Ultimate Travel Guide to the Utría National Natural Park

Discover the natural wonders of Utría National Natural Park in Colombia. It is possible to admire a series of mountainous spurs covered with exuberant tropical jungle, and bathed by the mysterious waters of the Pacific Sea. Its landscapes can be described with rainforest, mangroves, and gray beaches, and it is an ideal place for whale watching in Colombia.

Discovering Utría National Natural Park

This park locates in the Biogeographic Choco Forest, belonging to the Baudo mountain range, in the north of the Colombian Pacific coast, in the department of Choco. This region is known worldwide to be the rainiest, and it is also an important biodiversity hotspot.

The park has a unique peaceful boat ride way inset to the sounds of the jungle. A beautiful lagoon of marine water surrounded by mangroves and gray beaches welcomes you.

At Utría, you can evidence a fracture of the earth generated millions of years ago. This fracture allows seawater to flow for 7km inland.

The Baudó mountain range gives rise to the Boroboro, Jurubidá, Baudó, Chori and Bojayá rivers, as well as the giant Caribbean and Pacific hydrographic areas. The hydrographic representation of this area is 2,242 MMC.

Biodiversity

This protected area has 7 of the 10 species of mangroves and hidden rocky cliffs reaching heights of 1,400 meters above sea level. Depending on the season, mangrove roots protrude like land animals at low tide. When the tide rises, roots hide underwater, serving as a shelter for water animals that visit to mate.

The diversity of the park makes it a magical place to appreciate diverse environments and ecosystems. The contrast of tropical rainforest and reefs makes the flora and fauna of this protected area quite unique and diverse.

Ethnography

Utría is a territory populated by two communities that are strategic allies for the conservation and protection of the park.

On one side, the “Embera” natives, which live within the jungles of the province of Chocó, keeping their cultural traditions intact. Their presence is also noticeable in the provinces of Antioquia, Risaralda, Quindio, Caldas, Valle, Cauca, Cordoba, Putumayo, Caquetá and Nariño.

On the other side, the black afro-Colombian communities of the Pacific coast that are known for developing economic activities related to the art of the sea and are the ones that have the most contact with visitors of this protected area.

How to get to Utría National Natural Park

Bogotá-Medellín-Bahía Solano

Take a flight to Rionegro José María Córdoba (JMC) airport in Medellín. Take a taxi ride to Medellin´s alternative Olaya Herrera airport (OH) at the city center, about 40 minutes away.

From Olaya Herrera, you can take a flight to Bahia Solano using Colombia’s national airline, Satena. Finally, from Bahía Solano take a boat to Utria National Natural Park.

Bogotá-Quibdo-Bahía Solano

Take a 1-hour flight from Bogotá to El Caraño Airport (UIB) at Quibdo city. Once at the airport, you have to take a flight to Bahia Solano with Satena Airline. Finally, from Bahía Solano take a boat to Utria National Natural Park.

Cali-Buenaventura-Bahía Solano

Take a 145-minute flight from Bogotá to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) at Palmira city. Once at the airport, take an approximately 3-hour ride to Buenaventura.

In Buenaventura, take a 6 hours boat trip to Bahia Solano. Lastly, from Bahía Solano take a boat to Utria National Natural Park.

Although these three routes exist, we recommend the Medellin-Bahia Solano route because it is the safest.

What to do in Utría National Natural Park

Utría National Natural Park is currently closed. Those who wish to visit Utría and carry out ecotourism activities may do so in the day trip mode, that is, enter the protected area in the morning and leave at the time arranged by the park.

The staff of Utría National Natural Park is the only one in charge of registering at the park’s entrance, giving induction talks, explaining the authorized sites, and providing recommendations for any activity within the protected area.

Utría National Natural Park, known as the ‘cradle of whales’, continues its whale season without any setbacks, as in previous years.

Hiking and Trekking

Hiking along any of the 3 available trails is the most exciting activity in Utría National Natural Park:

  • Cocalito Trail, the round trip is about 1 km, 1 hour and it’s of moderate level of difficulty.
  • Estero Grande Trail, the round trip is about 611 m, 40 minutes, low level of difficulty.
  • Water trip, about 1.1 km long, with a low degree of difficulty; it can be done by canoeing at high tide.

Diving and Snorkeling

Diving at Punta Esperanza and Punta Diego, an ecosystem rich in coral formations and marine life is a must-do. At Playa Blanca, there is a marked snorkeling area. Diving programs, rental equipment, and facilities are available on site.

