Charco Escondido: A Hidden Treasure Right Outside of Cali
This past weekend I went to Charco Escondido for the second time. I went with some coworkers during my first month in Cali and I’ve been bothering my group of friends about going for months. I knew they would get sick of my complaining and eventually cave…and I was right!
Charco Escondido literally translates to “Hidden Pond“- and don’t think the name is misleading. It’s very hidden indeed. As a tourist, it’s a little more difficult to reach; many locals don’t even know how to get there and you have to walk…A LOT. But it’s totally worth it.
This journey is not for the weak (of mind)! The walk itself isn’t that challenging, but it’s easy to feel like you’ll never get there. I was lucky enough to have coworkers who knew where to go the first time I went. Because I couldn’t find any clear information online.
This guide is meant to answer all your questions about the very hidden Charco Escondido.
So…why is it worth going to if it’s such a far walk?
It’s nice to escape Cali sometimes. This is your chance to get some fresh air and see beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. Also, it’s pretty cool to go somewhere that most people haven’t been to! When you reach Charco Escondido, you feel a sense of accomplishment- like when you reach the top of a mountain!
When can I go?
Charco Escondido is on private property and is only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Trust me, you don’t want to walk all this way for nothing.
How can I arrive?
Okay, so according to me there are 3 ways to get to and from Charco Escondido: an easy(ish) way, a medium way, and a difficult way.
I’ve done both the easy(ish) way and the difficult way, so I’ll talk about those first.
The easy(ish) way: The easy way is to find a friend who has a car or to drive yourself. You need to leave Cali and go to the nearby town of Jamundi. Drive through Jamundi toward Miravalle (ask a local if you don’t know where it is). To the right, you’ll see a huge apartment complex called Colinas de Miravalle at the end of the paved road.
Begin to drive on the dirt road for a little while until you see a split. Go to the left. Keep driving until you see the house on the corner, parked cars, and the path beginning to descend. You can leave your car there (but don’t leave any valuables in it). From there, you just follow the path. I’m going to warn you that from here, you have about an hour walk ahead of you. And that’s if you’re walking at a good pace!
You’ll find the river and you need to cross either through the river or over the makeshift bridge. On the other side, there’s a house and the owners sell beer, water, juice, and more.
Last time I went there were also two women selling 100% natural juice made from the fruit they grow on their nearby finca!
Continue walking for a while and eventually you’ll find another part of the river, with some abandoned mines nearby. There are plenty of people here so you can ask them for directions if you’re not sure. You can either cross this part by going through the river and going up, or crossing the cement bridge.
Once you cross the bridge go to the left (the part of the trail that ascends). Follow the trail and after a little while you’ll see a sign for Charco Escondido. Once you reach this sign, continue to the right.
The sign might make you feel like you’re close but there’s still a little way to go. Once you walk some more, you’ll reach another sign that’s almost exactly the same. Continue following the trail and finally you’ll reach Charco Escondido.
Remember that you need to cross the river twice before reaching Charco Escondido.
You need to pay $2,000 COP to enter the property. You just walk down some stares, cross a sketchy-looking bridge, and voila! You’ve made it.
To return, just follow the trail back to your car and drive back to Jamundi, then Cali.
The first time I went to Charco Escondido, I reached it using this method and it wasn’t bad at all.
The second time I went, we were a little more disorganized (very typical for my friends) and we didn’t have a car. It was much more difficult and exhausting this way, but we still had a great time…and got a lot of exercise!
Here’s how to reach Charco Escondido the difficult way– because sometimes traveling without a plan is the best way to travel!
First, take the Mio the Universidades in Cali. Outside of the station, you’ll have to ask around to try and find an illegal taxi, a normal taxi (although it will be a little expensive), or some type of service that will bring you to Jamundi. Caleños love to negotiate prices, so don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, especially if you have a large group.
Once you arrive to Jamundi, you can either take a bus or a taxi to Miravalle. Taxis will probably try to charge you around $20,000 COP, but you can negotiate a ride for $15,000 COP. A bus will cost a little less than $2,000 COP.
If you’re not on a budget I recommend a taxi. It’s much faster and the buses don’t run on a very efficient schedule. The taxi will drop you off at the beginning of the dirt road. If the driver doesn’t know where it is, tell them to take you to the Colinas de Miravalle.
Begin walking on the dirt road and go to the left when you reach the split. Eventually, you’ll reach the place where people leave their cars. Then, continue with the same walking directions as above.
To return, follow the path back. If you come back too late (like I did) you won’t be able to get a bus. And taxis don’t go to that area without a reason. You’ll have to walk all the way back to Jamundi, which will add about an hour to your walk.
You’ll find a little bench and a stand with some mini buses outside just as you’re entering Jamundi. There you can find a bus back to Cali. The bus will leave you near the station Universidades.
