Capurganà is a tropical seaside paradise located on the Caribbean in the north west of Colombia, close to Panama. The village is remote, on the doorstep of the Dorian gap, a lush unspoiled jungle landscape. It is surrounded by tropical sandy beaches, is warm all year and is the perfect place to relax, hike and to get close to nature. You can spot monkeys, birds, iguanas and a multitude of species that inhabit Colombia’s jungle regions. Its the perfect place to escape from reality for a time, if you are adventurous enough to take the time to travel. The town could only be reached by boat and from here it was possible to walk across the border to Panama.
I decided to take Angela to Capurganà for her birthday to get away from the cold in Bogotà, we have a tendency to take trips instead of buying presents, and after Angela said that she could choose the cost over mountains (I only seem to know two terrains). To reach Capurganà you need to take a boat from either Necoclí or Turbo. After researching the various travel options I decided on Necoclí, its a shorter crossing, cheaper, (although still an eye watering $75000 each way) and I read a prettier and safer town. Necoclí is a 2.5 hour bus journey from Montería, the closest large town with an airport that has regular cheap flights to Bogota. So we signed up for a plane, bus and boat. The boats leave Necoclí at 8am every day and you need to be at the dock to buy a ticket from 7am, so we decided to spend a night in Necoclí.
Due to the extra stop I booked the trip for 5 days, 1 to reach Necoclí, one to get to Capurgana and give us 3 days on the beach and the last to spend the day travelling to Bogota. I was concerned that there would not be enough time on day 5 to get back, and it was tight, but we still made it.
Our flight was out of Bogota’s Aeropuerto El Doraldo and took less than an hour to reach Montería. The airport in Montería is small, new and efficient and we were soon outside in the 30 degree heat. It was before 8am and as we headed outside we were swamped by taxis. Angela managed to negotiate passage to the bus terminal, a 15 minute drive, for $10000 per person. There is a clearly marked bus stop outside and if you have time to play with consider waiting for the bus. The taxi drivers told us it came once every two hours, but I don’t believe that and there was a person waiting. But as our journey was short we decided to take the offer of the collectivo and were soon at the bus terminal.
Here there were several options to Necoclí and we settled with a bus over a mini bus or shared car, which was $30000 each as opposed to $56000 each, and I always prefer busses, even if they are slower as you have more space. The journey time was supposed to be 2.5 hours, but ended up being 3.5 as the driver stopped leaving the city. This was more of a concern for the return leg as I had banked on the journey taking 2.5 hours. We arrived in Necoclí around 11:30 am which was great as it meant we had the whole afternoon to relax on the beach – there are a few things to do in Necoclí if you do want to spend a day in the town but I wouldn’t recommend more than that.
Then began one of the worst hotel experiences I’ve had the misfortune to have. We opted to stay at the Casa Hotel en Necocli which had a 9.7 rating on Booking.com. We were told on arrival that there was no water, until 8pm that night, and that it would be off again form 6am. We couldn’t check-in until 2pm, despite there being no one else in the hostel and there were no other services offered. That night the noise from the plaza was loud and annoyingly I had forgotten my earplugs, this was not helped by some arsehole playing music at club level volume at midnight – not the hostels fault but my advice would be to stay somewhere away from the main plaza.
But back to the afternoon. Despite the lack of shower after arriving we headed straight to the beach and gabbed a beer, before taking a walk around the town to find the dock, stock up on supplies and find some food for later. There are a few supermarkets in town, including D1, Justo & Bueno and some independent. We stocked up on rum and the Peruvian rum in D1 was actually delicious for the price $35000 a bottle.
By this time we could check in and there was still no and I was in a predicament as I hadn’t taken a shower that morning due to the early flight and now in the heat I felt particularly pleasant. There were not many restaurants in town so we headed to El Ganadero on the main plaza, opposite which had running water. The food was good, if not a little pricey, and afterwards we returned to the beach drinking rum and beers while watching the sun set. It was bliss. Angela always brings a metal thermal bottle full of rum and then just topes up with coke. The restaurants never seem to notice/mind.
We stayed and watched the sunset.