Wildlife Observation in Utría

Utría hosts unique ecosystems on the planet and is ideal for observing a great amount of native fauna and flora. Regarding mammals, at the Utría Natural National Park it is possible to observe:

  • Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)
  • Jaguar (Panthera onca centralis),
  • Neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis),
  • Gray-bellied night monkey (Aotus lemurinus zonalis),
  • Geoffroy’s spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi),
  • Mantled howler (Alouatta palliata),
  • Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii),
  • White-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari),
  • Tamarins (Saguinus sp.),
  • Colombian white-faced capuchin (Cebus capuccinus),
  • Margay (Leopardus wiedii),
  • Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata),
  • Common opossum (Didelphys marsupialis),
  • South American coati (Nasua nasua),
  • Lowland paca (Cuniculus paca),
  • Red brocket (Mazama americana),
  • Tayra (Eira barbara) y
  • Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth (Chloepus hoffmanni)

With regards to marine life, it is worth noting that this point of the Pacific is ideal for animal mating and the birth of the amazing humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Orcas, or killer whales (Orcinus orca), and sperm whales or cachalot (Physeter macrocephalus).

Ocypode gaudichaudii, also known as the painted ghost crab or cart driver crab. Huina Beach, Bahía Solano, Chocó.

The area has 105 species of decapod crustaceans, where the painted ghost crab (Ocypode gaudichaudii) is a predominant species. There is also the presence of bivalves such as the Hacha (Pinna rugosa) and “piangua” (Anadara spp.), and mollusks such as the Eastern Pacific giant conch (Titanostrombus galeatus).

It is also possible to see endangered species of sea turtles on the beaches such as the olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), the hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).

Bird Watching

Around 270 species of birds may be observed in Utria National Natural Park, being the most diverse watching spot in the area. The endemic birds in the Utria park are:

  • Choco tinamou or Chocó tinamou (Crypturellus kerriae)
  • The Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja)
  • Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus)
  • The Great Curassow (Crax rubra)

Other bird species are Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), Tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor), Yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and many migratory shorebirds.

Where to stay in Utría National Natural Park

Utría National Natural Park offers shared accommodations within the Park. Additional accommodation alternatives are available close by. Our suggested choices are:

  • Ecolodge El Almejal is located in Bahia Solano, 24 km away from the protected area.
  • Hotel Costa Choco is in Bahia Solano, 30 km away from the protected area.
  • Coco Loco Lodge is in Bahia Solano, 23 km away from the protected area.

Best time to visit the Utría National Natural Park

Humpback whale watching season happens between July and November. Note that at Utría it rains for approximately 300 days a year, and October is considered the rainiest month.

Utría National Natural Park Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors. These are the entrance fees for 2021:

  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 13,000
  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 19,500
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 55,000
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance presenting their IDs.

What to consider before visiting Utría National Natural Park

  • To take any of the tours inside the park you must hire an authorized and certified guide.
  • Consider wearing personal protective items (sun blocker, sunglasses, towel, insect repellent, and hat).
  • The use of flash when taking photographs is prohibited.
  • Recommended the use of binoculars to admire animals’ behavior and beauty in their natural habitat.
  • Carry valid identity documents and health insurance. It is recommended to be vaccinated against yellow fever and tetanus.
  • If you take specific medications, take them with you. It’s never enough to carry a personal medicine kit.

Some prohibitions

Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.

References
About the authors

Luisa Martin

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

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.

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.

Top 5 Tips Before Traveling to Cabo de la Vela, La Guajira, Colombia 

An off-the-beaten-track destination that has slightly become a must-visit in the Colombia travelers’ lists – this is Cabo de la Vela. Cabo de la Vela is a small coastal village in the northernmost region of Colombia and South America, exactly in the department of La Guajira, known for its golden beaches and strong indigenous traditions. Traveling to Cabo de la Vela is an adventurous experience you should consider if you are planning a trip to Colombia’s Caribbean coast. 

In this post, you will find all the information you need to know before traveling to Cabo de la VelaWhy you should visit it, how to get there, where to stay, the best time to visit, and also what other attractions you can find along the La Guajira desert. 

