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1138

Boat from Colombia to Panama

0
  • 4-days/3-nights
  • Fixed Dates
  • Max. Guests: 14
  • Sapzurro, Colombia to Panama City

Boat from Colombia to Panama - Your San Blas Island Adventure starts here

Step into another world with our 4-day island-hopping tour in a speed boat from Colombia to Panama. Visit deserted beaches and islands where no other travelers ever go to, sleep in traditional cabins on tropical islands, and immerse yourself into a still intact indigenous culture on this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

All while crossing the Colombia-Panama border and the Darien gap. We travel along all 365 islands of the San Blas Islands in speed boat from Colombia to Panama, facilitate the border crossing for you, and make your island fantasies come alive!

The starting point Sapzurro is reachable from all major cities in Colombia, especially Cartagena, and we provide transport to arrive safely in Panama City after our tour ends. This is the perfect way to explore the San Blas Islands and immerse yourself in a unique culture that few travelers have the chance to experience.

Details - Boat from Colombia to Panama

Duration

4-days/3-nights (extension possible)

Departure & Arrival

Day 1: 8:00 am in Sapzurro, Colombia
Day 4, afternoon: arrival in Cartí, San Blas, then transport to your hotel in Panama City (arrival: ca. 7pm)

Prices (per person)

Tour (Dorm Cabin)
$420 USD
mixed, up to 6-8 people. Beds with mattresses, pillow, sheets. Shared bathrooms with western-style toilet & shower, no hot water. 
Tour (Private Cabin)
$460 USD
for 2-6 people of the same group. Beds with mattresses, pillow, sheets. Shared bathrooms with western-style toilet & shower, no hot water. Potentially private bathroom for 1 out of 2 nights. 
MANDATORY - Transport Cartí to Panama City
$35 USD
shared SUV/4x4 for max. 6 people
OPTIONAL - Kuna Village/Turtle Package (+1 day)*
$90 USD
OPTIONAL - Additional night on an island (dorm/private cabin)**
$60/$75 USD

* Kuna village & turtle visit: Explore a traditional Kuna village before tour starts (1 day & night). Day before tour starts: pickup in Sapzurro, immigration in Puerto Obaldia, afternoon & night in Armila (community life, dugout canoe tour, in April & May: turtle night tour). Day 1 of tour: meeting with tour group in Puerto Obaldia. Stay in village dormitory. Accommodation, meals & transport included. For single travelers, additional charges might apply

** Island stay after tour end: Extend by an additional day (+24h) and stay until the next day afternoon on the final island to relax & unwind. Meals, accommodation & transport to Panama City included.

Included (Tour)

  • Boat transfer from Sapzurro, Colombia through the San Blas Islands to Cartí, Panama
  • 3 nights accommodation
  • Meals
  • Visits to different islands and Kuna villages
  • Immigration fee & support at the border
  • Kuna guide, knowledgable about our culture
  • MANDATORY: Transport from Cartí to Panama City ($35 USD per person)
  • Governmental entrance fee to San Blas and dock fee ($22 USD per person)
  • Beverages, drinks, snacks (buy or bring along)

Payment

  • Cash: on the tour start date (US Dollars only)
  • PayPal: plus 6% charge of tour price

Discounts

  • Groups of 5 or more: 10% off tour price
  • Children 5-8 years: 50% of tour price
  • Children 0-4 years: free stay (excl. food, can be purchased in the restaurant)
Isla Kuanidup (Guanidup) in the San Blas Islands, Panama

Islands

We visit several islands each day – untouched islands, tiny palm-tree covered islands, sun-drenched beach islands, sunken islands, inhabited (village islands).

We sleep on three different tropical islands (for example islands Isla Iguana, Asseryaladup, or Nubesidup) and Kuna island villages

Accomodation

Cabin styles differ by island: simple, thatched huts with sand floor or upscale wooden cabins. All cabins with western-style bed with mattresses, pillow, sheets. Private cabins: 2-6 people. Dorm cabins: mixed, up to 8 people.