Afterwards we returned to the hotel and finally I could take my first cold shower of the trip, but it was a relief to have a break from the heat. We grabbed a burger from Burger Tin which was in the alley outside of the hostel, opposite the main plaza and the promise of gourmet burgers was exciting and decided to take an earlyish night..
We awoke just before 6am the next day, to find he water cut off, meaning we had to leave a fun surprise for the hostel in the bathroom. We were a little late leaving so took a moto-taxi to the pier. Its advised to get there for 7am to book passage, there is only one company, and can be a risk of the boat selling out. The pier is situated on Carrera 51, its on Maps.me and is situated about halfway along the road. You will see a pier, which is either under-construction or has been badly damaged – I can’t quite tell and you will need to buy your ticket for $75000 each way, we oped for a return and booked our return journey back as soon as we arrived in Capurganà.
Make sure you bring a waterproof bag to put your belongings in. There is likely someone selling bin liners so you can wrap your bags in that, but the journey can be choppy and your bags can get really wet.
There will be some time as they load the bags to buy some food from the restaurants close by but as the boat arrives in Caprugana around 10am and I would advise that you get breakfast before you arrive. I have nothing bad to say about the food near the pier. But Angela decided to eat and then regretted it when we were out on the choppy sea.
It takes a while to get the boats loaded. If you have a small bag you can take it as hand luggage but any larger bags will need to be stowed and you have to wait for them to be loaded and unloaded – try not to bring a large bag if you can. During this process my bag was searched by immigration along with all the other gringos. They call out everyone’s names for boarding so stay close and once on board you can choose your seat. We were one of the last and the boat left around 8am.
The sea had been rough the day before and was still surging today. We were splashed several times when the boat was tied to the dock. If you can sit in the middle of the boat as you are less likely to get wet. The crossing is supposed to around 90 minutes, but can be faster or slower depending on the weather. We had a pretty choppy crossing and when the waves seemed higher than the boat I was a little scared. The captain seemed to know what he was doing and it felt very safe but being in a speedboat put your really close to the water.
But after a sketchy journey, which I vowed never to repeat, we arrived. Its also hard to remember that we were not on an island, more a remote part of jungle which is close to Panama. But for the entire trip I couldn’t quite get the idea of the island out of my head.
We checked into our hostel, Dive and Green Capurganà, which also operates as a diving school and is close to the pier. We were welcomed with some water and taken to our rooms. This time the water was working but the electricity was not. I suppose I shouldn’t really complain about the lack of electricity or running water when being this remote and during our stay there blackouts periodically affected the entire town. We found the electricity would die during the night which meant the fan stopped working and on one occasion we lost the water. This wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t seen that several other hostels had generators. We lost cell signal for much of the trip and losing WIFI wasn’t much of a problem but the minimum basic for a hostel to provide is running water and electricity and they should make provisions for that. One time when I stayed in the Amazon in Peru all they had were buckets of water to wash in and flush the toilets and this was much better than nothing! There are also lots of other places in the area more remote and you can stay in Sapzurro, if you want. If you want the full jungle experience by all means do go remote and some people say they want to stay away from the noise of the busy town. Having spent many years in London and arriving from Bogota I found the town quiet a good location to base yourself.
We grabbed breakfast and found a more traditional restaurant on the road leading to the main plaza. If you do want cheap local food or need to stock up on anything like, beer, water or soda come to this side of town – it’s expensive on the main road, on the beaches and by the dock. We had a couple of breakfasts along here, which were typical Colombian, but great. Plantain, scrambled eggs, rice etc.
We quickly sketched out a three day plan and Angela decided that today should be a beach day. So both being walkers we decided to hike to El Aguacate.
Hike to El Aguacate
I’ll say it now so I don’t sound as if I’m complaining but we were unfortunate when we visited El Aguacate. A supposed sandy beach in a cove in the tropical Caribbean. You will see from the photos that we had a particularly grey day – something that seems to put a downer on any terrain and due to large amounts of rain turned the water murky. Do check the photos on Google as on a sunny day its beautiful. So choose your day carefully, but the hike is not for everyone…
It 4km and I read it should take an hour and a half. Take the road that runs along the east of the airport and then take the second left away from the airport and then take the first right that is obviously another road. Check on Maps.me for more information as the path is clearly marked on the map.
