, then Guna fled to another island some 378 kilometers away. But now their chieftain lives on an island called Acuadup which means stone island.

Most of the Guna tribe work as hunters and fishermen, many families living near the mainland in the village with their families will rotate the time they live on the island.

However on some islands children can also attend school and most men now speak Spanish although women will retain older traditions.

From 1679 to 1681, William Dampier began and ended his first voyages with privateers and pirates on these islands which he called “The Samballoes”, a meeting place for pirates, convenient for hiding and privacy.

San Blas Adventures The Bewitching

Sadly, the San Blas islands are also said to be the first in the world to disappear due to global warming, and it’s not hard to see why. Most are barely large enough to fit a shack and consist of nothing more than sand – on one island we could visibly see the effects of a recent storm which had moved the sand from one side of the island to the other and a great many palm trees were now stuck out at sea.

On islands where the Guna live, it is even more pronounced, and sea-walls have been constructed on mass to try and protect their homes. However, these can only be a temporary measure. It’s sad to think about; that an entire people will eventually be forced to move to the mainland – surrounded by the dense and impenetrable Darien Gap – and a way of life lost.

If anyone goes and sees this again, please let us know in the comments below, because in this case, I honestly could not at all recommend them. I still have my doubts about the villagers that ‘found’ a baby spider monkey on the mainland abandoned, which was about to die who then decided to bring it to their islands for tourists….

But besides some questionable approaches to wildlife, these islands are just perfect. Your day will be spent sunbathing, swimming in an ocean as warm as a bath, lying in hammocks, playing volleyball, reading, and just generally zoning out and getting back to nature.

Overall Recommendation San Blas Island Adventures

Whether you take San Blas Adventures from Colombia to Panama or Panama to Colombia, you are guaranteed to have the experience of a lifetime. Exploring the Kuna Yala archipelago’s on a tiny boat, against raging sea, interacting with an unfamiliar indigenous culture, and sleeping in hammocks on palm-tree lined islands.

There is absolutely nothing mundane about exploring the San Blas islands from Colombia and its certainly not an experience you could have on a simple San Blas day tour from Panama City (And if you don’t need to make a round trip then this would be perfect for getting to the San Blas islands from Panama City).

From the price point, USD 450 + mandatory USD 30 jeep + water/drinks – let’s say USD 520 for a 3-night adventure – it’s a tough pill to swallow and could easily be made a bit better!

All San Blas Adventures would need to do in little things like including water, including the pre-night in Sapzurro, and make it a 4-day adventure (since you have no choice but to arrive a day earlier). They could also be considering offering an additional night on the island for USD 30, as we were told would be the case there was a weather delay.

The islands are likely nothing you are likely to have seen before and truly are as amazing as you would hope, if not better. San Blas Adventures currently offer’s the best way to experience the San Blas archipelago in all its glory. It is one of the most exciting ways you can cross from Colombia to Panama.

Sailing Between Panama & Colombia

Sailing-Between-Panama-&-Colombia

Welcome to PC Sailing, the most experienced operators for booking your sailing trip by boat between Panama and Colombia. With almost 10 years experience booking this route we can advise you on the best options to make your trip a memorable one.

Over the years we have done our best to make sure we work with the best boats that do the trip. The sailing trip between Colombia and Panama has become very popular over the last 5 years and there are many more boats offering the trip than a few years ago.

Just be careful when booking an unknown boat as there are plenty of horror stories out there. This is a difficult route with the many reefs in the San Blas and the crossing between Panama and Colombia being renowned as one of the more difficult routes to navigate.

Below are the departure dates for sailing boats from Panama to Colombia and vice versa. The dates do change frequently so please email us for the current sailing schedule with boat info for each date.

We have almost 10 years experience working with these sailing boats and were the first to start booking passengers onto the boats almost 10 years ago. The trip info and FAQ links on this site will answer most questions you may have.

If you decide you want an alternative to taking a sailing trip then check out the Ultimate San Blas tour offered by Panama Travel Unlimited. Starting at only $195 pp it includes transport from Panama City to San Blas and back.

As we want to ensure this sailing trip is for you, we will always give you fair and honest advice regarding any queries you may have. Our business is built on goodwill and customers refering other to us, therefore we want to help you book an experience you will enjoy.

We will tell you the good… or bad… about any of the boats and the trip in general so you can make an informed decision as to whether you want to book or not. Nearly every boat sailing between Panama and Colombia has had both good and bad reviews at some point.

