The trip to the Pacific coast of Chocó is made in search of gray sand beaches, dense forests that reach the sea, navigable mangroves in canoe, waterfalls that fall in natural pools, relaxing baths in thermal waters, rivers covered by lush trees.
To the Pacific coast of Chocó you travel to see stingrays jump on the horizon, dolphins swim next to the boats, whales have their young, turtles lay eggs on beaches, crabs dance in mangroves, birds fly among trees, monkeys howl when the sun goes down.
At the coast you travel to eat fish and seafood, drink cured vines and lemonade with panela, listen to lullabies, chirimías and alabaos, make processions to the Virgen del Carmen and nap in a hammock.
To the pacific coast of Chocó you travel to walk uncovered streets, to walk through the jungle, to swim in green waters, to sail the ocean by boat, to see stars in nights without electric light, to sleep under the cooing of the cicadas, to get rid of the cell phone and the Internet.
At the coast you travel to become aware of the many faces of our society, the lack in which many live, the need for proper management of solid waste, happiness and easy smile, despite everything.
On the Pacific coast of Chocó, you travel to connect with nature, get to know other cultures, get reacquainted with yourself, appreciate the essentials.
WITH DESIRE TO DO, FEEL AND LIVE ALL THE TRIP TO THE PACIFIC COAST?
This travel guide will show you where you can go on your trip to the Pacific coast, what you can do and how you can do it in the two most touristic municipalities of Chocó: Bahia Solano and Nuquí.
1) MUNICIPALITY OF BAHÍA SOLANO
Ciudad Mutis – the municipal seat of Bahía Solano – is one of the two entry points for travelers arriving by plane. Unlike the rest of the Pacific coast, a few vans and many tuk-tuks (three-wheeled vehicle used for public transport) pass through its streets.
In Ciudad Mutis you can visit nearby beaches such as Huina and Mecana (20 minutes and 30 minutes by boat, $12,000 COP each way), swim in waterfalls such as Chocolatal and the airport (15 minutes and 30 minutes walking) and climb the hill Virgin (from where you can see a panoramic view of the town).
Also, in Ciudad Mutis you can buy animal crafts from the Pacific carved in oquendo and tagua wood (Mr. Medardo Machuca is the most recognized artisan, located a few meters from the airport, (+57) 314 773 6557) and even practice sport fishing.
On the Mecana beach is the Botanical Garden of the Pacific, a 170-hectare nature reserve that runs along the Mecana River and has mangroves, tropical forest and native plants. A place managed by the local Emberá indigenous tribe, where it is possible to see birds and walk ecological trails.
In Ciudad Mutis there is a variety of hotels and restaurants serving food from the Pacific and the interior; the Bahía Yubarta and Balboa hotels are the most popular, with rooms for two people from $100,000 and $134,000 COP per night, respectively.
Also, it is possible to find cheaper hotels from $65,000 COP per night for two people.
El Valle is the second most important corregimiento of Bahía Solano and is located 18 kilometers from Ciudad Mutis, along a 60% paved road that is also the only one you will find on your trip to the Pacific coast of Chocó.
The trip to El Valle lasts about 30 minutes and costs $10,000 COP.
El Valle is famous for its extensive beaches, such as El Almejal and Playa Larga. Along the Almejal you will find hotels and bars, which makes it lively and busy, while Playa Larga is quiet and unoccupied, ideal for relaxing and resting.
In addition, the beaches of El Valle are perfect to see sunsets in which the sun goes down in the sea (in the rest of the towns of the Pacific coast, the sun is hidden behind the mountains).
From El Valle you can visit waterfalls such as El Tigre and Chadó, for $50,000 and COP $70,000, respectively.
El Tigre waterfall can also be reached on a 6-hour tour through jungle, beach and rocky roads, and in which you can find snakes, frogs and birds. The walk must necessarily be done with a guide, hopefully certified.
El Valle offers a variety of lodging options, ranging from posadas for $ 30,000 a night for one person to luxury hotels such as Ecolodge El Almejal, for more than $ 1 million Colombian pesos.
El Valle is a must stop for those who travel to the Pacific coast and destinations located south of Chocó, since the boats leave from their beaches.
