The San Blas Islands is a beautiful archipelago of 350+ tiny islands between Panama and Colombia. I have visited these incredible islands twice, once for an island-hopping day trip from Panama City, and a second time to travel from Panama to Colombia.
I recommend this as a good option if you are traveling between Panama City, Panama and Cartagena, Colombia (in either direction), as I did. You cannot travel between Panama and Colombia by land because of the dangerous Darien Gap, meaning that if you are traveling from Central America to South America or vice versa, you must choose either air or sea transportation. The trip I did with "San Blas Adventures" was the most budget-friendly option I could find at the time. There are other options, but they will be more expensive. This four-day adventure cost just under $400 (everything that the price included is described below).
To begin the trip, my friend and I were picked up by jeep from our hostel in Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City (note that pickup is an additional $30). We were driven to Carti, at the beginning of San Blas. There, we met the other ~30 backpackers who were in our group, and we loaded up into two speedboats. The crew provided us giant trash bags and duct tape to wrap-up our backpacks or other belongings (Latin American "water-proofing"). I had previously ziplocked important items (passport, electronics) as well, just in case!
The <$400 price included transportation by speedboat, food (fresh lobster, octopus, fish, etc.), accommodation (sleeping on a hammock inside of palm-leaf huts), various activities, immigration fees, and the local Kuna Yala taxes. I spent most of each day hanging out on one or two different islands - talking with the indigenous Kuna people about their culture and daily life, playing soccer or beach volleyball on the sand with other backpackers, snorkeling/swimming, or sunbathing.
The trip ended in Sapzurro, Colombia, near La Miel and Capurgana. These are beautiful, off-the-beaten track locations that you won't want to miss! I regret having only stayed in Capurgana for one night (as we had pre-booked our hostel in Cartagena.) I HIGHLY recommend planning to spend a few extra days exploring the area before moving on to Cartagena or another destination. San Blas Adventures helped to organize boats from Sapzurro to Capurgana for those that wanted, but this is no longer part of the included trip price. However, it's not super expensive - I paid no more than $4. Afterwards, you should take a local bus to move on to your next destination within Colombia.
Pros and Cons to this Trip:
This was definitely a BACKPACKERS trip, and NOT a luxury cruise. We were "roughin' it" at times, but the beauty of these islands made the experience so worth it for me. However, there are of course benefits to opting for something else. As traveling always includes very personal decisions, I recommend that you read over what I have shared, look into the company's website (link shared below), and choose what you think will best fit your needs.
A final note...
Before heading out on this adventure (or if you are traveling anywhere in Central America, for that matter), be sure to pick up some Nicaraguan "Flor de Caña" Rum. It is one of the best liquors I have found while traveling! I promise, you will thank me! ;)
You can book the same trip I did here: San Blas Adventures
I believe in God's grace through Jesus. I love to learn, in a variety of contexts - reading God's Word, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds around the world, and as a student of Linguistics and Foreign Languages at Western Washington University. Pages of My Passport is dedicated to sharing this journey of learning through written and visual content.