Learn from my mistakes: it doesn’t have to be so difficult to return from Charco Escondido if you don’t have a car.. If you leave a little earlier there are buses and piratas (illegal taxis that look similar to jeeps, with benches in the back) that go up the dirt road and you can take them back to Jamundi. They run until about 5 P.M., but keep in mind that the last few of the day fill up fast.
How long does it take to reach Charco Escondido?
Here’s a look at how my day went this past weekend, so you can compare and get an idea.
I left my house at 7:30 A.M. and arrived to Universidades at about 8:30. After waiting for some friends, we found a small van that would take all 9 of us to Jamundi.
We wasted a lot of time walking around Jamundi trying to decide what to do next. Eventually we found two taxis that offered us a good rate and at about 10:30 A.M. we left Jamundi.
At 11 A.M. we reached the dirt road. We walked for about 90 minutes, but we also stopped a lot to take pictures or relax. It’s possible to make it in one hour if you walk at a good pace without stopping. We arrived to Charco Escondido at about 12:30 P.M.
We stayed there until 3 P.M. and began our walk back. We reached the paved road at about 5 P.M. (I admit we were much lazier on the way back) and realized there were no buses. Exhausted from the day and hungry, we realized we wouldn’t be able to find a bus back, so we walked about 90 more minutes to Jamundi.
We reached the little bus stand at about 6:30 P.M. and waited. We eventually reached Cali at about 7:30.
If I wanted to torture myself I would’ve taken the Mio back to my house. But I, and 3 of my friends, caved and took a nice, comfortable, air-conditioned Uber back.
I arrived to my house at about 8:30 P.M.
With your own car, your travel time would be a lot less.
It’s also possible to reach the charco by motorcycle and bicycle. If you’re into extreme exercise, biking is a good option. I wouldn’t recommend going by motorcycle because the drive is very difficult.
How much does it cost to go to Charco Escondido?
Church Escondido is a great destination for budget travelers because it’s super cheap. Most of the money I spent was on transportation, so if you have your own car you can get there for almost free.
Here’s a breakdown of what I spent:
*Note: prices are in Colombian pesos only because of fluctuating exchange rates. As of August 2017, the exchange rate is about $3,000 COP to $1 USD.
Mio to get to Universidades: $2,000 COP per person
Van to get to Jamundi: $3,000 COP per person
Taxi to Miravalle: About $4,000 COP per person
Entrance to Charco Escondido: $2,000 COP per person
Ice cold beer I bought during the walk: $3,000 COP
Bus to return to Cali: $3,000 COP per person
Uber to my house (split between 4 people): About $4,000 COP per person
Total spent: About $21,000 COP per person. As of August 2017, that’s only about $7 USD!
I also brought my own food- some sandwiches I made at home and a bag of peanuts. You can also buy some basic food and drinks once you enter the property. I would recommend bringing your own water though, because there are long stretches of the walk where you can’t buy anything. Hydration is important!
What can I do once I’m there?
Everyone in Cali heads to Rio Pance on the weekends and Charco Escondido offers a much less-crowded option. The water is ice cold, but it feels good in Cali’s heat. There are different natural pools that are formed by the rocks, so you can choose if you want to swim in deep or shallow water.
You can relax with friends and eat or drink some beer or aguardiente. You can even start a fire and cook if you want to unleash your inner survivor contestant. I saw tents there so I think you can camp but I’m not sure.
The main attraction of Charco Escondido is that there are places to jump into the water. The deepest part of the charco is at the base of a little waterfall. There’s a rope to help you fight the current (you’ll just get pushed into shallow water if the current catches you so don’t worry!) and reach a makeshift ladder. You can climb the ladder to the top of the waterfall and jump off into deep water.
The adventurous can climb up to an even higher point- that I personally estimated to be about 4 stories high. It’s also entertaining to watch all the cool tricks people do as they jump.
Bring sunscreen and bug repellent! The sun can be brutal during the walk and in the afternoon the mosquitos are horrible.
Bring a bottle of water.
If you see the two women selling fresh juice after the first part of the river your cross, try the juice! It’s some of the best you’ll ever taste.
Be careful with your valuables. In general, it’s pretty safe, but you never know who’s there.
Wear comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes for the walk.
Please remember that this is a natural area. Please don’t leave trash. Keep it clean for the next visitors to enjoy!
Have you ever been to Charco Escondido? What are your favorite hidden locations in Colombia?
Brittany Mailhot is a freelance writer, blogger, and personal freedom advocate. She began living a location independent lifestyle shortly after graduating from college and continues to share her experiences to inspire others to say f*ck it to the 9-5 and live their dreams! She's always available to answer questions by email or on social media so don't be afraid to reach out!