The Pacific Coast

The Colombian Pacific region, made up of four departments (Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño), remains a largely unvisited and unknown part of Colombia. That shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting, however. This part of Colombia offers travelers a variety of things to do, from adventure and ecotourism to cultural experiences and attractions.

The region itself is dominated by two rivers, the Atrato in the north and the San Juan in the south. It is cordoned off from the rest of the country by the spine of the Andes to the east. In the extreme north, the border with Panama is defined by the famous Darien Gap.
While inroads are being made into the more unknown areas, many journeys to this part of Colombia (including trips to eco-lodges on the Chocó coast) require taking internal flights and then being transferred by boat. In order to get to the Pacific Coast by bus, visitors must come from either Medellín or Cali in the north or Pasto or Ipiales in the south. Most of the roads here wind their way toward important ports, while the tangle and mesh of rivers serve as highways for chalupas (boats)and canoes. Due to the density of the jungle and the extreme climatic conditions present here, it seems highly unlikely for roads to be constructed anytime soon.

Security remains an issue throughout parts of the region, especially the mass of land extending from the ports of Tumaco and Buenaventura near the border with Ecuador to Bahía Solano and the border with Panama in the north. The inhabitants of this region—mostly descendants of African slaves and Embera Indians—increasingly find themselves in the crossfire between the government troops and leftist FARC guerrillas. For this reason, it is advisable to use common sense and to plan ahead.