Many bad reviews are based on people having the wrong expectations and not doing their research prior to booking. Read the info on this site carefully so you know what the trip entails.

Overall, the sailing boats we work with do get positive feedbacks and whilst we would like to ‘guarantee’ a perfect experience every time there are many factors that can affect that. Contact us and give us a chance to make that experience one you will want to tell everyone about.

Special Note : Many of the better boats sailing between Colombia and Panama now schedule well in advance and we advise to book in advance as they can sometimes be full a month before departure. Some boats do not schedule so far in advance and we can still receive departure dates up until a few days before, so if you dont see anything on the date you prefer please email us for the current list as things are constantly changing.

To get a real idea of what the sailing trip from Panama to Cartagena can be like you can watch a video of one of our most reliable boats here….Sailing Koala Sailing Panama to Colombia

District Attorney Ports PC Sailing

District-Attorney-Ports-PC-Sailing

There are a few possible departure ports in Panama but the majority of sailboats in Panama are currently leaving from the San Blas islands themselves.

It will cost more to get to the ports in San Blas (Carti, El Porvenir), but it means that you avoid an often rough passage (Approx 12hrs) from the ports in Colon (Portobelo, Colon, Club Nautico and Puerto Lindo)to the San Blas islands. By leaving from the San Blas you have more time to actually enjoy sailing around the beautiful islands before heading out to sea for the 30-48hr crossing to Cartagena.

San Blas Island Ports

The drop off point at the Carti port in the San Blas islands can be very hectic at times, especially during the morning rush, but just be patient as everything works out in the end. Here you will most likely be met by a Kuna boatman who will either take you out to the sailboat anchored just off shore or alternatively take you to El Porvenir on the headland which is about 45 mins away. From the drop off point to the boat if it’s anchored near Carti is around $5, if you need to go to El Porvenir then it’s around $10. Prices can decrease depending on how many people are travelling with you.

El Porvenir island is where you will get your passports stamped by the local immigration official, the Captain usually takes care of this and it is usually very straight forward. Then you’re all set to enjoy the islands and sail to Cartagena, Colombia! If you require any permits/visa to enter Colombia please make sure you have a couple of copies of each as immigration may require a copy.

  • Carti Port:

Carti Port in the San Blas is the only port in the San Blas islands that you can reach by road. The transport is with the Kuna licensed 4×4 vehicles only, there is no public transport allowed to enter Kuna Yala. Daily departures leave for Carti at 5-6am each morning from your Panama City Hostel/Hotel. This is the only departure time and you’ll have more time to lounge on the beach in San Blas. Once you arrive in Carti you will take a launcher to your sailboat with one of the local Kuna transport companies. The driver of the 4×4 usually helps organize this.

The 4×4 usually takes around 3hrs and the launcher boat approx 10 minutes, you may be waiting for anything up to an hour in Carti for other passengers or the boat to arrive. Once on the boat you will head to the island of El Porvenir where the captain will take care of immigration, before heading off into the islands.

Travel fees to reach your boat to Colombia via Carti are approx $50. This includes $30 for the 4×4 jeep to Carti, around $12 in Kuna taxes to be paid along the way and an average of $5-10 for a small boat to take you to the yacht. Be aware there are no cash machines in Carti or El Porvenir so all money must be withdrawn in Panama City the night before departure.

  • El Porvenir Port:

To reach the port of El Porvenir you take the same route to the Port of Carti as explained above and then take another launcher to the island of El Porvenir which is approx 30 minutes to an hour away. The launcher can cost $10-20pp. The Captain will meet you on El Porvenir island and take care of immigration for you.

You can also fly into El Porvenir from Allbrook airport in Panama City. Flights leave each morning from Panama City with Air Panama at around 6am (30 min flight) and cost around $80 plus taxes, we can purchase these for you if required. You would then have to wait for the other passengers arriving by road who normally arrive 10-11am.

Colon Departure Ports

The other departure points are in Colon Province and consist of Portobelo, Puerto Lindo, and rarely Colon and Turtle Cay Marina, all within about an hour of each other on the Caribbean coast. You can reach these ports by bus from Panama City at a relatively low cost of around $3-5. Departure times vary from these points, but will usually either be early in the morning or later at night. In some cases you can travel to meet the boat on the same day, other times you may need to spend one night in Portobelo or Puerto Lindo. Most people traveling to these departure points often have their boats to Colombia booked in advance. You can take the option of turning up in either Portobelo or Puerto Lindo and trying to book a boat but you will probably find most have booked well in advance and ones that may have space are not that appealing.

