Getting to Cabo de La Vela
La Guajira is so remote and isolated from the rest of the country that you must be prepared to spend the whole day travelling on different types of transports to get there. It is not cheap, and it certainly isn’t easy – but it is an adventure.
Aside from guided tours, there is little information about getting to the Guajira solo. After some thorough research, we embarked on our journey following the advice of See Colombia. However, on the advice from our bus driver, we managed to skip a step. Since then, we have also had friends get there in slightly different ways, so take a look at the three options and see which is best for you.
These options are available from Santa Marta, Tayrona or Palomino. We did option 1, which we believe to be the quickest and easiest.
All are en route to Riohacha. If you’re leaving from Tayrona or Palomino, there are no bus stations, you just have to stand on the main road and wait for the bus.
Start your journey as early as possible. The last pick-up trucks pass Cuatro Vías/Uribia around 3pm. You should leave Santa Marta by 8am, Tayrona by 9am and Palomino by 10am at the very latest. We left from Palomino around 9.30am and arrived in Cabo de la Vela around 5.30pm – just in time for sunset!
Santa Marta – Cuatro Vías – Cabo de la Vela
Bus & 4×4 pick-up truck
These 4×4 pick-up trucks drive go to Maicao early in the morning to get supplies for Cabo, stopping at Uribia on the way and serving as a colectivo bus for locals.
This is what I did, and it was definitely an adventure!
Palomino – Cuatro Vías $20,000COP 2 hours, every ½ hour
Cuatro Vías – Cabo $15,000COP 4 hours, until 3pm
- Get a bus that terminates at Maicao and ask the driver to get off at “Cuatro Vías”. If you are going from Palomino, just stand on the main road and wait for a red and white bus with “Flamingo” on it. This should take around 2 hours (if the bus doesn’t get a flat tyre.) From Santa Marta terminal, ask for Maicao/Cuatro Vías (4 hours)
- Cuatro Vías is a crossroads that leads to Uribia. When you get off the bus, guys by the road will offer you rides to Uribia by mototaxi. Tell them you want to get to Cabo de la Vela. They will call the pick-up trucks which are on their return journey from Maicao, who can pick you up from Cuatro Vías on their way to Cabo. Remember they will make a stop at Uribia to pick up supplies and people!
Companies that go to Maicao: Flamingo, Superstar (Cootragua), Expreso Brasilia, Unitransco
Santa Marta – Riohacha – Cabo de la Vela
Bus & private taxi
- Get a bus from Santa Marta to Riohacha (30mil, 3 hours, buses every ½ hour from 5.30am-7.30pm).
- At Riohacha, tell them you want to go to Cabo de la Vela. This should cost around $25,000COP, but this will depend on how many people there are. Ideally you want to group up with others spread the cost and have more bargaining leverage.
Santa Marta – Riohacha $20,000-30,000COP 3-4 hours, every ½ hour from 5.30am
Riohacha – Cabo de la Vela $25,000COP negotiable 3 hours
Bus companies that go to Riohacha: Copetrán, Cootraceagua, Expreso Brasilia, Expreso Almirant Padilla, Expreso Wayuu, Rápido Ochoa, Torcoroma, Unitransco,
Santa Marta – Riohacha – Uribia – Cabo de la Vela
Bus, Bus & Pick-up truck
Obviously not ideal, but another option should the first two not work out!
- Get a bus from Santa Marta to Riohacha. Upon arrival to Riohacha, ask to be dropped off where buses go to Uribia (by roundabout Francisco El Hombre), which is a few blocks past the bus terminal.
- Get a bus to Uribia. Companies Tierra del Sol or Cootrauri
- In Uribia, go to “Las Pulgas” market square where the 4x4s that go to Cabo will leave from (as in Option 1)
Santa Marta – Riohacha $ 20,000-30,000 3-4 hours, every ½ hour from 5.30am
Riohacha – Uribia $15,000COP 1 hour
Uribia – Cabo de la Vela $15,000COP 3-4 hours
Getting to Punta Gallinas
Cabo de la Vela – Punta Gallinas
4×4 or boat
To get to Punta Gallinas, you can speak to any hostel owner in Cabo de la Vela (or just ask a local and they will point you in the right direction) and they will organise everything.
Standard cost: $150.000 return (includes transport and tour) could haggle down $120.000-$100.000
There are normally two options – by land or sea.
This takes around 3-4 hours. You will be taken in a 4×4 and over dirt roads so the ride might be rough and likely cramped, but includes several stops and incredible desert landscapes.
First, you will b driven to the port which takes around 1/2 hour. You will then be transferred to a small boat of around 20 people and taken around 2-3 hours across the sea to Punta Gallinas. The journey will depend on the sea conditions, but can be pretty choppy so be prepared to get wet!
Which is better?
I get seasick so I was adamant that we would go via land. Unfortunately, we went just after Hurricane Matthew; the roads were impassable so going via land wasn’t an option. I wasn’t happy about going by boat, but we had no choice. To be honest, I was pretty sure we were going to die. We got life jackets, but sea was really rough and our lives were effectively in the hands of a couple of local teenagers. We got completely soaked but we made it in one piece to Punta Gallinas. Having said this, apparently, our journey was particularly rough because we had left an hour later than normal and the group that arrived the following day were bone dry. Just in case, I’d reccommend wearing swimwear and sunglasses, and making sure your valuables are in a waterproof bags!
Arriving at Punta Gallinas
Both options leave around 5am and arrive around 9am at Punta Gallinas. You will have breakfast, sort out hammocks and then taken on the tour which takes around 3 hours (half of which is beach time). You get taken back for lunch, and the afternoon is free time.
The return boat leaves at 5am. When you get to the port, the 4x4s will be waiting. You can arrange if you want to go back to Cabo de la Vela or directly to Uribia (and for a bit extra they will take you to Riohacha). If returning by land, the 4x4s will also leave around 5am.
When you pay for the tour, you can arrange when you want to return. If you change your mind, just let the hostelowner at Alexandra’s.
We were pleasantly surprised by our return trip, the sea was calm and the ride was smooth the whole way back. The cherry on top was the sunrise – it was absolutely magical!