2023 Update: As the world gradually returns to normalcy, San Blas Adventures is operating with vigor, providing trips in both directions. This blog will provide you with an updated guide to making the most of your journey to the San Blas Islands, Panama!
The San Blas Islands are nestled near the Panama/Colombia border on the Caribbean side. There are over 350 islands inhabited by indigenous people called the Guna Yala that make up the San Blas Archipelago. These breathtaking islands are one of our top experiences in 15 months of nonstop travel. It's a trip of a lifetime that we hope everyone has the opportunity to take. To read more stories about our trip, click here.
After some diligent research about the islands, we came across San Blas Adventures and strategically chose to take the journey with them.
four reasons why San Blas Adventures is the best option:
1. This isn't a sailing trip like many other companies offer. San Blas Adventures travels by speed boat along the coast of Panama - which minimizes time on the boat and maximizes time on the islands. The longest we spent on the speed boat was a couple of hours each day and they are the only company that is able to do that. By staying close to the mainland of Panama, we avoided ocean crossings and most choppy water. We heard so many horror stories about the companies that make the crossing from Cartagena to San Blas (30 hours on choppy waters).
2. San Blas Adventures has developed a close relationship with the Guna Yala people over the course of many years. This friendship has paid off with exclusive access to certain islands and cultural experiences. We never once saw another tour company or tourist because of this. In four days, the only people we saw were those in our group and Guna's. This relationship also insured we never got a canned "Disney experience." We experienced real moments with real people.
3. Their staff members are incredibly helpful in every way and they practice sustainable tourism. San Blas Adventures seeks to preserve and respect the local culture and always leave the islands pristine upon departure. A good portion of the money you spend on the trip goes directly to the Guna people. We appreciated that San Blas Adventures is transparent along the way about this process.
4. Whether you plan to travel from Panama to Colombia or Colombia to Panama, San Blas Adventures offers both options. If you're planning to travel to this area of the world, we recommend spending some time in both countries. Regardless of which direction you're traveling, the company has a seamless itinerary all along the way. Who wants to sit in a plane when you could boat between the two countries sipping fresh coconuts?
tips to make the most of your trip:
▾ Go with the flow! You might have to sleep in a hammock or you might get lucky with a private room in the villages at night. We were the lucky couple who were chosen to sleep in hammocks while the other couples slept in private beds. This is completely fine, but be flexible and expect the basic accommodations.
▾ Make sure you have enough US dollars with you for soda, beer, and fresh coconuts. We packed about $150 USD with us, but only spent $30 USD for both of us. It's also a good idea to bring some extra cash to tip the guides at the end of the trip.
▾ You are expected to separate your belongings into your bigger bag and a small carry-on bag that you'll have with you the entire time. You won't have access to your large bag for the four days. Trust us, you will only wear swimsuits, a couple of dresses, and flip-flops. Don't pack more than you need.
▾ That being said, pack all of your technology in your small carry-on bag. This is absolutely vital as no one wants a cracked computer screen from the weight of everyone's bags over crashing waves. If the ride begins to get bumpy, place your small bag on your lap instead of the floor of the boat. This strategy saved our computers, hard drive, drone, and rum (don't forget to bring rum)!
▾ Although the website says you must bring your own water, it's not necessary to carry gallons upon gallons of water with you. Each island you sleep on has filtered water jugs, so only bring one big bottle that you can refill each day.
▾ Know that you will have to empty out your bags completely at the Panamanian border. This means every single pocket in your backpacks will be emptied in front of border patrol. Your bags will be sniffed by the border dogs, so don't bring anything with you that you shouldn't.
▾ Take it slow and live on island time, but also be quick on your feet! Without giving away any spoilers, there is a game called San Blas Killers that you'll play during your four-day trip. Make friends with everyone in the group, but don't get too close to anyone.
▾ Bring a small First Aid kit. Although the staff had a kit with them, we found that they were running low on basic supplies like band-aids and alcohol. You will likely get cut-up feet from walking barefoot, so be prepared.
▾ San Blas Adventures does offer transport from Cartagena to the starting point of the tour. However, if you decide to head there on your own as we did, give yourself extra time to get to Capurgana. This is a long trip from Cartagena and takes a minimum of two days. There is only one ferry each morning from Necocli to Capurgana, so make sure you arrive early. It's a good idea to leave one extra day in there because if you miss the ferry, you will miss the trip with San Blas Adventures.
our discount code
Use promo code THELOVE at checkout for a discounted rate on your trip with San Blas Adventures. Each person will receive $20 off, so make sure you complete a separate transaction for each guest.
** Update: As of the start of 2020, San Blas Adventures is no longer honoring discount codes. However, we absolutely still recommend booking the trip.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions. This was one of our favorite trips we've done and we recommend it 110%!
For love and adventure,
d & b