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Pacific Coast of Colombia History

The History of The Pacific Coast of Colombia

The Pacific Region of Colombia is a beautiful jewel amongst the most biodiverse and inclement areas in the world. Home to rainforests with the largest number of species in the world and the Atrato River, one of the most voluminous on the planet.  Humpback whales voyage to this region from Antarctica to procreate while sea turtles also spawn here.

In addition to the Pacific’s natural outstanding beauty, the region is characterized by history and traditions. Bounded by Panama to the north and Ecuador to the south, the Pacific region forms the western segment of Colombia along the Pacific Ocean.

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Landcape pictures of the Tribuga harbor and the Nuqui region

The Colombian Pacific is also one of the least populated regions in the country. A large proportion of this population is of African descent and has preserved much of their heritage and traditions, combining them with the indigenous and those of European origins, resulting in an inimitable cultural, culinary and harmonious fusion.

Stunning jungles of Amazonian proportions cover a huge area with several species of whales traversing the ocean every year on their migratory course. These stunning creatures travel over five thousand miles from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Pacific to give birth to their calves between the months of July and October.

Whales, Nuqui

You can visit the Pacific with our 10-Day Medellín-Pacific-Cartagena Package, our 11-Day Nature and Culture of Colombia Package, or our 23-Day Ultimate Colombia Package. We can also custom-design a trip for you!


The magnificent Solano Bay, located on the northern end next to the border with Panama, is suffused throughout the year by assorted maritime currents, bringing to the coast an immense variety of large predatory fish that inhabit the warm waters of the Pacific.
Pure clear rivers, numerous mangroves and tropical forests make for a complex ecosystem coastline of incredible beauty. Bahia Solano is a must-travel destination for anyone looking for exotic jewels without human interference and with an extraordinary natural environment.

The Pacific coast of Colombia is a region of unparalleled exquisiteness and diversity. From the lush rainforests to the picturesque beaches, there is something truly breathtaking here. One of the most popular destinations in the Pacific region is the city of Buenaventura, known for its lively Afro-Colombian culture and stunning beaches. Historic neighbourhoods with sumptuous traditional foods accompanied by infectious music. Another notable destination is the Natural National Park of Utria, with rainforests, mangroves and lagoons with astoundingly diverse fauna and flora.

Natural National Park of Utria
Source: Natural National Parks of Colombia

For those looking to experience more of the Pacific culture, a visit to the Chocó region is imperative. Home to a large Afro-Colombian population, it is famous for its rich culture and traditions. Explore original villages, enjoy local foods and experience the different festivities that take place year-round.

The Pacific seaboard also offers different options for adventure activities, including rafting on the Atrato River and surfing along the coast with multiple options for different levels of experience, especially the pueblos of Nuquí and Bahia Solano. Diving, fishing and birding are amongst the most popular.
Nuquí is readily accessible by boat to explore untouched beaches, and thick jungles with ecological hikes and incredible biodiversity.

Nuqui, Pacific Coast
Nuqui, Pacific Coast

No matter what your interests are, the Pacific coast of Colombia has something for everyone. Relax at the beach, discover the culture and antiquity of the region, experience the natural beauty of the Pacific, and be active with extraordinary water sports.


Looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination in Colombia? Check out our Nuqui blog to discover this hidden gem on the Pacific coast


Indigenous:
The Pacific territory of Colombia now known as Chocó has been inhabited by indigenous nations for thousands of years. There is evidence of ancient settlements along the banks of the three main rivers in the area.
Colombia was probably occupied by human societies coming from the north about 12,000 bc. Early human presence in the region is concluded from tools that have been found in surface collections. Two arrow points found in the Golfo de Urabá, not far from the border with Panama, suggest hunting activities around 8000 bc.
In terms of archaeology, knowledge remains so scant that the manners of social development in the area can only be portrayed in the most general terms.
Knowledge improved somewhat for later periods when pottery and goldwork were introduced in the area. Early radiocarbon dates have been obtained for sites in the Tumaco area, close to the Colombia-Ecuador border. In about 325 BC, human cultures in this region developed fine pottery and used gold for adornments.
On the shores of the Gulf of Urabá and along the Atrato River lived the Kuna people. The San Juan River region was inhabited by the Wounaan. The areas around the Atrato and the Baudo rivers were home to the Baudoes, Embera, and Citararaes tribes.

