Nuqui, Colombia: Real info for budget travelers
Nuqui is an amazing place, but it can be hard to pull off a trip there unless you really know what you're doing, or you have a LOT of money. Since there's not any good information on the web, chances are you won't know what you're doing. And since you're researching the place on the internet, we'll assume you don't have any money. Here's the info that I wish we had before we went.
There are almost no cheap places to stay near Nuqui. It's a strange situation there. You see, the "Ecolodges" found it first, and have built these amazing places that you can't afford to stay in. The locals in places like Termales and Guachalito have since opened a few places of their own, but the only reference they have to how much a hotel should cost are places like "El Cantil", which charge $200US per night. So as a result, you can get a crap room in a little shack in Termales for $50US per night including meals, which the locals seem to think is a pretty good deal given the alternative.
More fun, the locals know that you got there on the 1pm lancha from Nuqui, and that the next lancha back doesn't go until 6am. Sure, you can walk up or down the beach, but the only place to go is to an expensive lodge. You're stuck, and everybody knows it. That'll be $50, please.
So here's where you're actually going to stay:
Casa Jacky in Arusi
Arusi is the last stop on the daily lancha that goes south from Nuqui at 1pm. Jacky is a really nice lady who has a little house with rooms you can stay in and a kitchen. She charges $5 per person per night for a room, and an extra $1.25 per person if you're going to cook in the kitchen. There's no restaurant in town, so you're probably going to cook most of your own meals, or arrange to have a local cook for you for about $2.50 per person.
Arusi is an amazing little town with a good beach and a great little river for swimming. The locals there are all super friendly, and chances are you'll be the only gringo in town for the entirety of your stay. You'll need to bring your water from Nuqui or boil it, or take your chances drinking out of the river. There are shops selling basic food to cook, but if you want anything besides potatoes, beans and rice, you might want to bring it with you. There's fish for sale (it's a fishing town after all), but even this is hit and miss, since some days nobody catches anything, and others all they have to sell is an entire 20 pound tuna.
There's a super helpful guy in Nuqui named Juan Maria, who has a deposito near the lancha dock and is an amazing resource for lost travelers like yourself. Seek him out and talk to him for an hour before you go, and any problem you may have had will resolve itself quickly. In our case, he hooked us up with all the info above, and even found us a lancha out to Arusi after the daily shuttle had gone.
We were there for a week and didn't see wave one. But then we were in Arusi, which is pretty sheltered. There's a good looking left-hand point there that we noticed from the boat on the way in, but it must need a big swell because it was gone by the time we got settled in. Your best bet for surf info would be to talk to the El Cantil guys before you go. Beware though, that they're used to renting boards for $50/day and boat trips for $150/day!
Termales has boards that you can rent. At least we saw some kids playing in the shorebreak on a nice selection of shortboards and guns. No idea how much they want per day, but it's probably heartbreakingly expensive. If you're going there to surf for a while, it might be worth bringing your own.
Stuff to do
Termales has a really cool hotspring pool by a little stream. It's quite pleasant. Be sure to get there when the Ecolodge tourists aren't there or you'll be subject to a $5 entrance fee. Don't eat in the restaurant in Termales if you can avoid it, since they'll gouge you as best they can on the price.
The river in Arusi is good for swimming. If it's high tide, try to get somebody to canoe you up to a good swimming hole. Better still, wait for low tide and walk upstream a ways until you find a good deep pool. No crocs. No piranha. None of those scary little Amazon fishes that lodge themselves in your jimmy. Just cool clear water and maybe a few local kids to splash around with.
Getting There & Away
You have 2 options to get to Nuqui. You can fly or you can take a boat. In theory, ADA (
) and Satena (
) fly there from Medellin. In practice, however, I never saw an ADA plane come or go. Satana flies Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, leaving Medellin at about 10am, then turning around and leaving Nuqui at 12:15. One way is about $80US, and you can generally just turn up at the airport in Nuqui and stand a good chance of getting a flight that day. There are also flights to Nuqui from Quibdo, but you really don't want to go there, do you?
The Airport is right in the middle of Nuqui, a few steps from the only little places to stay, and from the boat dock where you'll be getting a lancha to Arusi. Nuqui itself is not that nice. You can buy what you need there, and you can check email. But I wouldn't want to stay there.
There are two boats that go from Buenaventura to Nuqui: The Nuquimar and the Luchador. Both go out of the port called "Piňal", just before the bridge on the left-hand side as you're headed out of town in a taxi or collective. It'll be on your right just after the bridge if you want to stop your bus from Cali on the way into town. Both boats charge $45US for the 18-24 hour trip, and have tight little communal sleeping areas where you'll be overcrammed with other passengers for at least one night. You can sleep on the boat while you're waiting for it to go, and chances are you'll end up doing this since even the captain won't know for sure when you're leaving until the last minute. The restaurant across from the Nuquimar's dock is pretty tasty. In theory, one will go every few days.
Lanchas go up and down the coast around Nuqui each day, down from Nuqui at 1pm, back from Arusi at 6am. It's $10US per person each way.
You're going to need to take
the money you plan to spend with you in the form of cash. There are no banks anywhere on the coast, and the airline office at the airport can't take credit cards. If you run out of money, you're pretty much screwed. Take out piles of money and hide it about your stuff as best you can. Consider flying in since you're less exposed to robbery. Your fellow boat passengers are unlikely to be master criminals, but then you'll be spending plenty of time at the port and it's hard to watch all your stuff all the time.
Columbia gets safer each year, but Choco is one of the provinces that seems to be taking its own sweet time. 3 days before we arrived in Buenaventura, a bomb exploded at the entrance to the port. A few days after we sailed, another cargo boat just like ours was boarded by pirates after leaving Buenaventura. All 20 passengers were tossed in the sea, and the pirates made off with the boat.
Everybody knows that you'll be carrying a ton of cash with you on your way to Nuqui. If there's bad people around, you'll likely be their target.
It's All Good
The Nuqui area is one of the most rewarding travel experiences you're likely to have in South America. If you do it right, the good will far outweigh the bad, which is why this document unfortunately needs to spend so much time dwelling on the things that can go wrong.
Don't worry. It'll go right. Have fun and let me know if there's anything I need to add to this little guide!
Blogabond Travel Tips
on February 6, 2010
from the travel blog:
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Hello,thank you for this guide.I'm from Bogotá,Colombia but i haven't been in
. i'll go in july and i think travel in boat since
...So,Can you tell me something more about this experience? what kind of people travel in
mar ?how about the pacific sea waves?
written by Mauricio Rojas on June 1, 2010
are you sure there is no ATM in bahia solano? read different things about it...
written by va on May 25, 2012
I truly appreciate you taking the time to write it down. I'm going there, and eventhough I'm Colombian, and I have "contacts" I've called everywhere, and haven't found good information. So thank you very much!!!
written by Angela on December 17, 2012
Hey, I was just wondering whether there was any update on this. Has anyone else gone to Nuquí in the meantime? Are there any other places that are not so expensive?
written by Johannes Lohmann on June 26, 2013
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