Travel Between Panama and Colombia

 

Most people travelling through central America choose to do so overland since it's a great way to see the country and often the cheapest way to cross borders. Unfortunately this isn't an option when crossing the border between Panama and Colombia, leaving you two options: fly or go by sea.

There's two main options to choose from if you decide to go by sea: sailing or a fast boat. Both typically go through the San Blas Islands. We ruled out sailing on the basis that you spend 2-3 full days and nights at open sea, and we heard numerous horror stories of sea sickness.

Having asked around and done a lot of research, we decided to book the fast boat with San Blas Adventures. Here’s everything you need to know about the trip.

 
 

The Tour

The San Blas Adventures fast boat takes you from Carti in Panama to Sapzurro in Colombia (or vice versa) and includes the border crossing. Everyone on our tour booked the 4x4 transport from Panama City to the meeting point, so it felt like the tour began there. For 4 days and 3 nights your meals, activities and accommodation are included. You’ll spend a total of around 8 hours on the boat throughout the trip, leaving loads of time to enjoy island life.

 

Activities

Travelling by fast boat means you have more time to spend on the islands. This means more time for beach volleyball, slacklining and snorkeling. The reefs around the islands are full of life, we even saw a shark! We had an awesome group of 25 people so there was always loads going on. Campfires bring everyone together at night. Toasting marshmallows under the moonlight, singing your heart out to power ballads and drinking rum from a coconut, all on a private island… what more could you want?

Food and Accommodation

The tour guides and local Kuna cook incredibly tasty food for the group. Expect fresh lobster, octopus and fish served with a selection of delicious sides. The San Blas trip is all about island life, so amenities are basic but functional. Ever slept in a hammock? If not, now is your chance! There’s no better way to fall asleep than being in a hammock on a small island in the Caribbean, listening to the soothing sound of the ocean.

 

Culture

Booking with San Blas Adventures is a great way to support the local community. The company work very closely with the Kuna Yala community. Some locals travel to the smaller islands and offer drinks to the group - buying from the Kuna is a great way to support local families (plus, they keep them ice cold!). One of the nights is spent in a Kuna village, which you paddle to in traditional small boats. School kids welcome you to their island with a traditional dance in the school yard.

 

 
 
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Highlights and Hindsight

  • Make every effort to go to the meeting the day before the trip. It’s a great way to meet everyone, and to make sure you have everything you need.

  • You will only have access to your small bag throughout the trip, but you will hardly need anything at all. Take a light jacket or scarf to cover you in the hammock at night - the sea breeze can be a little chilly.

  • The 4x4 transfers make a short stop at a supermarket on the way out of Panama City. Don’t panic about trying to shop in advance, this place has everything you’ll need.

  • This trip has the perfect balance of fun, relaxation and culture.

  • It’s great for solo travelers, couples and groups.

  • The large group size is great! We had an awesome group of people and all continued travelling together after the tour ended.

  • The food was amazing! I’ve never seen to much fresh lobster.

  • You’re spending 4 days in paradise - what’s not to love?!

 
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