  • Portobelo/Puerto Lindo:

We advise people to take their cash and supplies from Panama city for the journey. Note that the last chance to get money from an ATM is in the Rey supermarket in Sabanitas, and that the next petrol station is located at the yachtclub in Puerto Lindo. The Rey Supermarket is also a good option to stock up on supplies for the trip if you do not want to travel with them from Panama city. Both Portobelo and Puerto Lindo have a few basic hostel options to stay the night if required.

Portobelo is a quaint little fishing village in between Colon and Puerto Lindo and is the main departure port on the Colon coast. From the Albrook Bus Station, take the bus expresso #23 to colon, the fare should be $2.50-3. Get off the bus in Colon and step directly in the bus “Portobelo”, with regular departures ($2). You can also get off the bus to Colon at the Rey Supermarket in Sananitas and take the next bus for Portobelo on the corner.

Puerto Lindo is located on the Costa Arriba in Panama. From the Albrook Bus Station, take the bus expresso #23 to colon, the fare should be $2.50-3. Get off the bus in Colon and step directly in the bus “costa arriba-Isla Grande”,at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.00pm or 5.30pm Tell the bus driver to stop in Puerto Lindo ($3). You can also get off the bus to Colon at the Rey Supermarket in Sananitas and take the same bus from Colon that will arrive about 15 mins after the above departure times from Colon.

Colon is reached by public bus as explained above and Turtle Cay Marina is normally reached by a private bus from Panama city and you will be told well in advance about this and the logistics involved.

Very Important Arrival Port Info

Most boats do not include any transport fees in getting to the center of Cartagena from the arrival point in Colombia. Please remember we do not control these prices and neither do the captains, they may change without warning, but it is unlikely.

1.Arriving at Club Nautico, Manga in Cartagena you can take a taxi to the old town or Getsamani for approx 5-7 million pesos.

2.Arriving into Saozurro/Capurgana/La Miel you would normally stay the night in a local hostel hostel before taking a water taxi to the city of Turbo from where you can take a bus either South in the direction of Medellin or North to Cartagena. Both are a full days travel.

La Miel – Capurgana: You can either catch a boat all the way for 14,000 pesos or walk 20mins over the hill to Sapzurro and catch the boat for 7,000 pesos.
Sapzurro – Capurgana: There are ferries for 7,000 pesos . Or, for the braver, there is a challenging but rewarding hike between the two bays, which takes about 1.5 hours and has incredible views.

From Capurgana to Turbo there is a ferry that leaves every morning at 7:30. The ferry costs 55,000 pesos. They weigh your bags and anything over 10kgs is 500p (25c) per kg. Make sure you check the weight, these guys are quick! From Turbo you can catch a bus for Cartagena, via Monteria or Medellin and arrive late that night. The price for these journeys varies depending on the bus company. Turbo – Monteria – Cartagena costs around 75,000 pesos and Turbo – Medellin costs around 60,000 pesos.

Colombia Departure Ports:
  • Club Nautico, Cartagena:

Club Nautico in Manga, Cartagena is the port almost all boats leave from on the trip from Colombia to Panama. It is a quick 5-10 minute taxi from the old town or Getsamani. The captain will meet you on one of the docks, the time and place is usually organized during an orientation meeting or when handing over your passports at Hostel Mamallena Cartagena usually the morning of the day before departure.

  • Capurgana/Sapzurro:

Please read the above section “Arrival Ports in Colombia. It is a similar itinerary in reverse to reach reach these locations for departure. It is very rare for a boat to be leaving from these locations.

Ultimate San Blas Tour

Ultimate-San-Blas-Tour

So if you have read all the information on the boats and decided….that’s not for me, but still want to see the amazing San Blas Islands then the Ultimate San Blas Tour is the tour for you!

We have started our tour with an English speaking guide to help you experience the best of San Blas Islands.

Highlights

  • Isla Perro

Chillax on the beach, compete in a volleyball comp. with other campers, shop for some Molas (traditional patterned cloth) or snorkel with the fishes! $2 fee.

  • Pelican Island and/or Isla Iguana

A chilled island, relax in a hammock or head to sea where you don´t have to go more than 5ft to be doused in a sub aquatic wonderland of brightly coloured schools of fish.

