Hiking in Capurganá and Sapzurro, Colombia

There are several jungle walks to make around Capurganá. These take you through dense jungle overflowing with tropical vegetation and home to howler monkeys, birds, colorful frogs, and snakes. While the walks are short and fairly straightforward, you may want to ask at your hotel or hostel for a guide, especially for the walk between Capurganá and Sapzurro. Guides cost about COP$10,000. Wear hiking boots (waterproof if possible) and a swimsuit underneath your clothes for dips in the water off of Sapzurro or in freshwater swimming holes, and set off in the morning hours to avoid trying to navigate your way in the late afternoon.

Small waterfall in a dense tropical rainforest near Capurgana, Colombia.
The walk to El Cielo waterfall is easy and flat, although you’ll have to make around a dozen shallow stream crossings. Photo © Jesse Kraft/123rf.

An easy walk to make, without the need of a guide, is to La Coquerita (20-minute walk north from town, cell tel. 311/824-8022, COP$2,000), a delightfully ramshackle waterside hangout where you can have a refreshing coco-lemonade, maybe some guacamole and patacones (fried plantains), and take a dip in the refreshing freshwater or saltwater pools. There are also some handicrafts on sale here. To get there, walk along the Playa Caleta beach just north of the port, passing in front of the Hotel Almar. Continue along the jungle path that hugs the coastline. La Coquerita is under a kilometer from town, and the path is well-marked. Look out for the black and fluorescent green frogs along the way, but don’t touch them; they’re poisonous.

There are two ways to go to the idyllic hamlet of Sapzurro: by boat or on foot. The path to Sapzurro leads you through the exuberant rainforest to a lookout point and then down directly to the Sapzurro beach. The hike takes two hours.

To set off for Sapzurro, start at the soccer field, on the southern end of town, and ask the way. Midway up the uphill path is a shack that is the home of a man who claims to protect the jungle, Once you find him, you know you’re on the right track. He expects those who pass through to pay him about COP$1,000. At the top of the mountain there is a nice overlook with views of Capurganá and the coastline. The hike is not difficult, but the path can get muddy and slippery in places. Wear hiking boots and pick up a walking stick along the way to help you manage on the steep parts.

Once in Sapzurro, you’re a short hike (15 minutes) up to the border with Panama and the village of La Miel. This easy walk begins on the same street as Cabañas Uvali and the Reserva Natural Tacarcuná. The border crossing is at the top of a steep hill with embedded steps. You’ll need to show a passport to cross over to Panama. There is not much to the community of La Miel. It has a small military outpost, many young children running around, and a pleasant beach where you can swim and have a seafood lunch or drink.

Another walk to make is to the El Cielo waterfall, a 50-minute walk (about 3 km) through the jungle. It’s easy to make and is flat, although you’ll have to make around a dozen shallow stream crossings. Bring a bathing suit to cool off in the swimming holes you’ll encounter. To get to heavenly El Cielo, set out on the road that runs parallel to the airstrip. Ask locals for directions.

It is possible to walk between Capurganá and El Aguacate, but the path, along the shore, is rocky and a bit treacherous.


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