How to visit Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas (2020)?

How to visit Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas (2020)?

Cabo De La Vela and Punta Gallinas are two places that appear regularly on traveler’s itineraries. Why is it so popular? Should you add it to your Colombia itinerary?

I’ve been 3 times to the La Guajira desert, and you will find in this post all you need to know to visit Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas.

Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas: What you must know

Where is it: Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas are in the La Guajira desert, on the Eastern Caribbean Coast.

How to get to La Guajira: Read our La Guajira Travel guide to know the transportation options.

Cabo de la Vela: It’s a small fisher town only accessible by jeep. It’s a famous place for kitesurfing. There are a few kitesurf school. However, it will be easier for you if you stay in Riohacha.

Punta Gallinas: It’s the northernmost point of South America. There are tours leaving from Santa Marta and Riohacha.

Points of interest: The landscapes are quite astonishing, and the atmosphere is mesmerizing. Furthermore, you get the occasion to learn a bit about an indigenous community: The Wayúu.

Private tours: These guys are excellent. I’m sure you’ll like their amazing tours in La Guajira.

What I don’t like: You stay many hours in a jeep every day and you don’t exchange much with locals. Pick your local travel agency with care.

Can you do it on your own: You can arrive in Cabo de la Vela on our own, then you must take a tour to go to Punta Gallinas.

How many days: It’s a 3-day tour if you want to visit Cabo de la Vela + Punta Gallinas.

Safety: The tour is 100% safe, but don’t wander on your own near the border with Venezuela. Learn more safety tips.

Weather: From September to November, the dirt road becomes a mud road because of the rain. Avoid going there during this period.

Where to stay: In Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas, you will sleep in hammocks most of the time. You won’t find them on the internet.

Our best Guajira tips:

  • Plan your expedition to La Guajira from Dibulla.
  • Try to include PNN Macuira on your tour.

Discover our guide on La Guajira to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to visit this mysterious desert.

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Table of contents

1. Wayúu and their culture
2. Packing list
3. How to visit Cabo de la Vela
4. How to visit Punta Gallinas
5. Example of an itinerary
6. Budget if you go without a tour
7. FAQ
8. Conclusion
9. Our free Travel Ebook
10. Stop bothering with the organization. We do it.

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1. The Wayuu’s Territory

La Guajira desert

As you know, it’s not easy to live in the desert. It’s a harsh and hot environment, water is a scarce resource, and it’s hard to cultivate lands.

It's a harsh environment

However, the indigenous who are living there in La Guajira fought for more than 400 years everyone who tried to expulse them from their home.

The Wayuu, as they call themselves, are fierce warriors, proud of their culture and tradition. They represent 20% of Colombia’s total Amerindian population. They are usually living in Rancherias – Clustering of 5 – 6 cabanas – and they keep their distance from each other – to avoid mixing goats.

The Wayuu handicraft

Like most of the indigenous, they convey their cultural heritage through fantastic stories – A Man’s job – and superb handcraft creation – A woman’s job.

Wayuus are famous for the weaving of colorful bags, also named Wayuu’s Mochila – Ah, by the way, do you know how to say Backpacker in Spanish? …. Mochilero!. These bags are not made randomly. Each pattern and color have a signification. The Wayuu lady has to master them all after she got her first period – She will stay in her house few months, only surrounded by other women, to learn everything about their knowledge and how to be a perfect Wayuu wife – Yep, it’s quite strict.

These bags represent one of the main incomes for the families. Nowadays, tourism is playing a significant part too.

Because of their culture and situation, they’re living at the margins of society. It results in a high uneducated percentage of the population and alcohol problems. And thanks to big companies who are collecting important quantities of coal, they have fewer lands to cultivate near the river – I’m so proud of you big guys! It’s ironic. I hate them.

To resume, if you want to help them, be smiling, respect their culture, don’t work with kids and buy a Wayuu bag or a hammock 🙂

There is a Wayuu culture festival every year in Uribia, usually from the 31/05 to 02/06.

