Darién Gap

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The region between Panama and Colombia is called the Darién Gap.

Here the Pan-American Highway is interrupted so classical hitchhiking by car does not work. The region is mainly dense rainforest, and partly marshland. It is a nature reserve, and is protected both under Columbian, Panamanian and international Law. Nevertheless a lot of logging goes on there as the parks lack staff to keep the huge inaccessible space under tabs. It is said that from the air you can see the loggin tracks coming within just a few miles of each other on each side of the border, so in all fairness a road could exist if the political will did exist to create one. The gap is also one of the homes of the FARC, and that is the main reason that it is a very bright idea for white-skinned blue-eyed hitch-hikers to stay as far away from it as they possibly can... This should not discourage anyone from getting around it though!

There are several stories of Hitchhikers passing around this region on the Pacific Ocean from Panama to Colombia or Ecuador. On the Caribbean side a high exchange of goods exists between the Kuna Yala territory and Colombia so you might be lucky and hop on a commercial boat, travelling in either direction, if you are in no hurry.

Way around

From Colombia to Panama

In Cartagena there are heaps of charter sailing boats and private sailors heading to Colon who will charge anything beween 100 and 1000 US$ to take you there, often with atractive little stop offs in the San Blas.

An alternative way of crossing in this direction is to head to the port city of Turbo, where a 50 US$ (in 2011) boat can take you to Capurgana, like with all the other payboats if the boat owner like you enough and you can talk your way in good, you might get a lift. After that, the same applies for travelling from Capurgana to Puerto Obaldia, a small village that works as a border between Colombia and Panama. Once you're in Obaldia, you might either pay about 90 US$ (in 2011) to fly to Panama in a small plane, or find one last boat into Panama, for example by catching a boat to the island of Caledonia, and then another to Carti, from where there are roads connecting with Panama. From Puerto Obaldia you can also catch a boat a little way down the coast to where a trail links to the road. The trail is said to last about 2 or 3 days walk, and it is not advisable to do it without a guide. The Kuna do walk it often though, that is what it's there for. The whole think is a feasible and enjoyable adventure whichever combination of methods you chose, especially if you do pass through the Kuna Yala (aka San Blas) islands which are simply breathtaking.

From Panama to Colombia

To hitch a boat get to the San Cristobal Marina in Colon, boat hitching is never easy so be prepared to wait days or weeks. There are 2 marinas (including balboa marina) in Panama City but chances for Colombia are lower. On both sides many boats go to the South Pacific and you also may get a ride through the canal as linehandler.

The reverse of the method discussed above also works. To catch a plane to Obaldia go to the aiport in Panama city. To get to Carti ask for the road to the Kuna Yala national park. From there boats into the San Blas are eratic but existant, although I'm not sure they would take anyone for free as they do come there specifically to pick people up. To find the trail you would have to follow the Panamerican as far south as it goes, and then head north to the coast in the comarca Kuna Yala. Then you will still need a boat to reach Obaldia (there is no walking there unless you fancy being kidnapped by FARC...)

Crossing by dinghy

There is several stories of people crossing by dinghy on the Argentinian hitchhikers forum.


There are some stories, from people who circumvented the Darien Gap:

  • themodernnomad crossed for free from north to south by boat hitching. Great story. (read it here on his website)
  • Isa and Natasha did it with payboats and planes.
  • Chael777 spent a few days on Carti Sugdub after arriving there with some Kuna natives, eventually meeting a Colombian boat captain who took him across.