Capurgana and Sapzurro Travel Guide



When one thinks of the Darien Gap their minds often drift to the idea of FARC Guerrillas, drug traffickers, and danger and strife in general.  However, when arriving at the Caribbean coast of the Darien Gap, at either Capurgana or Sapzurro, one can not help but be blown away by this heavenly piece of lost paradise.  These two towns, situated just on the Colombian side of the remote border between Colombia and Panama are treasures lost to the days of Colombian civil war and drug trafficking.  Today the area is safe for the most part.  Tourism has started to slowly trickle in, and those who have come are amazed that it has fallen off the tourism map of Colombia.  It may be a bit of a journey getting here, but those who make the trip to the region are greatly rewarded by the treasures that they find once here.

Time Needed: 3-4 days
Budget: 25-40US$ a day

Sapzurro

Things to do in Capurgana and Sapzurro

There are enough activities to keep one busy in this area for quite a few days.  Most travellers will find that three days is enough to see everything in the area.  However, if you plan on spending a lot of time on the beach then perhaps plan a couple more days.

El Cielo Waterfall

El Cielo Waterfall

  • Hike to El Cielo Waterfall: This is much less of hike than it is a walk.  From Capurgana you’ll need to follow the airstrip inland where you’ll meet the path to the falls.  The hike takes about an hour each way, more if you stop along the way.  Wear sandals (but not flip flops) as you’ll have to cross the ankle deep river about a dozen times.  If you don’t mind getting your shoes wet, wearing shoes or hiking boots is fine too.  If you go to the falls early in the morning or late in the afternoon you’re also likely to spot some animals.
  • Hike between Sapzurro and Capurgana: The hike between the two towns offers some beautiful views.  Basically, the hike takes a little over an hour and climbs over the hill that separates the two Colombian villages.  Wear hiking boots as the path is steep and often quite muddy.  It is quite a difficult hike if you’re not in shape, but well worth the views of both villages from the top.  I hiked between the two with all my gear and backpack on and still managed, so it is a viable way to get from one village to the other if you’re planning on staying over night at both places.
  • La Miel, Panama: From Sapzurro it’s a quick hike over the hill to the Panamanian village of La Miel.  There is a joint border control at the top of the hill and officials will check your passport and write your name down on a piece of paper.  You can also get between La Miel and either Sapzurro or Capurgana via motorized canoes, although you might have to wait a while for a ride.  The boat trip costs about 4US$.  La Miel is by far the nicest beach and if you plan on spending any time in the water or on the beach this is the place that you want to be doing it.

    La Miel Beach

    La Miel Beach

  • Snorkeling: Outside of the islands of Providencia and San Andres this is supposed to be the best place in Colombia to snorkel.  The waters are perfectly clean and there is significant reef life.  Be sure to go on a calm day or the water can be a little bit choppy.  You can arrange this in either Capurgana or Sapzurro and the price of a half day trip is about 30$ a person.
  • San Blas Islands, Panama: Recently a few companies in Capurgana have started to offer day and overnight trips to the beautiful San Blas Islands in Panama.  You have to go through passport formalities, but if you’re hoping to get a look at the live of these incredible islands a day trip from Capurgana is a great idea.  The San Blas Islands should not be missed regardless of whether you see them from Panama or Colombia.  A day trip at the time of writing this was about 75US$.

Where to Eat

Eating in Capurgana is a bit of challenge as most places don’t open mid-day and only open for a couple hours at dinner time.  However, the food is good and you can eat either on the cheap or elaborate meals. There are a couple “grocery stores” but most of them just sell the basics like rice and oils.  Some of the hotels actually offer board options as well.

  • Pizzolaya: If you’ve got a craving for pizza this place just down the main strip from the pier does great pizzas as well as sandwiches and burgers.  A pizza costs between 15,000 and 30,000 pesos (8-16US$) depending on the size and toppings. You can get burgers and sandwiches for about 7,000 pesos (4US$).
  • Muelle: The restaurant/bar on the pier has by far the best atmosphere but be sure to put on some bug spray as there can be a few mosquitos buzzing around your feet.  You can get traditional or international cuisine here with most meals costing about 15,000-25,000 pesos (8-13US$).