  • Shipwreck

Snorkel around this awesome 40 yr old semi sunken wreck that never made its passage to Colombia.

  • Isla Estrella

Known as starfish beach, swim out and search!

  • Kuna Village

View the way the Kuna Yala indigenous people live in their village of Carti.

When we say Ultimate San Blas Tour…we are combining the best of the best that San Blas can offer!!

What’s Included

It will include 4×4 to and from Panama city, boat to and from the island where you will camp in our tents with mattresses, sheets, pillows, and lamp. We will also be providing individual quality snorkeling equipment for all clients, we have boogie boards, fishing equipment, football, volleyball, kayaks and other games available. You will have a personalized guide who will take care of everything for you. You will get daily tours and visit a community. The island you stay on has a lovely beach, good snorkeling and toilets and showers. This has fast become the most popular tour in the San Blas islands.

Not Included

Additional costs are Kuna taxes $12-15 pp and water, sodas, snacks and alcohol, same as all the other San Blas options. Tour to the Cayos Holandeses may be available on request if there are 6 ppl or more at $35 pp extra.

Itinerary

Start the day off at 5-5.30 with a fun journey from the city to meet your guide in Carti where you will be picked up by the local launcher motored boat which will take you to the Island!!!

Around 9 a.m. there will be fresh coffee, tea and yummy breakfast prepared by the chef underneath the shaded palapa. From there you will be shown where you will be sleeping and where you can store your things while being with us on the island. A quick tour around the island showing you where bathrooms and showers are and the best spot for activities will be.

Now it’s time for us to build up an appetite for some traditional Kuna Yala lunch… we will take a boat from the Island to Isla Perro (may be another island depending on what day you arrive) $3 entry fee to enjoy a couple of hours activities that will include volleyball competitions, snorkelling, ultimate Frisbee, and other fun games! You also have the opportunity to just chill out and enjoy the sail boats that are anchored just off of the Island on their way to Columbia or back to Panama. The Kunas will have refreshments for sale on the island.

Be prepared for what is up next…I’m talking about headed out towards another island to check out some ship wreckage!!

Lunch Time!!!! Back to the Island we will have lunch ready for us, with some refreshments for purchase! Coconuts will be opened by machetes if you are down to hydrate your body with some sweet coconut water! After lunch, you can relax in the hammocks…do some kayaking, paddle boarding, boogie boarding, football, some open water coral and reef snorkelling…open water fishing or fishing with the kuna children while the imitate the pelicans dive in for some sardines!

Sunset on the island is priceless! Get ready for dinner and camp fire! Not sure how you could not sleep like a baby after a day like that!

So that is a typical day on the Ultimate tour of San Blas. On other days you will visit 1 possibly 2 islands…visit islands such as Pelicano (Tiny one cabin island surrounded by beach and reefs), Isla Estrella (For star fish hunting), (Isla Iguana and others. Before returning to Panama city you will be taken to the local village island of Carti where you can wander the dusty streets and get an insight into Kuna culture.

Rates/Options

2 NIGHTS/3 DAYS for $269pp

We have set departures on Mondays and Thursdays. It is possible to go on any day on request, provided there is availability.Note: You don’t need to be a member of a group as we’ll take anyone!! We advise you to try and leave on the Monday and Thursday tours to get the most out of the tour.

Available Camping Lengths: Longer trips available on request

1 night 2 days $199 per person
2 nights 3 days $269 per person
3 nights 4 days $349 per person
4 nights 5 days $429 per person
5 nights 6 days $499 per person
Pick up between 5-5:30 am, drop off between 6:30-7:30 pm.

2 nights 2 days $239 per person
3 nights 3 days $319 per person
4 nights 4 days $399 per person
5 nights 5 days $479 per person
6 nights 6 days $549 per person
Pick up between 5-5:30 am, drop off between 11-1 pm.

Available Cabana Lengths: Longer trips available on request

1 night 2 days $224 per person
2 nights 3 days $319 per person
3 nights 4 days $424 per person
4 nights 5 days $529 per person
5 nights 6 days $624 per person
Pick up between 5-5:30 am, drop off between 6:30-7:30 pm.

2 nights 2 days $289 per person
3 nights 3 days $394 per person
4 nights 4 days $499 per person
5 nights 5 days $604 per person
6 nights 6 days $699 per person
Pick up between 5-5:30 am, drop off between 11-1 pm.

