Pretty unknown to most people are the San Blas Islands of Panama but getting there isn’t that hard. This makes the islands special in so many ways we can’t even explain. The San Blas Islands are located in the Northwest of Panama, which borders Colombia in the East and Costa Rica in the West. There are three ways to get to the San Blas Islands; via sailboat charter, flying and with a water taxi and 4×4 jeep from Panama City. On the map of the San Blas Islands you can see the various travel route options to the area. The cheapest option to travel to San Blas is via 4×4 jeep, the fastest is by plane but most fun is a sailboat charter trip.
Travelling from land
You can reach the San Blas Island by sea or from the mainland Panama. If you want to travel from Panama to San Blas the best place to start is Panama City. In Panama City you can find allot of tour operators that can bring you to San Blas by 4×4 jeep and water taxi (lancha). This trip takes around one day in total. You will first cross a small part of the Pan American Highway by 4×4 jeep and then enter the rollercoaster jungle road to get to the Golfo de San Blas. When you arrive at the Golfo de San Blas you can go by water taxi that is operated by the local people the Kuna’s. This water taxi takes you to one of the major islands of San Blas. Rates for the 4×4 jeeps and water taxi’s can be found on our travel rates page.
How to get to San Blas Islands? There are four options. You can fly from Panama City to San Blas, take a sailboat from Carti, Capurgana or El Porvenir, or take the 4×4 jeeptaxi from Panama City and a speedboat into the area. Most travellers travelling between Colombia and Panama choose to sail from Cartagena to San Blas Islands
Sailboat charters to San Blas
Another way to get to San Blas is by boat. You can reach the Golfo de San Blas from the Caribbean Sea. If you did not start your journey from Panama don’t forget to get through customs before you enter San Blas with your boat. You can find the Panamanian customs on the island El Porvenir. Entering Panama by boat will cost you around 100 US dollars.
Crossing the border with Colombia
Most people prefer to cross the Panamanian border with Colombia by sea to the San Blas Islands because this trip is much safer then the trip through the border jungle also known as the Darien gap. A sailing trip from Colombia to San Blas takes around 48 hours if you don’t stop sailing. A common place to start this journey in Colombia is the city of Cartagena. You can rent a ship and captain that you share with fellow travellers for around 500-700 US dollars (including border tax $100). This trip will take you in around 5 days to Panama and visits some San Blas Islands. You can also take the ferry from Panama to Colombia but this boat won’t stop in San Blas and then you’re missing all the fun!
How to get to Colombia from Panama? The fastest way from Panama to Colombia is sailing via the San Blas Islands or taking a flight from Panama City to Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena or Cali since crossing the Darien Jungle per car is to dangerous and very difficult.
Flying to San Blas by plane
If you don’t want to cross the jungle or open waters of the Caribbean Sea you can use a plane to get to San Blas. The most common way for arriving by plane in San Blas is taking off at Panama City Airport and fly to El Porvenir. This island has a small airstrip that can be used by private planes, but only small ones so check if you can land here. You can also fly on Achutupu, Garti/Carti, Corazon, de Jesus, Playon Chico and Rio Sidra. You can book flights at Air Panama or Aeroperlas, but book in advance since it are all small aircrafts and the demands for seats it high. Another option is using a waterplane to land in San Blas. After landing you will need to hire a water taxi or boat to move around the San Blas Islands.
How far are the San Blas Islands from Panama City? From Panama City to San Blas is about 150 miles and takes you up to four hours by 4×4 jeep-taxi and one hour by flight.
At this point in time it is not yet possible to go by cruise ship to San Blas. However, lots of cruises do travel to Panama City from where you can easily reach the San Blas Islands. One of the more populair cruises to Panama can be found here.
Exploring San Blas
With more islands than days of the year, Kuna Yala is an amazing destination for anyone looking to get off-the-beaten-path. Independent travelers often complain that they feel bored and stuck alone inside their accommodations, but striking off on your own and exploring the Comarca de Kuna Yala is definitely within the realm of possibility.