Follow this road and you will have to cross a couple of streams. It pretty muddy in places so you might want to weigh up footwear choices, we chose sandals. Do not attempt this in flip flops. After walking for a kilometre or more the path will split and the signs will point you towards the waterfront where you will end up on a deserted rocky beach. There are actually a couple of beaches along this path that might be worth your attention if you want a private experience as we did not see anyone around. Although I don’t think any of them are safe for swimming although the current was particularly strong on this day.
After winding its way around the first beach and back into the jungle we came out in this clearing with some beautiful palms and some cattle. You have to walk through another stream before you cross into the farm.
Just as you pass by the farm there is the first tricky section of the path. It gets pretty close to the sea and then you head up a steam slippery path before heading back down again to another beach.
This one sadly is covered in plastic, I didn’t take too many photos but I wanted to demonstrate the consequences of where our plastic waste ends up.
Once you cross this beach there is a small steep climb to the path and then another steep climb up and down again and this time you end up on rocks with the sea metres away. The part across the rocks is a little dangerous if you fall but be careful and have a strong footing and you will be fine.
There is one more steep climb, possibly the steepest, up from the rocks and then back down again to a final bay. You should see some hostels in this area and you will pass along the bay to enter the jungle again. For us the path was really muddy so both going up and down were difficult, especially the down. In places there were wet and broken ropes to assist you. I didn’t trust them much but the did offer some support. The last challenge were some steps which the path washed away either side but after the we arrived at the beach. The trek took us a little over two hours as we were wearing sandals and it was slippery. Its around 4km in total and I’d only advise doing it if you have some experience hiking. As the woman at the hostel told us, most people walk there and take the boat back. I had no intention of walking back along that path so we took the boat.
The bay itself is picturesque but on that day there was no beach to relax on. There were a lot of tourists eating lunch but they soon left on their tours. Otherwise there are a fair few hostels and bars. We crossed the bay and when I realised we were walking further I called a stop and we returned to a bar which was in the process of being built. The owner sold us some warm cokes and water and Angela managed to book a passage back with his boat. He gave us a lot of information and explained that the weather had affected the bay today. He didn’t have any change for the drinks so we went to another place to buy lunch. They didn’t have any change either – It seems no one does here so bring small bills.
Lunch was typical Colombian fair, fried fish, rice and plantain preceded by a soup for $20000 so we shared a plate. Our ride back was soon ready and we headed to the beach and boarded the small fishing boat. They had life jackets but I was unable to untie one so just trusted as we approached the open sea. We paid $10000 each for the ride back on a bumpy but fun journey. Again the captain was experienced and knew how to hit the waves and we were soon back in Capurganà .
We returned to the hotel and the rain began. When it eased off we went to explore the town. Apparently downtown is where the plaza is so we headed there, where there was a lot of life, and at that point the rain started to pour down. I’m not sure I’ve seen rain that strong before and it saw no sign of letting up. We jumped into a bar and ordered some drinks while it passed. After an hour it had died down a little. We were two blocks from when we wanted to end up, a pizza restaurant and hostel called Resturante Gecko. The owner is Italian but we have since been told the kitchen staff are not. We managed to get there and despite the restaurant not being full were turned away. Instead we headed to the main street and found another restaurant. Its eye catching and looks nice but the food was nothing to write home about. Afterwards it started to rain again so we headed back to the hostel for an early night.
The rain woke me in the night and it seemed to continue pretty much until dawn. We lost both power and water on this night, however, we awoke to sunshine which was exciting. I decided to take advantage and get a few shots of the hostel while we were getting ready to leave.
There were two cats at the hostel, this one who had a broken leg but was very friendly and seemed to sleep in the room next to us during the rain and another very cute one which was a lot more timid.
We walked back via the docks and grabbed some empandas for breakfast, around $1500 each. It was only around 8:30 by this point so we decided to walk along the sea front to find some coffee. The early morning was pretty spectacular but it was already HOT.
