San Blas Islands By Speed Boat

Everything you need to know about travelling from Panama to Colombia through the San Blas Islands by Speedboat.

San Blas Islands Speedboat

You wake up in your hammock and a soft sea breeze passes. You step out and the cool sand greets you as it hugs your feet. You walk 20 meters to soak up the morning sun and dip into the warm Caribbean Sea as a school of fish envelope you. It feels like you’re in paradise because you are. You’re on a San Blas Island.

Beach San Blas Island By Speedboat

I liken the San Blas Islands to a backpacker’s paradise. For a backpacker on a budget, it’s definitely a stretch but it won’t completely break the bank so you’ll find that many backpackers manage to squeeze it in.

The first time I heard of the San Blas Islands of Panama it was instantly on my bucket list. White sand, crystal clear waters, tiny islands to myself – what wasn’t there to love? Well, for one, a long 30 hour crossing if you’re travelling between Colombia and Panama by sailboat. Daniel gets sea sick and I get bored. A long 30 hour rough crossing wasn’t even an option.

Thankfully there is an alternative – a speedboat.

San Blas Island By Speedboat

How Much Does The San Blas Islands Speedboat Cost?

At the moment most companies offer the sailboat option and there are only 2 companies offering a speedboat option. The most popular company is San Blas Adventures.

The other company has no online presence and I wasn’t aware that it even existed until the guide from San Blas Adventures told me about it.

San Blas Adventures charges $399USD for the speedboat to San Blas Islands which includes travel from Sazpurro, Colombia to Cartí, Panama (or vice versa), food, accommodation, immigration, Kuna Yala taxes and gear for activities (such as snorkelling and beach volleyball).

San Blas Islands Speedboat

Additional Costs

  • Alcohol – bring your own as no alcohol is sold on the islands
  • Drinks on the island – around $1USD each
  • Souvenirs
  • Travel to/from Sazpurro from Cartegana (approximately 220,000 pesos / $80USD incl 2 nights accom)
  • Jeep to/from Cartí ($30USD)
Beach Volleyball

How Many Days Do I Need?

Although the tour itself is only 4 days and 3 nights, it takes at least 2 days and 1night to travel to/from Sazpurro and 3 hours by jeep to/from Cartí, Panama. So really, it’s almost a week all up.

Beware for travellers who plan to fly out after the tour. I recommend that you don’t book any flights or have immediately plans within a day of finishing your tour. The weather is totally unpredictable so if it’s bad and the boat can’t leave, you’re stuck (there could be worse places to be stuck) for another day or so.

If you’re travelling to Colombia, we recommend you allow at least 3 days after finishing your tour for travel time to get to Cartegena.

Snorkelling San Blas Islands

When is the best time to visit San Blas Islands?

Although there are 2 seasons – rainy season (June to December) and dry season (January to May), there really isn’t a best time to go. The weather is super unpredictable out there – we travelled in early August and had super calm water, sunny days and clear skies most of the time.

Style Of Accommodation

Paradise is by no means luxurious. The San Blas Islands have very basic facilities which means that you should expect drop toilets (yep, right into the sea – the fishies eat it all), bucket showers and hammocks rather than beds. So, embrace the change in basic comforts and you’ll be right.

Drop Toilet San Blas Islands Speedboat

How’s The Food?

We had no idea what to expect in terms of food and were very pleasantly surprised. Breakfast was a buffet of fruits, cereals, oatmeal, bread, tea and coffee.

We never had the same meal twice and during the course of our tour we had: tamale, fried chicken, salads, sandwiches, curry, fish and lobster. Everything was delicious and there was always an abundance of food.

Tamale for lunch.

What Does A Typical Day Look Like?

You’ll usually stop at 1-2 islands each day and are free to do whatever you like. Between reading, chilling, snorkelling, fishing and swimming between islands, we could still summon energy for some afternoon volleyball before our nightly activities. We had a talent show one night and a great bonfire under the stars on another.

Room San Blas Islands

What To Bring:

  • USDs – cash & plenty of it. There are no ATMs in Sazpurro, Carpugana or on the islands. What you have is all you’ve got. If you’re coming from Colombia, you can exchange for USDs in Cartagena.
  • Day bag (you won’t have access to your main bag)
  • 1 change of clothes – you just end up wearing the same thing everyday anyway so keep it light.
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent (yes, there are mosquitos)
  • Bathers / swimmers
  • Sarong or towel – doubles as a blanket if you get cold at night on the hammocks
  • A good book
  • Camera gear / electronics charged up and ready. There are no plugs / power on the islands so don’t expect to be able to charge anything.
  • Alcohol (if you’re travelling from Colombia to Panama wait until you get to Sazpurro to buy your booze. You can walk from Sazpurro to the border and buy duty-free booze in Panama for next to nothing)
  • Garbage bags – big thick ones and get a few. Your main bag is likely to get wet at some point during the tour. Since you don’t have access to it anyway, we recommend that you waterproof everything (the lined our backpacks with a garbage bag and then wrapped our backpack in 2 or 3 garbage bags).
Bags San Blas Islands Speedboat

What’s The Difference Between The Sailboat and Speedboat To San Blas Islands?

