Travel guide: Colombia’s Pacific Coast

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How to enjoy Colombia’s Pacific Coast

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Much of the Pacific coast of Colombia is isolated from the modern world by the western Andes Mountains. Along these immense beaches of black sand, the Afro-Colombian population has established peaceful villages, alternating surfing, and fresh coconuts.

Few travelers dare to venture to the Pacific coast of Colombia for lack of information.

I traveled 1 whole month on the Pacific coast, starting from Buenaventura to BahĂ­a Solano.

In this article, you will finally discover this hidden paradise 30 minutes by plane from MedellĂ­n.

→ and maybe stay in our favorite ecolodge on the Pacific Coast.

Vamos!

Pssst, if you are a bit worried about planning a few days in this part of Colombia or if you are afraid not to make the right choice you can also contact a Colombian travel agency.

Our map of Colombia’s Pacific coast

The Pacific coast of Colombia is looooong. You probably won’t be able to visit everything in 1 trip. There are 3 tourist areas that you can explore.

Most of the coastal towns and national parks mentioned in this post are on our map 👉

Pacific Coast of Colombia: Cities

First, let’s see the different coastal towns that you can visit.

I’ll start from the South of the Pacific Coast.

 

1# Buenaventura

Buenaventura - Flicker Manuel 3000 (1)
Credit: Manuel 3000

Buenaventura is the largest port city on the Pacific coast. There is a problem of poverty and insecurity due to the drug trade and corruption. If possible, avoid staying there at night.

Travelers pass through Buenaventura to reach Juanchaco.

 

2# Juanchaco

In front of Pacifico Hostel (1)
Pacifico Hostel

I must confess that Juanchaco did not seduce me. There are lots of trash in the streets. From there, you can go by cab to Ladrilleros.

Or you can walk there (40 min) by the beach when it’s low tide.

Before arriving in Juanchaco by boat, there is a hostel overlooking the sea. It is the Pacifico hostel. The wooden facilities are simple, and the organization is sometimes a bit chaotic. On the other hand, the landscapes are magnificent, and the food is good. They organize many activities. It is perfect for young backpackers.

 

3# Ladrilleros

Beach Ladrilleros

Ladrilleros is located 15-20 minutes by motorcycle cab from Juanchaco. There are several hotels built along the coast, among the coconut trees. It is in Ladrilleros that you will find the most comfortable hotels in the area.

We visited AguaMarina. There is a pool and rooms with A/C. If you want a comfy stay, it’s the place to go.

Claire (Adrien’s girlfriend) stayed a couple of days in Casa Azul. She loved the traveler’s vibe there.

 

4# La Barra

La Barra Beach town Pacific (1)
La Barra

La Barra is a tiny and peaceful coastal town. The beach is lovely and you can rent a surfboard while watching the sunset.

I hope you’re not afraid to jump on a moto-taxi. It will be your only option to get there from Ladrilleros or Juanchaco.

Now, let’s move on to another section of Colombia’s Pacific coast. For the following places (5 to 11), you’ll have to land in NuquĂ­ first.

 

5# ArusĂ­

Punta Brava ArusĂ­ (1)
Credit: Punta Brava

ArusĂ­ is a small village at the end of a long black sand beach. I haven’t had the chance to go there yet. There is the only diving center on this part of the coast! It’s called Divecue.

To stay in this peaceful place, you can either stay in the tiny house Casa Cielito, enjoy the hotel Punta Brava or the ecolodge MadreAgua.

It takes 1 hour by boat from NuquĂ­.

 

6# Termales

Natural hot springs

A few kilometers south of ArusĂ­, there is Termales. This village is known for two things: its natural terms and its waves. You can rent surfboards there.

We ate at La Sirena Negra. They also offer basic and economical bedrooms.

 

7# Guachalito

Guachalito Beach 2
Guachalito

Guachalito is the most known zone of this part of the Colombian Pacific coast. I loved the black rocks scattered along this stunning beach. It adds a lot of beauty to the wild landscape of the coast.

