Ultimate Travel Guide Capurgana: an Exotic Paradise in the Colombian Caribbean


Ever dreamt of visiting a place covered with white sandy beaches, a blue sea, and full of nature and wildlife? At the village Capurgana, your dreams can come true!

A little bit of Capurgana’s history

This region was inhabited by the Kuna Indians, for whom it was the “land of chili” or Capurganá in their language. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Kuna were displaced by black-mulatto communities arriving from the cities of Cartagena de Indias and the department of Córdoba.

The indigenous people migrated to the archipelago of San Blas (Comarca Kuna Yala) in the neighboring country of Panama, another paradise of the Caribbean Sea.

On December 12, 1999, Capurganá was the victim of a guerrilla attack that temporarily paralyzed tourist activities. Today it is re-emerging as one of Colombia’s post-conflict, community-based tourism destinations.

Where is Capurgana located?

Capurgana is at the northwestern pacific coast of Colombia, in the small village of Acandí (Chocó), boarding the Republic of Panama, in the Gulf of Urabá. Although located in the Pacific region of Colombia, it belongs to the Colombian Caribbean with no contact with the Pacific Ocean.

The Gulf of Urabá is the southernmost area of the Caribbean Sea located in Colombia. It is contained within the Gulf of Darien, between Cape Caribana and Cape Tiburon on the border of Colombia and Panama. The towns of Turbo, Necoclí, and Acandí are located on their shores.

At Capurgana you can enjoy a tropical and very humid climate with temperatures between 23° and 35 ° C° (73° and 95° F°), and a high humidity between 85 and 98%.

How to get to Capurgana?

In the past, it was necessary to wait for the vacation season to visit Capurgana. Today there are flights and boats available all year round, and visitors are received from the interior of the country and from around the world. Even so, it is a destination little explored by international tourists.

Traveling to Capurgana might be challenging so take note of the following options.

Air Connection

Charter flights

Charter flights in low season depart on Mondays and Fridays, while in high season there are daily flights with schedules generally at 9 a.m., 11.30 a.m., or 2.30 p.m. departing from Medellin.

Commercial flights

To arrive from different cities in Colombia such as Bogota, Cali, and the coffee region, it is necessary to make the connection through the Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin, but the flight schedule allows connections with different national airlines, being the recommended Satena from Bogota to arrive directly to the Medellin airport.

Flights from other cities arrive at José María Córdova Airport in Rionegro with a one-hour ground connection to Medellín.

Bogota – Medellin – Capurgana (in yellow)

You will first land at the nearby Rionegro José María Córdoba (JMC) airport in Medellín. At this airport, you cannot take a flight to Capurgana. For this reason, you must take a cab to the Olaya Herrera airport (OH) in the center of the city, about 40 minutes away.

Once at the airport, you take a flight to Acandí with Satena airline. Finally, from Acandi you take a boat to Capurgana. 

Bogota – Monteria – Necocli – Capurgana (in orange)

A 1.5 hours flight from Bogotá will take you to Los Garzones International Airport (MTR) at Montería city. From Monteria, you have to move by land to Necoclí, the ride lasts approximately 2 hours. Once at Necoclí you should take an extra 2-hour boat ride to Capurgana.

Ground Connection

By land, the connection is also made from Medellín, traveling to Medellín – Turbo or Medellín – Necoclí, from where speedboats leave every day in the morning. From Turbo the trip can take approximately 2 hours and from Necoclí approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Boat Services

Boats leave every day from the towns of Turbo, in Antioquia, and Necoclí, in Choco. Also, many tourists and traders who travel between Colombia and Panama do so via the Turbo-Capurganá route. The first Panamanian municipality is Puerto Obaldía, accessible from Capurganá by boat in about 45 minutes.

Where to Stay in Carpurgana?

Capurgana offers a wide variety of accommodations, from camping areas to five-stars hotels. As in other places in the world, it all depends on your taste and budget.

Our recommended options for you to stay in are Tacarcuna Lodge, one of the oldest lodges in the region, the Hotel Bahia Lodge, and Hotel Bahia Aguacate.

Birds in colombia
Birds in colombia

Power shutdowns happen on a daily basis from 04:00 am to 09:00 am. So make sure to ask if your hotel has any installed solar energy system (working and running). Do not forget to charge your electronic devices (camera, cell phone, drone, etc.) every night.

Currently many hotels, and most of the stores in Capuraganá, have their own power plants to meet the needs of visitors and tourists.

Must-see Places at Capurgana

Capurganá is made up of three smaller villages called: El Cielo, El Aguacate, and La Mora, and each one of them has its own attractions. Outdoor activities such as hiking, bird watching, wildlife watching, diving, and contact with the local culture are available.

La Coquerita

Quite popular for its magical pure and salty water bodies, this place will refresh your day. You will reach La Coquerita after a 1-hour hike through beautiful landscapes and natural sights. Snorkeling is also available for those who cherish sea life.

El Cielo Nature Reserve

It is a nature reserve within a farm where you can make a tour between streams of crystal clear water, trees, and lush jungle wildlife. El Cielo has the option of lodging in cabins.

