Choco (Bahia Solano, El Valle & Nuqui)
The pacific coast is the other coast of Colombia. Less visited by tourists and harder to get to but definitely a highlight in Colombia and therefore worth a visit. The department of Choco occupies the biggest part of the Pacific Coast. This region has one of the highest rainfalls in the world. Most of the Choco department consists of dense and humid rainforest and there is hardly any infrastructure. Choco itself has some of the poorest parts of Colombia and is also a region which is known for some guerrilla activity. This is why many tourists don’t include this destination into their travel plans. But the pacific coast has a lot to offer and there are many parts that are completely safe for (western) tourists. These places are almost all located on the coastline where you can find some of the best beaches from Colombia. There are many ecolodges where you can stay or if your budget is not that big you could also go camping to enjoy the splendid untouched beaches, walk through the pristine rainforest and see whales and dolphins passing by just a stone throw away from the beaches. The Humpback whale season is from July till October. During this period the whales pass by almost every day. You can see them form the beach or if you want you can get closer in boat tours organized during this period. It is simply amazing to see these animals jumping out of the water from just a short distance. During the rainy season it is possible that it rains everyday but mostly these are short and heavy rains. The dry season is from December till March but also during this period it can rain a lot. As the beach goes over into rain forest almost directly, the pacific coast of Choco is the perfect place for nature lovers. The region is famous for the big variety in Flora and Fauna with many different species of frogs, butterflies and snakes. Other activities of interest for the tourist in the region are Sea fishing, diving and surfing. Places at the coast that can be visited (from north to south) are Bahia Solano, El Valle and Nuqui. The easiest way to get these destinations is flying from Medellín. Uncomfortable and time consuming but more adventurous is to take a boat from Buenaventura along the coastline. Boats don’t leave regularly and can take up to 20 hours.
Little village at the Pacific coast. The village itself doesn’t have much to offer to the tourists and the beach is not the best one. But from here you can go to other little bays where you can find some very nice beaches and ecolodges or camping sites to stay. Bahia Solano is a perfect place to see the Humpback whales and has good sea fishing and scuba diving.
Just south of Bahia Solano. You can reach el Valle by boat from Bahia Solano going south along the coast or you can take a bus or private transportation through the jungle. El Valle has a beautiful beach and from here you could visit in boat the amazing Utria nature park. This park houses a lot of flora and fauna, has some of the nicest beaches and you could make some ecological walks to waterfalls or make boat trips over the rivers into the rain forest. Also here you can find ecolodges and camping places. El Almejal is an ecolodge with a sea turtle project and the liberation of these sea turtles is in December and in January. El Valle is also perfect for spotting the Humpack whale and has good sea fishing. Surfing is possible although better in Nuqui further south.
Further south along the coastline you will find the village of Nuqui. Again the village has not so much to offer to the tourists but in the surroundings you find the best beaches of the pacific. Also here you can stay at some ecolodges or camping sites. El Cantil is maybe the best ecolodge of this part. It has little cabins situated in a hill overlooking the sea and besides that it offer a lot of activities such as ecological walks through the jungle it has by far the best food we ever eat in Colombia. Nuqui is also a perfect destination to see the Humpback whales. Further you can go sea fishing and from the tree destinations mentioned it has the best surfing and scuba diving.
Buenaventura - Ladrilleros
Buenaventura is the only important harbor on the Colombian Pacific. It is a big, hot and humid city. It is also not the safest city and most people only visit Buenaventura to take a boat to Gorgona or up north along the coast. If you happen to be in Buenaventura make sure you visit the local market in the center. If you are not that late you can see all the fish getting in and you will be surprised by all the fish you see. Little ones, big ones, huge ones and even sharks. If you like fish you can eat everything you see on the second floor of the market where local women prepare the catch of the day. Buenaventura itself doesn’t have a nice beaches but you could go in the boat to Juanchaco where you can find some reasonable beaches and a little bit further up to Bahia Malaga the beaches will get better and better.
Isla Gorgona & Malpelo
Isla Gorgona is an island at about 56 km from the coastline of Colombia and reachable from Buenaventura by boat or with a national flight from Cali to Guapi and from there with a shorter boat ride. The island has been made a National Park in 1984 when the government finally shut down the prison which they had built during the bloody days of La Violencia in the 1950s. Now Gorgona is noted for a large number of endemic species resulting from the island's long separation from the continent. You will be likely to see animals such as monkeys, lizards, bats, birds and snakes. The ruins of the prison can still be visited. Besides the beautiful beaches and the huge diversity in Flora and Fauna the island provides one of the best diving locations in Colombia. For everybody (from starters to pro´s) there are diving locations around the island and when you dive during the whale season you might just be lucky enough to see these animals underwater!!
Another place for amazing diving is the island Malpelo. This huge rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is considered by divers as one of the best dive spots in the world. You will, see a lot of see fauna, especially big fishes. The Island is known for its the presence of sharks, especially the hammerhead shark. The Island of Malpelo can only be reached by boat and it takes up to 20 to 24 hours to get there, there is no accommodation on the island you have to stay on the boat.
Guapi & Tumaco
Further south you can find two other important towns at the Pacific Coast, Guapi and Tumaco. Guapi lays at the Guapi River just a little bit from the coast into the rain forest. The town itself is not that interesting for tourists but Guapi is used as starting point for a trip to Gorgona. You can fly from Popayan or Cali direct to Guapi from where you can take the boat to Gorgona.
Tumaco lays in the extreme south of the Colombian Pacific Coast and can be reached by airplane or over land from Pasto. The Tumaco bay has some nice beaches but not as good as for example Bahia Solano, el Valle and Nuqui. It is possible to go south along the coast and pass the border to Ecuador. Up north along the coast you will find the Sanquianga national park. But this area is known for its guerrilla activity and it is not recommended for tourists.