Welcome to this guide on travel to Cabo de la Vela, Colombia.
Below we’ll explore Cabo de la Vela, a sleepy beachside town located in the autonomous region of La Guajira, in the north of Colombia.
A more off-the-beaten-path destination, this town offers numerous unspoiled beaches, old culture, and traditions, a convenient gateway into the desert as well as opportunities for wind sports.
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Backpacking Cabo de la Vela
Read on to learn more about what you can do here, and how to make the most of a trip in this region!
Cabo de la Vela is a cozy beach destination without all the tourists. If you’ve been to the beaches in Cartagena, for example, you’ll know exactly why I say this. This is not a place for light-hearted tourists.
Is Cabo de la Vela Worth Visiting?
It’s perfect for the traveler who wishes to get off the beaten path, as getting there is complicated; imagine a few bus and pick-up truck rides!
The journey itself to get there is one reason why it appeals to many travelers, and of course, the beach and quiet nature of the town is.
As well as this, Cabo has great conditions for wind sports, where many come to try out windsurfing and paragliding.
While many come for the reasons above, you will also find that the surrounding areas of Cabo are another popular reason to visit.
Being the capital of the region, I found Riohacha to be a great starting point for any trip to Cabo and easy get to from Santa Marta.
Is it safe to travel to Cabo de la Vela?
In comparison with many other regions in Colombia, La Guajira is a lot safer in terms of gun violence and the sort that happens more regularly in the bigger cities. However, theft can be a problem here.
Many locals live in poverty here, especially the Wayuu tribe that originates from the region, so as long as you dress conservatively and show respect this way there should not be any problems.
On the beach they may come up asking for you to buy some of their handcrafts, which whilst is an important source of their income, you should never be forced to do anything you don’t want to!
Cabo de la Vela, Colombia
Situated in the Guajira Desert, there are many points of interest just outside of the town such as caves and beautiful landscapes.
Just like in Palomino beach, you’ll even find indigenous artisan markets which we will later explore in the destinations section below.
Another interest is the Wayuu people, a native tribe to the region.
Notable for their clothes and black face-paint, they create some of the best handcrafts in the country, ranging from hammocks made out of wool to handbags.
The prices are also some of the lowest, which attracts many bargain hunters from afar!
Here is the perfect opportunity for you to put all that Colombian Spanish you have learned along your travels to good use.
I managed to purchase a Wayuu bag that I carried around with me for much of the trip which was a unique color that I’d never seen before.
Cabo de la Vela: Places to Visit
Having looked at reasons to travel to Cabo, and how to get there, let’s explore the places you can visit (including some harder-to-visit gems).
Cerro Pilón de Azúcar
One you’ve got your hostel sorted, why not head here? Located about 30 minutes away from Cabo (involves desert crossing) is this gem.
Here at “The Sugar Pylon”, you will find a relatively small mountain that can be hiked up in around 45 minutes.
At the top, you’ll find the infamous monument which features the Virgin of Fatima, as well as incredible views of the desert and sea.
There is also a beautiful beach situated just below (the wind chill here makes it a great place to sunbathe!) and some shacks selling food and drink, as well as some Wayuu people selling their handcrafts.
Ojo de Agua
Literally translated as “Eye of water”, this gem is a small cave that sinks below the sand and forms a cavern that opens out into the sea.
You can climb down into it (no ropes here) and get close to the water’s edge. If you can, then I recommend coming down to see the sunset through the cavern’s eye.
This one is a little out the way than other sites but is easier to access by hopping on one of the motorcycle tours that leave from the town.
The lighthouse of the town is located a little further north, and is one of the best places to put on your travel sunglasses, grab a couple of beers, and watch some of the best sunsets in the country!
As well as jumping on the motorcycle tour that’ll take you there, you can ask for a direct return trip to just the area which will only cost $3.
The Guajira Desert
Whilst the other areas of interest are close to Cabo, The Guajira Desert itself is the main reason lots come to the region, and venturing deeper into the desert dunes is a little more difficult.