We stopped at a place called Pacha Mama for coffee, they seemed to do breakfasts for $6000 and we wanted to come back as the coffee was decent but we kept arriving before the place opened. You can recognise is by the cat pained on the wall outside.
Hike to Sapzurro
That morning we hiking to Sapzurro. The the hike begins in the main plaza which you can see below. It is possible to go by boat and we were told the tours all tend to leave around 9:30 am by the docks. We opted to hike as we thought it would be free, but it seems that contrary to all the blogs and guide books there is now a $10000 charge to use the path. In some respects its understandable as they have put in new walkways, watch towers and bridges to make the muddy route much safer and easier to hike, but at the same time I think passage on a boat is around the same price. Still I’d recommend the hike.
It is again 4km and it should take you around 1.5 hours, but it took us closer to 2 hours as we were walking in sandals and the path was really slippery from the rain the night before. While I’d recommend hiking shoes I think its fine without, you will just move a lot slower and be careful. Its nothing like the path to Aguacate, just make sure you wear more than flipflops.
Before we set off I spotted a dog chilling on the runway.
Once you are at the main plaza of the town, take the western exit, so the airport is to your left, and then take the first left and then right, which will take you to the road that leads to the trail head. From here its all really clear as there is only path. Take a look on Maps.me, just in case there are streets that exist that are not on the map but I don’t recall any turns. The photo below is the route leading to the trail.
This is the entrance to the trail and soon after you will pay the entrance fee. The path is clear and you need to hike up over the hill and back down again. So the first part is largely up and the send part is mostly down. And you can see below the state of most of the path. Another bonus for hiking is that you can see the wildlife. On the hike to Aguacate we saw an Iguana and today we saw a few monkeys in the distance.
And here is one of the new bridges that has been constructed. Before you would have to have made the river crossing.
The path is plotted out with benches and places to rest. You come across a house before the midway pointwhere people are selling refreshments – I think this might be the place where you used yo have to pay a small toll noted in some guide books and from here there is the first set of steps going up. Which is goes as the path gets steep here and I don’t know if we would have make it without the steps. Soon afterwards there is another set of steps heading up and then you come out on the top of the hill with the views of both Sapzurro and Capurganà. Make sure you head up the tower for a better view. From here it is another 2 km, but this time all downhill to get to the town.
I met a Spanish lady at the top of the tower and we saw a couple of other people on the path but otherwise it was completly deserted.
There is nothing extreme on this part of the path and we could hear reguetton blasting out from the town. Otherwise just keep an eye out for all the ants. You don’t really want them biting you for treading on their line, but if you step over them you will be fine. There is another set of steps on this side which takes you down a particularly steep part and after that you are pretty much at the end of the path.
When you are near the town you will see a sign for a path to Cascada La Diana. It was a 6 minute walk so we decided to visit, which ended up in us seeing a lot more ants. It was a pretty diversion, you wont miss anything by not going as there is nowhere really to relax when you arrive.
And after returning to the main path and walking for a few more minutes we came out on the beautiful bay that Sapzurro sits on. Here the sky was blue, the water warm and crystal clear. The tide however was high and this was one of the two beaches on the map. We decided to head into the town and see what we could find.
The town itself is pretty spectacular but there wasn’t many people around. I had read that there are seafood restaurants but nothing seemed open. You can stay here, as the Spanish girl was but I’m not sure I wold recommend it as a base. Instead on her recommendations we decided to walk on to Panama. But certainly if you want to relax in a tiny peaceful village it would be worth your time. You can get boats to here from Capurganà for around $10000..
Hiking to Panama – La Miel
Sapzurro is the last outpost on the Caribbean in Colombia before you arrive in Panama. I had read that the beach at was the most spectacular in the area. The Spanish girl confirmed this and she said it was only another 15 minutes walk from the town. We decided to keep moving. In Sapzurro, La Miel is signposted from the seafront. Look for one of the paths leading in land, again clearly marked on Maps.me, and then just follow this. After about 400 metres there are steps leading up, and you have to head up over another hill into the next bay. Before you decide to make this journey make sure that you have ID. I’ve been told that you don’t need a passport as they do not stamp you in and out but you do need ID. There was no one on the border when we made the crossing, so we just proceeded. Again make sure you have plenty of small notes or you might become stuck as again people did not seem to have much change.
