Step into another world with our 3-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. We travel in speed boats along all 365 islands of the San Blas Islands 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.
Friday: 8:30am Sapzurro, Colombia (see below for info on how to get there)
Sunday: Arrival in Cartí, San Blas, Panama in the afternoon. From here, we help to arrange transport to Panama City (arrival 7pm same day)
Private bungalows (for 2 or 4-6 people) or mixed dormitories – both room types with western-style beds (mattresses, pillow, sheets). Shared bathrooms, equipped with western-style toilet and shower (no hot water).
One-way island-hopping trip from Colombia to Panama: We travel in speedboats from island to island and make various stops along the way on different islands and Kuna villages, you will sleep on the islands in traditional Kuna cabins right next to the Caribbean sea and enjoy delicious local, fresh meals. We do change our itinerary every once in a while (also depending on the weather and season) but we always make sure to show you a nice balance between deserted and inhabited islands, a lot of beach time, seeing star fish, eating fresh seafood (vegetarian options also available), visiting a Kuna village and experiencing our culture. Since we make so many stops, you will only travel short distances at a time – in total approx. 2-3 hours per day on the boat but with stops on the islands in between. The boats are equipped with safety vests for each passenger as well as safety gear and licensed captains. People rarely get sea sick because we travel close to the coast line where waves are a lot smaller and we also spend short times on the boat.
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 😊
You’ll be spending the entire day out on the ocean and in the sun so we highly recommend dressing accordingly!
Please bring mandatory:
Additionally, we recommend:
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.
San Blas is cash-only, there are no ATMs or card payments in San Blas. 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.
All visitors to the Comarca Kuna Yala, and thus to the San Blas islands, have to pay a fee upon entering. For this purpose, there are inspection points at all entrance points to Kuna Yala, such as along the only road, all ports and all airports. This fee is used to protect the rich biodiversity of the Kuna Yala rainforests.
It is $20 for foreigners and $5 for nationals and residents.
You can cancel up to 48h before the tour starting date with full refund of the entire trip price. After the 48 hours, the deposit cannot be returned.
Yes, you can definitely come to San Blas with 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 visiting the islands and keep in mind that most places do not have special baby equipment (baby beds, baby seats or special food/drinkable water).
Please also consider our special discounts for children.
You can bring your luggage with you. If you have more than 1 largebackpack/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.
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 will take care of the paperwork for you while you can have a drink or eat something at a local bakery. Usually this 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!
Our tour ends on Sunday afternoon in Cartí, Panamá. Since there is no public transport or place to stay in Cartí, it is crucial to have your ride to Panama City arranged beforehand. We will take care of this for you – the transport to Panama City is 35 USD per person.
Afternoon tour included
Traditional beachfront cabins
Delicious, Fresh Sea Food