The trip to Capurgana was not for beginner travelers. You’ll be taking all forms of transportation this trip: bus, boat, and walking. Lots and lots of walking.
My journey started in Medellin, Colombia. From Bello, I took a taxi (8,000 COP) to the North Bus Station. From there, I bought a bus ticket to the city of Turbo. The retail value goes for between 80,000-90,000 COP, but as we bought the tickets last minute, we got our tickets for 70,000 COP. We left the station at 11 PM with arepas, ready to begin our journey.
The bus went to Necocli, which cost the same as taking a bus to Turbo, but it gets you closer to Capurgana. A result that I thought was a no-brainer.
I was wrong. My travel companion woke me up at 5 AM. We weren’t going to arrive on time to get the boat to Capurgana the same day. They only left at 8 AM. That’s when the problem-solving skills started to kick in. Finally, we decided to get off at Turbo to withdraw cash and hop on the last boat to Capurgana. There are companies in each of the two cities (Necocli and Turbo) that have an online presence and a WhatsApp number to contact if you’re ever hesitant about arriving (as we were).
When we got to Turbo, we hopped off and walked to the ATM. I use Servibanca as it’s most functional with international cards. Then we checked the map again to head to the dock. We started walking until we asked a woman on the street where the direction of the docks was. She said that it was far, and we made another split-second decision to grab two guys riding motorcycles off the street to take us to the boat dock. Each motorcycle cost 5,000 COP.
Once you arrive at the dock, it’s fairly easy to get you registered and off on your journey. They request that you bring your physical form of identification, but I only brought a photo of my passport which worked fine. I wouldn’t recommend relying on your cell phone, however, after a 10-hour bus ride and the *need* for the documentation, as you are entering a border zone, between Colombia and Panama. Bring your identification and be prepared to undergo a regular border screening if you visit the border (about a 30-minute walk from Sapzurro, an hour and a half walk from Capurgana).
You leave the dock to catch the boat. The boat from Turbo to Capurgana is further, about 2.5 hours. The boat from Necocli, in comparison, is just 2 hours. However, both boats cost 85,000 COP with a 5,000 insurance fee (90,000 total). Choose the option that fits your travel plans best. If you leave Medellin before 9 PM, I would recommend going to Necocli as it saves you time on the boat. If you leave Medellin later, fly in, or want more of an adventure, hop-off at Turbo and catch a motorcycle to the dock.
Once you arrive at Capurgana, your next step will be finding accommodation, if you haven’t already. This was a little difficult for us, as there are a few predatory salesmen that will do all they can in order to get you to buy their packages or to reserve at a specific hotel with them. Be wary of this always, usually, the seller gets a cut of the sale and the sale is a little higher to you than the usual client for this reason. Don’t go uninformed, but also don’t plan every minute of your trip. Capurgana is a place you want to enjoy as it comes.
We went for a budget option that offers double rooms from 60,000 COP, Casa Reggae. The facilities were basic, with a shared bathroom and kitchen, but it offers you a very budget-friendly option if you’re looking to stay the night somewhere and eat there as well. There were also a group of friends camping on the beach if that is of interest to your budget.
For activities, we decided that we wanted to enjoy the land as much as we could by spending time on the land and in the water. When we were there it rained pretty heavily for about 2 days, so we didn’t get to explore as much on foot as we would’ve liked. However, we knew we wanted to do: Capurgana to Sapzurro, El Cielo, and the Colombian-Panamanian border. We went to El Cielo walking, where you pass the airport in Capurgana, and walk past another town, or “barrio”, before reaching the destination of El Cielo. On this day we ate lunch in the barrio, and it cost 25,000 COP for two people (~13,000 COP per person). We also wanted to ride in the boat from Sapzurro to Capurgana, as well as see a few of the islands around. We ended up getting a boat from Sapzurro to Capurgana, which costs 15,000 COP per person.
A “Menu del Dia” lunch is about 20,000 to 30,000 COP, depending on what you order. Typically the fish is more expensive if it’s larger or cooked more eloquently. We ate at the panderia for breakfast every morning, ranging from sweet breads to arepas filled with eggs and fish. Accompanied with a coffee, our breakfast was about 10,000 COP per person. Dinner differed depending on the restaurant. I would expect to pay that same 20,000 to 30,000 COP range for dinner as well. In total, to eat out 3 times a day at Capurgana, you can expect to pay an average of 60,000 COP a day for food. You could cut that in half (or more!) by cooking in your accommodation. Here, Casa Reggae would be a great option as it has a shared kitchen.
Capurgana has to be on your must-see list. It’s a crazy, fun, beautiful small town with beautiful nature elements mixed with a very charming, welcoming community. There are 2 discotecas if you’re looking to dance, where the locals and the visitors reunite with beers and good music to enjoy the night. Expect the locals to invite you to dance, drink, and enjoy the town. They really make the experience more enjoyable for young folks visiting. You will be amazed by the nature, the beaches, and the people. Be sure to support the man selling coffee in the panderia on the corner of the main street and to catch a 12,000 COP daiquiri on the beach from a young man who sells cocktails and beer at the end of the beach (opposite ends from the dock). Please feel free to leave your comments below as well to offer tips or to ask questions.