It probably too us a little longer than 15 minutes to reach the top and the steps are much better on the Colombian side then on the Panama side, so be careful going down. The steps can be slippery and there are no hand rails. Upon reaching La Miel take a right, its all clearly signposted, and you will have to pay $2000 entry fee to the beach per person. The town is a lot poorer on this side of the border and you will notice a few changes. There are shops and some restaurants on the beach, but the prices are much higher than in Colombia but its a great opportunity to try some local beer in Panama and to sit, relax and swim on a beautiful beach.
By the time we arrived the beach was pretty busy and bustling, and we knew that we had come to the right place. I needed liquid at this point as I was so hot and we ordered a range of drinks and then some lunch and relaxed for the afternoon. Lunch was pretty typical fair for around $20000. There isn’t really anywhere else to go from the beach and actually when we explored a little we found the beach behind the trees littered with plastic.
Around 4pm we decided it was time to leave and not wanting to hike back along the path we hitched a ride with a boat that was delivering beer bottles and collecting the empty’s. Angela did ask around for a boat back but no one seemed too sure and the captain was happy to take us for $20000 per person, which was probably excessive but with no other transportation back I was happy to pay. The journey was actually much longer this time and the sea more calm.
We were dropped at the pier in Capurganà and headed back to the hostel where we were greeted by the worlds biggest dog. Luckily he didn’t know the enormity of his powers as his jaws could have bitten off my head in one bite and kept running away from the cat who was attacking him.
That night we tried to go to Josefina’s, a highly rated local seafood restaurant, but the place seemed to be closed and instead stopped by the busy restaurant by the pier and had a decent pizza. Our poor server seemed to struggle with our order of two pizzas and coke (which we of course snuck rum into) but everything came out good and the pizza was delicious.
It was another hot night, this time not helped by the lack of rain. There was another power cut over night so the fan stopped working but we had a plan to deal with the heat. Today we were going to bath in the pool by the El Cielo Waterfall. We woke up early on this Sunday morning only to find the town deserted as people ensured their hangovers although a select few were still up drinking from the night before, I guess you can tell we are no longer party people. Again from the main plaza, the opposite side from the airport, is a road with a few clothes shops amongst others we stopped at a place for breakfast and watched the world wake-up. This is when we realised this street was much cheaper then the others closer to the docks. We had a quick traditional breakfast complete with eggs, rice, plantain cheese and some very sweet bread for $8000 each. After we grabbed some supplies and headed to the waterfall.
Hike to El Cielo Waterfall
This is a really beautiful and relaxing jungle walk that will take you though a part of the town most tourists don’t see, through 13 streams, or the same stream 13 times, and you will have the opportunity to see monkeys, birds and other wildlife. Once you are out of the town it becomes really quiet and as the distance is only about 2 kilometres the trip should take you around 45 minutes. I actually would recommend this trip straight off the boat as you can cool down in the streams and its also a good bet on a hot cloudy day as in the jungle you don’t get to see much sun anyway.
Start your trip in the main plaza and take either road that leads alongside the airport – they meet up in the end, we took the left route. When you get to the the end of the airport follow either road until you see a sign for El Cielo. Also make sure you enjoy the airstrip walk as you will see people and animals walking along and crossing the run way. Although there are only 3 flights a week I would not recommend taking the risk.
Follow the road the sign directs you along and after a few hundred metres you will see a steam with a half finished bridge, or maybe it will be completed by the time you arrive. We waded as that was what everyone else was doing. Soon after you will see more houses appear and a whole new section of the village. There are a couple more bars and shops you will pass but all you need to do is to stay on this road. Then you will leave the village and pass back into the jungle where the path winds its way along and sometimes separates a little and joins back together. This does seem to be the main road through so I expect you will see other people, but just keep straight.
Eventually you will come to the first crossing. Straight ahead is some property so you have to turn right and walk up the steam a little. Here is where two streams meet but follow the river to the other-side and there is a small sign pointing you in the right direction. The photo below, with Angela, is taken after we crossed but should give you an idea.
