Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, with Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, Amazon rainforest, great plains, and Andes mountains. The number of species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and plants to be seen is remarkable, and there are some truly excellent ecolodges throughout the country offering guests the chance to experience Colombia’s natural diversity in an environmentally-friendly fashion. So here are the best ecolodges in Colombia.
Juan Solito Ecolodge is located on Hato La Aurora, a vast reserve/ranch in the eastern plains of Colombia—the reserve protects multiple important Colombian species, including jaguars, ocelots, and anacondas, as well as a multitude of other mammal and bird species. Guests can enjoy staying in a typical llanero house, with a delicious menu of local food, and where activities include the “Colombian safari” into the plains in 4×4 vehicles or on horseback. They also offer fascinating trips to monitor the camera-traps that have been set up to record jaguar activity on the ranch.
Definitely the most off-the-beaten-track and least well-known spot on this list, Playa Guio is made up of nothing more than three simple cabins on the edge of a creek near the jungle city of San Jose del Guaviare. It’s an ecotourism collective operated by a few local families, and very good value for money as well—an entire cabin, sleeping up to four people, costs around $35 per night. There’s not much to do at Playa Guio besides admiring the amazing bird life in the surrounding jungles, and hiking through the forest looking for monkeys. However, the excellent food, beautiful location, and chance to wake up to the sound of howler monkeys at dawn makes Playa Guio the perfect lodge for budget travelers wanting to experience the diversity of the Colombian jungle.
There are stunning birds to be spotted at Playa Guio
Perhaps the finest ecolodge in Colombia, El Cantil is located on Guachalito beach, a gorgeous and isolated stretch of sand on the wild Pacific coast near Nuqui. With seven well-furnished cabins as well as a restaurant serving some of the best seafood in Colombia, the ecolodge offers whale-watching tours between June and October, when guests can observe humpback whales at close quarters. El Cantil also has bird watching tours and surfing classes year-round. As an ecolodge, they are committed to working with local communities as well as the environment, and give out school supplies, tourism training, and surfing equipment to local people.
An extremely luxurious ecolodge in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, Calanoa is a unique and beautiful spot in which to immerse yourself in the jungle for a few days. The Calanoa Foundation contributes to the “conservation of the biological and cultural diversity of the Amazonian region” by working alongside local communities, and the lodge itself can offer a variety of jungle tour packages to suit all tastes, including a fantastic 15-day birding and natural history trip in the Amazon every February.
Located on the beautiful Almejal beach near the town of El Valle in the Choco Pacific region, this natural reserve and ecolodge is a paradise for nature-lovers: the reserve has a wonderful nature trail through the surrounding jungles, and eagle-eyed visitors can spot poison arrow frogs, glass frogs, a variety of bird species, and the impressive basilisk lizard (also known as the “Jesus Christ lizard” for its ability to run on water). With individual cabins in the jungle, a turtle rescue programme, and a variety of nature tours available, El Almejal is bound to impress.
Owned and operated by ProAves, Colombia’s most important bird conservation organization, El Dorado is a Mecca for birders worldwide: located in the endemic-rich Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, with mind-blowing panoramic views over the Caribbean Sea and the snowcapped peaks of Bolivar and Colombia, it’s possible to spot up to 20 species of bird that only exist here. The lodge gardens alone boast a multitude of excellent species, including the recently described Santa Marta screech owl. If you are interested in Colombia’s amazing avian diversity, then this lodge should be your first port of call.
Just three hours from Medellin are the last vestiges of the tropical rainforest which once blanketed the Magdalena River valley, and within a narrow marble canyon running through this jungle lies Rio Claro lodge, one of the country’s finest and most environmentally friendly natural reserves. With a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets—unlike many ecolodges—Rio Claro has a number of activities available for guests: rafting, caving, zip lining, birding, and much more. The profits from the lodge are invested in purchasing and protecting even more of this ecosystem in the surrounding area, so guests can rest assured that their money is going to a good cause.
Another fantastic ecolodge on the biodiverse Pacific coast near Nuqui, Pijibá Lodge lies just along the beach from the aforementioned El Cantil Ecolodge. With six cabins constructed from purely locally-sourced materials, it’s an intimate little lodge with stunning views over the ocean and the jungle. Much like El Cantil, the activities are focused around whale-watching in the season, and surfing. Skin- and scuba-diving are also available, and guides can arrange hiking and birding excursions on request as well.
Located a half-hour walk from the popular coffee town of Salento, Kasaguadua is a private nature reserve protecting 14 hectares of tropical Andean cloud forest. It’s possible to visit just for the day to enjoy an informative guided hike along the reserve’s two-and-a-half miles (4km) of trails, or to stay overnight in the innovative cabins constructed primarily from bamboo—hence “Kasaguada,” meaning “bamboo house.” One important caveat when staying at Kasaguadua is that guests must be relatively fit, as the only access to the lodge at the bottom of the valley is by foot.
This lovely little ecolodge on the coastal road between Tayrona National Park and Palomino is the perfect place to discover the nature and indigenous cultures of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Located alongside the beautiful Don Diego River—where guests can go tubing—Taironaka has a number of ecological trails which guests can enjoy alongside local guides, as well as an onsite archaeological museum dedicated to the local indigenous cultures. They also offer healing and marriage rituals, and ceremonies with a local Kogui indigenous village, who they also work alongside with a foundation created in 2006.
A beautiful Amazonian ecolodge located near the Ticuna indigenous community of San Martin de Amacayacu—approximately three hours from the city of Leticia—Yoi offer inclusive Amazon jungle packages with their lodge as a base. Tours include multiple activities such as bird watching, jungle hikes, learning about the local indigenous cultures, canoeing, pink dolphin watching, and nighttime caiman safaris. The lodge itself is an amazing place: located within the remarkably biodiverse Amacayacu National Park, it features simple rustic cabins set in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.