Want to get off the grid and experience pure paradise in Panama? Or maybe you're trying to travel from Panama to Colombia? Obviously you won't want to cross the Darian Gap unless you have a death wish set out for yourself, but why fly when you can spend a few days sailing through the beautiful islands of the San Blas?
First, you'll want to do some research before you just hop on any boat. Don't just sail with anyone who offers you a 'better' price. You'll be sailing through some pretty hectic waters at times so you'll want a boat that will get you there safely and a captain who knows what he/she is doing. I was with three other girls at the time and we were on a bit of a time crunch so we didn't do as much research as we would have liked. We ended up choosing a sailboat with captain German (Herman) who wasn't exactly the friendliest. He had his moments. But when you're in such close quarters with people for almost a week, you don't want your captain to have moments. However, since German had a good relationship with the Kunas (San Blas natives) and knew the islands really well, we had a great time and made it safely to the shores of Cartagena on the 36ft Eucalyptus. Props to German for getting us there.
For more information regarding times, boats, and specifics, take a look at Mamallena.
There's a good range of reliable boats, and you can have your selection of a larger party boat or a smaller more intimate boat for just you and your group. Cost of sailing is anywhere from $500-550 per person in cash. You'll have to take a 2.5 hour 4x4 ride from Panama City to a dock where a small boat will take you out to the boat you booked.
Here's my list of things you won't want to forget on your trip through the San Blas Islands:
- Malaria pills
- Bug repellent if you're staying on the islands.
- Lots of water
- Coconut oil or lotion
- $100+ in cash (you'll be going to islands and if you want to get a souvenir or some food/drink, cash is the only thing accepted)
- Music (ipod/something to get you through nights of swaying)
- Snacks (especially if you have any food restrictions. Come prepared but also let your captain know of food allergies so he/she can prepare since you'll get 3 meals a day)
- Alcohol (it will not be supplied)
- Soap or anything you need for showering
- and don't forget your passport!
A 5 day trip could turn into a 7 day one if you have speeds of 2km/hour at some points like we did. Leave yourself a day or two of wiggle room for possible delay. In hindsight maybe I would have only sailed around the islands and flown to Cartegena, but it's all about the experience and I'm glad I did it. Who knows what you like if you don't try it!