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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Feeding, bothering, or hunting animals, alcoholic drinks and drugs, throwing cigarette butts, burning garbage, felling, and capturing wildlife.
- Colparques website
- Parques Nacionales Website
About the authors
Engineer, world traveler, amateur photographer, traveling blogger, and foody.