The little beachside town of Cabo de La Vela in Colombia’s northern desert region of La Guajira is increasingly popular with travellers. The stunning location, unique landscapes and culture, and wonderful beaches make Cabo a great place to spend a few days, but what can you actually do when you visit? Here are the top 10 things to see and do in Cabo de La Vela.
Cabo de La Vela is famous as one of the best kitesurfing destinations, not only in Colombia but worldwide. The town’s location makes for year-round winds, and there are several popular kitesurfing schools and hostels in Cabo. You can sign up for a taster session or a full course, but one thing is certain: you have to have a go at kitesurfing if you visit Cabo de La Vela.
This small, conical hill overlooking the Caribbean is a sacred place for the local Wayuu Indigenous people and is a popular spot for travellers to visit to enjoy incredible panoramic views over the wild desert landscapes of the Guajira. It’s a short uphill climb, but can be quite intense in the heat. However, it’s worth the effort for the stunning views.
Cabo de La Vela has some of the best sunsets in Colombia due to its location facing west across the Caribbean. You can see lovely sunsets from the town itself, but the best place to enjoy them is from the El Faro lighthouse. You can easily visit on a mototaxi from Cabo and on a clear day, the sunsets from El Faro are as lovely as any you’ll see on your trip.
The adjacent beach to Pilon de Azucar is undoubtedly the most beautiful beach in the area, and the perfect place to spend a lazy day, swimming and sunbathing. You can easily combine a visit to the beach with climbing the hill, and the warm waters are perfect for cooling off after the sweaty climb. Beaches in La Guajira may not be the classic, postcard Caribbean beach you might imagine in Colombia, but they are no less lovely for that.
Another popular beach near Cabo de La Vela, Ojo de Agua is named after a small freshwater pool hidden among the rocky coves surrounding the beach. It’s not as arrestingly beautiful as Playa del Pilon but sits alongside El Faro, so it’s a perfect spot to visit in the afternoon for a swim before watching the sunset from the lighthouse.
The Wayuu Indigenous people are the main inhabitants of the Guajira region, and they are famous for their stunning woven bags, known as mochilas. These bags have become a major fashion accessory worldwide, but the best place to buy one is directly from Wayuu artisans in Cabo de La Vela. You’ll see lots of local women selling the bags, which come in all sizes and colours, so you can pick one up from the person who actually made it.
Food in La Guajira can often be fairly basic due to years of drought and lack of cultivable land. However, there are some unique and delicious traditional dishes which are worth trying nonetheless. The best of the bunch is friche, a typical Wayuu dish made of young goat, slow-cooked and then fried.
The most northerly point of South America is Punta Gallinas, a wild and remote desert peninsula a few hours north of Cabo de La Vela. The landscapes are truly unique and surreal and Punta Gallinas is one of the highlights of many traveller’s time in the Colombian Caribbean. You can easily arrange the overnight trip to Punta Gallinas from Cabo, so make sure you include an extra couple of days on your itinerary to experience this magical place.
The Guajira desert is truly one of the harshest landscapes in Colombia, but it has a wild beauty which you can’t find elsewhere on the Caribbean coast. You can visit the beaches mentioned above by motorbike but consider taking the time to hike there through the desert. You’ll need to pack plenty of water and sunscreen, but the experience of wandering alone in this surreal landscape will be well-worth the added effort.
The Wayuu culture is truly unique in the continent and the best place to learn more about their cultures and traditions in Cabo is the Rancheria Utta, a hotel modelled on a typical Wayuu village which offers traditional gastronomy, as well as the chance to experience Wayuu dances, festivals, and traditional music. Not only is Utta a lovely place to stay, it’s also the best way to discover the Wayuu culture firsthand.