San Cipriano is one of Colombia’s best kept secrets. With beautiful, pristine swimming holes, great hiking trails, and a relaxed atmosphere, it’s a great place for a weekend getaway from the city! While it’s possible to take a day trip if you leave early enough, I recommend staying at least one night so that you have enough time to explore and also relax.
It’s also important to say that, while San Cipriano is beautiful and the people are super friendly, there are some problems in the area. Specifically, gold was recently discovered in the Dagua River and multinational companies have invaded and taken control of this beautiful natural habitat. Environmental groups have given up trying to intervene because they’ve been threatened with violence.
Tourism to the area shouldn’t make the problem worse, if anything it should improve it because it will draw more attention to the issue. But I always think it’s important to know the truth about the places you visit. Also, San Cipriano isn’t dangerous and the locals are incredibly friendly to visitors! I didn’t notice the effects of these problems at all when I visited.
Here’s your guide to San Cipriano, Colombia:
How To Get There
It’s incredibly easy to get to San Cipriano from Cali. Go to the Terminal de Transporte and find a bus that goes to Buenaventura. Before buying the ticket, make sure to tell them you’re going to San Cipriano so that they know to stop along the way. It’s also a good idea to let your bus driver know when you board the bus.
After about 2 hours, the bus will stop on the side of a highway. Simply cross the road and you’ll see the place where you can buy tickets for the brujitas (see below). You’ll need to buy your tickets here if it’s the weekend. From what I remember, it’s about $12.000 COP for a round-trip ticket. Buy a round-trip ticket and cross the giant, terrifying, suspended bridge. I was not a fan.
On the other side, you’ll find a small little town called Cordoba. If you want to bring any alcohol or food to San Cipriano, you should buy it here because it’s cheaper than in the town. Here, you’ll see the brujitas. The brujitas are a unique form of transportation that you need to take to reach the town. It’s one of the best parts about visiting San Cipriano!
It’s basically a motorcycle attached to a little wooden cart with seats. They’re connected to an old (but active) railroad track. But don’t worry! The railroad companies obviously know that people travel on the brujitas and there’s active communication between the companies and the locals. However, if the railroad company does radio in and say a train is coming, you’ll have to get off the tracks and wait. Obviously.
Once you get on a brujita, you’ll ride it for about twenty minutes and it’ll drop you off at the entrance to San Cipriano.
From Buenaventura you can reach San Cipriano in the same way. The only thing is that, obviously, you’ll need to take the bus in the opposite direction (toward Cali) and the bus might leave you at a different entrance.
Where to Stay
There are some low-budget hotels in the town, but the best option is camping! The hotels aren’t anything great and camping is much cheaper. We rented a tent that fit three people comfortably for just $12.000 each.
The lot we camped in barely had anybody else and the owners even gave us blankets, pillows, and sleeping pads. The tent was also in really good condition. When it started to rain, they even cleared the tables from their partially-outdoor restaurant so that we could camp under a roof.
There are plenty of options for camping and they’re all affordable. All that you need to do is walk around the town and ask around. To save even more money you can bring your own tent.
What to Do
Try the food
There are plenty of great restaurants and “fast food” (as in, like, empanadas…not McDonald’s) options in the town. Here is a great place to try plenty of typical Colombian foods, like sancocho, obleas, and papa relllena. TIP: If you like papa rellena, we found some with shrimp here! It was delicious and definitely worth searching for.
There are plenty of trails in the area leading to different swimming holes and water falls. It’s great to explore and see what’s around. The area is clean and preserved really well and you’ll be able to see a lot of different plant and animal species.
Personally I didn’t see any snakes there, but I was told (afterwards…thankfully) that San Cipriano is infamous for having a lot of snakes. So just be aware.
Enjoying the river is the main activity in San Cipriano.
There are tons of swimming holes and waterfalls to check out! The waterfalls are El Sendero del Amor, which is a 10 minute walk from the town, and La Ventiadora, which is a 40 minute walk from the town. I didn’t have time to check it out when I went, but I’ve been told that La Ventiadora is 100% worth the 40 minute walk.
In total, there are seven swimming holes, and they’re all awesome! Balas Tiera is 5 minutes from the town, Azul is also a 5 minute walk, Del Diablo is a 10 minute walk, Obscuro and Tortugas are both a 20 minute walk, Charco los Sabalos is a 30 minute walk, and Platina is a 45 minute walk.
If you’re short on time and not sure which ones to check out, there are usually local guides around and they’re always willing to share their opinion about their favorite spots!
A lot of the swimming holes have rope swings or places where you can jump off as well. You can rent tubes all around the town and float around the river.
When taking the bus from San Cipriano back to Cali or Buenaventura, it’s normal to try and haggle the price.
Make sure to bring cash because there’s no ATM and credit cards aren’t accepted. You won’t need to bring a lot. If you’re staying overnight, $120.000 is more than enough (including the bus rides and accommodation).
Bring sunscreen AND bug spray. The sun can get really intense here.
Don’t expect much in terms of luxury. San Cipriano is a pretty “off-the-grid” location and amenities in the town are basic. The town itself is actually quite poor
The motorcycles that they use for the brujitas are fairly old and they do break down often. It’s not a big deal, just be aware.
The trails are clearly marked and easy to follow, but I wouldn’t recommend going after dark because there aren’t any people and you never know who (or what) is wandering around there.
During certain times of the year, it rains a lot in San Cipriano. Come prepared with rain gear.
The last brujita usually leaves around 5 P.M.
During the week, you’ll cross the bridge and pay for the brujitas in the town, instead of at the office before crossing the bridge.
Remember to pick up your trash and be a responsible tourist!
Have you ever been to San Cipriano? What are you recommendations?