Colombia’s wild Pacific coast: El Valle, Choco

El Valle, located in Colombia’s Pacific coastal state of Choco, is surrounded by thick humid jungle and dark sand beaches. At daytime you can watch whales cruise by and at night you can move your hips to rich Afro-Colombian rhythms.

The photo of the whale was kindly contributed by Michael Cast.

El Valle is a small beach town located in the Colombia’s western state Choco, which is part of the larger ecosystem called “El Choco” and extends from Panama in the north to Ecuador in the south.  This region has the strongest Afro-Colombian influence in the country.

You can reach El Valle by airplane from Bogota, Medellin and Cali.

At the airport of Bahia Solano you hop on one of the awaiting pick-up trucks or “moto-taxis” that will gladly take you to straight to the coastal municipality via a half-paved road in about one hour – depending on the road’s condition that is.

Upon arriving, the first thing you’ll notice are the two beautiful beaches that lie to both sides of the town, though when choosing which to visit, know that most of the locals prefer the northern one to hang out, play soccer, go fishing or just to take a bath.

The town has about three thousand inhabitants and is situated around a river estuary which becomes a port when the tides allow.

El Valle has become a classic beach vacation town in recent years having opportunities for great fishing, scuba-diving, whale watching and even surfing.  Lessons included if you’re a newcomer.

Turtles frequent the beaches of El Valle to stretch their legs. You can watch baby turtles hatching and making their first journeys into the ocean from September until January.

The whale watching season is from June to October and not to be missed. During these months, you can easily spot the great mammals from the beach or rent a boat with a guide who will take you out on the ocean with the chance of getting so close you can almost touch them.

You can also pay a visit to Colombia’s ‘Playground for Whales’ during a day-trip by boat to the nearby Utria National Natural Park, an excellent example of Colombia’s colorful biodiversity with exotic flowers, animals, and a lagoon with crystal clear water in midst of a surrounding rain forest.

In this park and in the area there are several trekking tours you can take that will reveal different water falls. The stunning “El Tigre” cascade is a must-see.

However you should always go with a local guide because getting lost in the jungle would not be a very pleasant experience, especially when it gets dark.

Though fear not because if you have any doubts you can always ask “Fidel Castro” – a local who can help you organize pretty much anything you need.

There is not a huge nightlife during the week, but on the weekend the bars in town and one on a bed of rocks in the middle of one beach are definitely worth a visit.

A cultural highlight are the traditional singing groups that perform ancient Afro-Colombian songs that date back to the time when African slaves were brought to South America in the 16th and 17th century.

You should also try to visit an indigenous community of the “Embera” people, which can be found about 1 hour up the river.

Those brave enough should visit the graveyard that the locals say is haunted by ghosts. For this you must cross the river over the main bridge in the town and then take a right. As you head down this long narrow street, you might meet a strange gentleman in the last house before the graveyard that who talks to himself – but don’t let him scare you, he is harmless. Upon entering, you’ll notice that the graveyard has its own scary-romantic aura and by nightfall you can certainly feel why the locals say it’s haunted.

There are several possibilities of accommodation in town but one special recommendation is the Humpback Turtle Hostel.

It is located right on the beach and offers a laid-back, eco-friendly atmosphere and is involved in several social-cultural programs like the social project “Bamba Surf”.

Remember to bring enough cash — ATMs in town do not take all types of credit or debit cards — and dry clothes as it is one of the humid regions on the planet.

El Valle, Choco


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