The Pacific Side of Colombia
Early in the morning I took a direct flight to Nuqui from the Olaya Herrera airport in the center of Medellín (15 minutes from El Poblado). My backpack had exactly the allowed amount of 10 kg (22 lbs) and my surfboard could join without much discussion (the extra cost was 50.000 cop though). Before the mini-plane (± 15 persons) landed on Pacific territory, I enjoyed a unique panoramic view over the vast coastline and the infinite ocean on one side and the pure jungle on the other side. I was happy with my choice to start from Medellín because only 40 minutes later I arrived in Nuquí (Buenaventura is approximately 24 hours away on a cargo boat so that was not an option for me).
Tip: you can also fly from Bogota to Nuqui but then you have to make a stopover in Quibdo.
From Nuquí I traveled on to Guachalito (Nuqui is not that nice) where I could enjoy pure nature, quietness, beautiful virgin chocolate-brown sandy beaches and friendly locals.
I went surfing, diving, hiking in the jungle and swimming in natural pools. I took fresh showers under numerous waterfalls (Cascada del Amor, Cascada de Terco) and went for some relaxing in the hot springs. I let myself indulge every day in delicious typical food prepared by the local chef. What a luxury holiday! No cars nor noise, music or pollution. On the one hand I was very isolated from the rest of the world but on the other hand, I felt just so free in this wonderful place.
The climate at night was not sultry and there were no mosquitoes that kept me awake.
Nuqui – Guachalito – Nuqui – El Valle
I had arranged my transportation from Nuqui to Guachalito in advance by speaking with a local person, a contact that I had obtained from the hotel owner where I stayed. On Monday morning I was picked up at 6h45 on the beach in Guachalito in front of my hotel. An hour later I stepped into another boat in Nuquí. NOTE: the boat captain Sapi only offers this boat service to El Valle (Bahia Solano) on Mondays and Fridays). Important: normally the boat departs in Nuqui at 6:00 am so you will never ever get there on time when you are traveling from Guachalito. Therefore, speak with Captain Sapi or with your hotel manager in advance so that Sapi can wait for you!
An hour and a half to two hours later I arrived in El Valle. In the village I took a taxi to the beach Aljemal (10min)!
There are boats from El Valle to Nuquí only on Mondays and Fridays at 12am.
During my stay in El Valle I enjoyed whale spotting, surfing (in front of my hostel). I visited the National Park Utria and went fishing. I took a hike to El Tigre (waterfall, 4 hour hike) where they picked me up afterwards to return to my hostel.
PNN Utria: the enclosed bay provides 100 % pure green jungle all around with the sea in the middle. The park includes 54 300 acres of land but be prepared because the visitor’s area is very limited. Upon arrival I was accompanied by a Colombian guide organised by the government. He collected the entrance fee (37.500 cop for foreigners) and led the tour through the mangroves.
Unfortunately he only spoke Spanish so 90% of the tourists in my group did not understand a word. After this short tour there was the possibility to snorkel ( ! Take snorkeling equipment with you because they do not provide this). On the last part of this excursion they dropped us off at Playa Blanca (a 10 minutes boat trip from the entrance of the park)
where I enjoyed the beach life and had lunch (16.000 cop). I was disappointed that the tour in the national park was that short and that the price was that expensive. I hope that the government will improve on this matter soon!
My greatest happiness was that I saw whales jumping, playing and splashing around on different days and at both destinations, Guachalito and El Valle.
The difference between Guachalito and Bahia Solano (Huina / El Valle / Mecano)
For the destination Guachalito you need more preparation (in communication with your hotel/hostel) because there is actually nothing around. While in Bahia Solano and El Valle you have cars, small shops (called tiendas) with fruits, vegetables, pharmacy, an ATM ( ! Please note that most foreign bank cards do not work here) and small stuff you may need. In Bahia Solano and its surrounding areas the distances are greater and you should be more aware of the tides. Boats or cars sometimes can not come to your hostel because of high tide.
How to get there
1) Tourist tax = 7.000 per person @Nuquí on arrival; @Bahia Solano on departure.
2) If you have rubber boots, take them along. This can be very useful in the jungle.
3) If you are allergic to fish, then contact your hotel / hostel in advance or take food with you from home.
4) Your clothes will not dry as quickly because of the high humidity.
5) Nuqui itself is not as nice. Best to travel directly to Guachalito.
6) For both destinations: make sure you have enough cash with you.
7) Please note that products such as milk, food in general, petrol ... are more expensive compared to other parts of Colombia.
8) You can only find typical Colombian sweet bread.
9) Remember that Choco is one of the poorest (+wettest) parts of the country and that tourism is still very new here.
10) It rains a lot but it is not that bad because it's not cold here.
11) Be careful when ordering products (e.g. lobster, tours …) with the local people. The way it works is that you usually have to pay in advance so they can buy gasoline for the boat they need and to organize the stuff. Better to ask the hotel / hostel manager because he/she has the right contacts. Never pay 100% in advance.
12) You can rent surfboards at both destinations.