Sailing Cartagena to Panama City by boat

Sailing Cartagena to Panama City by boat

I came sailing to Cartagena in 2006 on my own sailboat. I had just bought it second hand in Isla Margarita in Venezuela. Arriving in the beautiful city of Cartagena I fell in love with it right away. I lived on my boat in Club Nautico for about 6 months before I sold my sailing boat and moved on.

In 2010 I decided to make a big move and move to Cartagena permanently. One of the first people that contacted me was an old sailing friend of mine who was sailing Cartagena to Panama by boat, bringing travelers with him.

I decided to help him sell tickets online. Since then I have helped travelers interested in sailing Cartagena to Panama by boat.

Can I sail from Cartagena to Panama City by boat?

Yes, you can, but Colombia Panama Sailing do not sail all the way from Cartagena to Panama City. This would mean going through the Panama Canal. The city of Cartagena is situated on the Atlantic and Caribbean side, while Panama City is placed on the Pacific side of Panama. Still, it is perfectly possible to sail from Cartagena to Panamas Caribbean ports and then take a short bus ride across the narrow country of Panama to Panama City. We will get back to all of that in this guide.

What type of sailing boat to choose

There are many options to choose from when choosing your mode of transport. The main things you need to consider is the type of boat and the social environment you wish to be in.

Unless you chose to sail with Colombia Panama Sailing, who vet our partners well you should also consider the choice of captain and crew. We don’t go into that in this guide as we have already done the work of weeding out the bad ones for you.

This does not mean that a boat or captain who is not on our page is not good. There are probably many good captains and boats not represented by Colombia Panama Sailing, but we can only guarantee the safety and quality of our own partner boats.

Sail on a monohull sailboat

The classic sailing boat is the monohull sailboat. Although these boats also come in all sizes and shapes they tend to take a smaller number of passengers. The typical size monohull sailboat takes around 8-11 passengers, because of the limited square area space available on the boat. The exception for this is Wild Card and Sovereign Grace. These are exceptionally large monohulled sailboats that can comfortably take up to 20 passengers or more.

For the regular medium-sized monohulled sailing boats, one usually gets a more intimate social experience. The groups tend to stick more together as one. These boats tend not to be clear cut party or nonparty boats, but rather take into account the natural dynamic of each group.

On the monohulled sailboats, you share a smaller space and live a little more intimate than on the catamaran. Still, there are individual differences between boats as intimacy also depends on the availability of private cabins.

Monohulled sailboats can sail almost directly up against the wind. So, there is more chance of actual sailing time, rather than motoring. When under sail the monohulled sailing vessel sits very steady in the water, but follows the waves up and down in a steady motion.

Sail on a catamaran sailing boat

The catamaran sailing boats are also very popular and these boats can take a larger number of passengers due to its larger surface. The catamarans tend to take from 11-18 passengers typically on their cruises from Colombia to Panama.

On these boats there is a lot of space and more possibilities to find your own area and be by yourself a little if needed. Still, a larger number of passengers means more people to deal with. The large number of passengers usually means there can be two or more subgroups. That means more choice for the social ones out there.

I usually recommend the catamarans for social people who enjoy making many new friends and do not mind a little noise around you.

The catamarans cannot sail so directly against the wind as monohulls do. So, there is more chance of engine time. When sailing a catamaran Cartagena to Panama it can feel more stable in the way that they do not keel and roll so much in the waves. Still, there will be movement on these boats as well. Remember, to read our guide on how to avoid feeling seasick.

Speedboat from Sapzurro to Panama

Although Colombia Panama Sailing does not offer this boat trip it is possible to take a speed boat from Sapzurro to Panama. They go both ways and you can also take the speed boat Panama to Colombia.

When traveling in the direction from Colombia to Panama you usually go to Turbo in Colombia and get a fast boat to Sapzurro. Right on the Colombian side of the border to Panama.

When you have the ticket ready with the speed boat that will take you from Colombia to Panama you go through immigration yourself and get on the boat to Panama.

There are no ferries sailing Cartagena to Panama

There have been a few attempts to run ferries between Colombia and Panama. The Cartagena to Panama City Ferry first did a few trips in the 1990s. Then again in 2014-2015 two ferries tried to operate. The larger Ferry Express did a few trips, as well did the smaller San Blas Ferry, but both stopped after relatively short time mostly due to bureaucracy and unwillingness on the Colombian side to handle the transport of vehicles, which was supposed to be the main income of the ferries.

Since 2016 there have been no more ferries and there are no indications there will be any more attempts in the near future.

The standard Cartagena to Panama boat trip

The typical Cartagena to Panama boat trip includes a two-day open water and blue sailing crossing of the Darien Gap. After that you will get three full days to sail the San Blas islands. Anchoring on different idyllic Caribbean San Blas islands every night. You may choose to sleep on the boat or on the islands, if you wish.

Included in the price is also three delicious meals, drinking water, coffee, tea, and fruits.

All standard passport and immigration arrangements are included in the price. See our page about immigration and our page on What’s included in the price for full information on these topics.

City of Cartagena departure port

All sailing boats depart from Club Nautico in the city of Cartagena. Club Nautico is situated close to the old city in the neighborhood of Manga. This is a 20-minute walk from the main backpacker areas of Calle Media Luna in Gethsemane. Or, a 5-minute cab ride.

Sailing Panama – Ports of arrival

In Panama, you normally enter either the Caribbean ports of Portobelo or Puertolindo. Both are situated a short bus ride from Colon. From Colon, there is easily available public transport to Panama City.

Many boats also help arranging minivan transport for the whole group. These can take you directly from Portolindo or Portobelo directly to your hostel in Panama City