Imagine the most beautiful, empty desert landscape – sand dunes and flat plains for as far as the eye can see – untouched by modern man. Now imagine this landscape pouring right down to the Caribbean sea. That is the beauty of Cabo de La Vela, a place in the very Northeastern corner of Colombia where the browns and golds of the desert mix with the blues and greens of the sea.
This is not a place seen by many outsiders. Not because it is a hidden secret – every Colombia has heard of the beautiful, deserted beaches and picturesque landscape and every guidebook to Colombia has at least a small section on the area. The real reason so few people visit – it’s really hard to get here.
Colombia is an amazing country when it comes to public transportation. You can literally drop me anywhere and I’ll make it home, using only public transportation. Cabo de La Vela is no different but it definitely makes the process harder.
First, you have to head to Riohacha, the last real city before you hit the desert. In the city, ask for the Uribia shared taxis which are usually parked all together a few blocks from the beach. Uribia is a fascinating little city itself – the cultural center of the native Wayuu people. If you are lucky, you’ll have some time to wander around before taking the last “taxi,” usually a 4×4 jeep colectivo, to Cabo de La Vela. Make sure you only get in a vehicle that looks up to the task – the drive to Cabo de La Vela is over two hours along a flat, sandy unpaved road where it is all too easy to get stuck.
Cabo de La Vela
Once you are in Cabo de La Vela, it is time to relax and enjoy its empty paradise of sand and sea. Rent a hammock or a tent to sleep on the beach from local “hostels.” You can also hire the local men to drive you to nearby beaches where you will literally have the place to yourself. Be sure you also check out the Cerro Kamachi, a hill sacred to the Wayuu. You can climb to the top of the hill for incredible views of the surrounding area and to watch the sunset over the Caribbean.
Cabo de La Vela is remote and while the hostels are usually clean and well-kept, you are literally in the middle of nowhere so don’t expect much in the way of comfort. The power is cut off at night and you might have to take a bucket shower but you’ll never see such bright star filled skies or get the chance to swim in such picturesque waters.
Couple Travel Tips
- If you are going to bring snacks or drinks with you, take the trash back with you.. all the way to Riohacha. Plenty of tourists notice and complain about the littering and trash issue in Uribia and Cabo de La Vela. The truth though is that the people here have no garbage dump or way to process your plastic trash. Take it back to the city where it will be properly disposed of.
- You’ll need to wake up early if you ever want to leave. Shared jeeps from Cabo de La Vela leave between 4 and 5 in the morning, taking the local people to work in Uribia. If you miss the early morning ride, you’ll be stuck until the next day.
- Buy one of the famous Wayuu Mochilas. They bags are a great travel accessory, big enough to hold anything, and are one of the most iconic Colombian souvenirs. Plus, this is where they are made by hand by the Wayuu women and you’ll get the best quality for the best price.