Cartagena to Panama

Explore the Ultimate Adventure with Boat Hitchhiking

As many backpackers, when you get to the tip of Colombia, Cartagena, the next step is to reach Panama. Depending of your budget and your way of traveling, there are many options to get from Cartagena to Panama.

Embarking on a journey from Cartagena to Panama is a venture filled with possibilities, offering travelers a unique blend of adventure, culture, and breathtaking scenery. While there are various ways to make this coastal traverse, one option that stands out as an unforgettable odyssey is boat hitchhiking through the mesmerizing San Blas Islands.

Join me as I recount the captivating story of my daring adventure, navigating the pristine waters of the Caribbean and weaving through the San Blas archipelago, all while forging connections with locals and fellow adventurers. This is not just a travel tale; it’s an invitation to explore the extraordinary, a testament to the spirit of exploration, and a guide to the diverse options available for your own Cartagena to Panama escapade.

San Blas Islands

How to get from Cartagena to Panama?

Getting from Cartagena, Colombia, to Panama offers travelers a range of options to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some of the most popular methods:

  1. Flight: The quickest and most convenient option is to take a direct flight from Cartagena’s Rafael Núñez International Airport to Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. Several airlines operate this route, making it a time-efficient choice.

  2. Boat or Ferry: For a more scenic and adventurous route, consider taking a boat or ferry. One popular route is through the San Blas Islands. This option combines transportation with the opportunity to explore the beautiful archipelago and interact with the indigenous Kuna people. Keep in mind that these boat trips can be less predictable in terms of schedules.

  3. Cruise: If you’re looking for a luxurious and leisurely experience, you can opt for a cruise that includes a stop in Cartagena and Panama. Many cruise lines offer packages that allow you to explore both destinations and enjoy the amenities of a cruise 

Each of these options offers a unique experience, from the convenience of flying to the cultural richness of bus travel, the adventure of boat hitchhiking through San Blas, or the luxury of a cruise. The choice ultimately depends on your preferences, budget, and the type of adventure you seek.

San Blas Island

San Blas Islands: A Tropical Paradise Awaits

Located in the Caribbean Sea along the northeastern coast of Panama, the San Blas Islands are an archipelago consisting of approximately 365 islands and cays, offering a pristine and idyllic escape for travelers seeking unspoiled natural beauty and vibrant indigenous culture.

Where are the San Blas Islands? The San Blas Islands are nestled within the autonomous indigenous territory of the Guna Yala region in Panama. These islands are renowned for their crystal-clear waters, powdery white sandy beaches, and lush tropical landscapes.

What to See and Do:

  1. Beaches and Snorkeling: The San Blas Islands boast some of the most exquisite beaches in the world. Relax on the shores, swim in the turquoise waters, and snorkel among vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life.

  2. Indigenous Culture: The islands are primarily inhabited by the Guna people, who have preserved their traditions and way of life for centuries. Visitors can immerse themselves in Guna culture by interacting with locals, witnessing traditional dances, and learning about their artisanal crafts.

  3. Island Hopping: Explore the diverse array of islands, each with its own unique charm. Some islands are uninhabited, providing a tranquil retreat, while others offer rustic accommodations for a more immersive experience.

How to Get There: To reach the San Blas Islands, travelers typically take a flight from Panama City to the small airstrip on El Porvenir Island. From there, you can arrange transportation to your chosen island by boat. Ensure you have all the necessary permits and documentation, as the islands are within an indigenous territory with specific regulations.

Crossing to Panama: If you’re traveling from Colombia, crossing from Cartagena to Panama through the San Blas Islands is an adventure in itself. Many travelers opt for multi-day sailing trips on catamarans, which allow them to explore the islands and eventually reach the Panama border.

Hitchhiking on a Catamaran: Boat hitchhiking on a catamaran is a unique and budget-friendly way to experience the San Blas Islands and continue your journey into Panama. Travelers often connect with catamaran owners or charter companies in Cartagena, joining a sailing adventure that includes island exploration and the opportunity to cross into Panama. It’s a memorable way to enjoy the natural beauty and cultural richness of the region while meeting like-minded adventurers.

In the San Blas Islands, time seems to stand still as you immerse yourself in a paradise where azure waters meet pristine sands, and where the Guna people warmly share their traditions. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural enrichment, the San Blas Islands offer a truly unforgettable experience in the heart of the Caribbean.