2. To-do list before going to La Guajira

Packing your bag (1)

If you leave with an organized tour to the La Guajira Desert, you will be asked to take only a small bag (to make it more comfortable in the jeep).

You must not forget..

  • Buy gallons of water (10 L). You will save money, and it’s more ecological than little bottles. If you want to earn some good Karma point, you should buy one for the kids too 😉
  • Only take a refillable water bottle if you go on a tour.
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimming short
  • A hat
  • Extra batteries or a power bank if you want to take pictures and play Candy crush at night
  • A thin blanket or a jumper – Towels are fine too. You will probably sleep in a hammock. It’s nice to have something to put on you when it’s windy
  • Bring your own food if you’re vegetarian. You won’t have access to the kitchens.
  • Cash – There is no ATM in Cabo de la Vela or Punta Gallinas!

The town of Uribia will be your last chance to buy the last things you need for your trip to Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas in La Guajira.

3. Visit Cabo de la Vela in La Guajira

1# How to get to Cabo de la Vela, La Guajira

Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela

Let’s start with the farthest, which is Santa Marta.

  1. If you’re arriving in Santa Marta, you can take another bus directly in the direction of Riohacha. It’s also possible to take it next to “La Bomba”. It’s a gas station outside the city.
    Around 3 hours / 21 000 COP
  2. In Riohacha, you need to take a shared taxi to get to 4 Vias – It’s a crossroads.
    1 hour / 5 000 COP
  3. In 4 vias, if you are lucky and not alone, you can take a 4×4 going directly to Cabo de la Vela.
    Around 2 hours – 30 000 COP. 
  4. If you have no friends, you have to take another shared taxi to get to Uribia.
    1 hour / 5 000 COP
  5. From Uribia, they are 4×4 or trucks going to Cabo de la Vela. You will be buried under a mountain of chips.
    2-3 hours / 15 – 20 000 COP 

Read our travel guide to plan your trip in Santa Marta.

From Palomino to Cabo de la Vela

You have to wait for a bus on the side of the main road. You will stop in:

  • 4 Vias – 2 hours / 15 000 COP
  • or Riohacha – 1 hour / 8 000 COP

Then you have to follow the previous instructions.

In my opinion, Palomino is a perfect spot to start an expedition to Cabo de la Vela / Punta Gallinas. You can let your backpack at the hostel and only travel for a few days with your day bag. You’re going to a desert. You don’t need a thousand things – mainly water, swimming short and money.

Furthermore, you gonna be happy to not carry your backpack everywhere in La Guajira Colombia as you have to take shared taxis, jeeps, and speedboat. Life is better when you’re traveling light. You can also laugh about the other travelers and their giant bags.

Do you know: Germans have a particular word for this situation. It’s “Schadenfreude.” I love it! Does it mean I’m a bad person? :0

Read our travel guide to plan your trip in Palomino.

From Riohacha to Cabo de la Vela

You can arrive by bus to Riohacha from:

  • Santa Marta
  • Palomino
  • Dibulla

Moreover, there is a small airport in town with direct flights from Bogotá. The airline companies are Avianca and Viva Air.

Be careful, there are only a few flights per day. And the prices can quadruple if you’re booking them at the last minute – if you’re lucky to get one. Especially during the high season. The best way to check the availability is to use the function “explore” on Google flights.

Price and time: Around 200 000 COP / 1h45

Then, you follow our previous instructions to get to Cabo de la Vela.

Moto rental in La Guajira (+)

I’ve heard it’s also possible to rent motorbikes and travel by yourself in La Guajira Colombia. I don’t have any information about it, but I would be glad to edit my detailed guide if you’re writing your experience in the comment section!

Map Around Palomino, Cabo de la vela in la guajira Colombia

2# Where to stay in Cabo de la Vela, La Guajira

There are plenty of places where you can sleep in Cabo de la Vela. Many locals are renting hammocks on the beach. To get a room is possible too.

