Info on Sailing from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia, and other options

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The Stahlratte, the boat we sailed to Cartagena
The Stahlratte, the boat we sailed to Cartagena (View on flickr)

There is no road from Panama to Colombia, so many cyclists choose to find sea transportation, probably out of a purist desire to avoid an airplane. It is nice to have the continuity of traveling on the earth, although not necessarily cheaper or better.


It does turn out that while there are not regularly scheduled services to Cartagena, you can probably get there just fine. Trying to get there for free on a yacht from Colon is probably possible, but won't work for most people. However, there are a number of boats that make the trip, charging US$275 to $350, and there are hostels that arrange the connections. So if you really want to sail, you can probably do it.


Caveats: The trip is rough, and most people are seasick. Some boats do not provide food, so you need to provide your own. Some boats are disreputable or poorly run and you might get a scare or something worse. Some boats charge extra for the immigration paperwork in Colombia. Know what your payment covers.


In Panama City, the hostel that seems to do all the arranging is Zuly´s.

In Cartagena, the hostel doing the arranging is Casa Viena.


The boats seem to spend a day or two just hanging out in the San Blas Islands, and then do the 30-40 hour sailing to Cartagena. We had a nice time except for the seasickness. Neither one of us is terribly prone to seasickness, and the seas could have been much rougher than they were for us, if that gives you anything to judge by.


We took the Stahlratte, a larger ship (theoretically less seasickness?) and it was well-run. We didn´t have any crises of confidence in the captain. You can contact them directly.  Like all the boats, though, they don't run on a regular schedule, so you'll get them if you happen to be on their schedule. After they left us in Cartagena they were sailing to Cuba.


Remember that there are other mroe exotic ways to get to or from Colombia. Our friends Dick and Els recommended flying from Panama City to Puerto Obaldia in the Darien near the border (less than US$100) then take a speedboat to the border facilities at Zapzurra, cross the border, and island hop into Colombia. You could get to one of the Colombian ports (Turbo or something else) and then ride on in. This requires a bit more of an adventurous spirit, but with the current (pretty good) security situation in Colombia I´m betting it would work fine.