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Panama to Medellin via Speedboat

posted Jan 27, 2014, 6:59 AM by Paul Gareau

This was posted by Byron on 9-May-2010

1.  Ride to Carti from Panama city.  About a day and a half ride, with
by far the steepest grades I've seen all trip.  I was barely able to
push my bike up some of the hills.  Catch a boat at the end of the
airstrip to get to the island ($5)
2.  Speedboat from Carti to Puerto Obaldia.  The guy who ran my
hospedaje knew the captains and arranged me a spot for the next
morning.  The trip is about 8-9 hours, but as I was the only one
carrying on the Puerto Olbaldia, we spent the night on the captain's
island, about an hour away.  The speedboat was kind of like a water
taxi for the San Blas islands, and we stopped at about ten on the way.
3.  Get your exit stamp in Puerto Obaldia
4.  Boat from Puerto Obaldia to Carpurgana across the border ($15)
5.  Get you entry stamp in Carpurgana.  Stay the night.  Many hotel/
food options.
6.  Speedboat from Carpurgana to Turbo.  This boat leaves every
morning at 7:15 and takes a couple of hours. ($50)
7.  Ride from Turbo to Medellin.  Really scenic road with a couple of
serious passes but no crazy grades.  The locales varied on whether it
was safe or not, but I didn't have any issues.  There is also a small
landslide danger as the road is often cut into a cliff.

Alternative Darien Crossing (The Elusive "Pacific Route")

posted Nov 26, 2013, 4:51 PM by Paul Gareau   [ updated Nov 26, 2013, 4:52 PM ]

Nicholas Carleton posted this info to panam-riders on 11/25/2013

From Panama City, you can ride east on the Panamericana until you reach Meteti (230 KM). To do this, you need to pass through two Senafront checkpoints (kind of like their border patrol) - each of which will turn you back to Panama City if you are not prepared. Before leaving Panama City, you will need to write a letter (like a permission slip) to pass the Agua Fria checkpoint (180 KM from PC), as well as the checkpoint at Meteti (230 KM). This letter needs to be signed and stamped in Panama City before leaving (e-mail me for info on this). Make 3 copies of this letter (and passport copy). Each checkpoint will take one, and you should keep one as well. From Mateti, follow the path highlighted in red on the PDF link i attached. The full route goes 125 KM to Garachine. If you want a shorter route, you can catch a boat from La Palma or even closer from Puerto Kimba - stopping in La Palma (zoom in on La Palma on google maps and then look east).

From La Palma you would catch a boat to Jaque (on the coast of Panama just before getting to Colombia). From there you can either take a boat to Jurado or go straight to Bahia Solano (the former option taking much more time, as boats don’t make the trip from Jurado on a regular schedule. Both options are shown on the map I made). From Bahia Solano, you can take a boat to Buenaventura ($77 for a 26 hour ride) and continue from there. This is the easier and more common route. I plan on riding from Bahia Solano, however, as I prefer to ride as much as possible and “skip” as little as possible (within certain parameters of course). There is a seasonal road (not on google maps, but on actual paper maps of Colombia) that leads SE from Bahia Solano to the main highway near Pereira. From there, you can head in whichever direction you choose.

Costs of some sections of the boat trips:
-La Palma to Jaque $50
-Jaque to Bahia Solano $100
-B.S to Buenaventura $77

This amounts to $227 total. My total crossing will cost me only $130-140, as it skips the last leg and shortens the first leg. Not bad considering many pay $550 to get across!

Good luck and let me know if there are any questions. A lot of this info was gathered from cyclists who have done similar routes, but were not part of this google group, as well as from people I met who live in the areas (Peace Corps volunteers, etc.).

I will be documenting my trip on my blog at

The map is here:

Crossing the Darien Gap

posted Jan 14, 2013, 6:09 PM by Paul Gareau

Karina & Jan from shared the following information with the panam-riders email group in January 2013.