Shared bathrooms with simple, western-style shower & toilet, no warm water.

Our new boat San Blas Frontera - perfect for our trips from Panama to Colombia or from Colombia to Panama and to access remote islands

Boat transfer

Typical local speed boats (lancha) with outboard motor, equipped with safety vests for all guests. Short rides between islands (ca. 10-30min).

Buen provecho on Isla Nubesidup in the San Blas Islands, Panama

Meals

Freshly prepared local cuisine (seafood or chicken), vegetarian & vegan options available.

Add-on: Book a stay in Kuna village & Turtle Visit

Start your trip one day earlier to visit Armila, a Kuna village on the mainland close to the Colombian border and in April/May a crucial nesting site for leatherback turtles, the largest and most impressive sea turtles on our planet with up to 2m/700kg. Read more about the turtles here: Into the Wild: A Journey to the world’s largest turtles.

Price: $90 USD per person (for single travelers, additional charges might apply)

  • Immerse yourself into an indigenous community
  • April & May: Experience the majesty of Leatherback Turtles
  • Authentic experiences outside of a guided group tour

Itinerary - Boat from Colombia to Panama

Might be slightly adapted due to weather or sea conditions or local festivities

OPTIONAL Day before the tour: Visit to Armila, Kuna village experience incl. Turtle watching (April & May)

Visit Armila, a Kuna village on the mainland in the border region:

  • Day before the tour: Pickup in Sapzurro, immigration to Panama in Puerto Obaldia, boat ride to Armila*, exploring the village on your own, dugout canoe river tour
  • Evening (only in April & May): leatherback turtle watching
  • Day of the tour, morning: boat ride to Puerto Obaldia (10min)*, meeting with the group and tour start

* depending on sea conditions, 10min boat ride or 2h-walk (up- & downhill) from Puerto Obaldia to Armila and/or back

Day 1: Border-crossing and first islands

  • 8am: Start in Sapzurro, Colombia
  • First stop: Puerto Obaldia to cross into Panamá, we support you with the border formalities*
  • Stop on tropical islands for lunch and beach time
  • Sleep in a Kuna village and learn about our traditions and culture

*Important: you will need to get your passport stamped the DAY BEFORE in Capurgana (for leaving Colombia)

Day 2-3: Exploring Kuna culture

  • Several stops on different, untouched islands throughout the day – snorkelign, swimming, relaxing
  • Lunch in a Kuna village or an island
  • At night, sleep in a Kuna village or a traditional cabin right next to the beach

Day 4: More islands, more paradise

  • Final day to explore some of the most beautiful of the San Blas Islands including a natural pool
  • Tour ends in the afternoon in Cartí, San Blas, Panamá
  • Transport to Panama City in a 4×4/SUV (arrival ca. 7pm), drop-off at your hotel (book in advance)

OPTIONAL Day 5: Extend your island stay

Stay for an additional day & night (+24h) on the final island in the Cartí region of San Blas. Relax, swim, snorkel. Return to Panama City in the afternoon

Map

PRE-TOUR | Arriving to Sapzurro, Colombia: independently (see FAQ below for info)
TOUR:

  • Sapzurro, Colombia to Cartí through San Blas Islands: boat tour from Colombia to Panama
  • Cartí, San Blas to Panama City: shared jeep ride, organized through us
San Blas Frontera - Map of 3-day island hopping trip Panama-Colombia through the San Blas Islands

FAQ

How is San Blas Frontera different from other operators?

  1. 100% local – We grew up in the border region between Panama and Colombia with our Kuna traditions and customs. Only local guides, no foreigners or volunteers
  2. Higher comfort – you will sleep in actual beds (hammocks only if you really wish to) and option to choose between small dorms or a private cabin
  3. Local cuisine – no processed or western food to reduce waste, local cuisine prepared by local restaurants or families
  4. Small groups – Small enough to feel like you’re exploring San Blas independently, but big enough to create a good social vibe (ca. 8-15 people. vs up to 40 with other operators)
  5. Extension options – our tour is planned for 4 days but reach out to us if you would like to extend it by a few days!

