The Colombian Caribbean prides itself on white sandy beaches and turquoise waters that shelter coral reefs below. In contrast, the rugged and wild Pacific, much of which is untainted by tourism, offers a rare and remote experience. Here, four pristine spots by The City Paper’s beach expert Jacqui de Klerk.

Manzanillo Beach – Providencia

Unspoiled by mass tourism, Providencia has managed to preserve its carefree charisma of past centuries when pirates marauded the Caribbean. The most famous pirate of this sea, Captain Henry Morgan, used the island as a safe haven to plan his attacks on Spanish galleons departing Portobello, Panama. On the southern tip of the island is Manzanillo Beach, aptly named for the presence of shady manzanillo trees. Manzanillo Beach is the largest bay on the island, and is considered to be among the most beautiful, due to its calm turquoise water making it ideal for swimming. Snorkelers can enjoy diverse marine life beneath the waves. Enjoy a Rum Punch at Roland’s shack and a perfect way to end to a day in paradise.

Pilón de Azúcar, La Guajira. PH: Richard Emblin
Pilón de Azúcar, La Guajira. PH: Richard Emblin

Pilón de Azúcar – La Guajira

La Guajira Peninsula in northern Colombia is one of the most remote regions in the country and fans of untamed wilderness, quietness and solitude will find serenity at a beach, called Pilón de Azúcar. Translated as ‘Sugar Pylon’, the beach is located an hour’s walk from the small fishing village of Cabo de la Vela. Surrounded by cacti growing in dust and dryness, this beach offers visitors the chance to experience nature at its most untamed. The soft orange sand and shimmering turquoise waters of the Caribbean, both embraced by green limestone rocks and sand dunes are visually stunning. Climb to the tops of the hill for sweeping views of the cove below and the hot desert terrain that extends all the way to Punta Gallinas, the northernmost tip of South America.

Isla Tintipán – Islas de San Bernardo

Islas San Bernardo. PH:Miinouche/Creative Commons.
Islas San Bernardo. PH:Miinouche/Creative Commons.

Several hours on a boat, south of Cartagena, are the San Bernando Islas, an archipelago composed of 10 windswept islands. Overshadowed by the more visited Islas del Rosario facing the peninsula of Barú, San Bernardo is a treasure for enthusiastic beach lovers looking for a quiet Caribbean getaway. Most of the islands offer fine white sand beaches and transparent blue waters. A visit to the island of Tintipán at night is a must as it offers a unique beach experience. On a moonless and cloudless night enter the water and wait to see the flickering lights from millions of bio-luminescent plankton and truly magical phenomenon.

Playa Almejal – Chocó

El Almejal, Chocó. PH: Diego Gómez/Creative Commons.
El Almejal, Chocó. PH: Diego Gómez/Creative Commons.

With one of the world’s highest rainfalls, pristine nature presides over the region of Chocó on Colombia’s Pacific coast. The Chocó department is accessible only by air or boat and has, therefore, remained relatively cut-off from modernity. Just south of Bahía Solano, lies the small village of El Valle and Playa Almejal. The two kilometer grey beach is hugged by a wild and dense rainforest that conjures up images of sailors shipwrecked on unexplored solitary beaches. Activities include diving, surfing, body surfing and eco-walks to nearby Parque Utría. For an unprecedented experience with wildlife, plan your visit between July and October when Humpback whales congregate along the Colombian Pacific coast.

  • Matthew Voss

    I’m looking forward to visiting Colombia later this year. thanks for a great source of information with the city paper!