Sailing From Colombia to Panama

Our sail from Colombia to Panama began happily, since Brian fixed the autopilot! It was a relief knowing we would not be hand steering for the two day voyage. While that made things easier, sailing from Colombia to Panama was not a fun trip.

Autopilot worked sailing from Colombia to Panama
We love when autopilot works

It Gets Scary

When home is a sailboat with a 65 foot high metal mast and you’re alone in the middle of the ocean, you don’t want to see lightning. A lightning storm is a nightmare. We had a very small taste in Colombia and it didn’t prepare us for the scary lightning storm our first night sailing from Colombia to Panama.

It’s rainy season in Panama and electric storms are common. We saw flashes in the sky throughout the day Saturday, but weren’t concerned. We didn’t think it would get worse. And we were wrong.

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Animals of Colombia

Colombia has some of the world’s most dangerous animals. Jaguars, poisonous frogs, spiders, and snakes are all endemic to this country. The fourth largest country in South America, Colombia has Atlantic and Pacific Coastlines, the Amazon, and the Andes mountains, so it’s no surprise its animals are diverse and plentiful. We’ve been to a few different parts of the country and seen a wide variety of animals of Colombia, many that were new to me, and some in strange places.


I love sloths and was so excited to see them in a public park in Cartagena. They aren’t always easy to spot but when they are I can watch them do nothing all day. Which is pretty much what they do. In addition to the local Parque Centenario, we also spotted sloths in the beautiful Cartagena botanical gardens outside of the city.

Two sloths in a tree in the Jardin Botanico Cartagena
sloth in Colombia
Sloth in a tree at Cartagena’s Botanic Garden
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Art in The Streets of Getsemani

When you visit Cartagena, you’ll go to the neighborhood of Getsemani. Adjacent to the old city, it’s a nexus for nightlife and dining. What it’s most known for is art, and if you’re like me, you’ll love the colorful art in the streets of Getsemani.

About Getsemani

When I first came to Cartagena in 2016, Getsemani was the “edgy” neighborhood known for its hip street art tours. Now it is an established tourist attraction with great restaurants, upscale hotels, and still the best street art in the city. In fact, all you need to do is take a quick stroll off the main avenue to immerse yourself in the colors of Getsemani.

Start at Plaza de la Trinidad

It may seem confusing in Cartagena, the narrow streets turn and wind and almost seem circular, but that’s part of the fun, especially when there’s so much to see! I recommend heading for Plaza de la Trinidad to get started exploring Getsemani.

Plaza de la Trinidad Getsemani Cartagena
The church and Plaza de la Trinidad

If you’re doing a walk of the neighborhood in search of inspired photo backgrounds, start or end in this main plaza. The colorful art in the streets of Getsemani spreads out from Plaza de la Trinidad, named after the Iglesia Trinidad (Holy Trinity), which dominates it.

Trinidad Church in Getsemani
Iglesia de la Trinidad
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Cycling in Colombia

Brian and I both love cycling, and were excited that it’s so popular in Colombia. Racers and mountain bikers are everywhere in this country and Colombian cyclists rank among the world’s best. We welcome any opportunity to get off of the boat for some fun exploring and exercise and Colombia offers cycling tours and more. We’ve found it easy to join the nation’s cyclists across the county. This post details some of our favorite ways to enjoy cycling in Colombia.

Cycling in Cartagena

One of our favorite activities in Cartagena was the bike tour with Gerardo. Cartagena is a mostly flat city, except when you’re climbing up and down the walls, so biking is relatively easy. In Cartagena, the sights are spread out and the climate is hot, so riding a bicycle is an ideal way to cover all that territory. Many people ride bicycles in Cartagena, so the drivers are used to sharing the road with cyclists and don’t grumble or honk at you. If you have bikes on your boat, Cartagena is a great place to use them.

bike tour of Cartagena stop along the wall
Brian and I at the wall on a bike tour of Cartagena
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Sailing in Colombia

Sailing in Colombia is different from the ideal conditions in the Eastern Caribbean: trips are a lot longer and other cruiser boats not as common. Conditions can be rough, with strong winds, and navigating is challenging with incomplete charts. Because of these difficulties, some cruisers don’t stop here at all on the way to Panama, and others only visit one port: Santa Marta or Cartagena. As longtime fans of Colombia, we spent extended time in both! Here’s what our experience has been sailing in Colombia.

Western Caribbean map including Colombia
Colombia in the Western Caribbean

All information in this post is based on our experiences sailing the Caribbean coast of mainland Colombia. The country is vast, with Pacific coastline and occupied islands alongside Central America, which are not discussed here.

Welcome to Colombia

Arriving in Colombia on our boat was different from other sailing destinations. Colombia is so big that we saw the country a full day before we could enter a port. And the conditions are rough. Santa Marta, Colombia is infamous for heavy winds and rough seas, so much so that many sailors coming from the ABC Islands or further choose to skip the port entirely and head straight to Cartagena.

rough seas Colombia
Rough seas in Colombia
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