How to book and to pay?

You can book via the homepage (pick your desired date in the calendar and choose package option) or through email at reservaciones@sanblasfrontera.com.

Payment is in cash on the day of the tour (US Dollars only). If this is not possible, we also accept payment via PayPal or bank transfer for an additional fee. Please reach out for details.

How to get to the starting point in Sapzurro, Colombia?

Step 1: Go to Capurgana:
You have to go to Capurgana first to get your passport stamped (on the day before our departure date,before 4pm).
 

Fly to Capurgana:

The quickest and most convenient way to reach Capurgana is by air. Several domestic airlines (e.g. https://www.pacificatravel.com.co/) operate regular flights from major cities like Medellín or Bogotá to the Capurganá Airport. The scenic flight takes you over stunning coastal landscapes, allowing you to soak in the beauty of the region from above.

Boat Journey from Turbo or Necogli:

You can take a bus from Cartagena to Turbo or to Necogli via Monteria. From both cities, boats depart to Capurgana and take ca. 2-3 hours (Turbo) or 3-4 hours (Necogli).
Be prepared for some waves and sea breeze, but the breathtaking scenery makes it all worthwhile.

Step 2: Capurgana to Sapzurro

From Capurgana you can charter a boat that takes you in ca. 10min to Sapzurro.

What to expect at the border to Panama?

On the day before our departure, you will have to go to the immigration office in Capurgana to get your passport stamped with the leaving stamp. The next day, we will meet in the morning in Sapzurro and our first stop will be the immigration office in Puerto Obaldia, Panama. Here, you are only allowed to proceed if you have your passport stamped in Colombia the previous day. We support you with the paperwork at the various offices. Usually, this stop also involves heavy luggage inspection by the local police so please make sure to not bring any forbidden items into Panama. Once ready, we are all set to head for San Blas!

 

What should I pack?

You’ll be spending the entire day out on the ocean and in the sun so we highly recommend dressing accordingly!

Please bring mandatory:

  • Passport: mandatory, it will be checked upon entering the Comarca of Kuna Yala (San Blas)
  • Sufficient cash:in US Dollars to pay for the trip in cash, to buy drinks, snacks, souvenirs on the island (small bills of 1 USD and 5 USD highly recommended) – Credit cards are not accepted and there is no ATM in San Blas. You can exchange cash in all major cities along the way and in Capurgana.

Additionally, we recommend:

  • Sun protection: for the island and the boat ride (sun blocker, hat, T-shirt with sleeves, towel)
  • Towels (not provided!)
  • Water to drink: Water/soft drinks are not included in the package, please bring sufficient or purchase on the island
  • Snacks
  • Swimming gear
  • Sandals, flip flops
  • Wetbag or plastic bag for your valuables in case of a wet boat ride or rain
  • Flash light
  • Clothes (to change if you get wet on the boat ride + it might get chilly/windy at night)
  • Snorkeling equipment

Please wrap sensitive items and put them in a waterproof bag as the boat ride to and between islands might get bumpy and wet at times. Have your passport and cash with you during the car ride and ready to present when entering the Comarca of San Blas (passport check + payment of the governmental entrance fee) and in Puerto Obaldia.

How much luggage can we bring?

You can bring your luggage with you. If you have more than 1 large backpack/suitcase and a smaller carry-on, please inform us ahead of time.
Please also inform us if you have any bulky luggage (surf board, bike). Extra charges might occur. During trade wind season (December to February), there can be heavy winds and high waves, so please consult with us before the trip and ensure to wrap your bulky luggage to prevent it from getting damaged. We are not responsible for any damages that might occur.

How much cash should we bring and which currency?

How much cash: You will need cash for the following situations during our trip: 

  • Paying the tour price and transport to Panama City (in USD, if not already paid via PayPal)
  • Governmental entrance & dock fee of $22 USD (to be paid to the local authorities)
  • Cash for drinks, drinking water, beverages or snacks (not included, buy on the main islands or bring your own)
  • Cash for souvenirs, if wanted 

San Blas is cash-only, there are no ATMs or card payments in San Blas.

