A sail from Panama to Colombia

May 27th, 2006 by David

   As there are no roads between Panama and Colombia, I spent a few days in the city of Colon looking for a boat to Colombia. Colon is a city where foreigners are regularly held at gun point in the daytime, and I left the marina only to give presentations at a local school as well as the rotary club.

I spent 4 days at the yacht club in Colon, looking for a boat to Colombia
International Caribbean School, in Colon
I talked at the Rotary Club in Colon

   I found that yachts, for the same price as a plane ticket, take backpacking travelers between Colombia and Panama. (You can potentially get a free ride on a freighter, but only if you are willing to spent lots of time in Colon). I found a 65 foot yacht, the Golden Eagle (probably the best boat making this run), headed towards Colombia. As I was staying in the marina (sleeping on different boats), I spent some time before departure helping sand the Golden Eagle’s floors. In exchange, the captain told me I could be first mate, which meant I got to get on the boat a day early and sand the floors.

Sunrise from the deck of the Golden Eagle

   We were soon joined by 12 other young travelers from Australia, England, the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, and the U.S. For the first time this trip, I was surrounded by other travelers. We sailed first to the San Blas Islands, where we anchored between two small islands. The local Kuna Indians, who inhabit the islands, canoed up to our boats to sell us locally made clothing. All the islands sit less then a half meter above sea level, and we guessed how many years it would be before they were under water.

The Crew
Arriving to Paradise
The Golden Eagle anchored off the San Blas Islands
Kuna Indians on the San Blas Islands
Kuna Indians arrive to sell us things
Andy and Lara relax on the deck of the Golden Eagle
Cartagena, Colombia
Everyone is feeling a bit seasick

   After two more days of sailing across the Caribbean, we arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, the first stop in South America.

5 Responses to “A sail from Panama to Colombia”

  1. Mike Davis says:

    Just came across your blog after reading your articel on the front page of a newspaper here in Medellin.Hat’s off to you!!Good Luck and safe travels through the rest of Colombia and South America.I will be keeping a close eye on you site.Mike Davis

  2. Brian says:

    It’s great what you are doing here, but I encourage you to check the legitimacy of your claims about cities being dangerous before proclaiming that they are run by ruthless locals. I spent four months in Colon and never had any problems. And you can’t look much more foreign than me with my red hair. That which is foreign always breeds fear but that doesn’t mean there is really something to fear. Claims like that just perpetuates xenophobia. Good luck in your travels.



  3. David says:

    Brian, I based that claim on the fact that every single person said Colon was dangerous, and then the person I was trying to get a boat trip with out of Colon said that the day before he was held up at gun point walking out of the Marina in the middle of the day. (Somewhat funny, his girlfriend, a short skinny Panamanian, who was with him, started yelling at them, in Spanish, saying ‘How dare you! I am a Panamanian, how dare you do this here!’ and then the guys backed down and left).
    I think a lot of danger in these places depends on whether or not the theives are targetting you. I got the impression from the Marina that theives target gringos at the Marina when they enter and exit the Marina.
    You, not staying near the Marina, may have had it safer.

  4. tico says:


    The theme of whether Colón is or isn’t dangerous is very difficult. I spent 3 days there with my brother and absolutely everybody in Colón told me that that place was very dangerous. Even, one day at 10am two policemen stoped me and my brother and they told us “hey, where are you from” “Costa Rica” -replied us. “What are you doing here” “Looking for a boat going to Colombia”, “ok, if I were you I would be in the hotel”. We met two spaniard women who were robbed at the bus station, but these things happen everywhere. I think the problem is that Colon has one of the biggest taxes-free-zone in the world, but the people in that city do not get the benefits of that.

    The reason I am on this page is because I want to go to Colombia. That I described above was in april this year, I went to San Blas and my brother finally found a ship going to Cartagena, but the guys leave my brother on an island near Cartagena and he could’nt enter legaly in Colombia. The price was ok, the guys nice but I do not want to do that (even my brother would do it again). Could you please give me some advices of how to get Cartagena from Colón? I would be there around december 19th.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Cay Hickson says:


    1. Ask around at the PCYC yacht club for boats leaving. You might be able to walk from the bus station the 1 mile to the yacht club. I did it, but 75c is probably a worth while investment, after I nearly got attacked one day.

    2.We spent 3 months in Portobelo, about 1.5 hr bus ride from Colon. Go to main bus station, ask for Portobelo bus. Buses leave every hour. There are a couple of places to stay in Portobelo for $10 a day. Ask around. Go speak to Marco at the El Drake bar. Some boats leave for Cartegena from Portobelo.

    3.Other boats leave from Isla Linton, also called Puerto Lindo. Take the Costa Arriba bus from either Colon or from Portobelo. Buses leave only a few times a day. There might be a place to stay next to the PCYC (panama canal yacht club Annex). Walk along the beach to the left (when you’re facing the anchorage). The chap there might be able to help you.

    Be prepared to wait a few days for a boat to leave.

    Good luck, and catch a taxi in Colon. The free-zone is really only for big businesses, not for the local people.

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