Disclaimer And Important Info

This is a camping tour run by the local Kuna Indians and we have partnered with them to support and promote the local indigenous Indians and their families. We also have an English speaking guide who will be with you through the tour. Please read this FACT SHEET to give you an idea of what to expect when visiting the San Blas islands.

So for those of you who want to enjoy a vacation in Panama, immediately join your adventure with PC Sailing Trip which will provide all your vacation needs. There’s no need to hesitate so try to enjoy the fun with us right here.

Types Of PC Sailing Boats

Types-Of-PC-Sailing-Boats

Please scroll through to find your desired boat, click on it for more information, and take note of it´s departure port, as it will affect your total trip cost. Don’t delay to book spaces on your boat as they fill up fast. We are in constant contact with the Captains and can normally guarantee your spot the same day as the request, however if they are on the open ocean they may not be contactable for a day or two.

P.S.Why book with us? That’s easy, Our experience and knowledge in this trip costs you nothing, yes nada. There is no booking fee or charge for our services and you will have the peace of mind about safety as we have been dealing with these trips for over 7 years now and have sent thousands of people on this trip over the years.

  • INDEPENDENCE

Slovenian Michel and crew do a great trip with good food.  It´s big, at 85 foot this is the biggest boats on offer which helps keep the motion sickness to a minimum as are fast and spend less time in the open ocean, They take up to 25 people…. mixed between 5 private cabins, bunks bed for everyone etc.

They also have showers available for daily use. they arrange some bonfire party is the island and we have heard good feedback for  this trip lately, some of their early reviews you might come across online and were not so good…

They can also take motorbikes on the upper deck for $450, heavy motorbikes over 500 CC $550, Heavy motorbikes over 1000 CC $650 and take bicycles as well for $50.

  • AFRICAN QUEEN

Rudy has a very nice catamaran for the trip with 2 double cabins, and 2 triple cabins 10 people. There are three bathrooms on board and the boat has all the required safety equipment.

The regular 4 nights and 5 days with 3 days in the San Blas islands. This is a great boat for doing this type of trip and we have only good things to report about Rudy and the boat. He is a fun Captain and makes the trip enjoyable for everyone. One of the few catamarans on the route so book fast as they are the most popular boats.

  • WILD CARD

John is the Captain on the Wildcard has one of the largest boats at 60ft, with a fully enclosed cabin, double and single berths. He can take up to 16 people.  We get good reviews about the Wildcard and its one of our favorite boats, John is a good cook and you’re fed well and looked after, we also hear he cooks a mean Chicken curry.

One of the better trips due to a regular departure schedule and a chilled out, highly licensed captain, young fun crew who loves people to let loose and enjoy themselves, within reason of course.  Want to go on this boat book with us well in advance as it is very popular. Fresh lobster & seafood meal is usually included and they will give you 3 full days in San Blas, they take Motorbikes for $500.

  • ONE WORLD

Lovely big old fashioned sailing ship but in very good order and spacious for the number of guests. They can take 11 people, they have four big double beds and three single beds.

Young, fun crew and one of the more unique boats doing the trip. They frequently get good reviews, especially about the rope swing! and laid back atmosphere. One of the better trips, back from a journey around the Caribbean. 5 days 2-.5 in the San Blas. Usually books out in advance.

  • CORTO II

Argentinean Sebastian has finally got himself his own boat and is loving the trips. The Corto 11 is a nice 43 ft boat, the captain and the boat are well recommended by most of his previous guests, as is his beautiful little Spaniel dog.

He did have a bad trip about a year ago and you will no doubt find some reviews on this on the internet, since then things have been fine with the people we have sent. Sebastian has been doing this trip for more than 3 years now  and its a great trip, so we hear, He takes up to 7 people in safety and comfort.

  • DELFIN SOLO

Rengin and Tashin from Turkey/USA have long been in San Blas running these trips and the occasional private charter  They do a good trip and are known for their very relaxed atmosphere, interaction with the guests and great Turkish influenced cuisine. The boat and engine has undergone a recent refit and is in top condition from what we hear.  They take no more than 8 people.

  • THE DARIEN GAPSTER

San Blas Adventures rout takes you from Carti to La Miel, down through the full archipelago, visiting parts of San Blas no other trip goes to.  being on a speed boat means you get to spend most of the time on the islands.  In 4 days you are only on the boat around 8 hours in total and there is no ocean crossing.  

