Sailing from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas islands is one of the top experiences in Central America. While you can travel by plane or boat to get from Panama to Colombia, sailing for six days with new friends is an adventure you’ll never forget.
Solo Travel – Panama to Colombia by boat
When I set out to travel from Panama to Colombia via sailboat, I had no idea the experience I was in for. The journey started in Puerto Lindo, Panama, where I met the captain of Sailing Koala X, a 54-foot sailboat we would call home for the next few days.
Here, I met the other 11 passengers, travelers from all over the world. Although we started as strangers, we became lifelong friends after the journey. I ended up traveling with some of my new friends in Colombia for the next few weeks.
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The experience: San Blas Panama to Colombia
The first leg of the journey is like a dream as you sail through paradise via the San Blas Islands. There are 378 islands in the San Blas archipelago located in the Northwest of Panama in the Caribbean sea. The islands are spectacular and an ideal place to find inspiration, explore the coral reef and learn about the Kuna culture from the people who live there.
Over the next three days, we embraced boat life. During the day, we swam in the pristine water and island-hopped, and by night we played games and enjoyed meals together.
Some of the islands are so small you can walk around them in just a few minutes, and most of the time, they were empty during our visit. You can also visit the San Blas islands during a day trip, but I heard this can get very crowded.
Living on a boat
The first few days include kayaking, traveling by dingy to smaller islands and snorkeling. The next part of the journey consists of sailing in the open ocean for 36 hours to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
Meals on board
The food on the trip was delicious and made with love! We ate three delicious meals a day, including freshly caught fish. The staff on board made sure everyone ate well and had a wonderful time. (If you have any food allergies or restrictions, just let the crew know, and they will be more than accommodating.)
Expenses – Sailing from Panama to Colombia Costs
The trip costs $550 US per person.
- Food + water: Our crew cooked delicious feasts every time.
- Kayaks + snorkel gear
- Immigration: The captain takes care of getting our passport stamps for the border crossing.
- There is an additional $20 US (Kuna tax) to visit the islands.
You are more than welcome to bring any food or drinks on board. You can also arrange to travel from Cartagena, Colombia to San Blas, Panama by boat.
Day 1: Leaving Panama
We arrived in Puerto Lindo at 11 am at Casa Restaurant X and waited here for several hours.
Once we got onto the sailboat, we were assigned our rooms, had dinner, and set sail to Porvenir at night. It took a while to get used to being on a boat in the open ocean. I didn’t take any seasickness pills on the first night, but I highly suggest you do!
We sailed through bioluminescent waters, and I spent several hours at night outside, trying to escape the heat of the small closet-sized room.
Day 2: Arriving in San Blas, Porvenir to Chichime Island
As soon as I woke up, chef and crew member Robin had coffee and breakfast ready to go! What a treat!
On day 2, we got our first opportunity to swim in San Blas. This was also the first time we met people from the Kuna tribe when they approached the boat selling fish. We shared some of our breakfast with the kids, and the ladies showed us the beautiful traditional bracelets they make.
We also turned in your passports to the captain and didn’t get them back until the boat arrived in Cartagena.
Day 3: Chichime to Banedup Island
Sailing from island to island feels like a dream. And a breeze in comparison to the open water.
When we arrived at the next island, we took out kayaks and started exploring. We found several starfish in the water here. At night we had a BBQ dinner on the island and got to learn more about the Kuna tribe from Diana, a local woman who lives on the island.
Day 4: Banedup to Maoky Island
After visiting the San Blas Islands, you’ll find it tough to say goodbye to Panama, but there is always an adventure around the corner when you’re traveling alone. We went snorkeling and spent time on the island before mentally preparing for the long journey ahead.
My best advice is to put on your most comfortable clothes and try to get as much sleep as possible.
Day 5: Try to sleep through the next 36 hours at sea
If you forget to bring seasickness pills, chances are someone on the boat will have extra. But it’s highly suggested to bring your own.
Plan to eat light, sleep a lot, and find a comfortable space on the boat. It’s tough to move around the sailboat without getting tossed around, but most of us managed to survive the ride without getting sick.
Day 6: Arriving in Cartagena, Colombia
Day six is the longest day and night of the trip. We woke up to calm seas and caught our first glimpse of Colombia.
My favorite part of the trip was seeing dolphins swimming alongside the boat in the morning as we approached Colombia. A few hours later, we arrived at Club Nautico in Cartagena around noon and waited approximately an hour to get our passports back.
What to bring
You won’t need much, and you won’t have much space on the boat to shuffle through your bag. Pack a small bag with a towel, sunscreen, hat, bathing suit, seasickness pills, toiletries, coconut oil, a light jacket, and comfortable clothes.
You aren’t allowed to wear shoes on the boat, so pack them away. Bring snacks to share, and any alcoholic beverages you’d like to drink.
Where to Stay
Casco Viejo, Panama
The San Blas Islands are spectacular and an ideal place to find inspiration, snorkel, and learn about the Kuna culture. If you’re considering sailing from Panama to Colombia, it will be an experience you’ll never forget. If you get easily seasick, this trip isn’t for you.
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