sailing the san blas islands

Sailing to San Blas & A Jungle River Mission

Pulling up the anchor and setting sail had us feeling like a couple of kids on Christmas morning. We’re on our way to cruisers bliss! A turquoise sea with 378 tiny specks of Caribbean white sand flocked with coconut palms.

We’ve been listening to sailors gush about the famous San Blas Islands since we announced we were coming to Panama. After the past couple weeks of tackling boat projects, we’re ready for some serious play time.

As it goes in the cruising community, we made a couple of friends who have been before and they’re heading that way a day before us. They gave us the scoop on some of the local customs and picked out a good anchorage for us.

The San Blas islands are home to an indigenous tribe called the Guna (also known as Kuna and Cuna). They protect their land and culture with such fierceness, the Guna Yala region is basically its own country. They have political autonomy so the Panamanian government rarely interferes here, which allows the indigenous people of San Blas to police themselves. These Kuna laws are unwritten and are subject to change at anytime. Our goal as travelers is to tread lightly, be friendly and ask permission before doing…well…just about anything.

Well, we may not have found any tarpon but we had an awesome time poling and trolling up the river in that skiff.  New experiences, new friends and picture perfect islands…what more can a cruiser ask for?  I guess I can think of one thing:  A swim up bar at the sand bar!

sailing and exploring san blas

drone views of san blas

exploring the river in san blas

Our new friends have to sail back to Linton Bay (insert sad face here) because this was just a short scout mission for them.  I know we’ll cross paths with Rufus and Kate again because that’s the beauty of life on a sailboat.  The cruising community is close knit and when we hoist our sails, we go where the wind blows.  Convergence is inevitable.

Curious to learn more about Rufus and Kate? 

exploring san blas islands

Community. [kuh-myoo-ni-tee] Noun. A social group of any size whose members share common characteristics or interests. Community isn’t found in a specific location, its found in people.


Sailing San Blas

These are challenging cruising grounds for a variety of reasons.

  • the charts are not 100% accurate
  • water is shallow
  • anchorages are mostly unprotected if the weather kicks up
  • locals make the laws and change them often

We read a variety of conflicting information which is due to the ever changing and unwritten local and national laws. When we went into the maritime authority office to get a zarpe for San Blas, they said we didn’t need it. We read a tribal leader might come out and collect a fee that could range anywhere from $20 a month to $10+ a day. We were never approached for money, but we weren’t anchored near a popular island either.

visual navigation

sailing san blas

san blas islands

Lot’s of locals came by to sell us their goods, or invite us to their beach to buy beer, coffee or soda. Each Kuna visitor was friendly and welcoming.  Most remembered our boat and didn’t try to sell goods a second time.  Even though we had 4 visitors before 8am the one morning in the video, it wasn’t much of a hassle, in fact it was enjoyable to wave and bridge the language barrier with a big smile.

Eric Bauhaus is a household name in Panama because of his book, The Panama Cruising Guide. We got by fine without it, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been nice to have. By the time we had seen the book in person we were already over half way through our time in Panama. Our friends had a copy (you see Rufus flipping through in the video) and its loaded with photos, charts, hidden anchorages and local customs. It’s the only place we found information on what the Kuna people allowed and didn’t allow. So, if you plan on spending a decent amount of time cruising in Panama, it’s well worth the purchase (but be warned, it’s not cheap at $50-70 USD).

Eric Bauhaus, The Panama Cruising Guide:

All in all, we had a great experience with zero issues.  Most sailors we spoke with reported the same. Our Garmin Bluecharts were pretty accurate, and using our radar we were able to see which specs of land didn’t align perfectly.  No matter what, this is a place where visual navigation should be your go-to.  San Blas a beautiful stretch of islands well worth exploring for as long as you can.


Thank You!

Thank you for tuning in!  We’re able to share these adventures because of viewers like you. If you like what you see, check out our Say Thanks page to learn about different ways you can help keep the videos and posts flowing. You’ll notice most ways don’t cost you a penny but make a big difference to us…and for that, we thank you!

jason and nikki wynn


Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: san blas map

  • Dates: 10/25 – 11/1/2017
  • Nautical Miles Sailed: 52
  • Anchorage:  Yansaladup.  You can find it on Active Captain near the Lemon Cays and just east of Cayos Chichime.
  • Cell & WiFi:  Until recent years there was zero cell reception in San Blas.  We found a strong 3g signal near Isla Porvenir while our anchorage (5+ miles away) had intermittent reception.  A Cell Booster is a must here if you want a chance at catching a few bars, but there’s no guarantees here in paradise.


Gear Used In This Video

In The Galley

Sailing Specific Gear

Cameras Used to Capture This Video

Full Review Of All Our Camera Gear:


Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (19)

  • Susan Free

    Nikki, did u cut hair? Trim? So cute short. Not everyone can do the short style. So enjoy your mail, look forward to cruising with you & Jason. CELEBRATE LIFE MAKING MEMORIES DAILY. ????❤️ Susan in Bryan,Tx

  • Joan

    Nikki, happy birthday. I enjoy watching you and Jason making so many memories. Watching your videos makes me feel alive and happy. Enjoy your sailing.

  • Tracey

    Loved the video, really missed it when you weren’t able to post one last week.

  • Happy belated birthday Nikki! Another great video! Thanks, Bernard

  • Nancy Fernandez

    Another awesome and beautiful video. Happy Birthday Nikki!

  • Patrick Burneson


  • Ricky Barnes

    It seems that I am living my wishful past through your adventures, even though I am in my 60’s. I wished I would have encouraged my family to have started sooner as you did. Keep safe, enjoy, and be thankful of others! I truely look forward to your videos and updates!

  • Another awesome video guys! Love the monkey and fish with blue eye shadow. 🙂 Happy Birthday, Nikki!

  • Another cool vid. Love your channel, informative, fun, exploring and quality shooting. I went to make your COFFEE cake and couldn’t see any coffee in the ingredients. Then I laughed and thought that’s what the rest of the world call a coffee cake? So you eat It with coffee right? We here in Nz make coffee cake with actual coffee as main ingredient, even in the icing. Funny.
    You’re gonna love the sth pacicfi, have to come to Nz. Worth the effort, summer ( Jan feb March April) sailing here north of coromandel peninsular all the way to bay of islands is fantastic, look me up on Waiheke Island, happy to help you out.

  • Tracy H

    Another wonderful video. You two rock!

  • Andrea (@bulathebus)

    Great video, love the drone footage! Hope you and Jason are having the time of your life ?

  • Kathy

    Happy Birthday from Texas! Signed, another birthday girl.

  • Jackie

    I have watched your wonderful adventures, you are doing great BUT 2 things have come to my mind that I have to address. When making your coffee the Melita method (which to me is the only way), please put your container in the sink when you are pouring the boiling hot water. First if you get burnt (which I also suggest a teflon apron) you will be in a lot of trouble in the middle of the ocean (think of a rogue wave).

    The other one is never pass keys or anything you do not want to lose over water e.g. from boat to dingy etc).


  • Jim Bolling

    Nikki, have a WONDERFUL BIRTHDAY. I have been following your post since your Alaska RV’ing days.

  • RoeH

    Cleo on the table doesn’t offend me. I love those cats.

  • Bill Reitz

    Hey Nikki, Happy birthday to UUUUUU !!
    January 28 is my bday too. Have a great day and year. I really enjoy your videos since the RV days.

  • Marc Montero

    One of my favorite videos to date! The “side” adventures are awesome…like that Panamanian Bayou…so cool. Keep up the good work and safe travels. BTW, happy belated birthday Nikki! (Just one day after mine)
    Marc & Sean


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