Keep in mind that you are in the La Guajira desert. Don’t imagine yourself having a bath, a jacuzzi, or a shower.

Prices and tips (+)

Prices: 

  • Hammock: 10 000 COP
  • Bed or Ranchero (Large hammock): 15 000 COP

Your best shot to get a private room is to go to the Caracol hotel.

There are no hostels in Cabo de la Vela. If you want to find a friendly place to share and exchange with other people, take a look at the kitesurfing schools.

Take a look at Tawi Kite center.

3# Things to do in Cabo de la Vela, La Guajira

Beach Pilon de Azucar (+)

There is a beautiful beach a little up north. You can take a moto-taxi to get there. Take one moto-taxi per person, even if they say they can fit two people. Enjoy the view, it’s fantastic.

The sea will be calmer in the morning. The moto-taxi will wait for you.

Price and time: Moto taxi: 5000 COP (one way) – 15 min

Sunset from the lighthouse (+)

It’s a lighthouse located outside Cabo de la Vela. You can stop there when coming back from your beach session in Pilon de Azucar. Be there at sunset. You won’t regret it 😉

Price and time: Moto taxi: 5000 COP (one way) – 10 min

Kitesurf in Cabo de la Vela (+)

Cabo de la Vela is a paradise for kitesurfers and windsurfers. It’s always windy, and the sea is as flat as a lake.

There are a few kitesurfing schools in Cabo de la Vela. You can take classes – Package of hours – and you can get the accommodation for free (or at least a discount).

Take a look at Tawi Kite center.

The average price for a 1-hour kitesurfing class: 120 000 COP

It’s also possible to rent the equipment: Around 80 000 COP/ 1 hour.

Edit 2019: Most of the Kitesurf Schools are now Riohacha. However, they still organize kitesurf camps to Cabo de la Vela: Praikite and kiteaddictcolombia.

Exploring Punta Gallinas (+)

It’s a two days trip in La Guajira Colombia desert to the northernmost point of South America. I will explain it more in detail later in this article.

4. How to leave from Cabo de la Vela, La Guajira

Hitch-hike

You can’t. You’ll stay with the indigenous Wayúu forever.

I’m joking. 😀

If your plan was only to get to Cabo de la Vela – Without visiting Punta Gallinas -, you have to go back to the civilization on your own. No worry, it’s simple.

Many jeeps bring workers every day to Uribia. You need to wake up around 5 am and take one of them. You can ask your host to help you, or you can wait on the roadside.

Prices and tips (+)

  • Prices and time: 1h30 / around 15 000 COP.

Then from Uribia

  • Negotiate a car going directly to your hostel in Palomino: approx. 160,000 COP (in total) | 2 hours

Or

Find a cab to get out of Uribia. Buses can be taken outside the city.

  • Bus Uribia to 4 vias (It is a crossroads): 6000 COP / 1 hour
  • 4 vias to Palomino: 12,000 COP / 2 hours

Sometimes, you will have to change buses in Riohacha (or stay there for the night).

4. Punta Gallinas in La Guajira

As I said earlier, Punta Gallinas is the northernmost point of South America. There is nothing around except the silence of the desert and the noise of the waves. You don’t go there for the landscapes – Even if there are fantastic. No, you go there for the experience because it’s far from everything and very few people have let their ephemeral footprints in the dunes.

The hostel in Punta Gallinas is basic, and you will sleep in a hammock belong to a few other backpackers. But you won’t care because sunrise, sunset, and stars will be yours only.

1# Which tours to Punta Gallinas should you book

If you check on the internet “Punta Gallinas tours”, I’m sure you have found tens of results. I can’t evaluate each company as I don’t even know them.

However, I can give you a few guidelines to help you make a choice.

Let’s start by choosing your departure city.