Catamaran Cartagena Panama

Sailing from Cartagena, Colombia, to Panama via a catamaran trip is an adventurous and scenic way to explore the stunning San Blas Islands and eventually cross into Panama. These trips are a popular choice among travelers looking for a unique and immersive experience. Here’s an overview of what you can expect from a typical catamaran trip, including average prices:

Duration and Itinerary:

  • Catamaran trips from Cartagena to Panama via the San Blas Islands typically last 4 to 5 days.
  • The itinerary often includes sailing through the San Blas archipelago, making stops at several of the picturesque islands along the way.
  • Activities often include snorkeling, swimming, exploring uninhabited islands, and interacting with the indigenous Guna people.


  • Catamarans usually offer shared accommodations in cabins or sleeping quarters onboard.
  • Some trips provide private cabins for an additional cost, but this varies depending on the operator and catamaran.


  • Most catamaran trips include meals in the package price.
  • Meals are typically simple but delicious, often featuring fresh seafood and local cuisine.

Average Prices:

  • The cost of a catamaran trip from Cartagena to Panama varies widely depending on factors such as the operator, the duration of the trip, the type of catamaran, and the level of comfort offered.
  • On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $1,500 USD per person for a 4 to 5-day catamaran trip.
  • Prices are often higher for trips on larger and more luxurious catamarans.
  • Keep in mind that prices can fluctuate seasonally, and there may be additional fees for things like park entrance and taxes.

What’s Included:

  • The package typically includes transportation on the catamaran, accommodation, meals, and some activities.
  • Check with the operator to confirm what is included in the price, as this can vary.

Booking Information:

  • It’s advisable to book your catamaran trip in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, as spaces can fill up quickly.
  • Research different operators, read reviews, and choose one that fits your budget and preferences.
  • Be sure to inquire about any additional costs or fees not included in the initial price.

Overall, a catamaran trip from Cartagena to Panama through the San Blas Islands offers a memorable adventure with opportunities to explore pristine islands, interact with the indigenous Guna people, and experience the beauty of the Caribbean. Prices can vary, so it’s essential to do thorough research and choose an option that suits your budget and interests.

Boat hitchhicking from Cartagena to Panama

Did you know that it’s possible to embark on a unique adventure by boat hitchhiking from Cartagena to Panama? This unconventional and exhilarating way of travel allows you to join the crew of a sailing vessel, often a catamaran, as they navigate the stunning waters of the Caribbean. It’s an incredible opportunity to not only traverse the ocean but also explore the enchanting San Blas Islands along the way. As you hitchhike on these boats, you’ll share experiences with fellow travelers, embrace the spontaneity of the open sea, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this tropical paradise. Boat hitchhiking is a testament to the adventurous spirit of travel, and it’s an option worth considering for those seeking a truly unique journey from Cartagena to Panama.

San Blas to Cartagena

My experience

If you’re an adventurer at heart, consider stepping out of your comfort zone and giving hitchhiking a try to reach Panama. It’s a great way to save money and have an extraordinary experience.

When we arrived in Cartagena, we made our way to the marina, where all the sailing boats and charter catamarans are tied up. This is the best place to find a ride to Panama, either on a private sailing boat or a charter offering trips to the San Blas Islands.

We approached boat owners in the marina, asking if they were heading to Panama soon and if they needed extra crew members. Most of them were friendly, but we faced many days of disappointment with negative responses. After a few days, we decided to create a flyer and posted it in the community marina room, stating that we were looking for a ride to Panama as crew members or volunteers on a sailing boat.

Our approach eventually paid off, and we got in touch with the manager of the company called “FUCKING BUENO.” We struck a deal with them: they would take us to Panama on their catamaran in exchange for one month of work at their ecolodge in Panama. We enthusiastically accepted the offer, setting the stage for an unforgettable adventure.

Cartagena to Panama boat

We embarked on the catamaran early in the morning with the other people of the group. Most of them were young travellers from diferent countries. The first part of the trip is an entire day sailing towards the San Blas Archipelago. We had a lot of time to get to know each other around meals and drinks, getting to know the crew which who we were going to work with during the next 30 days. 

