Step into another world with our 3-day island hopping tour with the boat from Panama to Colombia, taking you to uninhabited tropical islands, colorful coral reefs and Kuna villages, where you can experience an ancient culture up close.
With limited time spent on the boat, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to soak up the sun and relax on the beach. Sleep in traditional cabins on tropical islands and cross the Panama-Colombia border, facilitated by our experienced, local team. 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.
Departure & Arrival
Monday: 8:30am Cartí, San Blas (Pick-up at your hotel in Panama City available)
Wednesday afternoon: Sapzurro, Colombia. Stay here or travel onwards to Cartagena/Medellin (see below)
Prices (per person)
* Dormitory: mixed, up to 8 people. Beds with mattresses, pillow, sheets. Shared bathrooms with western-style toilet & shower, no hot water.
** Private cabin: 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.
Add one additional night at the end of your trip to visit Armila, a Kuna village on the mainland close to the Colombian border and a crucial nesting site for leatherback turtles, the largest and most impressive sea turtles on our planet with up to 2m/700kg. Learn about the various conservation efforts to protect these turtles and their nesting habitats and witness the incredible natural wonder of these endangered creatures.
As a local business, we invite you onto the trip of your lifetime: explore in a small group the best the San Blas islands have to offer while supporting the local communities and making connections with like-minded travelers.
Starting in Cartí in San Blas, Panama we’ll be cruising in speedboats from one tropical island to another, all the way to Sapzurro in Colombia. Along the way we’ll explore different islands and Kuna villages. You’ll be living the dream in traditional Kuna cabins right next to the crystal clear Caribbean sea and enjoying super fresh local cuisine.
With short travel distances per day on the boat, many stops on the islands in between, and the coastline always in sight, you won’t get seasick!
Get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure you won’t forget!
We meet in the morning at the dock in Cartí, San Blas to start our trip. To get to Cartí, we arrange transport in a shared 4×4 from Panama City to Cartí for you with 3rd party drivers, incl. pickup at your hotel. Throughout the day, we explore several islands in the Cartí area, according to some the most beautiful islands in all of San Blas. At night, sleep in a traditional cabin right on the beach. Make sure to not miss the spectacular sunset and night sky!
Today, we set out after breakfast, to explore the idyllic islands surrounding Nargána, Tupile and Ustupo. This secluded area is so far off from the mainland road, which makes it a rare gem mostly untouched by tourists. Here, the Kuna people live in harmony with nature and have been doing so for centuries. Throughout the day, we stop on some uninhabited islands for swimming and relaxation. We will get up close with the Kuna culture and lifestyle during a village visit for lunch where a local family invites us to eat in their small restaurant and during our stay for the night in Ustupu, one of the most traditional Kuna villages.
Today, it’s time to leave the islands behind and cross into Colombia. But before doing so, we make a final stop on beautiful Isla Pino. After extensive beach time and delicious local lunch, we head to Puerto Obaldía for the migration papers from Panama. Once done with the paper work and luggage check, we can enter the boat one last time for the ride across the Panama-Colombia border and arrive in the afternoon in Sapzurro, where our trip ends.
You can book via the homepage (pick your desired date in the calendar and choose package option) or through email at email@example.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.
Our tour officially starts at the dock in Cartí, Kuna Yala, Panama. Cartí can be reached through a mountain-road in shared 4×4 cabs in ca. 3.5h from Panama City. Since there is no public transport to Cartí, and only registered drivers are allowed to bring tourists to San Blas, we will arrange the pickup for you in your hotel in Panama City and your drive to Cartí. Here, we start the tour with our boat.
Before leaving Panama and entering Colombia, we make a stop in Puerto Obaldia, Panama to get the paperwork ready for legally leaving Panama. This is the last Panamanian community before entering Colombia. We will take care of the paperwork and visit the different offices in Puerto Obaldia for you while you can have a drink or eat something at a local bakery. Usually this also involves luggage inspection by the local police before being allowed to return to the boat and enter Colombia. Our tour ends afterwards in Sapzurro, Colombia. You can stay in Sapzurro for a night or directly go to the next community, Capurgana.
In Capurgana, you will need to get your entry stamp into Colombia within 24h of having arrived in Colombia. The immigration office can easily be located on the main street and it is an easy procedure. Please familiarize yourself with the specific entry requirements to Colombia for your country before starting the tour.
Exemplary planning from Panama City to Cartagena (4-days):
We recommend staying for several days in Sapzurro and Capurganá if time permits. Travelling from Capurganá to Cartagena is possible in 1 day. Passport needs to be stamped in Capurganá within 1 day of arriving in Colombia.
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.
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: You will need cash for the following situations during our trip:
San Blas is cash-only, there are no ATMs or card payments in San Blas.
Currency: US Dollars are 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.
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.
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.
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 😊
Living and traveling through Kuna culture was one of the most incredible sensations found on this overland journey in Central America
“I opted to use the services of a Kuna-based company, San Blas Frontera, to be sure that my money would end up staying within the community. As well as meeting the Kuna communities, I was also lucky enough to enjoy the beautiful, sandy beach with not a care in the world. A different sunny island for each day of the year – definitely something I could get used to!”
We had a unique and unforgettable evening and are very grateful that we could be part of it! Thanks to Luis and his company!
It was a fun three-day trip full of authentic experiences and impressions that are rarely found anywhere else in the world.
The ultimate San Blas Experience – Get to know the best the San Blas Islands have to offer on this multi-day island-hopping trip. Visit 6+ different islands and some of the most exciting places of the archipelago. Private and dorm rooms and enough time to explore the islands on your own pace.
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