Discovering La Guajira and Cabo de la Vela 

La Guajira is the northernmost department of the 32 departments that make up Colombia. It is part of the Colombian Caribbean natural region and borders the deep blue Caribbean Sea to the north and east, and Venezuela to the east. With a population of over 900,000 inhabitants in an area of 20,800 km2 (8,049 sq mi), you could say it is not the most densely populated zone in the country. Despite that, the department is home to a variety of ethnicities, the indigenous being the largest. The Wayuu indigenous community is the most representative, but there are the Kogui, Ika, Kankuamo and Wiwa that inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. You can find Muslim population too. This ethnic melting pot causes that Spanish is not the only language spoken but Wayuunaiki and other dialects. 

Another aspect that characterizes this region is the climate. La Guajira’s climate is arid, dry and has high temperatures – it is actually the driest region in the countryThe average temperature ranges from 22 to 30 °C, rising up to 42 °C. You can find mostly desert areas, with savannas, dry and rain forests in some points. Part of the Sierra Nevada and the Serranía del Perijá belong to La Guajira and to the north you find also Serranía de Macuira, which are biodiversity hotspots in the middle of the desert. Because of its location, La Guajira has great potential for electricity production from solar radiation and wind. 

La Guajira is divided into 15 municipalities including Riohacha – the capital. Cabo de la Vela is a headland in the northern part of the peninsula where some people settled down and formed a small village. The Wayuu believe that Jepirra – as they call it, is a sacred place where the spirits of their deceased arrive to journey into the “unknown”. Today it is an important destination for ecotourism in the Caribbean region of Colombia, where travelers can enjoy amazing landscapes and interact with the local culture. 

1. How to get to Cabo de La Vela

Bogota – Riohacha  

The first step is to get to Riohacha, the capital of La Guajira. There are about 2 to 3 direct flights from Bogota to Riohacha’s Almirante Padilla International Airport with Avianca and Viva Air airlines. The trip is 1,044 km (648.7 mi) and 1 hour 40 minutes long.  

From the main cities on the Caribbean coast – such as Santa Marta and Cartagena, you can travel there by bus. From Santa Marta, the trip takes 4 hours approximately. 

From other cities in central and southern Colombia, the best option is to fly to Bogota and then to Riohacha (most flights make a stop in Bogota anyways). 

Riohacha  Uribia  Cabo de la Vela   

This is where the adventure begins since it is not as simple to get to Cabo de la Vela on your own. In Riohacha, you should take a shared taxi to Cuatro Vias which is a crossroad where informal transport is arranged. This takes you almost an hour. At Cuatro Vias, you mostly find Jeeps / shared taxis that leave once full and charge around 15,000 COPThese drop you off in Uribia about 30 minutes later. There, you have to get on a 4×4 truck with other people and tons of load to finally arrive at Cabo de la Vela. This last stretch of the trip takes 1.5 to 2 hours and costs 15-20,000 COP. 

So, the whole journey from Riohacha to Cabo de la Vela takes 3 hours or moreas it is nearly 200 km to the north.  There are direct private transfers organized by hotels in Riohacha – it might be easier considering this option. 

2. Where to stay in Cabo de la Vela  

Finding accommodation in Cabo de la Vela is easy. However, you should keep in mind that there is no running water and no electricity. Power is produced by generator and for showering, sometimes you will have to use a bucket. 

Sleeping in hammocks is the most common choice. You find these in the rancherías, the typical Wayuu huts where they live and offer tourist services.  You can also choose to sleep in a chinchorro, a larger hammock. Prices range from 10,000 COP to 20,000 COP per person per night, but if you take breakfast it should be more than that. 

Some beachfront hostels offer basic private rooms for about 30,000 COP or the hammocks option too. 

If you are more the always-looking-for-comfort person, you should probably stay at a hotel in Riohacha and take one-day tour to Cabo de la Vela. 

3. Best time to travel to Cabo de la Vela 

As La Guajira is still undiscovered by most Colombians and foreign tourists, you can have a nearly private experience traveling to Cabo de la Vela, but a general recommendation is to plan your Colombian trips avoiding the high seasons, which usually go from June to early August and from November to February, also during Holy Week. 

As for the weather, the dry season is during the first 4 months of the year and the rainy season goes from September to NovemberTraveling to Cabo de la Vela during the rainy season can make the journey quite difficult, so it is better to visit the cape in other months. 

4. What to do in Cabo de la Vela 

Pilón de Azúcar  

Visiting Pilón de Azúcar is usually the first activity of tours in Cabo de la Vela; you can get in 20 minutes by moto-taxi. It is a small, grayish hill from where you have a 360° view of the blue-green Caribbean Sea, the adjacent beach and the desert. You can climb the hill in 10-15 minutes and feel the strong winds at the top. There is an altar of the Virgin of Fatima, but the importance of this place is related to the Wayuu cosmogony – this is where their ancestors’ spirits get to rest. Pilón de Azúcar beach is excellent, it has golden sand and waters apt for swimming. 

