San Blas Adventures: Speed Boat Trip from Colombia to Panama (An Honest Unpaid Review)

San Blas Islands are like stepping into a dream world with crystal clear ocean water, white sand beaches, and private islands. San Blas Adventures tour is a 4-day excursion of island hopping, scuba diving, and laying in a hammock for hours. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and something you should put on your bucket list yesterday. I will share ALL the (unfiltered) details and helpful tips for San Blas Adventures to help you decide if it’s right for you!

Keep in mind, there are a lot of San Blas reviews out there, because they offer influencers a free trip in exchange for blog posts and reviews. This is a completely honest and UNPAID review of San Blas Adventures.

First off, there are two San Blas options: Colombia to Panama and Panama to Colombia. Panama to Colombia is WAY more common and books up fast. I traveled Colombia to Panama and only had 14 people in our group (28 people max), so keep in mind my review could be different based on those details.

Before I dive into answering questions, I share my diary of each day to give you a sense what your days might look like. After, I answer all the typical questions like how’s the food? How’s the guide? How to get to Capurganá? And more!

Socializing with the my tour buddies

Daily Diary: What did you do every day?

Each morning breakfast was served somewhere between 7 and 8am followed by a 2 hour (mas o menos) boat ride.

Day 1: Border Crossing + First Kuna Island

Boarder crossing was not fun. The Panamanian board patrol check your ENTIRE luggage. I had to literally dump out the entire contents of my entire pack and day pack. After emptying out all of the contents, they had us open up all small bags and containers. They go through EVERYTHING. Attention: do not bring drugs! The boarder process took about 1.5 hours (could take up to 4 hours).

We got to the island after another 45 minute boat ride. I could not believe my eyes, the scenery is straight out a National Geographic magazine! We ate lunch, snorkeled, played volleyball, relaxed, then did canoe races to the neighboring island where our hostel was.

Once on the island, we ate a snack and took a tour of the Kuna island. At the end of the tour, we played outside with the children. It was great. They are hilarious and full of energy.

Later, we went to dinner at a local “restaurant”. We ate rice, lentils, and an egg omelet. It was okay. This was the only basic/traditional meal we had (the rest of the meals were amaze). After dinner, my partner Darien and I went to bed. Half the group or so stayed up and partied until 3am drinking rum and playing in the ocean.

Day 2: Second Kuna Island

I woke up at 6am, breakfast was at 7am. Shortly after breakfast, we rode 2.5 hours to the next island. Once again, the island was breathtaking. We got a few hours of free time. I spent the day doing yoga and meditating by myself, snorkeling with the group, laying in a hammock and reading. It was great. We ate lunch then played beach volleyball again.

Scuba diving

Later, we took a short boat ride to the island where we would be sleeping. Once again, Darien and I got a private room and the singles slept in hammocks. We toured the Kuna island. It was different from the first, a bit more modern.

We ate delicious burritos for dinner. Again, we went to bed early and majority of the group stayed up drinking. With the rocky boat rides and early wake up calls, I could not fathom staying up and drinking.

Day 3: Private Island

We got up around 7am again for breakfast. After breakfast, we took a 2 hour boat journey to our next island. This was our last day together, so everyone started drinking pretty early in the day. We laid in hammocks and took a lot of pictures on the tiny island. Darien and I did yoga together and played in the ocean. It was a dream to just lay on the beach and play in the ocean. San Blas islands are a romantic paradise.

Our last night everyone slept in hammocks. We had a huge lobster dinner and sat around the fire pit. I TRIED to stay up late, but knocked out at around 2am. Some of the group members were up until 5am living their best lives.

Day 4: Journey towards Panama City

Breakfast was at 9am this morning. Everyone slept most of the morning and afternoon. Darien and I hung out in the ocean digesting our trip together for two hours.

Mid day we rode for about 1.5 hours to Colon, Panama. Our San Blas trip had come to an end. We waited for the jeep to take us to Panama City.

How Was the Food? Veggie Options?