  • Santa Marta
  • Riohacha
  • Cabo de la Vela
  • Dibulla
  • Palomino

From Santa Marta

  • Most of the Punta Gallinas tours last 3 days / 2 nights
  • You stay 1 night in Cabo de la Vela and 1 night in Punta Gallinas
  • You stop on the way to admire Uribia and the salt collection in Manaure
  • You spend many hours in the car
  • It costs around 250$ all included

Find more information about Santa Marta in our travel guide.

From Riohacha

  • Most of the Punta Gallinas tours last 3 days / 2 nights
  • 1 night in Cabo de la Vela and 1 night in Punta Gallinas.
  • It costs around 180$ all included
  • In this post, we speak about the best travel agency in Riohacha.

You can also ask around in order to meet a local with a private jeep. They will offer you to be your driver for 2 days. But, the price would be expensive if you’re alone. In a group, you can pay as little as 150 000 COP each – only for the 3 days transport.

Note: there is a tour in the Alta Guajira that I would love experiencing. It allows you to admire the national natural park La Makuira – an oasis made of lush vegetation and waterfalls -, nestled in the middle of the La Guajira desert. The contrast of colors with the white-sand dunes is breathtaking.

Find more information about Riohacha in our travel guide.

From Cabo de la Vela

You don’t need to book it in advance.  You don’t even have to look for it. A local will come to you within an hour.

It’s usually possible to leave the next morning – Departure at 5 am.

Even if you’re alone, they will put you in a jeep with other travelers. It’s around 8 people for each jeep. But if you’re in a group, you can bargain more.

The tour will end in Uribia the next day.

The Punta Gallinas tours from Cabo de la vela only include the price of the transport for the 2 days. But, no worries, a hammock will be available for you in Punta Gallinas.

You can ask the driver if it’s possible to stay one more night in Punta Gallinas. You have to notify him before starting the tour. Thus, he can organize a jeep with a place available for your return from Punta Gallinas.

Last time, we were 4, and we paid 120 000 COP each for the transport.

2# How much does it cost to stay in Punta Gallinas

All tours from Cabo de la Vela travel to the same rancheria. There is always a hammock or a Chinchorro for their passengers ;). Besides, there is a shop to buy water, beers, chips, and order breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

If you leave with an organized tour, all expenses below are included (except for beers).

Prices in Punta Gallinas (+)

  • Hammock: 15 000 COP
  • Chinchorro: 25 000 COP
  • Lunch and Dinner: 15 000 COP
  • Lobster: 30 000 COP
  • Breakfast: 7 000 COP
  • Baby beer: 3 000 COP

3# Things to do in Punta Gallinas

All the Punta Gallinas tours leaving from Cabo de la Vela are doing the same itinerary

Day 1 in Punta Gallinas

5 am – Departure from Cabo de la Vela

8h30 am – Arrival at Punta Gallinas – Breakfast

9h30 am – Exploration of Punta Gallinas – Don’t forget your water and sunscreen

  • Stop at the mirador to observe the fantastic Bahia Hondita / Honda
  • Stop at the lighthouse – The northernmost point of La Guajira Colombia and South America
  • Swimming session at Taroa dunes

2h00 pm – You get back to the Rancheria

5h00 pm– A walk to another beach to observe the sunset

Day 2 in Punta Gallinas

  • 8h30 am – Departure to Uribia by jeep
  • 11h00 am – Arrival at Uribia

You can decide to enjoy another night in Punta Gallinas, but you have to notify it to the driver at the beginning of the tour. The jeeps don’t stay with us for 2 days. They drive back to Cabo de la Vela every day.

If you leave with an organized tour, you will stop for lunch in Uribia and then continue to Riohacha or Santa Marta.

4# How to leave Punta Gallinas

The jeep will bring you to Uribia. From there, you just have to follow the indications explained before. Here.

5. Itinerary Cabo de la Vela + Punta Gallinas 

Here are my recommendations if you want to enjoy Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas on your own.

Keep in mind that you need 3 days minimum to visit Punta Gallinas from Palomino.