You will find most of the upscale ecolodges there.

Note that the term “upscale” doesn’t mean luxury — also, most of the staff won’t speak English.

To pick the best ecolodges on the Pacific coast, you should compare the quality of their services, the activities offered, the boats used, the environment, and the outdoor facilities.

In all cases, the rooms are simple wooden cabins, with a bed surrounded by a mosquito net.

If you choose to stay in an ecolodge in Guachalito, you want a quiet area without neighbors. We visited various ecolodges there, and here are the ones that stood out:

  • El Cantil
  • Pijiba

 

8# JovĂ­

Joví is a small village with a soccer field and a few houses. The main activity is the boat ride up the Jovi River under the shade of the Pichinde trees. 

 

9# Coqui

Coqui is in front of JovĂ­. You can get there by walking when the tide is low. The town is known for the mangroves and its delicious food. Every year, they host the gastronomic festival of Siembra Negro PacĂ­fico.

 

10# NuquĂ­

NuquĂ­

NuquĂ­ is the largest city in this section of the Pacific coast of Colombia. There is an airport that connects the city to MedellĂ­n in 25 minutes. There is no beach, and it is noisy. I don’t see the point of staying there.

 

11# Jurubirá

Jurubira (1)
Jurubira

Jurubirá is another small village situated 40 minutes north of NuquĂ­ by boat. The beach didn’t seduce me, but the atmosphere was pleasant.

In Jurubirá, you can visit natural hot springs or ask a fisherman to take you to the Utria Natural Park.

Now, it’s time to move to the last part of Colombia’s Pacific coast.

 

12# El Valle

Bridge El Valle

El Valle is the ideal option if you want to discover the culture of the Choco department. Two beautiful beaches surround the village.

  • If you walk along the southern beach (playa Larga), you will reach the mangroves of the Utria National Park.
  • If you walk along the northern beach (playa el Almejal), you will arrive at the famous Cascada del Tigre.

 

I loved the chill atmosphere around El Valle. You can walk everywhere, find affordable and delicious restaurants, book various activities and meet other travelers.

Besides, you’ll find one of the best Pacific coast ecolodges.

For travelers with a moderate budget, I recommend El Morro (fantastic view) or Pelicano Hostel.

 

13# BahĂ­a Solano

BahĂ­a Solano

BahĂ­a Solano is the main city in this part of the Pacific coast of Colombia. An airport connects the city to MedellĂ­n in 25 minutes, and you can reach El Valle with a 30-min ride in a tuk-tuk.

It’s also the unique place where you can find an ATM —although it’s often not working.

I stayed only 1 night there, and I was not too fond of it.

The village is by the sea, but the beach is silty. You should pick your accommodation on Mecana Beach (20-min by boat). There, you’ll find 2 great options: The Ecolodge Mecana and the Ecolodge Mapara Crab.

 

Best things to do on the Pacific coast of Colombia

 

Now that you know the different places you can travel to, you must decide what type of experiences you’re looking for.

According to your interests, I will show you the appropriate place(s).

Let’s start with animal watching.

14# Humpback whales watching

From July to October, majestic humpback whales come to calve along the Pacific coast of Colombia. They stay there for several months to rest and take care of their calf.

Whale watching is an incredible experience that is worth the detour. Usually, you’ll be a handful of travelers on a small speedboat.

The best agency on the Pacific coast to plan a whale watching tour is called MadreAgua. Marine biologists organize tours with well-maintained boats and a hydrophone (to listen to whale songs). Moreover, they respect the nature and the privacy of these magnificent marine mammals.

👉 Our favorite Pacific Ecolodge can book this tour during your stay.

15# Birdwatching

The Pacific coast is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.

According to Chris Bell, one of the most famous bird lovers in Colombia, nearly 200 species have been recorded around Guachalito. Don’t forget your binoculars!

 

16# Poisonous Frogs: Dendrobatidae

Colorful poisonous frog

These colorful little frogs are beautiful, but you should be cautious!