Ojo de Agua beach 

This is another beach where you can have a refreshing dip but it is average. The name comes from a freshwater pool in the coastal rocks.  

El Faro 

This small lighthouse is a great spot to watch the incredible Caribbean sunset of La Guajira, so finish your day here. 

Arcoiris beach 

This is the northernmost point of Cabo de la Vela and is a beach where you see a rainbow when the waves hit strongly the coastal rocks under a direct sunray. This is possible in the afternoon; however, you cannot always see it. 

Kitesurfing and windsurfing 

Adventurous travelers find joy in La Guajira because the winds are pretty strong, meaning the sea here is perfect for practicing kitesurf and windsurf. There are several schools managed by Wayuu people that offer 1-hour to full-day classes. 

Wayuu Culture 

Buying handicrafts from the Wayuu is a must. Their mochilas (handmade bags) and other knitted souvenirs take a lot of effort and time from the Wayuu women. Knitting a handbag can take up to a week! Each product has a unique design and bright colors. Also, this is an important income source for the population. 

Manaure salt mines 

On the road to Cabo de la Vela, you can make a stop at the Manaure salt mines, near Uribia. These are known for being the largest salt mines in Colombia, there you see large piles of salt and clear pools in between. 

Punta Gallinas 

By traveling a couple of hours more towards the north, Punta Gallinas receives the most daring tourists. This is the northernmost tip of the continent where you find the amazing Taroa dunes, another lighthouse/viewpoint and more rancherías. 

5. What you should consider when traveling to Cabo de la Vela 

  • Although it is possible to travel to Cabo de la Vela independently, it is better to book with a local agency to avoid any hassles and feel safer. This way you just need to worry about having fun. 
  • Bring enough water for the trip. Buy water and snacks in Uribia as there is more variety of products. 
  • Consider the weather in the region to pack your clothes. Also, always use sunscreen and a cap. 
  • Support the local communities using their services and paying fair prices for their productsThis includes trying not to give away food or money. Tourism is the main income source for the inhabitants of La Guajira, which are impoverished and lack government presence. 

This was the essential information for traveling to Cabo de la Vela in La Guajira, Colombia. We hope this was useful and encouraged you to visit this beautiful country. 


References 

La Guajira’s official website 


About the authors.

Ana María Parra

Current content writer for Sula. Modern Languages professional with emphasis on business translation. Interested in cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism and sustainable living.

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Best Time to Visit Tayrona Park to Avoid Crowds and Bad Weather

Tayrona is one of the most important, and probably the most famous, National Natural Park in Colombia. Most tourists coming to Colombia pay a visit to this park that boasts spectacular beaches apt for adventure sports and an unforgettable getaway. This is definitely a mustvisit destination on your Colombia holiday. 

In this post, you will find all the information you need to know to visit the amazing Tayrona Park in Colombia, such as how to get there, the best time to visit, what you can do there, and some recommendations. 

Discovering Tayrona Park 

Tayrona is a protected area of 150 square kilometers (58 sq mi) in northern Colombia with stunning landscapes and biodiversity. It comprises both the sea territory on the Caribbean Sea and the coasts that plunge into the wild jungle that hosts the highest coastal mountain on earth – the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.  

Flora and Fauna at Tayrona Park

In Tayrona, you can find several bays such as ChengueGayracaCintoNeguanje, Concha, Guachaquita, white-sanded beaches, and mangrove swamps around them, dry, rain and cloud forests, and marine ecosystems such as coastal lagoons, rocky shores, coral reefs, among others. 

In fact, the park has one of the best conserved dry forest in the country. The plant diversity is huge – species such as Ceiba or sandbox tree (Hura crepitans), Trupillo (Prosopis julliflora),  Aromo (Acacia tortuosa),  Brasil (Haematoxylon brasiletto)Caracolí (Anacardium excelsum)Higuerón (Ficus sp.) and avocado (Persea americana) grow in the park. 

Wildlife present in Tayrona Park is also worth mentioning. The place is a paradise for birders since 396 bird species can be spotted, from shorebirds to high mountain birds, among which are the Rufous-vented Chachalaca (Ortalis ruficauda), Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti), Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Lepidopyga lilliae), Brown-throated Parakeet (Eupsittula pertinax) just to mention some of the forest ecosystem. 