And the rest of the path looks like this.
Around this sign is a place where you can buy some refreshments if you wish and you will see houses and families along the route.
Once you have made the first crossing the rest come thick and fast but I was enjoying the cool water each time we had the opportunity to dip our feet in. On this walk, I can’t really call it a hike, the sandals were really coming into their own.
You will cross a large part of the stream and then walk up the bank a little before you see the sign below. You are close now but don’t cross. Stay on the left of the bank and then you will see another sign for El Cielo.
And after a few more crossings you will arrive. There is a hostel, if you wanted to bring your things this far but we did see a couple of moto-taxis so maybe you can hitch a ride in one of them, and restaurant and again be careful as no change. The entrance fee is currently was $5000.
Once you are inside there is a bathroom and a few places to get changed and then you can head for the waterfall. There are a few routes you can take. We walked around most of them so you don’t have to. One way is a raft you can use to putt yourself across the stream but to be honest you are more likely to end up in the water. Once couple tried as we were leaving and soon gave up. There is a place called the jacuzzi, which is sitting the the “rapids” of a stream and there is also a path to a mirador. We started up this route but stopped as it didn’t look short and I’m not sure you will be able to see much but feel free to explore.
We headed straight to the pool and it was great. We were the only people here and it was perfect to take a relaxing dip and cool off. There is some decking and chairs and to be honest we could have happily stayed here all afternoon. The water is refreshingly cold and I event think you could cool off a few cans in the water if you wanted.
There is a path that leads up and behind the waterfall. Not climbing up using the rope i the photo above, you can by all means try but I wouldn’t recommend. At the top you can see more of the rives and paddle if you want. A rope barrier suggests that you shouldn’t go any further.
After we had cooled off, we decided to head back to take advantage of the weather and to hit the beach close to Capurganà. We just followed the same path back and again it took us around an hour walking at a very relaxed pace. As you can see the sky turned blue and I took some photos of the town in the sunshine.
We changed and headed to Josefina’s to get some lunch on the sea front. Again the restaurant was closed. The guy in the shop next door just told us that it had not opened for the last few days. We thought we would cut our losses and just grabbed lunch at the restaurant from the night before which was offering a pretty tasty menu del dia for $12000 per person. We ate and relaxed next to the dock.
After lunch brought some beers and before heading to the beach near the town. From the dock turn right, you will cross a bridge and walk past the small market then you are pretty much there. There are restaurants and huts on the left selling food, drinks and playing music and from here you can just sit and relax wherever you want. I really enjoyed this beach, it was busy, but not crowded, people were having fun in the water and relaxing and I think because it was a Sunday and no one was working there was more of a local vibe too.
We sat drinking the last of the rum and then sank beers until the sun set. They are not too badly priced from the beach stores. On the way back to the hotel we were given a flyer for an Italian restaurant, Entre Continentes, which has to be the best pizza restaurant in town. We were initially sceptical as when we had walked past the night before there were three guys sitting outside and no customers. But it turns out one of the is Italian and cooks perfect pizzas. After two failed attempts to eat at Gecko Cafe Bar I would honestly advise you to avoid that and just head to Entre Continentes. From the dock head up the main road through the town, it will take you back to the sea front. Walk around the bay and it will be on your right in maybe 200 metres.
When we were eating there was another power cut so we had a few more beers and called it an early night once again.
For us the last day was just about returning to Bogotá. Our flight was at 6:30pm and the boat left at 10am which in theory should have allowed us plenty of time to get to the airport. We had an early breakfast, checked out and went to the ferry office which is towards to the left of the dock and waited to board.
The water was much calmer today but I noticed something weird was going on when we stayed close to the land and didn’t head out to the sea. Then we stopped in another cove, to pick up people from Pinorroa, which you can hike to form Caprugana – its 10km. Angela mentioned that she heard we were also due to pick up passengers form another location and as we sailed south we hugged the coast. I was worried about time but there was nothing that I could do. We stopped in a village called Trigana, which was stunning and I’d recommend investigating if you can. Once the new passengers were onboard we headed to Necoclí on a much smoother crossing and arrived around 12pm.
