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Chartering in San Blas: As good as it gets

Sail Ipanema in San Blas
Written by Renato Matiolli
Yes, the three of us are back sailing in San Blas and doing charters non-stop!

This hurricane free archipelago in the Caribbean is perfect. It has certainly been our favorite spot so far and we can’t seem to be able to leave. The islands of San Blas are home to the native Kuna indians, who have wisely chosen not to overdevelop the region. More often than not we have the anchorage all to ourselves (try find Ipanema in the pictures bellow).

 

 

Sandy spit San Blas

San Blas has 300+ stunningly beautiful islands with white sandy beaches, coconut trees and pristine coral reefs all around them. It has crystal clear waters and an amazing marine life, which invites you to spend hours snorkeling or spearfishing each day. It also has very well protected spots perfect for quiet anchorages and exploring around with an SUP. To make things even more perfect it has a series of secret spots for kiting and surfing over shallow reefs or sandbanks.

 

The Kunas are great fisherman and skillful handicraftsman. Luckily, thanks to these wise natives, San Blas is still a very well hidden pearl in the Caribbean. Fortunately most of the massive tourism has never found or heard of it. No fancy foreign hotels are allowed here and the access to the islands is an adventure. To visit the archipelago the guests have only three options: 1) just spend the day; 2) stay in on of the Kuna huts or; 3) charter a sailboat.

 

 

For those who follow our story know that San Blas already had a special place in our hearts. This is where it all began three years ago. Through wonderful Google, we found a couple and a dog sailing around the world. We chartered their boat and went on vacation with them on the Bay Dreamer. At that time they were sailing around San Blas. The rest we all know… a few months later we bought our own boat and quit our jobs. Now, here we are again, chartering Ipanema and saving some money to continue on to the Pacific.

 

We are passionate divers and San Blas has a stunning marine life. We are always ready to explore and take along those who like the ocean as we do. These islands have the most beautiful corals we have ever seen. They start at 1 foot deep and sometimes drop to 100 feet straight away, creating the most amazing walls of corals. We always anchor in shallow waters, called “the Lagoon”. These places are like an aquarium as they are a “nursery” for the marine life. Here you can see small fish of all colors and shapes. There are also starfish, eels, spotted eagle rays (my favorite), lobsters, squids, octopuses, king crabs, sea turtles and nurse sharks. Sometimes even a small pod of dolphins may swim by.

Coral San Blas

Spotted eagle ray San Blas

The Lagoons and the Caribbean Sea are connected through a series of natural passes and even some incredible underwater tunnels. From this point on the “bigger boys” start to show up. There are more dolphins as well as barracudas, bigger snappers and groupers for the spearfishing enthusiasts. We often see some curious lemon and reef sharks as well.

 

We always anchor in the protected waters of the Lagoon. These areas are very safe to grab a standup paddleboard and explore the surroundings. There are nice places to paddle around the islands, go grab some freshly baked Kuna bread or take Feijão to the beach. On the least windy days, when the sea is completelly flat, it is even possible to do SUP Yoga. These days are also perfect to paddle on top of the beautiful corals to admire the views from above.

 

The kite surfing in San Blas is as idyllic as it can get. It is certainly a place not for beginners as there is some current and the take off is done most of the times from the boat. However San Blas has some spots with perfect flat water with beautiful scenery inside the Lagoon. On the shallow areas we can ride above hundreds of starfish and many rays. San Blas also offers some kite wave ridding action in the passes where we sometimes receive the visit of curious dolphins.

I know most people don’t care much about surfing, but I do! And I care a lot! This is probably the main reason why I left everything behind: to look for the perfect wave. Ideally find that one that has never been surfed before. There are still a few good ones out there to be found and San Blas has showed me it is possible.

The region receives the same swell as Bocas, it has coral reefs all around it and no one surfs here. So, all we needed to do was to be curious, patient and keep exploring. We found descent waves year around, but the big reward came during the hurricane season. These rare waves are created far away from San Blas and travel for a while through the entire Caribbean Sea. They organize themselves through their journey, lining up perfectly and discharging their last breath of energy as they finally meet up with the beautiful reef banks of the archipelago. Thanks for these perfect days; they will live forever in my memories and dreams.

Feijão also seems to be having the time of his life here. Since we got to San Blas he has seen dolphins and sharks. He surfed with the SUP, made new friends and ran around tons of islands. He also learnt to swim from the boat to the beach and back when we are able to anchor close to shore. However, to be honest, most of the time he is doing what he (and us all) do best, just relax and enjoy the scenery.

 

While we could probably stay here forever, and we have been in San Blas for more than a year now, we are planning our next steps. We decided that early 2018 we will cross the Panama Canal, sail to Galapagos and then to the French Polynesia.

During this past year we have received tons of friends, family and guest from all over the world. We realised that as travelers worldwide seek more and more for unique experiences and adventures in their travels, we have received increasingly booking requests. It is because of special places like San Blas, where the best way to explore around is with a sailboat that we manage to receive guest and save money that will allow us to continue travelling around the world. We have shared our passion, our secret spots, our lifestyle and dreams with them. We have decided to stay in the area until late February 2018 to save for the Pacific. So if you want to visit San Blas while we are still her, there is still a small window of opportunity to join us.

 

 

To visit San Blas and cuddle Feijão write to us on sailipanema@gmail.com or WhatsApp: +507 6765 3485. On our website, in the section “Sail with Us” there is a lot of information about the trip. There is also a sub-section called “Prices and Availability” where you can find which dates are still available.

 

It will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to San Blas, but next year we will follow on with our journey.

About the author

Renato Matiolli

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