As for the mammals, 59 species are recorded, including the Grey-bellied night monkey (Aotus lemurinus)White-fronted capuchin monkey (Cebus albifrons), Howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), sloth (Bradypus variegatus), armadillo (Dasypusnovemcinctus)Red brocket deer (Mazama americana), jaguar (Panthera onca), ocelote (Leopardus pardalis), anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), as well as 40 species of bats and 5 marine mammal species. 

Reptiles include the Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, and Leatherback sea turtles, the iguana, the American crocodile, and the boa constrictor are found. 

Indigenous at Tayrona Park

Tayrona is outside the territory of indigenous reserves, so no indigenous communities live there. However, the 4 indigenous communities that inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Kankuamo, Kogui, Wiwa, and Arhuaco) consider the coastal and lagoon zones within Tayrona as part of the sacred ancestral territory

This land must be respected as part of the cultural heritage of humanity and therefore protected by all visitors. Although a nature area shouldn’t be named an ancestral territory or a protected area for us to preserve it! Check other National Parks in Colombia open for ecotourism 

How to get to Tayrona Park 

Tayrona Park is 34 km (21 mi) from Santa Marta, in the Magdalena department, on the Colombian Caribbean coast. Access from the city is easy. If you haven’t organized a private transfer, you can take a taxi or a bus (usually leaves from the city’s market) and go on the Santa Marta – Riohacha route (called Troncal Caribe) for about 50 minutes. There are 3 entrances:  

El Zaino Entrance

El Zaino is the main entrance and allows you to access the following beaches in this order: CastilleteCañaveralArrecifeArenilla, La Piscina, Cabo San Juan, the Nudist Beach (Boca del Saco) and Playa Brava.  

Neguanje Entrance

If you plan a day trip and are not staying in the park, you can get to the Neguanje entrance (kilometer 5 on the same road to La Guajira), from where you can reach ChengueGayraca and Playa Cristal beaches.  

Calabazo Entrance

Last, 2 km before getting to the Zaino entrance is Calabazo. This is the entrance to reach the ruins of Pueblito, after a 3-hour hike. If you continue the hike, you get to Cabo San Juan and Playa Brava. 

By Boat from Taganga

Access to the park by boat is also possible. The boats leave from the village of Taganga, 5 km from Santa Marta, and take about 45 minutes to drop you in Cabo de San Juan area. 

Best time to visit Tayrona Park 

For quieter beaches and easily available accommodation, schedule your visit to Tayrona Park in September, October, and November. 

Like all tourist destinations in Colombia and the whole world, Tayrona Park gets really crowded during the peak seasons. Peak season in Colombia occurs from June to July and December to February.

Additionally, the holy week, 8 days, is held in March or April. It is better to avoid these moments and all holiday long weekends if you want to access relatively lonely beaches.

You should also check the Parques Nacionales webpage beforehand because the park closes for one month (usually January or February) every year.  

As for the weather, May, JulySeptember, and October are the rainiest months, but rain is occasional and does not greatly affect your plans, while the dry season may restrict bathing on some beaches.

What to do in Tayrona Park 

Lost City – Tayrona Park, Santa Marta

Beaches

In Tayrona, white sandy beaches with crystal waters surrounded by mangrove swamps and forests are the main attractions. The most visited ones are:

  • Cabo San Juan del Guia, which is beautiful and huge,
  • La Piscina (large shore and calm waves)
  • Arenilla (the small zone between Arrecife and La Piscina)
  • Cañaveral (where you find Ecohabs Tayrona, although you cannot swim in there),
  • La Piscinita (small zone next to Cañaveral apt for baths), and
  • Arrecifes (also not allowed to swimmers but with several campsites). 

Hiking

There are 4 hiking trails that go from low to high difficulty and from 1 to 4 hours. 

  • Kogui or Knowledge trail from Cañaveral to Arrecifes (low difficulty, one hour).  
  • Arrecifes Boca del Saco trail going through Arrecifes beach, the natural pool and Cabo San Juan del Guía (low difficulty, 2 hours).  
  • The stone road to Pueblito from Cabo San Juan del Guía (high difficulty, 3 hours).  
  • Calabazo – Pueblito – Cabo San Juan del Guía trail (high difficulty, 4 hours). 

Submarine fun

For those who are more adventurous, snorkeling and diving are available too. The areas for scuba diving are Isla Aguja and Granate, this activity is managed by the diving schools of the village of Taganga.