As a vegetarian, I usually get stuck with rice and beans. I think that’s all I ate in Colombia for 3 months. Ya’ll, San Blas OUT DID themselves on the food. Every single meal is different and they especially carter to vegetarians. For meat eaters, every meal had fresh sea food or chicken. Meals were large and mostly buffet style with many options. There were even delicious snacks between meals. All meals were freshly prepared and wonderfully spiced. I felt spoiled.

hummus bowl with fresh veggies

Some example meals and snacks include: burritos, lobster dinner, yogurt parfait breakfast with fresh fruits and grains, fresh coconut water, veggie omelettes, fresh bread and peanut butter, and Mediterranean lunch with fresh hummus and grains.

The menu is updated and changed frequently to satisfy guests.

Buffet of fresh fruits every day with lots of veggie options!

How Was The San Blas Adventures Speed Boat? Did You Get Seasick?

Short answer: not particularly fun. It was fun at first because I had never been on a speed boat and the scenery is gorgeous. The boat is smaller than I imagined. There wasn’t much leg room. It was more on the functional side, The waves were intense some days and the people sitting in the back right-hand side of the boat got drenched! Tip: DO NOT SIT ON THE BACK RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF THE BOAT!

our San Blas speed boat

Second tip: TAKE SEASICK PILLS! The very first ride was horrible. I felt like I was going to throw up the entire time. After, I religiously took the pills and was fine. The guide has pills if you need them, but I would pack some just in case! I CANNOT imagine sailing the trip. I think I would have been miserable.

Also, I recommend downloading music or podcasts to listen to during the boat journeys every day.

Related article: Favorite Podcasts for On the Road

How Was Your San Blas Guide?

Our San Blas guide was Max and our assistant guide was Tjeerd. We also had three Kuna guides helping with the boat and with cooking. All were fantastic! I always felt like I knew what was going on and felt prepared in situations. Max was super outgoing and did a really good job of making sure everyone enjoyed themselves. And he was an awesome chef!

Packing List for San Blas Adventures

Before leaving, separate your big pack and your small pack. You will not see your big pack until the end of the trip.

Things to pack in your small pack:

  • Warm clothes for the hammock
  • Portable charger
  • 3 copies of your passport for Panama border
  • Headphones + music
  • Book/kindle
  • Two swim suits (you live in your swim suit, I was happy I brought two)
  • Camera (amazing shots!)
  • Enough water for 4 days (two gallons per person…there was filtered water on some of the islands, but not enough for everyone)
  • Sun block!!!
  • Towel and something to lay on the beach with
  • First aid kit (we both cut up our feet snorkeling)
  • Money for beer ($2), soda ($2), and souvenirs
  • Rum (bought before the trip, only beer is available on the island and everyone pretty much brings a bottle in their bags)
  • Bug spray
  • Flip flops
  • Plastic bag to waterproof both of your packs (you can buy them in Necocli, Colombia before getting on the boat)
  • Passport and valuables
  • Waterproof phone case (you can buy them before in Necoclí, Colombia)

What kind of traveler is San Blas Adventures for?

Travelers of all ages. The group was a mix of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s (mostly 20s). Keep in mind there is a lot of alcohol consumption on the trip. If you cannot stand to be around people drinking, this trip might not be for you.

Also, “adventure” is in the name. San Blas Adventures is an adventure trip. There is not much luxury, it is more of a budget travel style trip. Most travelers in my group were on long backpacker style trips.

I think San Blas Adventures is especially perfect for couples. Couples get first dibs on private rooms. Singles get hammocks and dorm-style rooms.

Our San Blas group! I still keep in contact with people from my group!

How much did you spend in total?

The trip by itself was $395 ($450 during high season). I did not spend any money during the trip besides $10 on souvenirs (two bracelets made by Kunas). If you plan on drinking I would budget for about $50 on beer ($2) and Coca-Cola ($2). Everything is in dollars once the tour begins.

$395San Blas Trip
$30Jeep ride (transportation to Panama City after the tour)
$21Bus ride (Santa Marta to Monteria)
$14Van ride (Monteria to Necocli)
$21Hotel in Necocli
$25Boat ride (Necocli to Capurgana)
$5Boat ride (Capurgana to Sapzurro)
$25Hotel in Sapzurro (Bahia Sapzurro)
$50Food and snacks (approx.)
= $586 totalper person price
*does not include alcohol or souvenirs*

How were the accommodations and toilets/showers?