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, many of the Embera people fled to the Darien jungle along the Panamanian border. The majority of them were killed by the Spanish or perished from European diseases. Today, indigenous communities make up less than thirteen per cent of the population of Chocó.

Greeting, Kipara TE – Embera community in the Pacific

If you’re looking to get up close and personal with indigenous tribes in Colombia’s Pacific region, be sure to check out our 3-day Kipara TE Indigenous tour and our blog over this community!


As many as seven thousand slaves were brought from Africa to Chocó in the eighteenth century. They were put to work in gold mines and on banana plantations.
As the colonial economy relied almost entirely on precious metals, in particular gold production, which Chocó has in abundance, the prized mineral was extracted and shipped back to Spain.

The Pacific region is now mainly inhabited by Colombians descended from Africans. These people have preserved their cultural roots, reflected in their lifestyle and dances. Likewise, some indigenous groups continue to inhabit this region, for example, the Embera (Chocó) and the Guambiano (Cauca). The music from the Pacific region reflects a coalition between Indigenous, Spanish, and African rhythms that converged during colonial times.
Chocó was initially the name given to these groups by the Spanish conquistadors.


Weather:
That Colombia is one of the most fascinating destinations in South America is a fact. However, to best enjoy Colombia the weather where you are going has to be seriously considered, that is also a fact.
Given the vast size of the country, the orography must be understood. The climate is controlled largely by altitude.
At the coast and in some elevated flat areas, temperatures can easily reach 30c/86f, while high up in the Andes, freezing conditions can exist.
Despite these contrasting differences in parts of the country, Colombia´s proximity to the equator results in temperatures remaining stable throughout the year.
Colombia has only two seasons, summer corresponding to the dry season (December – February and July – August) with winter to the rainy season (April – May and October – November).
The Pacific coast has a very humid, tropical climate all year round. Even though it is one of the wettest areas on the planet, average temperatures remain elevated ranging between 22c/72f and 30c/86f.
As a result of this perfect conditions exist for spectacular fauna and flora.


Get all the information you need to start planning your trip to this magnificent destination, check the weather and climate facts of Chocó and Nuqui here!


Activities:
The isolated Pacific coast is one of Colombia´s lesser-known territories. Much of it is only accessible by air, but once there the rewards are stunning. From dense, wild jungles and exquisite beaches, to imposing humpback whales and breathtaking waterfalls.

Whale Watching
The Pacific coast affords one of the most majestic of natural spectacles, observing humpback whales. These mighty creatures arrive in the Pacific region every year from Antarctica, from June until October. They give birth and nurture their young, before returning back south. The best areas to see the whales are Nuquí, El Valle, Bahia Malaga and Bahia Solano.

Nuqui Whales, Pacific Coast
Nuqui Whales, Pacific Coast

Jungle Trekking
The jungles of the Chocó Pacific region are some of the most biodiverse and wettest places on Earth. So, take advantage to hike through the impressive virgin jungle. It is not recommended to set off into the forest without an experienced guide. There are many poisonous snakes and other unsavoury residents who need avoiding, plus it is extremely easy to get lost. Colourful poisonous frogs, unusual reptiles, bizarre-looking birds and many others are all on view. The most popular trails are located in El Valle and at Guachalito Beach. Ending up at thundering waterfalls in the depths of the jungle is a great reward for your efforts.

Jungle, Pacific Coast
Jungle, Pacific Coast

Guachalito Beach
Often termed one of Colombia´s most beautiful shorelines, Guachalito Beach is almost two hours south of Nuquí by boat. On an isolated and wildly beautiful stretch of coastline, the black sand beach is extensive, bordered by jungle and waterfalls. The ocean is a paradise for swimming and surfing and during the season whales can often be seen leaping into the air.

Ecolodge in Guachalito

Scuba diving:
The Pacific coast is home to the Mecca of two diving sites, Malpelo Island and Gorgona Island.
Malpelo Island is an isolated rocky outpost manned by the Colombian military, some 500k/310m from the mainland. The island can only be visited as part of an official diving expedition, but the reward is titanic.
Gorgona Island is much nearer to the mainland, with the diving equally as impressive. Sharks, humpback whales and sea turtles are all there.

Bird watching:
The jungles of Chocó host an incredible bird diversity. Anyone with an interest in the natural world will want to take advantage to explore the jungle in search of the remarkable species that reside here. Some of the very best birding takes place on the trail between Bahia Solano and El Valle, while El Valle and Utria National Park is also a prized area.

