12 Mar Getting to the San Blas Islands: Travelling from Cartagena to San Blas
Getting to the San Blas Islands: Travelling from Cartagena to San Blas
Traveling to Colombia’s Cartagena, Capurganá, and Sapzurro
Our role at San Blas Adventures doesn’t just start when you get on board our boats; it starts from the moment you talk to us and begin planning your big trip to the San Blas Islands. We know that this part of the world is most definitely the road less travelled for people who visit. Because of this, there is less information out there and a lot more confusion about how to travel around Colombia, and how to get from either Cartagena or Medellin to Capurganá. We’d like to clear a few things up in this blog and hopefully get a few readers excited about Cartagena and Capurganá!
Where is Cartagena?
The colorful streets of Cartagena
Cartagena is a large port city on the north coast of Colombia. This is a major port and it dates as far back as 1533 when it was the main port between Spain and its vast American empire. Due to its shape and position, Cartagena was easily defendable against pirates and this is why it played such a pivotal role in the exportation of Peruvian silver to Spain. There is a lot of history, and some beautiful architecture, in Cartagena, making it one of the best cities to visit in Colombia. As we’ll explain below, Cartagena is one of the main places in Colombia that many of our guests travel from. We’d like to help you better understand this journey, hopefully making your trip as easy and stress-free as possible.
Starting your Trip: Travelling from Cartagena to the San Blas Islands
We don’t want potential travellers to be confused by the different places they’ll visit during their time with San Blas Adventures. And one possible confusion is between Cartagena and Capurganá. Both places start with the letter C, sound quite similar, and both are in Colombia. The majority of people taking our Colombia-to-Panama trip will visit both places at the start of their journey with us. While Cartagena is a large port city (as we discussed above), Capurganá is a small coastal town with no roads leading to it. Capurganá’s remoteness meant that it had remained untouched by outsiders until the 1970s, when it was discovered (for its untouched beauty) and a very small airport was built there to bring in tourists from other parts of Colombia, Panama, and the US.
Different shades of blue in the Caribbean Sea at Capurganá
Most people who travel with us find their way to Cartagena first, and enjoy the various sights and delights the city has to offer. Then, as they have to be in Capurganá (and nearby Sapzurro) a day before the San Blas Adventures trip begins, they leave Cartagena two days before their scheduled trip begins. This isn’t as confusing as it might sound, it’s just that Capurganá is so remote that we ask guests to get there a day before. This ensures they can get there before we leave and it allows a little leeway time if travellers get lost or delayed. We also have a briefing the day before the trip; this is a great way to learn more about the trip and for guests to get acquainted with the people they’ll be travelling with for the next few days!
As we said above, there are no roads to Capurganá, so we organise group travel from Cartagena to Capurganá (which is just a short boat ride or a 1 ½-hour scenic walk through the carribean jungle from our starting point in Sapzurro). However you get from Cartagena to Capurganá, San Blas Adventures can help organise it for you, so please get in touch if you have any questions and visit our FAQ, which sets out frequently asked questions (and answers) about this Colombia-to-Panama trip but also for our Panama-to-Colombia trip as well.
Travelling from Medellin to Capurgana (and the San Blas Islands)
While most of our guests come from Cartagena on their way to Capurganá (and the San Blas Islands!), some guests come from Medellin. Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and it’s a big hotspot for tourists. If you’d like to take our Colombia-to-Panama boat trip and you’re coming from Medellin, we are more than happy to assist with any travel arrangements from Medellin to Capurganá for you. We know a lot about the area and we are always happy to help.
Colombia’s Hidden Gem: Capurganá
The coast near Capurganá
It brings everyone here at San Blas Adventures tremendous pride that our Colombia to Panama boat trip is the highlight of many people’s journey through Central and South America. The San Blas Archipelago is one of the most special places on earth and we’re extremely lucky to have such a great relationship with the local Kuna people. However, there is also plenty to see and do in Capurganá, which we discuss on our Colombian Highlights page. Capurganá is the largest settlement in this isolated part of Colombia, but it’s still very small in comparison to most other tourist destinations. Capurganá is a wonderful spot for anyone looking to mingle with other tourists and locals, grabbing a few drinks by the beach. The lack of roads offers a slower pace of life and this is something most guests absolutely love! If you’re sick of the hustle and bustle of cities and towns, then you’ll absolutely love Capurganá! There’s a little extra travel time involved when travelling to Capurganá, but it really is an unmissable part of Colombia. In fact, the Lonely Planet does a great job of summarising some of the reasons why Capurganá is so special.
Given Capurganá’s seaside location, you can expect lots of great seafood (fried fish is their speciality) and a few refreshing cocktails on bars that sit right on the beach! This is a genuine paradise. However, if you’d rather not relax, you can head out into the jungle nearby, meeting the charming monkeys and birdlife that live there. And you can also visit the beautiful little town of Sapzurro…
Things to do in Sapzurro
A small wharf at Sapzurro
We actually set off on our Colombia to Panama island tour from Sapzurro, but it’s well worth visiting the day before, if you leave enough time to get there early. The name Sapzurro comes from the native Kuna’s tongue and it means ‘deep bay’. Sapzurro is a beautiful little town right on the border with Panama. You’ll enjoy the stunning turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea and its deep bay protects it from the wind and choppy waters typical of this part of the World from December until March. This makes it the perfect location for a little swim in the sea. As it’s close enough, it is very easy to explore both Sapzurro and Capurganá in one day, but we recommend getting there earlier and really enjoying this slice of paradise!
Please contact us here at San Blas Adventures if you have any questions about our trips, or about any of the places discussed in this blog post. We want to help you as much as possible; our job is to ensure that your journey from Colombia to Panama (or from Panama to Colombia) is the trip of a lifetime! So, with a little help from us, start planning your next big adventure in the San Blas islands!