The first two nights couples got a basic private room right off the ocean. It was amazing! Singles slept in dorm beds the first night and in hammocks the second night. Everyone slept in hammocks the last night.

Every island had basic toilets and “bucket showers” where you could shower with literally a bucket of water. The accommodations were basic but sufficient.

How Did You Get to Capurganá, Colombia?

Step 1: Bus from Santa Marta to Montería

There is only one bus at 12pm everyday. The bus didn’t leave until 1:30pm and got to Montería around 1am (expected arrival was 9pm). Our Airbnb canceled last minute so we “slept” in the bus terminal.

Step 2: Van from Montería to Necoclí

Catch a van from the main terminal, they are frequent. We took the earliest van at 3am and arrived in Necocli around 5:30am.

Step 3: Boat from Necoclí to Capurganá

There is only one boat at 8am. Make sure to arrive early and get your ticket the day before if possible. Once to Capurganá , make sure to stamp out of Colombia at the immigration office then head to the meeting!

After the meeting at around 2:30pm…

Step 4: Boat from Capurganá to Sapzurro with the group (not included)

TIP: we stayed at Hotel Bahia for $25/night. It is down the road from where everyone else stayed. It had an ocean view and comfy bed. The recommended hostel where the group stayed was $40 for a private room.

Is it Possible to do the Same Tour on Your Own?

Short answer: yes. Would it be worth it? No.

Before I went on the trip, my goal was to write a blog about how you could do the San Blas islands by yourself, without the tour. After witnessing how much work they put into the tour, I honestly would NEVER want to do that journey on my own. You could get lucky and hitch a ride with different boats, but you would have to pay to visit and stay on the islands and bring your own food. I think the price would end up being the same and it would be SO much work and potentially dangerous.

How are the Kunas? What is your Interaction with the Indigenous Community?

The Kunas were amazing and their culture is fascinating. The community members were friendly and open to talk with us. Be careful about taking pictures, make sure to ask before! They are private people. It’s important to be respectful of their land and privacy. The children came up to us for hugs and to ask questions. Some speak a little bit of English.

Anything You Did Not Like About San Blas Adventures?

Three Things:

1. Transportation to and from the San Blas tour was annoying.

There was a group tour option from Cartagena, but it seemed overpriced. The tour takes you from Cartagena to Capurgana. Thinking about it after the fact, I think I would choose to pay a little more and do the group tour from Cartagena.

The informational meeting is in Capurgana, Colombia, but the actual tour starts in Sapzurro. The boat and accommodation in Sapzurro are not included even though the group is all together. Why?! This doesn’t make sense to me.

Also, the jeeps at the end of the tour are not included. We had to wait 45 minutes for the jeeps and it wasn’t very organized.

2. Some nights it was hard to sleep.

The majority of the group stayed up late partying every night. With that being said, I went into the experience expecting it to be a party scene. I was grateful for a private room. If you are traveling solo, you may not sleep at night depending on the energy of the group.

3. The boat.

It’s pretty small for a large group. There’s not much space.

Overall Review (1-10)

Overall, I would give San Blas a 9.5 rating (almost perf). It was ABSOLUTELY amazing and worth every penny. I HIGHLY recommend the tour to budget travelers looking for a once in a lifetime experience.

We met incredible people on the San Blas tour and had the time of our lives. It was incredibly romantic and beautiful. It was the perfect place to spend our two-year anniversary. I don’t think I will ever experience anything quite like it again.

How do I book the trip?

On their website, click here for more information and updated prices.

2020 update

This trip was one of the best experiences of our 8 month travels through South and Central America. Darien and I talk about our memories every so often and look back at our gorgeous pictures. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

Thank you to San Blas Adventures and to our San Blas family. <3

Are you thinking about signing up for the San Blas trip? Do you have any questions that weren’t covered in the article? Leave them in the comments below!


Click here for advice on Cartagena, Colombia.

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