Sailing the San Blas Islands.
This was my trip sailing through the San Blas Islands from Colombia to Panama. I’d already been in Colombia for a while. I had travelled through to north and into Venezuela for a few weeks and then back to Colombia. I was looking at options to get from Colombia to Panama. I originally looked at the Darien gap but decided against it. Maybe another time…
So sailing from Colombia to Panama seemed like the most attractive option. White sand islands, palm trees, no people anywhere except those who you arrived with, coral reefs and amazing clear blue water surrounding you the entire time. I even managed to surf off one of the islands. It was not very good though haha. It was like a movie. It was like every movie you have ever seen of the most amazingly tropical places on the planet. It was just a constant string of incredible experiences and photo opportunities for 4 full days. I booked with this company SB Adventures. It is a fast boat rather than a yacht and their thing is that you spend less time on the water and more time on the islands which is actually pretty amazing!
Getting to Capurgana/Sapzurro
The boat for sailing the San Blas Islands left from Capurgana, which is located right in the north of Colombia on the border of Panama. Getting there was not too difficult and you have a few different options. I was in the north and the fastest cheapest way for me was to go to Turbo and then take a speedboat the next morning all the way up to Capurgana. The boat was relatively cheap and left at 8am everyday.
I arrived in Turbo after dark. When this happened to me in South America I could never really get a good feel for the town. I never knew if it felt unsafe or if it was just in my head until I saw it in the day. I got a dingy little room with one fluorescent light, a fan and a single bed complete with a clean top sheet. The bed was damp from the humidity and once I turned off the light it could have been any other 2 star hotel in any tropical location on the planet. It cost me about $5USD and was less than a 5 minute walk from the harbour where I needed to take the boat so it was perfect really.
The Boat ride to Capurgana was not long and mostly pleasant, there were one or two rough patches but I had zero discomfort which some people complain about.
San Blas Adventures states that you have to be in Capurgana the day before leaving and there is a briefing that will take you over the whole trip and safety and so on and so forth. There is a hotel where most people stay. They recommended it to me but you are free to stay wherever you want but this seemed like the best option.
There are magical walks you can go on around hidden bays and up the mountain behind the town.
The boat from Colombia to Panama.
The boat is a fast boat as opposed to a yacht, which is the other popular option. The difference between this and a yacht trip is that most of the yachts travel from Cartagena to Panama across the sea and spend 2 days in open ocean where as the fast boat travels along the coast and you spend a lot more time on land than on the water. We only travelled about 2 hours a day by boat.
You stop on a constant string of deserted islands to eat and sleep and snorkel. The views are incredible and the water is so warm its almost like a bath. The clarity of the water was constantly amazing.
You will stop on one island in particular that has an indigenous population. The indigenous people are known as Kuna. They primarily live off agriculture, fishing and the manufacturing of clothing. They are warm friendly people that will try and talk and smile. We took a tour of one of the islands and had lunch with a few of them before moving on.
Arriving in Panama.
The boat eventually drops you in a small town only a few hours from Panama city by bus. The Bus is cheap and you are basically on your own from there.
Overall the whole experience was amazing! The islands were incredible and you get a lot of time to enjoy them. The water is warm and clear. The food you are served is decent and the people working on the boat are super friendly.
If you are after the actual experience of a yacht trip then this is not really for you. The boat you travel in is no where near as nice as a yacht but again you don’t actually spend that much time in it before you actually arrive at your destination.