On the trip you’ll sleep on the islands, spending two nights in Kuna villages and one night camping on a deserted island.  The crew has years of experience both in boating and in San Blas.  They work closely with the Kuna giving you a unique opportunity to meet the people as well as experience the pristine beaches and waters on offer.

The trip finishes in La Miel, near Sapzurro & Capurgana, beautiful Caribbean bays on the border of Panama & Colombia.  From there it is one day travel by boat and bus to Cartagena or Medellin.

Trip Info – PC Sailing

Trip-Info-PC-Sailing

Sailing between the San Blas islands in Panama and the beautiful colonial city of Cartagena in Colombia has become one of the must do sailing journeys of the world.

You’ll start your voyage sailing for 3 days amongst Panama’s San Blas islands, some of the most beautiful and undeveloped islands in the world. Hundreds of years ago some of the worlds most notorious pirate sailed the waters of the San Blas islands and they’ve changed little since.

You’ll then spend 2 days following their path, sailing from San Blas to Cartagena, one of the most fortified cities in the entire Spanish empire. Cartagena denied entry to these unwanted tourists many times, but things have changed a little in this regard.

You’ll feel more than welcome as you’re sailing into Cartagena Harbour and coming in to anchor. You’ll then realise that sailing from Panama to Colombia has been one sailing experience that you’re never going to forget.

Sailing between Panama and Colombia is amazing and well worth the time and expense. It’s a once in a life time sailing adventure to be remembered always. How do you do organise this great sailing trip? Here’s a few things to consider:

The Cost

To many people the most important question is “How much cost will it cost me?”. You may have read or heard you can do these sailing trips for $250-300, but unfortunately that was a few of years ago and prices have increased. Remember that it’s a long way from Panama to Cartagena and costs have gone up.

The sailing trips now range between $400 and $525, depending on the yacht and the length of the sailing trip. Of course you may find something cheaper but remember that sometimes you get what you pay for. A voyage that costs below the normal price may be that price for a reason.

A group were recently offered a sailing trip from Cartagena to San Blas for $200. They took the offer and within a day regretted it. On there arrival in San Blas the captain fell asleep at the helm and ran the boat against a reef in the middle of the night.

They were lucky to escape with their lives. Of course theres always those times when a captain is just looking for some company on the sailing trip, charges way below the norm and everyone has a great trip, but this is rare so take care.

What’s Included

Most of these voyages between Panama and Cartagena are for 5 days, with some being 6. Of this you’ll usually spend 3 days sailing in the San Blas islands and two days at sea sailing to Cartagena.

This may change depending on which route your boat takes. The fare includes all meals, a limited amount of water(depends on the boat), departure fees and taxes in San Blas and arrival fees and taxes in Cartagena.

The captain of the boat will take care of all immigration requirements as well. Other items such as alcohol, soft drinks you’ll need to supply yourself. It’s often a good idea to buy these in Panama City, shopping in San Blas is limited, although it is possible to buy most things.

Just rememebr that there is NO opportunity to get money once you leave Panama City. There are no ATMs nor banks in The San Blas islands. Transport to meet the boat is most often not included either. Don’t forget the sea sick pills, they’re probably not supplied.

Meeting The Boat

There are a couple of possible departure points in Panama but the majority of sailboats in Panama are currently leaving from the San Blas islands themselves. It will cost a little more to get to San Blas, but it means that travel time is less and you have more time to actually enjoy sailing the beautiful islands.

You’ll need to travel via road to Carti to meet your boat, either in Carti or a little further away in El Porvenir. There are no buses on this route and you’ll need a 4×4 to take you Carti, but this is easily arranged. Departures are at 5-6am each morning from Panama City. It may sound early, but you’ll have more time to lounge on the beach in San Blas.

Travel fees to reach Carti are approx $43. This includes $30 for the jeep to Carti, around $8 in Kuna taxes to be paid along the way and an average of $5 for a small boat to take you to the yacht($10 if departing from El Porvenir). Be aware there are no cash machines in Carti or El Porvenir so all money must be withdrawn in Panama City.

The drop off point at the Carti airport can be very hectic at times, especially during the morning rush, but just be patient as everything works out in the end. Here you will most likely be met by a Kuna boatman who will either take you out to the sailboat anchored just off shore or alternatively take you to El Porvenir on the headland which is about 45 mins away.

From the drop off point to the boat if it’s anchored near Carti is around $5, if you need to go to El Porvenir then it’s around $10. Prices can decrease depending on how many people are travelling with you.

