Sailing the San Blas Islands with the Black Dragonfly

November 13, 2012 in Places,South America

It’s hard to find the most appropriate superlative to describe the five  days I spent sailing from Panama City, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia through the San Blas Islands. It was one of the most fantastic weeks of my life: incredibly relaxing, surrounded by beauty and far too much fun.

Sailing the San Blas Islands with Black Dragonfly and World of Sailing

The San Blas Islands is an archipelago of approximately 378 islands, of which only about 49 are inhabited by the Kuna Indians. If you’re looking for the perfect way in between Panama City and Cartagena–or just want a more laid-back sailing trip–the San Blas Islands are the way to go, and I can’t recommend the experience on the Black Dragonfly enough. Here’s why:

The San Blas Island crew from the Black Dragonfly and A World of Sailing

You’ll meet some fantastic people.

So, this trip was a little testosterone-fueled. Seven Aussie guys (one group in their late teens, the other in their mid-twenties). One American. One Austrian. A Norwegian captain. I drank a fair bit more than I intended–have you ever heard of the left hand rule?–but heck, I had fun. The boys talked me into rope-swinging off the side of the boat, took me salsa dancing in Cartagena, reminded me that life is pretty darn good. And then there’s the cook/party planner/marketing extraordinaire Jess Jones: we met in Melbourne right before she took off on a 15-month solo trip through South America, but she is one of the most fun-loving, inspirational, brighten-your-day kind of people and she absolutely takes the Black Dragonfly experience up an extra notch.

Jess Jones on the Black Dragonfly sailing the San Blas Islands

You’ll eat incredibly well.

My friend Jess works as a cook on the Black Dragonfly. Not only does she have one of the best jobs in the world, but she’s also extremely good at it: she whips up a mean spaghetti bolognese (and curry tuna salad, and fresh lobster in garlic butter ) on the top of a sailboat deck and in a teeny-tiny boat kitchen. In her previous life in Melbourne, she was a personal trainer and nutritionist–so I can promise that you will eat varied, healthful meals on the Black Dragonfly. And it’s not just for skinny girls either: she managed to serve up second helpings most nights to a group of 10 very hungry boys, and they deemed her spaghetti bolognese the best they’d ever tasted.

One Palm Island in the San Blas Islands with the Black Dragonfly

There’s no better place than an uninhabited island in the Caribbean.

We had a Sunday Funday on One Palm Island, floating a cooler of beers out to the island with a beach and–you guessed it–just one palm. We had a morning yoga session (just Jess and me) and a late-night bonfire with the whole crew on Scooby Doo Island–nicknamed that purely because the real name is too tough to remember. Waking up in the middle of the sea with the sun rising over a skyline of palm trees, going to sleep under a blanket  of stars: it’s the perfect bookend to a day of sailing.

Sailing the San Blas Islands with the Black Dragonfly and A World of Sailing

Happiness is having absolutely nothing to do and nothing to check.

Waking up with the sunrise and heading straight to the top of the deck to go back to sleep. Spending my mornings with a book, my afternoons with a beer. An entire five days without texting, without my laptop, without wifi, without Facebook or blogging or emailing. An entire five days without checking my iPhone (!). There aren’t any distractions or any decisions: you simply relax and have fun.

Sunset on San Blas Islands from the Black Dragonfly and A World of Sailing

But be prepared for little seasickness.

Be especially prepared if you decided to sail from Cartagena to Panama City instead of the other way around (because unlike other boat trips I’ve taken, this is an actual sailboat). There’s a pretty large crossing from Cartagena to the San Blas Islands; both Jess and the captain swore that we had an easy one, and the whole lot of us was still miserable. My tip: pack seasickness medication, and make sure to take it.

Overall: I thought sailing Croatia was going to be the best time I spent on a boat in 2012…and then I went to the San Blas Islands. Best. Time. Ever.

 Note: the Black Dragonfly kindly offered me a discount on my trip, but all opinions are my own. 

  • Alicia C

    Beautiful and looks SO relaxing! Glad you had a good time!

  • JulikaSarah

    This trip looks so amazing! I hope there are more pictures of uninhabited Caribbean islands coming up – this is just what I need on a dull German November day :)

  • Aaahhhh….I want to do this. The city is doing my head in

  • rory

    Did this over the summer, was such an amazing week although the crossing from the islands to cartagena was pretty rough!

  • So jealous! That scenery is awesome — and by that I mean both the ocean and the Australian men.

  • Briel79

    Your trip sounds wonderful (except the seasickness part)!! I would love to get away to a beach someplace and just relax. All of my vacations tend to be places where there is a lot to do and see and plan and my phone is always in reach. I should plan something a little more out of the way and relaxed!

  • Debbie @ European Travelista

    Your enthusiasm has sold me! I’m ready to go. This sounds beautiful and fun plus I get to unplug for the entire trip. Could this be nirvana??

  • This looks absolutely perfect! Whenever I make it to South America, hopefully soon, I will be booking a trip on the Black Dragonfly!

  • Amanda

    Wow that looks incredible. Never heard of the San Blas islands before but I’m glad I have now–will definitely consider when I head to South and Central America!

  • Those Aussies are everywhere! hehe 😉 Looks like an amazing cruise, whilst I have done Croatian sailing before I’d love to visit the San Blas islands – looks a lot less crowded and much more relaxed.

  • The ‘Black Dragonfly’ sounds like a name of a pirate ship 😉 Trip looks amazing! Never been on a sailboat, but always wanted to….don’t know why I never though about looking into trips…thanks for the idea!

  • Ooo, the meals sound so tasty considering the lack of a fancy kitchen! Curry tuna salad sounds drool-worthy!

  • camorose

    It was amazing! I could definitely use a little more of that relaxation now that holiday season is setting in and I work in ecommerce :)

  • camorose

    There will be plenty, don’t worry! I’m totally missing my time in San Blas–SO gorgeous and I could use a bit of that sunshine now that I’m back in wintery NYC!

  • camorose

    This is definitely the perfect city escape :)

  • camorose

    We had an “easy” crossing and I still spent most of it lying down doing nothing but yoga breathing and trying my hardest not to spew. Definitely not my favorite part of the trip!

  • camorose

    Haha it was good times, let me tell you… :)

  • camorose

    I was talking about this with someone yesterday, and I think after living in NYC, all of my vacations are going to be very island/beach/do nothing sort of things. I need a break from city life when I leave!

  • camorose

    Closest thing to heaven I’ve found so far :)

  • camorose

    Awesome! Be sure to let them know Christine sent you :)

  • camorose

    Definitely the BEST way to get in from Central to South America :)

  • camorose

    It was SO much more laid-back than Croatia–totally uninhabited islands and not nearly as touristy. Highly recommend!

  • camorose

    It’s a great way to explore islands–no better way than sailing up to them :)

  • camorose

    The curry tuna salad was surprisingly delicious–I still need to steal the recipe from Jess :)

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