As we understand it, there are 4 possibilities to reach Colombia (December 2012)

1) Sail boat (Caribean Sea)

-- from Portobelo/Carti to the Border (Puerto Obaldia)  ~350$ (plus the extra costs to go on)
-- from Portobelo/Carti to Cartagena ~550$
 For example the sail boat operator Stahlratte is sailing from Carti to other places after 14th of January (check website:, we don’t know if there are other sail boats leaving for Colombia, but we guess so

> In general: prices are normally more expensive when captains offer the trip officially. As we understand you have to pay a lot for the permit to anchor in Colombia. So some boats arrive without permit…

> Either way you may get a cheaper possibility when you are more people, especially with private boat owners - ask around

> Another possible port may be Puerto Lindo, but we haven’t been there

+ you see the San Blas islands

+ sailing experience (but possibly the use the engine if there is no wind)

+ possibly space for bicycles under deck

+- long journey (~5 days)

- expensive and probably extra costs for bicycles


2) Speed boats (Caribean Sea)

-- from Carti to Carpurganá/Sapzuro to Turbo ~200$

-- from Portobelo to Carti to Carpurganá/Sapzuro to Turbo ~300$

> Carti is a small town in San Blas, you reach the town by bicycle over a very small and bad road (German cyclists that we met told us it was the worst road they cycled so far because of surface and inclination…but its possible ;) )

+ a little cheaper

+- fast (1-2 days)

- no stops on the islands

- exhausting journey over rough see, jumping equipment and salt water over your stuff


3) Trading/Commercial boats (Caribean Sea)

-- Carti-San Blas-Sapzuro-Turbo, you may visit one San Blas Island and wait until a trading boat is leaving for the right destination…

+ you see the San Blas Islands

+ as we understand the cheapest possibility to reach Colombia, they may charge only for the equipment and not per person

+- slow traveling

+ good for the equipment

- finding the right ship may cost some time and is unpredictable, no schedule

4) Speed boats and freighters (Pacific Ocean) -- Panama City to La Palma to Jaque (to Jurado) to Buenaventura ~200$/person

+ little cheaper

+- long journey

- exhausting journey over rough see, jumping equipment and salt water over your stuff, a lot of boat changing, probably waiting several days for the right boat

For more details look at Tauru and Christi’s website:


We cycled to Portobelo and checked the prices on-site. We found a private sail boat that we made a special deal with - so yes that´s possible but very hard to find! All in all we paid 350$ per person from Portobelo to Turbo. Here the details:

Sail boat Portobelo to Puerto Obaldia

- 550$ sail boat for 2 people, with the deal that we cook our own meals (this was a special deal that they made for us! First we planned to travel as a group of 3 people and it would have been even cheaper. They asked us not to publish their names, as other boat owners would get angry about their low price…). We traveled 5 days, made 2 stops in San Blas Islands and 2 night passages, using most of the time the sails and not the engine… Our bikes were covered on deck but never touched the saltwater.

- 10$ transfer to the boat from the port (if you bargain, they normally want 20$!!)

Puerto Obaldía

- immigration office, no costs to exit Panama

- you need 2 copies of your passport (copy shops in town sell expensive copies) and have to tell the officer on which boat (Name of boat, captain, etc) you leave Panama

Puerto Obaldía - Carpurganá

- 15$/Person for a ½ hour journey on a small motor boat in an unfriendly rough sea

- no extra charge for the bikes, but make sure they are very well accomodated, as the boat and your things will jump around… Rough sea!!!


- immigration office, no costs to enter Colombia

- any accomodation is very expensive here, we had the luck to find somebody that rented us a prívate room, you may find cheap or free places to camp

Carpurganá – Turbo

- 55.000 Columbian Pesos/CP (33$)/Person for the speed boat, 2-3 hours

- 35.000 CP (21$)/bike and equipment on a cargo boat, that leaves once a week, 7 am on Thursdays

> we shipped our bikes and luggage on a extra cargo boat as it was cheaper and safer that way. We don´t like jumping gear... On the speed boat we would have paid 30.000 CP (18$) per bicycle and 500 Columbian Pesos (0,30$) per extra Kilo (10kg are allowed per passenger).


Have fun finding your own way ;-)

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