These frogs, known as dart-poison frogs, eat insects (including ants) to secrete a toxic substance on their skin to protect themselves from predators.

The most venomous frog in the world, the Golden Poison Dart Frog (or La Rana Kokoi in Spanish), is found south of the Pacific coast in the Ranita Terribilis Bird Reserve. 

Avoid eating them, and you’ll be fine.

 

17# Help baby sea turtles to survive

Baby turtles

There are several species of sea turtles on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Every year from June to December, they come to bury their eggs on the long black sand beaches. After 2 months, the eggs hatch, and it is a survival race to reach the sea.

To increase the survival rate of baby turtles, associations recover the eggs to put them in safe places. At the time of their birth, the baby turtles are then released into the ocean.

You can witness this experience that will melt your little heart from August to February. Mamá Orbe is a well-known family eco-farm that helps turtles. Their wooden cabins are very simple.

👉 Our favorite Pacific Ecolodge can book this tour during your stay.

 

18# Diving in the pacific ocean

Punta Brava Whale Sharks
Whale Sharks | Credit: Punta Brava

There are various months of the year when it is interesting to dive into the Pacific Ocean.

  • Best visibility: January – February. Ideal for observing the colored coral reefs.
  • Whale sharks: March – April
  • Banks of sardines: May
  • Humpback whales: July to October


If you want to alternate diving and rest in an idyllic setting,
ArusĂ­ is an excellent option.

As for the experienced divers, they will love Isla Malpelo & Isla Gorgona.

 

19# Unspoiled beaches

Guachalito Beach
Guachalito

This is an obvious point, but it is essential to make it clear. The Pacific beaches are beautiful in their way. There, you feel the energy of nature. You’ll realize it by listening to the strength of the rains, hiking through the wild jungle, and wandering on those long stretches of shoreline where you don’t meet anyone.

If you’re a beach lover, then opt for the Pacific region instead of the Caribbean coast.

My favorite beaches are Playa El Amejal (where you’ll find our favorite ecolodge) and Guachalito.

 

20# Adventurous jungle trekking

Hike In El Valle

There is so much humidity on the Pacific coast that you probably won’t want to do long hours of trekking in the jungle. Still, most ecolodges can arrange this for their guests. I would recommend going with a local guide.

 

21# The mangroves

Kayak El Pacifico

Mangroves grow in both salt and fresh water. Their intertwining branches and roots serve as protection for small fish. It is also an ideal ecosystem for birds.

During our stay in El Valle, we traveled up the TundĂł River among the mangroves in a traditional canoe.

👉 Our favorite Pacific Ecolodge can book this tour during your stay.

In the UtrĂ­a National Park, they built long bridges made of bamboo to pass between the mangroves without damaging them.

Another excellent option is to rent a kayak and venture on your own. I loved the experience in Bahia Malaga National Park.

 

22# Surfing the Pacific waves

Board Rental El Valle
Board Rental El Valle

Some travelers try to surf on the Caribbean coast. This has nothing to be compared to the Pacific coast. Depending on the month of the year (May to November), there are waves very appreciated by surfers.

It’s hard to travel with your surfboard.

Fortunately, there are different spots on Colombia’s Pacific Coast where you can rent them:

  • El Cantil (Guachalito)
  • Surf ParaĂ­so (Guachalito)
  • Termales
  • Humpback hostel (El Valle)
  • La Barra

 

23# Eat delicious coconut rice with fish

Fresh Coconut in Termales (1)
Fresh Coconut in Termales

You’ll eat it almost every day. You won’t care because it’s deliciooooouss.

My favorite restaurants are in El Valle:

  • Doña Inca
  • Rosa del Mar

👉 Our favorite Pacific Ecolodge also serves fantastic meals.

 

24# Fishing

Adrien loves fishing.

During our 1 month stay on the Pacific coast, we made two trips with local fishers. Everything is done by hand, without fishing rods.

I advise you to take gloves and protect yourself from the sun.