The Utría Cove is undoubtedly the jewel in the Chocoano Pacific crown. In it, all the attributes that make the trip to the Pacific coast unforgettable come together: black sand beaches, mangrove tours, ecological trails, kayak trips, jungle treks, crystal clear waters and, of course, sightings of humpback whales.
In fact, the Utria Cove is known as the “whale calving room”, because there they get to have their offspring after an epic journey of more than 8,000 kilometers.
In the Utría cove “you have to walk through the Estero Grande mangrove, which you can walk on a 800-meter wooden platform and where you can see different types of mangroves, birds, monkeys and crabs. At night, depending on the weather, it is possible to see the spectacle of bioluminescent plankton: those unicellular organisms that, when in contact with oxygen, light up in white and blue. And they look like fireflies inside the sea, “writes José Alberto Mojica, traveler and journalist.
The Utría Ensenada is part of the Utría National Natural Park, for which its entrance costs $18,000 COP for colombian adults and $47,000 COP for foreigners.
Within the park, effective measures are implemented for the conservation of the environment, such as the use of energy based on solar panels and the control of the carrying capacity -or the maximum number of visitors that the place can receive in a day, without Irreversible damage is generated in the environment-.
When arriving in Utría, employees of Natural Parks give an informative talk to all those who venture to enjoy the trip to the Pacific coast, whose essential ideas are developed in this captivating video:
La Ensenada has lodging and food services of the highest quality, which are managed by Mano Cambiada, a corporation led by Josefina Klinger. The cost per person for one night is $240,000 COP with the three meals included.
Because the park can accommodate a maximum of 32 guests, its nights and dawns are quiet and enlivened by the sound of nature. In the morning, visitors of a couple of hours arrive to bathe in its waters and walk along the ecological path that crosses the mangrove swamp.
Tip: stay at Utría Cove for at least one night. If possible, 3 or 4. You will not regret it. Reserve your space with time.
You may be interested: Bahía Solano, a paradise hidden in the middle of the jungle and the natural parks of Colombia open to ecotourism.
2) MUNICIPALITY OF NUQUÍ
The travelers arrive at the municipal head of Nuquí due to the facilities that it offers to be transported; the town has the other airport on the coast and with docks from where boats leave for El Valle and south of Nuquí.
Nuquí is not a particularly attractive place at first sight, especially if you go through the area of the docks, because it has a slight stench and debris hang from its plants and float by its waters. The sector with the most recent constructions is in better conditions.
If during your trip along the Pacific coast you decide to stay there, you can visit the Olympic beach or navigate the river by canoe. The night in hotel goes from $ 100.000 COP, for two (there are several decent hotels in the town -for example, Palmas del Pacífico and Acualí– and some locals have adapted studios to rent for nights).
Coquí is famous for its gastronomy; since 2012, in September the Gastronomic Festival is celebrated (an initiative of the community supported by the Vice Ministry of Tourism).
In September 2018, the restaurant Zotea opened its doors to the public, a project of FunLeo (the foundation of chef Leonor Espinosa) and Chocó Emprende (a local organization) that employs women and men of the town.
Zotea refers to the home gardens that the local community organizes in wooden canoes that are no longer in use and in which they have traditionally grown long onions, chili peppers, basil, paprika and other local products.
Apart from the gastronomy, in Coquí you can find tours through an extensive mangrove that runs parallel to the sea at the back of the town and an extensive beach, quiet and clean.
A town that stands out for the charisma and the warmth of its people, for the beauty and cleanliness of its houses and main street, is one of the destinations that you should include in your trip along the Pacific coast.
Lodging in Coquí: Fausto (+57) 314 850 3897, 10 minutes from the town, offers wooden cabins facing the sea and food for $ 160,000 COP, and Maria (+57) 318 691 5561, has rooms on the second floor of his house, at the entrance of Coquí from $ 50,000 COP without food.
Guachalito is an ideal town for those looking for comfortable lodgings, quality restaurant and an extensive beach to patch and enjoy your trip to the Pacific coast.
In fact, its 8-kilometer beach takes you to Termales and passes you through the islets Terquito and Terco, in a journey of an hour and a half walking.
If you decide to walk on the beach, ask the locals what is the ideal time to go and which to return, since certain sectors can not be crossed easily when there is high tide, especially rocky areas (this precaution applies to all walks along the beach made during your trip to the Pacific coast).
