Traveling across the Darien Gap

San Blas Islands Panama

Once you've finally gotten your vehicle shipping figured out (don't worry, you've done what might be the hardest part of your trip), you'll need to get yourself across the gap as well.  If you're short on time, you can fly, but if you've got some time, it's worth exploring the San Blas on sailboat as part of your ocean crossing.  Read more about the ships sailing across the Darien Gap in this article.

Meeting your car across the Darien Gap

In addition to sailing from Central to South America, you also (obviously) have the option of flying. Airline prices can vary, but it will general set you back about $300-$400 dollars to fly from Panama to Colombia or Ecuador.

Update: as of early 2010 flights go for $150 on Aires if you are lucky and find a promotion.

If you feel like being a little more adventuresome, there are lots of different boats sailing from the Panama to Colombia. These ships can vary in size, luxury, destination, and departure time, so it's good to check around to find out what best matches your budget and time line. Prices vary from $400-$600. Many of the boats spend several days sailing among the idyllic San Blas Islands of Panama, a true tropical paradise. The San Blas Islands are controlled by the Kuna Indians, a semi-autonomous indigenous group in Panama, but the majority of the hundreds of islands in the San Blas archipelago are uninhabited. The islands typically have white-sand beaches, are dotted with palms, and are surrounded by warm clear water perfect for snorkeling. The crossing from Panama to Colombia then takes 1-2 days, depending on ocean conditions. The crossing from Colombia to Panama is much smoother than the crossing from Panama to Colombia, due to swell direction and prevailing winds. Check at local hostels and hotels for updated information, as this type o crossing seems to be gaining in popularity. Experiences can vary widely from ship to ship, so it is worth asking a few questions before you book your trip, such as:

  • What is the maximum number of people on the ship?
  • Am I guarenteed a private room/bed?
  • Is there fresh water for showers?
  • Will the ship be sailing under wind power, or will engines be used?

Some ships can be overcrowded and without water for showers, so depending on your threshold for comfort, it is worth asking around to see which ship will best meet your needs.

List of ships sailing between Panama and Colombia

All trips typically include food and drinks (alcohol not included). Trip include 3 days in the San Blas and passage to Colombia.

 

Regina Bayman:

 
We charge $450 per person. The price includes the food and water, checking in and out fees. There are no hidden costs like the snorkels or the seafood  etc. We pay for the lobsters and fish whenever we can find them. You buy your drinks and only other thing you might need money for is if you want to buy molas or other souvenior from the locals. We pick you up from Puerto Lindo. In  lonley planet it may be called Isla Grande. Puerto Lindo is the name of the town on mainland. We are anchored in between basically.  You move into the boat the night before, so we can leave very early in the morning next day. We arrive in San Blas in the afternoon. Spend that night in Chichime Cays. We move over to Hollnadaise next day. We spend that afternoon and all day next day in Hollandaise Cays. We set sail that night and arrive in Cartagena in about 36 hours. We check the weather everyday. If going to Cartagena may possibly be risky, which can be this time of the year, we set sail for Sapzurro. In any case the trip takes 5 days. If we go to Sapzurro, you take a 2,5 hour boat ride to Turbo. From Turbo you can either take a bus or fly.
She says it is better to contact her by phone 6092 9837 as she does not manage to get to internet that often.  If people want to do trips earlier this year, she says she can link people up with other captains.

Contact: Rengin Bayman and her email is delfinsolo@gmail.com

 

CORTO :

Beneteau 43 foot sailboat 6 persons max in three cabins. French cuisine and fresh fruit juice everyday.
Hot /cold pressure water available for shower (unlimited) and safe drinking...
Sea kayak, snorkeling gear available
AC power for charging, space in the fridge for cold drinks  

We leave from Puerto Lindo easy and cheap to reach from Panama City. Check our web site for more infos, photos, comments of previous guests 

$450/person as of August 2011

Contact: Cécile or Michel
tel Panama : (507) 65 05 58 89
Tel Colombia: 57 301 414 9198

Email: croisiere.sanblas@hotmail.fr

Website : www.sailpanamatocolumbia.webs.com

SY FRITZ THE CAT 

Catamaran, 15m x 8,5m , Austrian Flag 2x 75HP Yanmar engines 175 m2 sail area on wind and up to 6 bikes on deck
5 days, 4 nights between Cartagena and Carti/San Blas.Showers (daily 90 seconds showering guaranteed), 2 Toilets, 5 private cabins for 2-3 persons each, 110 m2 of deckspace. Daily fresh baked German brown bread. Note that a Catamaran does not heel or roll like a monohull sailboat. Snorkeling equipment and fishing gear included

US550 per person + US25 Taxi from Panama City to Cati + US5 Port Fee Carti

Email: f_breckner@hotmail.com
Website: www.fritz-the-cat.com

Update: On 2nd of July Fritz-the-Cat sunk: http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/cartagena/ARTICULO-WEB-NEW_NOTA_INTERIO...

