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The tiny town of Capurgana and the even tinier village of Sapzurro lie on the Colombian Caribbean border with Panama, on the edge of the notorious Darien Gap. They are only accessible by boat, but due to their paradisiacal beaches, isolation, and virgin jungles, they are fast becoming top tourist destinations. Here’s a guide to help you visit Capurgana and Sapzurro.
There are three ways to travel to these tiny little towns, and they all involve a boat at some point in the trip. The first option – and the more expensive one by far – is to fly from Medellin to the small coastal town of Acandi with ADA Airline. From Acandi, you can get a boat to Capurgana – a trip that shouldn’t take more than an hour or so. The second and third options both involve much longer boat journeys, but they are significantly cheaper – one is to hop on a boat from Turbo, which should take around three hours and cost about 60.000 COP (about US$20). On this trip, try and avoid a front seat on the boat: the waves are high, and the boat tends to bounce around a lot.
The third option – and one that is becoming more and more popular for travellers – is to take the boat from Necocli. This trip takes significantly less time – more like an hour and a half – and costs around 70.000 COP (US$24) each way. All of these options will get you to Capurgana: should you want to continue to the quieter village of Sapzurro, simply grab a boat at the dock in Capurgana. It’ll cost about 10.000 COP (US$3.50) and takes just 10 minutes. You can also hike between the two towns on a pretty trail through the jungle in about two hours.
There are plenty of great activities to enjoy in both towns and the surrounding beaches and jungles. One of the most popular is the previously mentioned jungle hike between the two towns. Since it can be a hot and sweaty hike, try to leave early, and take plenty of water. From Sapzurro, another popular little trek is over the Panama border to the small beachfront village of La Miel. You’ll need your passport – no stamps, unfortunately – but the reward is one of the loveliest beaches in the region, with excellent snorkelling and some super-strong beach cocktails to enjoy.
A great way to experience the fantastic natural diversity of the Darien region while visiting Capurgana and Sapzurro is to hike to El Cielo waterfall from Capurgana. It’s an easy hike – just three kilometres (1.9 miles) through the jungle – but you are likely to see howler monkeys, toucans, and parrots (especially if you leave early) before you even arrive at the ‘falls, which is perfect for a cooling dip after the heat of the hike. If you don’t feel much like hiking, then you can always take it easy and just enjoy all the stunning beaches instead.
Nature lovers will want to head to Acandi during the Easter period: at this time of year, giant leatherback turtles arrive to lay their eggs on the beaches of the town, and visitors can head out in the darkness to watch these huge creatures heave themselves out of the waves. Sports enthusiasts can also enjoy some of the best diving in Colombia on the many untouched reefs around the two towns.
Capurgana is the bigger of the two settlements and, thus, is home to more accommodation options, including the Acuali Eco Hostal, Kackikine Hostel, Hostal Capurgana, and the slightly pricier Los Robles. In Sapzurro, Hilltop Sapzurro Hostel is generally considered the best option, as well as El Chileno, which has cheaper hammock and camping on offer.