For someone who has a bad case of motion sickness, the last thing I wanted was to be in the open sea. While some people chase their dreams of sailing the vast oceans, I’d rather be near the shore. But as much as I want to stay away from rough waters, a lot of the world’s interesting wonders are islands! It hasn’t been that easy for me but it has (almost) always been worth it. One of the best boat adventures we had was the 4 days / 3 nights island hopping through the San Blas Islands which took us from Panama to Colombia.
The San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands or Kuna Yala (land of the Kuna), are some of the best group of islands in the Caribbean Coast of Central America. The area is owned by a local ethnic group, the Kuna, which makes it almost like a different country – they control everything to do with the San Blas Islands. Most of the islands are uninhabited (the dream-like virgin islands that you don’t see often nowadays) and those that have a little development remain basic with small huts and sheds (think castaway). The rawness of the San Blas Islands is what makes it beautiful. It is close to what it has been since years before – no luxury hotels, fancy resorts or brightly-lit restaurants. So if you’re looking for natural beauty, this is it. It’s not going to be as comfortable but it will surely take your breath away.
Island Hopping from Panama to Colombia
Crystal clear blue waters, powder white sand in not one but hundreds of different islands – have we found paradise? Coming from Asia, where it is easy to go from one amazing beach to another, that perfect beach criteria was not easy to satisfy until we saw the beaches of the San Blas Islands. They were in every way what I imagined the Caribbean would be like – palm trees, different shades of blue water and fine white sand. We went to a few different islands (I won’t bore you with their names), each one slightly different from the other. The San Blas Islands are the kind of islands that will make you want to pinch yourself to know you’re not dreaming. Just look at the photos!
Most of the islands were quiet, tranquil and deserted (almost) apart from other people in our group of 32 people (and some locals). It was so relaxing and we never wanted to leave!
During our tour, we hopped through different islands – big and small. We had good food – we had all you can eat lobster for dinner, bonfires at night, slept on hammocks and had a great time. We even saw some dolphins so close to one of the islands one time and saw some bio luminescence in the water one night.
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Crossing the Borders of Panama to Colombia
Is there a land border between Panama and Colombia?
Panama and Colombia share a land border but it is not one that can easily be crossed – people have died trekking the harsh jungles of the Darien Gap.
What don’t you just flying between the two countries?
While it is easy to fly between the two countries it is not that cheap if you also want to visit the San Blas Islands (and you definitely should!).
Did you consider sailing between Panama to Colombia?
Another option for those who love the water (which is not me) is sailing from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. The 5-day trip usually costs about $500 – $550 USD per person. You also get to see the San Blas Islands, however the downside is the 40-hour sea crossing (this doesn’t sound appealing to me at all). The waters in this part of the Caribbean are known to be difficult to cross. It can be dangerous – some yachts have capsized here so do some research on the yachts before doing this trip.
What do you mean by Island Hopping from Panama to Colombia?
The main reason we wanted to cross Panama and Colombia by boat is to see as much as we could of the San Blas Islands. Island Hopping meant spending more time on the San Blas Islands and less time on the boat. The tour took us across many different islands and we got the chance to stay on 3 different ones for the 3 nights of the tour. I am not a big fan of the panga boats they use in Central America (I still remember my difficult experience going from Big Corn to Little Corn) but the speed boats that they used for the island hopping tour are bigger than these pangas and they were comfortable enough for the ride between the islands. Over the 4 day trip, we only spent a total of 8 hours on the boat which gave us more time to relax and explore some tiny Caribbean Islands. We also stayed along the coast most of the time so even though there were a few bumps along the way, the ride was mostly “calm”. Note that depending on the weather the ride can still get pretty rough. Bring some seasickness pills (I took Dimenhydranate which has been effective for the whole trip). The boat trip from Panama to Colombia with San Blas Adventures costs round $375, plus an extra $30 for the jeep transfer and $22 for the Island tax/entry fee. Also add 140,000 COP for the boat/bus from Capurgana (a small coastal town in Colombia, where the trip ends) to Cartagena.
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Disclaimer: We worked with San Blas Adventures for the island hopping through San Blas Islands. Thoughts and opinions in this post are our own.
Have you done the island hopping from Panama to Colombia? Have you been to the San Blas Islands or other islands in the Caribbean? Let us know.
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