You can also fly into El Porvenir. Flights leave each morning from Panama City and cost around $70 plus taxes.

Advantages Of Trip With PC Sailing

El Porvenir is where you will get your passports stamped, the Captain usually takes care of this and it is very straight forward. Then you’re all set to enjoy the islands and sail to Cartagena!

The other departure points are in Colon and consist of Portobelo and Puerto Lindo, within about 30 mins of each other on the Caribbean coast an hour past Colon City. You can reach these small fishing towns by bus from Panama City at a relatively low cost of around $5.

Departure times vary from these points, but will usually either be early in the morning or later at night. In some cases you can travel to meet the boat on the same day, other times you may need to spend one night in Portobelo or Puerto Lindo. Most people traveling to these departure points often have their boats booked in advance.

You may turn up in either Portobelo or Puerto lindo and find that wither there is no boat available or there is no boat available that you would feel comfortable spending 5 days on. Remember that Cartagena is a long way away and you have to feel comfortable with who it is you[re sailing.

In most cases the best advice is to book a boat either via email or on arrival in Panama City. This means that you’ll have access to all available boats, those leaving from San Blas as well as Portobelo and Puerto lindo. Otherwise you’ll need to head back to Panama City to go to San Blas the next morning.

The Route

Just to confuse you, there are actually two routes to get to Cartagena, and one doesn’t actually take you to Cartagena at all. At certain times of the year sea conditions can be rough and sailing to Cartagena is most unpleasant to say the least. As there are still plenty of people who want to sail to Colombia, the route from San Blas to Sapzurro opens up.

The trip along the San Blas coast to Sapzurro or just a little further along the Colombian coast to Capurgana is usually 5 days. The advantage of this sailing route is that you’re sailing along the coast the entire time, meaning that the seas may not be as rough.

You’ll also spend more time amongst the islands and no time out at sea. The disadvantage is that you’re still a long way from Cartagena. Another disadvantage is that there are often less travellers who want to travel this route. Most want to go directly to Cartagena so there is not much demand. many boats do not follow this route at other times of the year. Sapzurro and Carpurgana are actually beautiful Colombian resort towns and have a lot of local tourists. It can be worth spending a few days here before travelling on.

To get from Carpurgana to Cartagena or Medellin isn’t difficult, but it will involve more time and more money. You’ll need to take a boat from Carpurgana to Turbo($20 and 2 hours) and from there a bus to either Cartagena or Medellin(8-10 hours and $25). You’re looking at spending another $50-$75 to complete your voyage.

Sailing directly to Cartagena is much simpler. You’ll spend 3 days in the picture postcard San Blas islands, probably around the Cayos Holandais. Don’t expect too much, just lazing on the beach, snorkelling on coral reefs and shipwrecks, beach BBQs and exploring Kuna villages.

If this sounds like too much then we’d say forget the trip! If you can drag yourself away then it’s time to leave. Before reaching Cartagena you’ll be sailing for 2 days across open seas. Hopefully the seas aren’t too high, but theres a chance that they will be. Hope you bought the seasick pills!

On The Boat

Once on the boat the Captain will usually stow away your large bags, leaving you with your day pack with all your essentials, it is a good idea to organize your bags before you depart, this will save on time, space and give you all more time to enjoy the islands. The bags are stowed away so that there is more room for people to enjoy the boat. You should then get a brief tour of the boat and safety instruction in case of emergencies.

Make sure you’re comfortable with what you’ve been told and feel free to ask any questions. It’s a long way to Cartagena and you need to feel safe for the entire voyage. If, for whatever reason, you do not feel safe then do not feel afraid to leave the boat. If it’s for a legitimate reason then no captain will have a problem refunding your deposit.

Remember that these are usually budget, backpacker sailing trips. There will be a wide variety of people in a confined space, for days on end. On some boats there will often be more people than actual beds. Some passengers will have cabins, others will sleep in the social areas of the yacht. Be prepared for cramped spaces with not much privacy, and remember if the weather is bad you’ll be spending a lot of time with your fellow passengers.

You’re also not going to be getting breakfast in bed and you’ll probably not be waited on. The most likely cocktail barman is you or one of your fellow passengers. Everyone usually helps out with cleaning and cooking duties and some captains may ask you to help out with running repairs or simply keeping watch on the way to Cartagena. No experience is required and the captain will take care of all sailing operations.