Sailing towards the San Blas Islands on a catamaran is like entering a realm of pure enchantment. As the breeze fills the sails and the boat gracefully glides over the crystal-clear waters, there’s an undeniable sense of freedom and wonder. The gentle rocking of the vessel lulls you into a serene state of relaxation, surrounded by nothing but the endless expanse of the Caribbean Sea. 

With each passing nautical mile, anticipation builds, knowing that hidden paradises await among the scattered emerald isles of the San Blas. The sensation of the warm sun on your skin and the salty sea spray in the air heightens the feeling of being truly alive, embracing the untamed beauty of nature in one of the world’s most captivating sailing destinations.

Catamaran sailing cruise San Blas Islands

Sailing through the San Blas Archipelago is an enchanting voyage through a tropical paradise. As the boat glides smoothly over the turquoise waters, you’re greeted by a postcard-perfect panorama of emerald islets fringed with powdery white beaches. The warm Caribbean sun kisses your skin, while the gentle breeze whispers tales of seafaring adventures.

Every island you pass seems more captivating than the last, inviting you to explore its pristine shores, snorkel among vibrant coral reefs, and bask in the tranquility of this untouched paradise. The indigenous Guna people, who call these islands home, offer glimpses into their rich culture and traditions, adding depth to your journey.

With each passing moment, the San Blas Archipelago leaves an indelible mark on your heart, an experience of nature’s unspoiled beauty and a reminder of the wonders that await those who seek to sail through these Caribbean gems.

Life on a catamaran in the San Blas Archipelago is a unique blend of serenity and excitement, where each day brings a new island to explore and a new sunset to savor. It’s a voyage that leaves you with a treasure trove of memories and a profound appreciation for the beauty of the open sea. Days are filled with exploration and relaxation. You can snorkel in the clear, azure waters, discovering colorful marine life beneath the surface. Beachcombing on deserted islands becomes a cherished pastime, and impromptu beach picnics are the norm.

Cartagena to Panama

Boat hitchhiking from Cartagena to Panama is a thrilling journey where you’ll trade schedules for spontaneity and meet fellow adventurers while sailing through the Caribbean’s hidden gems. It’s an unforgettable odyssey where the open sea becomes your guide, and each day promises a new story to tell.

Immigration process from San Blas Islands to Panama

The immigration process when traveling from Cartagena, Colombia, to Panama on a catamaran cruise can be a bit complex due to the need to cross international borders, but it’s manageable with proper planning. Here is a general overview of the immigration process:

1. Colombian Exit Immigration:

  • Before departing from Cartagena, you’ll need to go through Colombian exit immigration procedures. This usually involves visiting the immigration office at the port or marina to have your passport stamped and exit the country legally.
  • Ensure you have all the necessary documents, including your passport, any required visas, and any paperwork related to your boat trip.

2. Sailing to the San Blas Islands:

  • Your catamaran cruise will typically sail through the San Blas Islands, which are part of Panama. Enjoy the scenic journey as you explore these beautiful islands along the way.

3. Arrival in the San Blas Islands:

  • Once you arrive in the San Blas Islands, your catamaran may anchor at a designated location or visit one of the inhabited islands.
  • Your captain or crew will inform you of the local procedures for immigration and may assist with the process.

4. Guna Yala Visitor’s Permit:

  • The San Blas Islands are part of the Guna Yala region, an autonomous indigenous territory in Panama. Travelers are usually required to obtain a Guna Yala Visitor’s Permit, which allows you to stay in the region.
  • This permit can typically be arranged with the help of your catamaran operator or crew, and they will guide you through the process.

5. Panama Entry Immigration:

  • When it’s time to leave the San Blas Islands and officially enter Panama, you will go through Panama entry immigration.
  • Your catamaran may need to sail to a designated port of entry in Panama, where immigration officials will check your documents and issue entry stamps.
  • Ensure you have your passport, the Guna Yala Visitor’s Permit, and any other required documents ready for inspection.

6. Enjoy Panama:

  • Once you’ve successfully cleared Panama’s entry immigration, you’re free to explore Panama and continue your journey.
  • Depending on your catamaran cruise arrangement, you may have additional activities planned, such as disembarking on the mainland or continuing your voyage along Panama’s coastline.

Please note that immigration procedures and requirements can change, so it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest regulations and work closely with your catamaran operator to ensure a smooth immigration process during your voyage from Cartagena to Panama.

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