4-day to Punta Gallinas (+)

—————————— Day 1————————–

  • Early morning (Around 10 am) – Departure from Palomino to Cabo de la Vela
  • Around 4 pm – Arrival at Cabo de la Vela
  • Looking for accommodation in Cabo de la Vela, beers, sunset, and kitesurfing

—————————— Day 2 ————————–

  • Morning – Beach at Pilon de Azucar
  • Afternoon – Book a tour to Punta Gallinas the next day
  • End of the Afternoon – Sunset at El Faro (Lighthouse)

———————— Day 3 & Day 4————————-

  • Punta Gallinas Tour – Check out the previous section
  • Around 2-3h pm: Arrival at Palomino

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6. Budget Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas

Budget

Every budget is different according to the travelers’ needs. If you’re traveling on a shoestring budget, a tour to Punta Gallinas can be a little expensive for you. Especially if you’re booking a tour from Santa Marta.

Budget for Cabo de la Vela (+)

  • Palomino to Cabo de la Vela: 45 000 COP
  • Moto taxi (Lighthouse and Pilon de Azucar) : 5000 * 4= 20 000 COP
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches and 2 Dinners: 10 000* 2 + 15 000 * 4= 80 000 COP
  • Juices, beers, and water: 30 000 COP
  • 2 nights Hammock: 10 000 * 2 = 20 000 COP
  • Total: 195 000 COP

Budget for Punta Gallinas (+)

  • 2 Days tours Punta Gallinas – Transport: 120 000 COP
  • 1 night in a Chinchorro: 25 000 COP
  • 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner: 45 000 COP
  • Beers and water: 20 000 COP
  • The way back from Uribia to Palomino: 20 000 COP
  • Total: 230 000 COP

Total: 425 000 COP / 3 days & 3 Nights

Don’t forget there is no ATM in Cabo de la Vela or Punta Gallinas.

7. Q&A Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas

Questions (1)

Is there any tienda where to buy fruits vegetables and other stuff?

There are small shops where you can easily buy water and chips. However, it will be harder to find vegetables. You should buy them in Uribia.

Is it possible to go in one day from Punta Gallinas all the way to Cartagena? 

No, it’s impossible. The best option would be to stop 1 night in Palomino and 1 night in Cabo de la Vela.

It’s also possible to find hostels in Riohacha.

Is it possible to get my flight from Riohacha the day we leave Punta Gallinas?

Yes, you should catch it easily if it’s scheduled for after 7 pm.

Can I find a hostel in Cabo de la Vela with a shared kitchen?

I don’t think so.

How do we organize the return from Punta Gallinas by car if we stay for more than one night?

You have to ask the jeep’s driver if it’s possible at the beginning of the tour. Most of the time it is doable as he is coming back every day with new travelers.

In a nutshell, Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas

There are all kinds of landscapes in Colombia. The country is famous for its Caribbean beaches, its huge mountains, the lush vegetation in the Amazon rainforest, etc… But only a few people know there is a fantastic desert nestled on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia

By going to Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas, you will travel to a different part of Colombia. A place where the environment is harsh and can’t be mastered. The Wayuu have adapted their culture and way of life to survive on these lands for hundreds of years. It’s not easy every day, but they deal with it and keep a warm smile on their face.

If you’re looking for a resort and chilling at the beach, you could be disappointed. But if you want to live a different experience and be lost in the silence of the desert, I’m sure you will appreciate it.

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How to visit the La Guajira desert
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I fell in love with Colombia 5 years ago. Through this website, we help every month thousands of travelers to plan their trip to this beautiful country. Use our Premium service on the site www.Colombia-insider.com if you want us to take care of everything for the organization of your trip to Colombia.

4 comments

  1. Patri says:

    This is the most useful post i ve ever read about how to get to Punta Gallinas. Just what i was looking for. Now I just have to pray for it to go well and be on time in my next destination.

    Thank you so much!!!!

  2. Kfir says:

    Hi Tom! Just came back from Cabo and wanted to thank you for this extremely detailed post and tips. Made my journey way easier and clear. Gracias!!

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