By boat, Coquí is half an hour from the town of Nuquí. From Guachalito -as well as from Termales- you can visit the Cascada del Amor, whose water falls into a natural pool 2 meters deep.
The town of Termales offers two luxury plans for any trip to the Pacific coast of Chocó: surf in restless waves and swim in hot springs.
At dawn, the youngest -even children under 10 years old- draw their boards to surf waves that are still manageable. At the end of the afternoon the most versed enter the sea, among them some foreigners.
Around the hot springs, the local community built a project that has wooden pools in the middle of the jungle for children and adults, and a restaurant.
In Termales the lodging options are more limited than in Guayalito; the posadas stand out La Sirena Negra (+57) 312 364 1075, with restaurant in front of the sea and rooms in a second floor, and Pura Vida (+57) 318 633 0503, in the home of Paulino Díaz, a recognized community leader for his kindness and contribution to the construction of the thermal.
The main attraction of the village of Arusí is canoeing the river that gives rise to its name. A rafter can charge you up to $ 25,000 per person and the tour lasts about 2 hours. On the trip you can see women washing clothes in the most stony areas and fish swimming in its crystal clear waters.
You can reach Arusí by foot from Termales, after a 45 minute walk or by boat from Nuquí, the trip lasts 1 hour.
IF IN YOUR TRIP TO THE PACIFIC COAST YOU WANT …
Surf, go to Termales.
Navigate rivers, Coquí, Arusí or Joví.
Taste the best food of the coast, Coquí.
Practice sport fishing, Ciudad Mutis and Jovi.
Buy wood crafts, Bahía Solano.
Bathe in hot springs, Jurubirá and Termales.
Have extensive beaches just for you, Coquí and Playa Larga.
Kayaking, Ensenada de Utría and Coquí river.
Walk through the jungle, El Valle and Termales.
Recorrer manglares, la Ensenada de Utría y a Coquí.
Diving or snorkeling, the Ensenada de Utría and the Huina beach.
See dolphins and humpback whales, Ensenada de Utría and Coquí.
Go out partying and have a few drinks, El Valle and Ciudad Mutis.
WHEN TO GO TO THE PACIFIC COAST?
Any time of the year is a good time to enjoy a trip to the Pacific coast, but if you have specific interests, it is better to check the calendar.
The high season runs from June to September, as they are the months during which the humpback whales arrive.
Between September and December, giant tortoises spawn on their beaches.
From January to March, the sky is clear and sunny days are perfect to be on the beach and hiking (the journey that gave rise to this text was made at the beginning of January 2019).
From April to June, dolphin season (you can see them from the beach or swimming next to the boats).
HOW TO ARRIVE AND HOW TO MOVE YOU THROUGH THE PACIFIC COAST?
The Pacific coast of Chocó -including Bahía Solano and Nuquí- lacks roads that connect it with the center of the country, so it is only accessible by air and water.
The cost of each ticket is $250,000 COP from Medellín or Cali, and $350,000 COP, from Quibdó. Nuquí can be flown from Medellín by the San Germán Group, with a cost of $250,000 COP.
The trip to the Pacific coast is made by boat, for which there are two options: the first is to get a quota on the routes that have been established by some boatmen, whose price ranges from $25,000 COP per 20 minute trips (for example, Coquí – Nuquí) or $70,000 for trips of about 1 hour (for example, Nuquí – El Valle).
From Nuquí, boats from Arusí leave for the town, at 7 a.m. from Monday to Saturday, and they are returned at 1 p.m., covering the same route. Roundtrips from Nuquí to El Valle are only offered on Fridays and Mondays.
The other option to transport by boat – more expensive than the previous one, if traveling alone or as a couple – is the payment of an exclusive service, which goes from $350,000 COP for a journey of 30 minutes (El Valle – Ensenada de Utría).
Tip: organize your trip in such a way that you can buy a quota in the routes established by the boatmen. Hotels and inns can help you do this. If you want to do it for yourself, call the boatmen Fidel Castro (+57) 320 627 6653, who operates in Bahía Solano, and Yesid (+57) 317 666 6495, who operates in Nuquí.
From Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), cargo ships and passengers arrive to the city center of Nuquí in a 24-hour trip, if there are no unforeseen events.
The cost of the passage from Buenaventura is from $120,000 COP, but the dates of departure are somewhat uncertain. Travelers who have made this trip recommend arriving in Buenaventura with the possibility of waiting a couple of days.
