Sailing the San Blas

 

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Travelers through Central and South America commonly cross this continental boarder one of two ways, they either fly, OR they go by boat via the paradisaical San Blas islands. Departing from Panama City and finishing in Cartagena Colombia and vise versa, this sail boat or catamaran trip (depending on the day) is one of the most popular ways to traverse this path. The San Blas Islands are beautiful and worth every penny of this 5-6 day all inclusive journey. I took my trip for $550 USD from Cartagena, Colombia to Panama City.
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Waiting to board our little dingy boat to take us to our sail boat in the Cartagena harbour. After we met out Captain and chef we waited for a police check (which took a long time) and then shuttled 20 people over in groups of 4, needless to say,w e all made it on the boat by darkness.

  
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We spent the next 48 hours sailing through the ocean in open water. This I found quite cool as we never even saw a single thing outside of dolphins for 48 hours. We slept, we ate, we played cards, sun tanned, and drank, Many people get sea sick during this phase, lucky for us this was the light winds season, but we still filled up on sea sick pills and ibuprofen just in case.

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I mean, we spent a lot of the day sleeping, but it was ok, we had music atleast.

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Then early in the morning on the 3rd day we finally arrived at the San Blas Islands themselves, I woke up to our anchor dropping into the sea.

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More than 300 white sand islands on one of the largest reefs in the world, some islands have all but one palm tree in them, the others have single family dwellings of the Kuna Tribe. Unfortunately because this has become such a tourist destination, a lot of litter is left on the islands and so we spent one morning helping out the family living on the island.

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That afternoon we headed to another group of islands just down the way from where we were before. We spent the day swimming, playing games on the beach, drinking, and still working on that tan.

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That night we partied on the beach with another tour group who was spending a night on the island in hammocks. We also learnt that the waters here had bio luminescent plankton in it and if you move your hand in the water they light up and make the dark water sparkle. We spent a while here swimming in the sparkling water with the accompaniment of a group of eagle rays.

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We also did a little bit of shopping with the Kuna people on the island, buying bracelets and handicrafts.

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We moved the next day to a new group of islands a short distance away from where we stayed the night before and had another day of sun, swim, drink, and snorkeling (even saw a shark!)

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That night we went and visited a new Kuna family who were so excited to have us on their island that they made us drinks and a fire and they even had dinner with us that night.

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The next morning we ate some breakfast, packed our things, and swam over to the island which Panama used as their boarder. We hungout on  the island until our captain brought us into the office where our passports were stamped and we were officially ready for the Panamanian mainland. After lunch we boarded a smaller boat and were on our way to Panama city via 4×4.

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21 Comments

  1. Great post Kim – what a fab trip! Love the photos, the one of the group of you sat on trunks on the beach looks like a scene out of Survivor or something. Love it. Not so sure I would have been as enthusiastic about the shark spotting though 😉 (GULP.) Also loved that you helped the locals clean up the beach -experiences like that can make a trip :).

    Great post!
    Gabby

    1. Thanks a bunch Gabby! Yea, when the Kunas climb the palm trees soooo high for the coconuts made me feel WAY more Robinson Crusoe like

  2. Sailing through the San Blas Islands (from Panama – not Columbia) has been one of my life long travel highlights. We still treasure our molas. What an amazing trip you must have had !

  3. Twonof my favorite things combined! I love sailing and I love San Blas! I haven’t been in awhile, but it looks like she’s holding up just fine 😉 Your post and especially pictures make want to go back, and go back soon!

  4. Aw this looks like the dream and waaaaay better trip than anyway we met took. They were telling us they were pretty much vertical for days, not as glamorous as your adventure! Did you love Colombia? We adored it.

    1. I left a little bit of my heart in Colombia, but yeah…it can get wavey, so I would suggest going during a low winds time (june) and then its calm as can be. not a single person on our boat got ill

  5. Sounds like such a worthwhile trip! Definitely preferable to a flight unless you’re prone to seasickness… I’d probably still get sick. The beaches and water look beautiful there!

    1. Ahaha Yea some people get a little sea sick, which is why I loaded up on the sea sickness pills just in case. but a better option is to just do the trip in the spring during low wind season

  6. what percentage of the tourists visiting the San Blas do you think are en route from Colombia to Panama (or vice versa?). I always wondered what that crossing would be like in a boat. Did you hear any stories of pirates or anything with drug traffickers affecting the sailing?

    1. Hey mike!

      Since the san blas islands are a little out of the way from PC and other main ports in Panama (and just a few more hours from Colombia), my feeling is that a large number of visitors to the islands are doing this trip, more so than the people gong from PC by car, then speed boat for a few nights on the island than back to PC. The 5 day trip is probably more popular.

      The trip is very nice, I would highly recommend it! And not dangerous because this method of transfer is open water and not anywhere near the dangerous trafficking zone of the Darien gap…. And as for pirates, I have herd nothing.

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