Take a 2-hour hike through the marvelous virgin jungles of the Tapon del Darien, in the Colombian Pacific Region. Upon arrival, you can visit the Botanical Garden, located 22 meters above sea level. You will need a guide to provide all information about the flora and fauna found at this place.

El Cielo, Capurgana, Colombia

There is the option of renting horses to make the ascent, although it is possible to do it on foot in a journey of two and a half hours.

Inside El Cielo, there are two natural pools of cold water, two small stone waterfalls, and an open-air stone grotto. At the end of the excursion, enjoy a swim in a natural waterfall.

Aguacate Bay

If you want to visit one of the most peaceful places at Capurgana and relax, Aguacate Bay is the ideal place for you. 10 minutes away by boat.

Sapzurro

Head to the main port of Capurgana and take a 20 minutes boat ride to this magical place full of turquoise waters. Once there rent a kayak and spend a magical afternoon enjoying the calm tide.

La Miel

It is a 200-stairway hill checkpoint bordering the Republic of Panama. You will ask to provide your ID to access it. From there you can appreciate the Colombian and Panamanian coast at the same time. When you descend you will be stepping on the Panamanian coast you can enjoy a typical Panamá beer, Balboa.

El Aguacate, Capurgana, Colombia

What to do in Capurgana

Eating in Capurgana

The first thing you should know about local food in Capurgana is that a mix of tastes from around the world. Capurgana is full of fish and seafood delicacies, prepared with various aromatic herbs and vegetable plants.

Dishes are served with traditional sweet “coconut rice”, along with fried aborrajados (patties). Do not forget to taste the famous ceviche prepared with lemon juice, tomato, onion, coriander, mayonnaise.

A “must try” it’s the well-known “Encocado de Pargo (Red porgy)”, a local saltwater fish cooked in coconut sauce.

A shrimp ceviche cocktail served on plantains, Josefina’s Restaurant, Capurgana, Colombia

When it comes to drinks, at Capurgana you will find the largest variety of exotic fresh fruits, like chontaduro, almirajó, borojó, and others. So don’t miss the chance to try them all!

Among the different restaurant alternatives in Capurganá, we recommend Donde Josefina’s restaurant, whose menu includes lobster and octopus.

Bear in mind that whatever you eat comes from a local artisanal fishing project. Fishing generates employment, thus, improving their economic conditions.

Interested in environmentally friendly activities?

Head to Capurgana or Sapzurro, and help with some beach cleaning at ECOPAZIFICO foundation. This “plastic-free ocean” foundation keeps beaches and forests well-preserved from human interaction.

Diving

In Capurgana you can still find many coral reefs very well preserved. Among the great variety of marine life, you can appreciate the following species: Lobsters, groupers, surgeonfish, damselfish, parrotfish, trumpet angelfish, trumpet fish, snappers, nurse sharks, and hawksbill turtles.

These species you can see in any of the 30 dive sites, where certified divers are available.

Cabo Tiburón

The best sector for diving in Capurgana is between the border with Panama at Cabo Tiburón to the municipality of Acandí. There is 30 km of crystal clear waters suitable for freediving and scuba diving.

The best time for diving is in the middle of the winter season, from April to November, when the waves practically disappear.

Capurganá has certified diving operators by the international agency PADI. In the area, you can observe a variety of corals, reef fish, and marine landscapes in an excellent state of conservation.

Turtle watching

The turtle season in Capurgana runs from April to May, and beautiful sea turtles can be observed, including the endangered Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), and Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), which come to these shores to lay their eggs, which hatch between June and July each year.

Acandí is the only place in Colombia where the giant Leatherback sea turtle nests. The entire municipality of Acandí is considered a safe natural sanctuary for these turtle species because the inhabitants have been educated for their conservation and to avoid their extermination.

The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Tinglar, USVI

Things to Bear in Mind

  • Traveling is most convenient between April and October since it is not a peak season and places should not be that crowded. During December and January, queues are crazy and booking accommodation is challenging.
  • Mobile connection in the area is very unstable, so you use CLARO (a local mobile service provider). Get a local SIM card at any of the airports before traveling to Capurgana;
  • It is necessary to carry cash with you since ATMs will not be available.
  • If you are taking the Necocli route, bear in mind that only one boat departs early in the morning (8:00 am). If you are landing later, considering booking a place to stay for the night.

If you want to plan your trip to Colombia do not hesitate to contact us, visit our Plan your trip page!

References
  • Correa Herrera Tatiana, Toro Restrepo Beatriz, Rosique Javier. SOME ASPECTS OF THE BIOECOLOGY OF THE WEST INDIAN TOPSHELL CITTARIUM PICA (MOLLUSCA: GASTEROPODA) IN THE DARIEN COLOMBIAN CARIBBEAN. Bol. Cient. Mus. Hist. Nat. Univ. Caldas [Internet]. 2012 Dec [cited 2021 Apr 23] ; 16( 2 ): 162-172. Available from: http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0123-30682012000200014&lng=en.
  • Ecopazifico NGO Website
About the authors

Luisa Martin

Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.

Sara Colmenares

The current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism–environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.