We stopped for lunch and spent a little long faffing around before buying bus tickets for the 1:30pm bus back to Montería. We were told that it would take 2.5 hours again but I was still worried about the 3.5 hour journey we had on the way out. This driver was much faster and arrived back in Montería at 4pm. There was another women on the bus with the same tickets as us which made me relax more, but then she got off before the main terminal. There must be busses to the airport from the town but we didn’t have time to find out. Instead we jumped straight in a taxi and it cost us $25000 from the bus terminal. We arrived in plenty of time only to find out our flight was delayed. But still we made it back to Bogota and lived to tell the tale.
How to get to Capurganá
There are no roads to Capurganá so you have two choices, boat or a flight.
Option 1 Necoclí: Boats depart from Necoclí at 8am every day, the crossing takes 1.5 hours and costs $75000 each way. You will need to be at dock at 7am to ensure you have a ticket (although these can be limited in high season Dec-Jan and you can buy from the office the day before). The dock is located on Calle 46, and is marked on Maps.me. The main office is in the building opposite, but in the morning buy the tickets from the pier
You can take a night bus from Medellin (9.5 hours) or Cartagena (9 hours) and arrive in time or the boats or spend a night in the town, as we did. If coming from Bogotá there are cheap flights to Montería, and then a bus to Necoclí takes 2.5 hours and costs $30000.
The return boat costs the same and leaves at 10am each day. If you are travelling in high season Dec – Jan book your return leg when you arrive on the island.
Option 2 Turbo: Turbo is closer to Medellin and I would only consider it an option if that is your destination or starting point. Its a longer crossing at 2.5 hours and I’ve read a much less confortable boat. It seems the Necoclí crossing is newer and now the preferred route. Also consider that Turbo is not the nicest or safest town to spend a night in.
There are daily flights from Medellin to a town near Capurganá called Acandí with the ADA Airline. Flights one way cost between $140000 – $340000. From here you will need to take a boat to Capurganá, a further $20000. Its also recommended that you hire a donkey to take your baggage to the dock.
Alternatively it is possible to charter a plane to fly directly to Capurganá from Medellin. I have seen a couple of blogs say it is possible but I can’t find out how. I guess a good place to start is to ask hostels in Medellin.
Just a few pointers from our experience of visiting Capurganá:
- There are no ATM’s in Capurganá or in the surrounding area so make sure you bring enough cash for the duration of your stay. Outside of the main town people often did not have change so bring as many small bills as you can.
- The crossing by boat can be rough and wet. If it is there is a high change that you will get wet so prepare by bringing dry bags (a must for me on any journey). Failing that buy some bin liners although I prefer dry bags as they can be reused.
- Currently power cuts in the town are frequent, we experienced one each night we were there. If you can find a hostel with a generator, you will thank me afterwards, as it can be really difficult to sleep in the heat without a fan. I don’t have a list but ask when you book.
- A five minute walk into the town will take you to the main plaza. As much as you can try to shop in this area and not on the main paved street. You will find water, drinks, beer and supplies at less than half the price as the main street. 2 litres of water was $4000 compared to $8000.
- High season is December – January and it is really busy over the Christmas period. If you are travelling during these times make sure that you book ahead.
- It is possible to stay in several different locations outside of Capurganá, there are moto-taxis, horses and boats that can take you to more remote locations if that is your thing. We found Capurganá well located for our three days and served as a good well stocked base, but some people comment they find the tiny town noisy.
Things to do
One of the great things about Capurganá is the amount of activities. If you want to just sit on a beach, fine! There is one next to the town or you can take boat tours of the beaches with guides or hitch a ride with a local. For the more active there are options to hike to many of locations and then relax afterwards. You can go diving, or scuba diving, or even just seek solitude in the jungle at a remote hostel. The choices are endless.
I would recommend this as the first thing to do after getting off the boat. Its a shirt hike and you can buy lunch at the end, providing you have change. Its 2km 45 minute walk, involves 13 stream crossings is there perfect place to relax and unwind. Head to the main plaza, close to the airport and then follow either road south west away from the plaza. At the far end of an airport you will see a sign pointing you to the falls, follow the road through the first stream and then village. About 10 minutes walk after the village you will cross the second stream and from here they come pretty thick and fast. At the end you will find a hostel and its $5000 to enter, you could always sneak in drinks and there is a decking to relax on as well as a few paths to explore.