Once in Cabo, you can organize a tour up to Punta Gallinas (a 2-day tour) which visits the dunes, beaches, and the noteworthy “most northern point of all South America”.
As well as booking online, you can ask shop owners how to get on a tour (like I did). I booked my place the night before we left, so there is normally a good amount of flexibility with this trip.
Cabo de la Vela Travel Tips
See these travel tips for Cabo de la Vela to ensure you have the best stay whether you’re on vacation, backpacking, or traveling with friends.
⤵️ Dan’s Travel Tips For Cabo de la Vela:
- Get on a tour from Riohacha. It’s the best decision in my opinion. There are travelers that say it’s possible to travel Cabo de la Vela on your own, but the price difference is not relevant. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the experience with no worries if you take a tour.
- You can arrange with one of the hostels in la Guajira to spend a night in a Ranchería (the home of the Wayuu) if you get the chance. Follow the biosecurity protocols and be respectful to native people.
- My main recommendation is to take a motorcycle tour of the surrounding region. Many come to Cabo and miss out on this simply as nobody points this out to them unless they are walking past them!
- You will need to carry enough cash to last you. Try using a hidden wallet for added security. The last ATM on the route to Punta Gallinas is located in Uribia. Withdraw how you need.
- Check out the Salinas de Manaure (Manaure Salt Flats) from Uribia. It takes only 25 minutes to get there.
- Kite surfing in Cabo de la Vela can be incredible. If you’d like to do it, check out the surf forecast and bring enough pesos.
- Go to Playa Dorada and Playa Arcoiris (the second one is not for swimming); some of the most tranquil beaches in Colombia to enjoy.
- Head out to the southern end of the strip (main dirt path that runs through the town) and spot a group of motorcycles parked up.
- For the best deals try talking to one of the locals there (brush up on your Spanish conversation) and get on one of the tours, as it will only cost you around $7 for the whole day!
- You’ll see the sights noted in this guide (apart from the deeper Desert). It will be a highlight of your trip to this beautiful region.
- Be sure to be in the Faro at 5:30 pm. The sunset is the most spectacular moment in that area.
- Learn some words and basic Spanish phrases before your journey. Wayuu people talk in their native tongue and Spanish.
- Take this unique opportunity to browse the array of handicrafts made by the Wayuu tribe. Aside from being cheap and of good quality, these are the main source of income for these locals and would go a long way in helping them provide for their families as well.
- When you visit the Alta Guajira beaches, don’t expect relevant or historical information from the guide. It’s common for the guide just to say the amount of time you have to stay there.
- You’ll probably sleep on a hammock, as the natives do. But I recommend you to pay a little bit more (US5 as much) to sleep on a Chinchorro, which is similar but more comfortable.
This guide is designed to help you make the necessary travel decisions! If you’re traveling here from the USA or a European country you’ll likely want to plan this trip quite thoroughly to avoid disappointment.
Check out my travel gear page, which has some recommendations you can take with you – without weighing yourself down too much.
Best time to visit Cabo de la Vela?
As Cabo de la vela is located near the desert, there is little rainfall compared to other places in Colombia and things are scarce out here.
Between August and November, there is a period that is considered the “wet season” as each month has an average of 4-6 days of precipitation.
If you are looking for guaranteed dry weather for beach-lounging, then head between January and April.
Temperatures average between 82.4°F and 93.2°F, which will only rise if heading deeper into the desert (Some parts rise above 104°F!).
As always, make sure you have lots of water and sunblock as you will find you’ll dry out a lot quicker here than elsewhere in the country!
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Cabo de la Vela, Colombia
In this guide, we’ve explored the remote town of Cabo, why it lies under the radar, how to get there, as well as the destinations in and around.
Despite the planning, a trip here is well worth it, especially if you want to venture into the desert, and prefer less touristy beaches than those around Santa Marta and Cartagena which are usually overcrowded.
As we have seen, Cabo is also a great place to buy a hammock, so now you have no excuses not to go!
If you’re still planning a trip to Colombia be sure to read the plethora of travel guides published on this blog for more inspiration.
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