This is probably the most common question. Cost wise, they are relatively the same although the price for sailing really varies depending on the size of the sailboat. The main differences between the two are below:

Day trips to the islandsMore time on the islands (we spent a total of 6 hours over 4 days on the speedboat)
Opportunities for fishing during sailingFishing is an additional activity if available and costs extra ($5USD)
Eat and sleep on the boatEat and sleep on the islands
Approx 30 hours open sea crossingNo sea sickness
Direct to/from CartagenaMore land travel time required

So that’s everything you need to do the San Blas Islands by speedboat. Personally, we loved every second of it and thought it was worth every penny. Let us know in the comments what you decide to do and if you choose the speedboat option, let us know how you enjoyed it!

Sunset San Blas Islands
San Blas Islands Speedboat

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Travelling From Panama To Colombia Through The San Blas Islands By Speedboat.
Amanda Tran

Amanda Tran

I'm Amanda Tran, a young Aussie travel writer exploring the world one adventure at a time. I run Explore Wider and am a huge lover of nature, landscapes, food and adrenalin. I share my experiences through photos, videos and fun stories with the aim of inspiring adventurous, affordable and sustainable travel. Having lived in Japan, I am the NOMADasaurus expert guide on travelling this beautiful country, along with Australian road trips (I've done them all), Asia trips and plenty more. Follow me on Instagram.

Hi, We’re Alesha and Jarryd!

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7 thoughts on “San Blas Islands By Speed Boat”

  1. OMGoodness, Panama was definitely one of the most paradisiac places I’ve ever been to, it is truly one of the reasons I ended up moving to Costa Rica! (I found it a bit more comfortable and built-up so as to make it my permanent home).Great post! thank you

  2. Great post! I did the same trip last month and absolutely loved it.
    I went with another company though (San Blas Frontera) – no foreign guides (only Guna guides) but they were all super helpful and nice and we had a great time getting to know their culture. Also they were a lot cheaper, because San Blas Adventes raised their prices to almost 500 USD incl. the obligatory car to Panama City which would have really robbed my savings. Would definitely recommend this trip.

  3. Great experience and would highly recommend. Good price and value of money. Very easy to book. I had absolutely amazing time. I will definitely book again from sea water sports. Staff is friendly. I do it again without a doubt. Thanks to sea water sports for giving me amazing experience

  4. Hey Katy,
    I am sorry to hear that. Are you sure you did the trip with San Blas Adventures? There are no “Captains” in these trips, in fact the Captains only work for Sailboats instead Speedboats.

    Food poisoning is something that the company avoids, the food manipulation is really strict, coolers and boxes always guarantee the good conditions of the meals.

    San Blas Adventures was not a new company in 2013, this project is almost 8 years .

    It seems you are talking about other company .


  5. I did the trip with San Blas Adventures in early 2013 and unfortunately it didn’t go so well for us. We had rough seas, food poisoning, and we had to swim to shore when we couldn’t dock to get our passports stamped. Pretty dangerous with one girl nearly being knocked out by the boat swimming back and another guy hurting his feet on a sea urchin. Oh, and our Captain got water in the ‘watertight’ passport container and everyone’s passports got wet. Had to dry them in the sun for an hour before they would stamp us through. No apologies from Captain for this or for the food poisoning (8 out of 18 of us woke up sick on our third day – obvious food poisoning from something we ate with them but they denied it). The company was fairly new then so it sounds like they have got a lot better

    • Hey Katie, I’m so sorry to hear about your trip. That sounds like the complete opposite of our experience and the experience of many others we’ve spoken to. It sounds like the company has improved significantly (for example, our crew was made up of a guide, her 2 assistances, 2 captains and other helpers for the boat). We actually had a couple of people get sick and our guide would take them to a doctor straight away without hesitation which I thought was great. Hope it didn’t ruin your San Blas experience though!

  6. Great post! The speed boats are such a better option. More time to relax and the food is wayyy better. We volunteered for San Blas Adventures for 3 months last year and had a blast showing people the islands! Just be aware that around December the swells can be really big and the boat rides can get a little interesting haha. Apart from the sore ass my other favourite part of the trip is how much interaction you can have with the local people (the Gunas). Really friendly and nice people with some very strange local customs. The San Blas is definitely our favourite spot in Central America!

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