From Buenaventura there are also speedboats to Nuquí, which last 8 hours and charge $200,000 COP.
If you prefer to travel with the intermediation of a local tour operator, Andando – which is part of Mano Cambiada – is the most recommended to help you put together a custom plan.
WHAT TO EAT AND WHAT TO DRINK DURING YOUR TRIP TO THE PACIFIC COAST?
The typical lunch on the coast of Chocó is fish sancocho in coconut milk, accompanied with fish, rice, patacones and onion, tomato and cucumber salad. The drink is usually lemonade sweetened with panela or sugar.
The fish usually make it fried, but it can also be found -with some luck out of the restaurants of the hotels- grilled, breaded or baked.
In some places they offer dishes with local seafood such as piangua, shrimp and crab, and lentil, bean or peas soups. Full lunches are available from $17,000 COP, and breakfasts, from $8,000 COP (usually eggs, arepas, and chocolate or coffee).
If you are one of those who cook their own food, keep in mind that outside of Ciudad Mutis and the town of Nuquí it is difficult to find variety and quality of products. Only canned or packaged products can be purchased in the small markets that are located in the most remote districts. Fruits are scarce and vegetables are often in poor condition.
El viche is an alcoholic of typical artisan type of pacific Colombian. It is made from the juice of the sugarcane cut before its ripening and some spices are added to give it a pleasant flavor. Del viche derives other typical drinks from the Pacific, such as Arrechón, Tumbacatre and Tomaseca. On the Pacific coast, half a bottle of viche (375 ml) costs $5,000 COP.
PAYMENTS AND BANKING SERVICES IN THE PACIFIC COAST
Before embarking on the trip to the Pacific coast, keep in mind that in the Chocó do not receive bank cards in any type of establishment, including restaurants and hotels.
In addition, the coast does not have branches of banks or electronic cashiers, except one of Banco Agrario located in the center of Bahía Solano. Only here and in Nuquí there are banking correspondents of Bancolombia, which allow withdrawals and payments with cards.
Tip: travel with enough cash to avoid inconvenience.
Chocó is extensive and diverse – in addition to a little expensive due to the difficulties to reach and mobilize -, so it is advisable that your trip to the Pacific coast be at least during a bridge.
If you only have 2 or 3 days, the best plan is to go to the top destination of the coast: the Ensenada de Utría. There you can arrive by boat from Ciudad Mutis or the town of Nuquí, places where you can take advantage of to make some of the plans mentioned above.
If you have between 4 and 7 days, in addition to the Ensenada de Utría, you could visit some towns of Bahía Solano (Ciudad Mutis and El Valle) or Nuquí (Coquí and Termales, for example).
If you have more than a week, you could visit destinations in both municipalities.
Other tourist destinations in Bahía Solano are: Morromico, eco resort surrounded by jungle and lush gardens, with access to waterfalls and private beach; in Nuquí: Jurubirá, bay with forest-covered rock formations, natural pools of thermal waters, river and mangrove; and Jovi, canoe trips through natural tunnels formed by pichindé trees, 45 minutes from the town of Nuquí.
If you plan to visit destinations located in Bahía Solano and Nuquí, I recommend you arrive in Ciudad Mutis and exit through the urban area of Nuquí, or vice versa. In this way you will save a passage of $ 70,000 and you will avoid wasting time waiting for the day when the boat you need leaves.
Remember to bring repellent, because at dawn and dusk biting and mosquitoes bite.
In some towns such as Coquí, Termales and Arusí there is only electric power service from noon to 10:30 p.m., so take advantage of these hours to charge the batteries of your electronic equipment. Take flashlight and enough battery.
Outside of Ciudad Mutis and the urban center of Nuquí, cell phone and Internet services can be intermittent or of low quality, so be prepared to be disconnected (or, better yet, give yourself the opportunity to disconnect from technology and connect with the natural and social environment).
If you want to know more travel stories written by the author, visit pecesfueradelagua.com
Oscar Iván Pérez H.
Economista de formación, sociólogo de vocación, viajero por accidente.
Tengo la certeza de que viajar es una experiencia que nos hace más completos, conscientes y plenos. Tengo la esperanza de que el turismo sea un vehículo para hacer de Colombia un país más próspero, incluyente y sostenible.