Currency: US Dollars is the officially accepted currency. Please bring sufficient cash (US Dollars), preferably in bills of $1 or $5 for paying for snacks, water, taxes etc. since locals rarely have sufficient change for larger bills. 

What about the entrance fee and other fees?

The followings fees are included: entrance fees by individual islands and villages that we visit, incl. the fee at the immigration center in Puerto Obaldia, Panama

Not included: the governmental entrance tax for visiting the Comarca of Kuna Yala, which all visitors to the San Blas islands have to pay once at the dedicated entrance points to Kuna Yala (road, ports and airports). This fee is used to protect the rich biodiversity of the Kuna Yala rainforests. It is $22 USD for foreigners and $5 USD for nationals and residents.

What about food? Are vegan or vegetarian options available?

We only eat at local restaurants and families to support our communities, especially those that are far off the regular tourist paths. Typical meals in San Blas consist of a source of protein (fish, seafood, lobster or chicken) with rice/coconut rice/yucca/plantains and vegetetables such as lentils, beans, carottes, beet root etc. and salad. For vegan or vegetarian options, the animal protein source is left out.

Is this trip suitable for children?

Yes, this trip is also suitable for children. Children usually love the beaches, the boat rides and being on an island. We recommend that children are at least old enough to walk when joining this trip. Keep in mind that most places do not have special baby equipment (baby beds, baby seats or special food/drinkable water) and that you will need to carry your infant on your lap during the boat ride.

Please also consider our special discounts for children.

Read this before booking your trip

A trip to the San Blas Islands is most likely very different to your usual vacation. All operations in San Blas are by law 100% owned and operated by local Kuna people, foreign investments are banned and foreigners/Panamanians are not allowed to conduct any business in San Blas. Most of the cabins are run by large families and provide income for a very large number of people. Many of the operators or employees have lived their entire life in San Blas, some never left the Comarca and most have never traveled to another country or stayed in a hotel. Kuna people have for hundreds of years lived a very simple and basic life consisting mainly of fishing and hunting. Tourism is fairly new and only very few have had real experience in the hospitality sector.

At the same time, the islands are very remote and difficult to reach. Everything that the islands themselves cannot provide (building material, gasoline for the boats, food,…) needs to be sourced in Panama City and sent for a high surcharge in a 4WD/SUV to the dock of Carti. From here, it is then redistributed via boats and again for a fee to smaller sellers and cabins. The islands are not provided with any infrastructure (electricity or running water) and locals live a simple life in tune with nature.

As you can imagine, great effort is required to provide a basic service to tourists and the locals do it to the best of their knowledge. As such, we kindly ask you to leave your mainland expectations behind and be open and try not to compare the $-value of a night in San Blas with a night in other parts of Panama. The simplicity of the cabins reflect a mix of the basic traditional lifestyle and the expensive sourcing for material with external financing being not allowed. Similarly, meals reflect local food patterns (fish/sea food with rice) with limited access and the attempt to adapt to foreign tastes with a bit of sides and salads. Drinking water needs to be imported from the City and is a luxury to most locals. Providing electricity and fresh water requires great effort and usage times might be restricted. Bed linens are washed by hand in the river on the mainland or sent to Panama City. There is no communal trash collection or recycling system in place. Only few locals speak English and some don’t even speak Spanish. 

 Nevertheless, we work closely with cabin owners to ensure that you will receive a great service, experience clean and functioning facilities and that your stay will be a remarkable one!

With this in mind, be ready to jump into your island adventure! Once on the island, you’ll most likely find that in such a beautiful setting, most modern-day luxuries are not needed and that there is a point to the simple and relaxing life that the Kuna people live 😊

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Group Discount 10% Off*

Traveling in a group? Enjoy a discount of 10% if you are traveling in groups of 5 adults or more. 6+ islands in 3 days, this San Blas Islands Tour is the perfect mix of popular destinations & hidden treasures!

*automatically subtracted during booking process, not valid for other tours