Wild Life, Pacific Coast
Wild Life, Pacific Coast

Utria National Park
One of the most beautiful and biodiverse national parks is here on the Pacific Coast, Utria National Park.
An immense park with a thick jungle, mangroves, and divine beaches all up against the Pacific Ocean, Utria is absolutely incredible.
Stroll down a long boardwalk through the mangroves, hike through the jungle to a nearby beach, or relax on the island beach of Playa Blanca.

Thermal springs
There are several excellent natural hot water springs along the coast of the Chocó. The most popular ones can be found in the town of Termales, fifteen minutes by boat from Playa Guachalito. Just outside the town is a large warm spring, where natural waters gush up from the ground. Another good option is near the small pueblo of Jurubida, where a one-hour trek through the jungle leads to several isolated natural pools.

Gorgona Island
This former prison island has a huge number of snakes in residence. The protected island is now a natural paradise and one of Colombia’s top destinations for ecotourism. There are many endemic birds, monkeys, sloths, lizards and many others in the dense jungle. Offshore humpback whales play in the distance. Diving is very popular with whale sharks, hammerheads and others all around.


Looking for relaxing and beach destinations in Colombia? Check out our 8-day Colombian Caribbean Express


 

Gastronomy:
Pacific cuisine blends ocean flavours with traditional cooking practices to create dishes like aborrajado de pescado (battered fish), crab empanadas, los huevos de piando (a fish dish made with eggs) and many other delicacies that delight the pallet.

Thanks to its geographic location, the Pacific region provides a large variety of fresh fish and seafood delights, characterized by a special emphasis on seasoning. Aromatic herbs and plants can be seen growing in the gardens and on the balconies of houses everywhere.
Avocados come in two varieties here in Colombia, the smaller black Hass style and the larger, tropical variety that sports a smooth skin and is known here as mantequilla aguacate, avocado butter. In the Pacifico, avocado butter is put on everything!

The secret to Pacifico cuisine lies in the rich flavour of the herbs and spices that are used in the broths and salsas. Turmeric is used liberally which is what gives so many dishes their bright yellow colour, while garlic, onions and cilantro all play central roles as well. Exotic jungle ingredients, like chontoduro, a palm fruit with a hearty, yam-like flavour, also often find their way into sauces and salads.

Chontaduro

There are only a limited number of restaurants along the coast, offering almost solely traditional beach food, which usually consists of fried or grilled fish, coconut rice, patacones (fried plantains), and lemonade.

Cazuela de Mariscos
This is one of the best dishes to try on the Colombian Pacific coast.
This thick, seafood stew is a staple of Colombian coastal cuisine. The Cazuela is found on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Colombia, A hearty mix of white fish, squid, shrimp, prawns and lobster, all served up in a rich, creamy broth with a side of rice and fried plantains.
Cazuela de Mariscos is one of the best dishes to sample on the Colombian Pacific coast.

Fried Fish
There is nothing more Pacifico than a plate of fried fish served with coconut rice and patacones. This dish, generally of either red snapper or mojarra fish, is found everywhere on the coast and its beauty is in its simplicity. The fish is fresh, crispy, and full of flavour and is complemented perfectly by the coconut flavour of the rice. Just a twist of lime and it is ready to enjoy.


If you’re a fan of both beach and cultural destinations, you won’t want to miss our 3-day tour of La Guajira, where you can explore the stunning beaches and indigenous communities of this fascinating region. Check out the itinerary here


Lodgings:
It is possible to stay in the town of Bahía Solano itself, although there is not much there other than a couple of decent hotels.

Economical options
If you are seeking an inexpensive preference, there are dorms as well as private rooms, which are fairly decent. Facilities are somewhat basic, but generally, there is a kitchen you can use and a common lounge area.

Mid-budget ecolodges
There are a number of lodges, and bungalows on stilts as well as private rooms with sea views, surrounded by nature and right along the beach.
At the far end of Playa Almejal are some charming lodgings on the palm-fringed rocky coast that are among the most scenic.

Higher-end hotels There are no truly luxurious accommodations in or around Bahia Solano. Keep in mind that the Pacific coast is very remote and only supplied by a cargo boat once a week. What is available is perfectly acceptable.


Like to create or customize a fantastico package tour of Colombia? Use our Plan My Trip page to start planning your dream Colombian vacation now!

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