We sailed with this boat in June 2012 and here is a little review about it:

The Good:
- The crew is knowledgeable in terms of sailing and safety. We never had any doubts to not make it safe to Cartagena.
- Food was good and plenty. Unlimited fruits and lemonade.The fresh bread in the morning was fantastic.
- Fritz knows the San Blas Islands inside out and showed us a few fantastic spots for snorkeling and fishing.
- Being on the open sea was not that bad. The sea was actually quite calm and beside a few thunderstorms it was smooth. Still sea sickness pills are a good idea
- Arriving after dark in Cartagena was interesting as you see the nice skyline from far out on the ocean.
- We were 16 people including crew and felt this was the a good number of people for this size of the boat. Specially with a few motorbike on the deck. Nevertheless the owner sometimes does this trip with 20+ people which would be way to crowded.


The Bad:
- This boat is already pretty beat up and would need more than just a little bit of TLC.
- Not really their fault, but we used the engines all the time to move around. Apparently the wind is most of the time not strong enough to just sail. So don´t get your hopes up.
- Getting to Carti with Manuel (a Taxi driver and recommendation from Fritz) was an insane undertaking. We would try to organize our own transportation next time
- Not the cheapest boat. For us it was the only option as the sailing date was perfect and we didn´t have to stay any night longer in Panama City, but if you look around you will find more reasonable priced boats.

Independence:

Stahlratte:

  • 40 m sailing ship
  • Unlimited fresh water
  • Everyone takes part on sail manoeuvers, cooking, and cleaning
  • Contact: In Panama 653-660-32, in Colombia 301-374-6596
  • Email: info.steelrat@les-raisting.de

Seeadler:

Chirisa:

To put out to sea:

Boat: Twyla

This boat should be avoided as much as possible. The boat is falling apart. We sailed in May-10-2010 and the boom broke of from the mast, the lifeboat had a hole and there are not enough life vests to pic a few worries. If there is an alternative boat for the trip, take it

Attila:

Esmeralda:

  • 42 foot yacht
  • $385/person
  • Contact: 315-766-0039

Metacomet:

  • 75 foot motor sailor
  • They claim to offer a faster ride with less sea sickness, and will take motorcycles on their ship for an additional $350.
  • $370/person
  • Contact: Herve or Dagny, in Panama: 507-6777-1876, in Colombia: 310-642-0597
  • Email: metacometpassages@yahoo.com

Little Whale:

  • 36 foot racer/cruiser yacht
  • $350/person
  • Contact: Herve or Dagny, 310-642-0597
  • Email: dagnylancy@yahoo.com]

Gitan:

  • 42 foot yacht
  • Contact: Remy or Ana, 311-772-1704 or 316-240-8018

Sacanagem:

Note from Kristin of Kristin and Chris: The San Blas were amazing, however the captain (while very funny) like his alcohol and we ended up staying at one island the whole 3 days in the San Blas rather than sailing around since he decided to party on the island we were visiting.  He also doesn't really have much regard for safety and overcrowded the boat with 4 extra people.  

Tue, 07/17/2012 - 13:41

PRI's The World Slideshow on the Darien Gap

Check out this slideshow about the Darien Gap that was on PRI's The World show.

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 04:52 (Reply to #1)

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Sat, 08/18/2012 - 11:27

Ferry

Since May 2012 there is a regular ferry service between Colon  and Cartagena. Travel time is about 12h. Departure is 3 times a week in either direction.  See also horariodeferry.com.

Fri, 09/21/2012 - 21:06

Ferry

You sure the Ferry has started?

Some people are reporting the ferry is keep getting delayed?

Thanks,

Sam

 

Sat, 09/22/2012 - 08:45

no ferry

It's cancelled until further notice - see Darien Gap ferry cancelled article

Sat, 03/23/2013 - 07:28

Video - How to cross from Panama to Colombia

Hi, 3 months ago we shipped our vehicle (VW combi 93) from Panamá (Colón) to Colombia (Cartagena). The whole process took us 14 days and a lot of money and patience. Here is the video how we crossed it including the paperwork you need, fees, places... and even how we got to Colombia (by speed boats).

We hope this video may be helpful for those who are going to ship their vehicle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vUyr0Tw6_8

If anyone needs help or wants more info contact us at www.zaiguaweb.com

Cheers

Andrea and David

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 10:27

Darien Gap Ferry

Had a hard time finding any updated info on the ferry--anyone know the status as of 2015?

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 15:30 (Reply to #7)

it's ope!!!

Good news they open the ferry between Panamá to Colombia. Colon to Cartagena. Twice a week. More information www.ferryxpress.net good luck.

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 09:06

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Sat, 07/29/2017 - 00:51

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