You can snorkel in Neguanje, in front of Playa del Muerto, or in the Tayrona natural pool. At Gayraca bay you can dive and snorkel. 

Birdwatching

As mentioned above, birdwatching in Tayrona Park is one of the best activities since there is huge diversity of avifauna. 

Fauna and Flora observation

Other animals that can be observed here are the howler monkey, cotton-top tamarin, deer, ocelot, and the jaguar, reptiles such as the blue poison dart frog, iguanas, and the American crocodile. Playful dolphins cheer lucky tourists too. Local flora includes evergreen trees, moss, bromeliads, and orchids. 

Pueblito

Other activities are observation of cultural and archaeological heritage in architecturally important areas. One of them is Pueblito, where you can find ruins of the Tayrona ancient indigenous civilization, after a hike that takes about 3 hours. Its stone structures such as terraces, paths, and stairs are well-conserved. 

Where to stay in Tayrona Park 

There are different types of accommodation in Tayrona Park for all tastes and budgets. 

Lodges 

  • Cañaveral sector: 14 ecohabs (eco-lodges), all for double accommodation, but 11 with an option for extra beds for up to 4 people in family accommodation. Designed like the traditional indigenous houses with views to the Cañaveral beach.  
  • Los Naranjos: ecohabs in Finca Barvolento, 2 minutes from Los Naranjos beach. 8 cabins with a private bathroom and terrace. There is also a private house on this beach, 5 minutes from the main entrance of the park.  
  • Arrecife: 2 independent cabins, each one for up to 5 hosts, in Arrecife beach. 

Camping zones 

Several beaches offer zones to set a tent or a hammock and spend the night under the starred sky. These are: 

  • Cabo San Juan offers public bathroom and a restaurant. A small station of the Colombian Civil Defense is located there. 
  • Playa Brava: a remote beach, 4 or 5 hours walking from Zaino o Calabozo, with public bathrooms, cabins, and a small restaurant. 
  • Arrecife: the best beach to camp, near the police and Civil Defense stations and with a great restaurant. The camping area doesn’t have views of the sea, though. 
  • Cañaveralarea without views of the sea, near La Piscinita. 
  • CastilletesFinca with large camping zones, public bathrooms, and a restaurant. Bathing in this stretch of sea is not allowed. You can get there directly by car. 
  • Bahia Concha: the camping zone is shaded by large trees and the sea is calm and crystalline. You can get there directly by car. 

Tayrona Park 2020 Entrance fees 

The entrance fee to Tayrona National Natural Park varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors, as well as the season of the year. These are the entrance fees for 2020: 

Peak Season 

(15 June – 15 July, 15 December – 15 January, Holy Week and long weekends) 

  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 20,000 
  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 28,500 
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 63,500 

Low Season  

  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 18,000 
  • Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25): COP 24,000 
  • Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 53,500 
  • People born in Santa Marta (ages 5 to 25): COP 9,000 
  • People born in Santa Marta (over 25 years old): COP 12,000 
  • Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance. 

 Additionally, depending on the vehicle you enter to the park in, you have a different fee: 

  • Car: COP 14,500  
  • Van: COP 37,000  
  • Bus: COP 78,000  
  • Motorcycle: COP 10,000 

What you should consider when you visit Tayrona Park 

  • Entry hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. 
  • The park has a daily capacity of 6,900 tourists, so make your reservations in advance. 
  • Having yellow fever and tetanus vaccines is recommended. 
  • Always carry your ID, it is required at the entrance. 
  • The introductory talk about environmental education is mandatory. 
  • The climate in the park and surrounding areas is tropical hot, with temperatures ranging from 27 to 35 °C (81 to 95 °F). Therefore, use light cotton clothes, preferably pants and long-sleeve shirts. Also, wear appropriate hiking shoes, waterresistant if possible. 
  • Bring a cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a lantern. 
  • Only swim in permitted areas. Bathing in the sea is allowed until 6 pm. 
  • Access to the indigenous sacred places is forbidden 
  • If you hire a guide, make sure they are certified and preferably local. 
  • Don’t bring any plastic bags, alcoholic drinks, instruments, and pets to the park, these are not allowed. Also don’t leave garbage (even organics) anywhere. 
  • #BreatheTayrona – During January/February, the Tayrona Park closes its doors for allowing the restoration of its ecosystems, by the request of the indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Check the status of the park before your trip. 
References 
About the authors

Ana María Parra

Current content writer for Sula. Modern Languages professional with an emphasis on business translation. Interested in the cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content.  Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism, and sustainable living.