To Islas San Blas by car, from Panama City
I had booked a 3d/3n stay on Coco Blanco in Islas San Blas with the company Panama Unlimited. The transportation to and from Cartí was included in the price.
I had been told that I was going to be picked up at 5 – 5.30, but the car didn’t arrive until 6am, maybe because the two people already in the car had been picked up outside Panama City. We picked up a couple of more people and then stopped at a large supermarket before leaving the city. Our driver told us that we really needed mosquito spray so I and the others bought that, but I never used it. The other people in the car were only going on a daytrip.
We left the supermarket at 6.30 and arrived in Cartí around 8.30. Something which is very important is to bring ones passport, otherwise you won’t be able to enter the territory of Kuna Yala. Our driver asked us before going in to the car outside our hotel if we had brought the passport. That was a good question! When we arrived at the control at the border to the Kuna Yala Territory a couple was sitting outside the office. They had not brought their passport and had not been allowed to go further. They were now waiting for a car to go back to Panama City. Besides showing the passport at the control you must also pay $10 here (June 2014).
When the road to Cartí was constructed it was for some years a dirt road, but it is now paved and the ride is much quicker. However, it is a very narrow road and from the control to Cartí it takes 30 minutes, and there are a lot of curves and it is going up and down like a rollercoaster. One of the women in the car got sick and threw up (outside the car).
In Cartí (puerto) you have to register and pay another $2. I was then picked up by Alejandro and Alejandro from Coco Blanco. The boat ride took around 1h.
Leaving Coco Blanco we left for Cartí directly after breakfast. At the port I had to wait quite long for the car, and for other people to arrive too. Then we went two other nearby ports to pick up more people.
Cruise Ship Tender or Dugout Canoe
If you get to these islands you will have to come by water as they are too small to have an air strip. Even if you take the Aero Taxi, it will only get you to a nearby mainland air strip and then you have to go by boat or canoe.
We came by cruise ship but we had to go in to the actual island on a tender. Some of the natives came out to the ship in canoes and they also come out for private yachts.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
take a cruise to the San Blas Islands
You will realize that there are not many ships going to the San Blas Islands. There might be different reasons for that, mainly maybe that cruiseships of nowadays are quite too large for these small islands. Our ship had about 600 passangers onboard and that would be about the maximum of people that these small islands might be able to "absorbe"
In any case, the cruise-ships have to anchor and the passangers will be taken ashore by tenderboats.
In my picture: M/S Sagafjord in the colors of "Den Norske Americalinie" back in 1979, the chimney still in yellow with the stripes of the norwegian flag, a long time before the ship was sold to NAC and finally to Cunard/NAC and then to Cunard, who used it till 1996. Then it was sold again and renamed "Saga Rose".
This ship does not exist anymore !Related to:
- Luxury Travel
Planes, boats, jeeps...
There are daily flights from Albrook Airport to San Blas with two different airlines. The flight is only 20 minutes and costs 97$ for a return ticket and about 50$ one way. The flight is pleasant because it is low enough to have a maplike overview of the Panamanian topography. The small aircraft lands on island Porvenir. There are flights to different destinations in San Blas area from where you can take a boat to your hotel.
In the airport they checked our luggage with the help of a small cute cocker spaniel who jumped over the bags in a very funny playful way and then went away as if he had forgoten what he was brought there for. They had to call him back every time to go on with his ...job.
I flew with Aeroperlas airlinesthat has an office in Albrook Airport (315 7500). I, personally, was directed to the famous Hotel El Panama, on Via Espana, where there is a little desk of the company for your tickets. (223 2804).
There are no buses to drop you at Albrook airport. You should take a taxi. Don't give them more than 2$ for a day ride and 3 $ for a call and night ride! The official price is 1.50$-1.75$. It's only a 15 minute ride.
There is a rugged road from Panama City to Carti through El Llano, passable with jeeps. Then you can take a boat ride to your accommodation. You can arrange with locals on the islands or in Panama City, on Avenida Central in the old city area. The trip takes about four hours, plus the boat ride to your island, and costs about 50$ after negotiation.
From Colombia you can take a tourist sailing boat which stops at Porvenir island and then fly to Panama City. For details on sailing boats look at my Colombia tips.Related to:
- Women's Travel
Sailing to Panama
Do your homework -- be prepared for almost anything -- sailing self reliance is a must when there is little assistance near...satelite phone could come in handy, sometimes in remote areas it's hard to find help even on channel 16 -- unfortunately we found this out thru experience. Burt it's worth the trip --Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
Comarca de San Blas Hotels
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