In El Valle, the best fisherman in the village is called Soline (you will tell me if it is still the case). You will have to communicate with the locals in Spanish to complete this experience. Otherwise, most ecolodges can arrange it for you.

Other travelers have also told me that big game fishing can be organized in BahĂ­a Solano.

 

25# Chasing waterfalls

Waterfall La Sierpe

The landscape of the Pacific coast is mountainous. There are beautiful waterfalls that flow into the ocean.

The two most well-known waterfalls are:

  • Cascadas La Sierpe (Bahia Malaga).
  • Cascada el Tigre (El Valle)

 

Our favorite Pacific Ecolodge can book this tour during your stay.

 

26# Enjoy hot springs

Hot spring Jurubida
Hot springs in Jurubida

It is always nice to bask in the hot springs.

You’ve got two options:

  • Termales
  • Jurubidá

 

27# Visit Utria National Park

Utria national Park is located between El Valle and Jurubida.

To get there, the easiest way is to book a tour from El Valle. You will enter through a beautiful bay.

To tell you the truth, It’s not my favorite tour. The entrance to the park is expensive and only consists in doing the mangrove tour on a bamboo structure.

Don’t hesitate to stop at Playa Blanca on the way. It’s a beautiful white sand beach in front of the park.

👉 Our favorite Pacific Ecolodge can book this tour during your stay.

 

28# Visit BahĂ­a Malaga National Park

Las 3 Marias BahĂ­a Malaga (1)
Las 3 Marias

The good news is that you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to enter BahĂ­a Malaga. Nevertheless, you’ll have to pay for a tour to get there as it’s only accessible by boat.

The tours to BahĂ­a Malaga leave from Ladrilleros, Juanchaco and Buenaventura. You’ll stop at natural pool Los 3 MarĂ­as and the 2 waterfalls (80m high) La Sierpe.

There is also a hotel called Juan De Dios. I found the prices too expensive for the quality of the installations. However, the landscapes and the beaches are gorgeous.

 

29# Visit the Malpelo Island

It is a little-known national park and difficult to access. Besides, you won’t be allowed to walk on top of this tiny island, a rock without vegetation.

Malpelo Island is famous for the fantastic dives you can do around it (hammerhead shark). It would be best if you were an experienced diver as there are strong currents.

 

30#  Visit the Gorgona Island

Gorgona island served many years as a prison. Now it’s a private national park. It also has a reputation for having many snakes.

Diving is the main tourist attraction. You will have to stay at the only hotel on the island.

 

Pacific Coast of Colombia: Useful tips

 

31# Bring some cash

You won’t find ATMs on the Pacific coast (except in BahĂ­a Solano), and most businesses do not accept credit cards. Plan your expenses and bring all the cash with you.

 

32# The weather on the Pacific coast of Colombia

It is one of the wettest regions in the world. Yes, it will rain.

It can rain during the night (usually) or all day.

The sunniest days are in January, February, July, and August. Our local partners recommend not traveling to the Pacific Coast in November. It’s the wettest month.

 

33# Is the Pacific Coast of Colombia safe?

The coast in the department of Nariño and Cauca has a bad safety reputation. There are many paramilitaries. The same goes for the city of Buenaventura.

On the other hand, I never felt insecure in the places mentioned in this article. We walked alone day and night in the villages and along the beach.

 

How to get to the Pacific Coast of Colombia

 

There are various options:

  • Do you dream of the romantic beaches of Guachalito and ArusĂ­? You will have to take a plane from MedellĂ­n to NuquĂ­ and then a boat (often included in the price of your ecolodge). I recommend San German airline.
  • Would you like to organize a wonderful trip to El Valle? You will have to take a plane from MedellĂ­n to BahĂ­a Solano and then a 40 minute tuk-tuk to El Valle. I recommend San German airline.
  • Do you have a limited budget and are you planning to travel to Cali? You can take the bus to Buenaventura (3h) and then a 1h boat to Juanchaco.

 

Where to travel on the Pacific coast

We've been on the Pacific coast for a month. Find our best tips for exploring each of the destinations below.

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