San Blas Adventures: An Honest Unpaid Review

When I saw reviews done by popular travel bloggers, I wasn’t sure if they were being completely honest. San Blas Adventures trip seemed TOO good to be true. How much were they paid to say all these AMAZING things?

Then Darien and I decided last minute to sign up and ya’ll, it was absolute PARADISE.

P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E.

There are two options for the San Blas trip: Colombia to Panama and Panama to Colombia. Panama to Colombia is WAY more common and books up fast. We did Colombia to Panama and only had 14 people in our group (28 people max), so keep in mind my review could be different from others!

*Below I answer questions that I had prior to our trip, a packing list and an overall experience rating!*

What did you do everyday?

Every morning breakfast was served around 7/8am followed by a 2 hour (mas o menos) boat ride. After the boat ride, you step onto the most beautiful island, something from the pages of National Geographic. Each day, the islands keep getting more and more beautiful.

My Daily Diary of our Trip:

Day 1: Boarder Crossing + First Kuna Island

Half of my pictures are of me in a hammock.

Okay. 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 your drugs before leaving Colombia! The entire boarder process took about 1.5 hours (could take up to 4 hours).

We got to the island after another 45 minute boat ride and I could not believe my eyes. It was so goddamn BEAUTIFUL! 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 (thank god, because I am always hungry) 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, 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

Darien playing basketball on the Kuna island

Woke up at 6am, breakfast was at 7am. After, 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.

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, it is a bit more modern. The people really didn’t like to get their pictures taken.

We ate burritos for dinner and 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 binge drinking.

Day 3: Private Island

Photo credit: Jamie Choo

We got up around 7am again for breakfast and immediately after took a 2 hour boat journey to our next island. This was our last day together, so every one started drinking early. 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.

Our last night everyone slept in hammocks. We had a huge lobster dinner and sat around the fire pit after. The last night was a bit crazy again, a couple of people in the group didn’t go to back until 5am. I TRIED to stay up late, but knocked out at around 2am.

Day 4: Journey towards Panama City

Warning: San Blas Islands may lead to obnoxious amounts of love and affection.

Breakfast was at 9am. Everyone slept most of the morning and afternoon. Darien and I hung out in the ocean digesting our trip together for two hours. We reminisced how amazing the tour was and how crazy our trip in general has been. We met incredible people on the San Blas tour and had the time of our lives. The tour exceeded my expectations. 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.

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

How was the food? Good 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 there were even snacks between meals.

Vegetarian Tamales with fresh coconut water!
Breakfast Day 1: Fruit, yogurt, CHIA SEEDS (I was so excited lol), local bread, peanut butter, jam

Homemade hummus, bean salad, beet salad, and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for lunch!
Lentil and carrot salad, pasta salad, and cabbage salad! (soooo good!!!)
Stuffed eggplant, carrot salad, garlic potatoes, and rice!

What was the boat like? Did you get seasick?

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 functional, not luxury. The waves were intense some days and the people sitting in the back right-hand side of the boat got drenched!

I realized quickly, I NEED to take seasick pills. The first ride I felt like I was going to throw up, so I religiously took the pills after. The guide has pills if you need them, but I would pack some too just in case! I CANNOT imagine sailing the trip. I think I would have been miserable.

Also recommend listening to music or podcasts!

The boat ❤

How was your guide?

Our 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!

Before leaving, you 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 before getting on the boat)
  • Passport and valuables
  • Waterproof phone case (can buy them before in Necoclí)

Who would enjoy San Blas Adventures?

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 bit of a party scene 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. It is an adventure trip. There is not much luxury. It has more of a backpacker feel to it. Most travelers on the trip were on long backpacker style trips. The kind of travelers who stay in hostels and budget travel.

How much did you spend?

The trip by itself was $395 ($450 during high season). We 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.

Total Budget

$395 San Blas Trip

$30 Jeep Ride to Panama City

$21 Bus – Santa Marta to Montería

$14 Van – Montería to Necoclí

$21 Hotel in Necoclí

$25 Boat – Necoclí to Capurganá

$5 Boat – Capurganá to Sapzurro

$25 Hotel in Sapzurro (Bahía Sapzurro)

$50 Food/snacks

= $586 (one person)/ about $1,100 (2 people) *not including alcohol and souvenirs

How were the accommodations/showers?

The first two nights the couples got a basic private room which I wasn’t expecting. It was amazing! The first night singles slept in dorm beds and the second night they slept in hammocks. The third night everyone slept in hammocks.

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

First night!
The hostel had such a gorgeous view! (first night)
Our private room for the second night!
Our hostel the third night.

How did you get to Capurganá (info meeting location)?

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.

That look when you realize you have to sleep in a 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.

Our hotel room in Sapzurro
Right outside the hotel ❤

Is it possible to do the same tour on your own?

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 the it would be SO much work! And potentially dangerous.

How are the Kunas? What is your interaction with the indigenous community?

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Photo credit: Matilda Mcconnell

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 respect 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 would change about the tour?

Three things:

1. Transportation to and from the tour was annoying. There was a group tour from Cartagena as an option, but it seemed over priced. The informational meeting is in Capurgana, but the actual tour starts in Sapzurro. The boat and accommodation in Sapzurro are not included even though the group is all together. 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. Keep in mind, the pre and post tour are not so enjoyable.

2. Some nights it was hard to sleep because of everyone partying. 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. Water gets into it so make sure to waterproof all of your things. Try not to sit on the right back end of the boat… you will be drenched at the end of the ride!

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 feel so blessed to have had this experience and met wonderful people. I highly recommend the tour! Thank you to San Blas Adventures and to our San Blas family. ❤

Photo credit: Jamie Choo

Thanks for reading! If you have anymore questions about San Blas Adventures or general questions, comment below!! ❤

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