The beach close to Capurganá is a perfect spot to relax and watch the sunset. There are a range of bars selling drinks and snacks and I’d recommend spending a few hours there are returning from El Cielo, or you can just spend a lazy day or afternoon. Take a right after you leave the docks, cross the bridge, walk past the market and fishing boats and after about 5 minutes you will see the beach right in front of you.
Close to Capurganá is Coquitos, where a local has created three pools, two freshwater and one saltwater where you can swim. From Capurganá keep following the coast north and after about 30 minutes walk you will arrive. The entrance is $5000 and you can buy cool drinks and plantain chips.
Walk to Sapzurro
There is a 4km path that leads to Sapzurro from Capurganá. The journey takes about 1.5 hours and will take you into the jungle where you may see monkeys and iguanas. At the top of the hill there is a lookout giving you a panoramic view of both towns. There is a fee of $10000 to use the path, which is the same as taking a boat, but the payoff is worth the price. Head to the main plaza and take the exit to the north west, on the side of the airport. Take the first left and then the first right, but check on maps.me and that will lead you to the start of the path.
There are a few beaches in Sapzurro, Cabo Tiburón is worth a visit and is a 15 minute walk out of the town around the peninsula, the oposite side from which you arrive. Stay and eat in one of the many seafood restaurants and you can even stay in one of the towns hostels.
Walk to Panama
Once you are in Sapzurro it is a short walk over the hill to La Miel and the best beach in the area. You can do this as a separate trip or combine with the above trip to Sapzurro. Make sure you take ID to get past the border checkpoint. The steps up are much better on the Colombian side so be careful going down in Panama. When you reach the town turn right, the beach is signposted and you will have to pay $2000 to enter. There are lots of restaurants and stores at the beach selling food, drinks and snacks and its a beautiful place to spend the day or the afternoon swimming in the warm Caribbean on a sandy beach. You can take a boat back to Capurganá for $20000.
Walk to El Aguacate
There is a seafront path all the way to El Aguacate, 4km and 1.5 hours at a good pace, it actually goes all the way down to Pinorra, 10km, which is another beautiful town with a beach but I think it would be a challenging hike. The hike to El Aguacate is more challenging than others in the area as it involves some steep climbs and scrambling over rocks, but it will give you the chance to see lots of deserted beaches which you would potentially relax on. When you arrive you will be treated to a beautiful bay you can swim in which is surrounded by hostels and bars. Its the perfect place to get away for a while. Remember to bring small notes and if you don’t fancy the hike you can take a boat each way for $10000.
Diving and Snorkelling
There are many places in the area to get closer to the marine life. You can go snorkelling off any beach in the area, its easy to hire a mask in town, try the main street in Capurganá. If you want to go diving then again there are many places that you can try. I’d recommend starting at Dive and Green, which is where we stayed as they have a training pool and look pretty professional.
Where to eat
You are not spoilt for choice for places to eat in Capurganá but there are some good eats to be found.
For breakfast head to the main plaza and there is a street the opposite side to the airport that has a few shops, including clothes shops, that has a few restaurants serving up a decent breakfast for $8000. Look out for El Arca de Noé, we went there a couple of times as its basic but the plantains were great.
Also search for Pacha Mama, on the seafront the opposite side of town to the main beach, it has the cat on the outside in the photo above. They do great coffee and breakfasts starting at $6000. We didn’t get to try but if the food is as good as the coffee I’d recommend.
For the best pizzas and Italian in town head to Entre Continentes, and don’t be put off if its quiet. The chef is Italian and the food is perfect to match.
Josefina’s seems to be a popular sea food restaurant, just across the bridge from the pier. Sadly it was closed when we tried to visit and I’ve been told its pricey but definitely worth a try.
The restaurant by the pier is generally bustling and serves decent food, try the pizzas, and they do a decent menu del día which is a good option if you find yourself in town for lunch.