Where to Stay

There is certainly no shortage of accommodation in either Capurgana or Sapzurro.  It seems as if there are actually more hotels then people.  As such, you can get very good value on your accommodation in town.  As I mentioned, some of the places also offer meals.

In Capurgana

Capurgana Church

Capurgana Church

  • Hostal Capurgana: This is where I stayed during my time in Capurgana.  The rooms are big, clean and have private bathrooms (no hot water).  The hotel’s location is great, and the price is right.  I paid 15,000 pesos (8US$) for a private room with a bathroom.  The price for two people is about 22,000 pesos (12US$).  They also have a laptop that has internet you can use (for a fee).
  • Hotel Delphines: This is a favourite among backpackers since the Lonely Planet recommends it, and because it has meals.  I checked it out and thought it was very nice as well, although I preferred the rooms at Hostal Capurgana.  Single rooms at Delphines are also 15,000 pesos a night and you can get meals included in the price of your stay for about 25,000 pesos a day extra.
  • Casa de Ivan: If you’re looking to save every nickle you have this is the place for you.  Ivan met me at the pier and took me to his place.  It is a little ways away from the action and the rooms are very basic.  I chose not to stay there because the wall in the room didn’t go to the top and I was worries about my camera gear and computer.  Ivan did offer to allow me to put my valuables in a safe spot, but I didn’t want to leave my tools of trade in an unsecure spot when I had the chance of staying somewhere more secure.  The price is certainly right, however, as the hostel has dorm beds for 7,000 pesos (4US$) or  private rooms for 12,000 pesos (7US$).  It also has a kitchen if you feel the need to cook.

In Sapzurro

  • El Chileno: This is definitely the place to stay in Sapzurro.  It sits right along the beach and is well kept.  When I stopped in to check it out the friendly Chilean owner greeted me and was very friendly.  The price of a room is about 15,000 pesos (8US$)

Communications

As you might imagine, communicating with the outside world is a bit of a struggle from here.  In Capurgana there are two internet cafes that have just 2 computers and the slowest internet I can remember ever using.  Both of the internet cafes in Capurgana are near the main square (the soccer field).  In Sapzurro there is one near the bay but I didn’t test it for speed.  There are a couple places to make calls, and cell phones do work if you have a Colombian chip.

Getting to Capurgana and Sapzurro

Unless you’re a little bit mad (like myself) you’re not likely to be hiking with your gear between villages (although as I proved it’s possible).  The most likely, and most regular travel down here is via boat.  There are no cars in the area and aside from people that have motorcycles in the villages, and tractor in the fields, there are no vehicles.  There are certainly no roads between villages.  Below are the boat destinations.

  • Puerto Obaldia: If you’re coming from, or going to, Panama City this is where your point of arrival will be to the Caribbean Darien.  The cost of a boat trip to Capurgana or Sapzurro is 15US$.  Don’t forget to go through customs before leaving Puerto Obaldia.  You’ll go through Colombian customs in Capurgana.
  • Turbo: The long bumpy trip between Capuragana and Turbo takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours and costs 55,000 pesos (about 27US$).  Book your seat on the boat the day before in case it gets filled.  The locals know best and sit at the back of the boat.  If you sit at the front, be prepared for back pains from the jumping boat.  The boat is covered and they place a tarp over luggage, but it is still wise to put your bag in a garbage bag for the trip in the case of heavy rains.
  • Between Capurgana and Sapzurro: Boats between Capurgana and Sapzurro are irregular but quite often.  If you head to the pier of either village there will likely be someone willing to take you within a half hour or so.  The cost to get between the two is 7,000 pesos (4US$) and takes about 10-15 minutes
  • Other villages: There are a number of other villages south of Capurgana that those really trying to get off the beaten path might want to visit.  If you do so you’ll have to catch the Turbo boat and jump on and off at the villages each day.  Most of the villages welcome visitors with open arms, but don’t expect to see any other foreigners.

Relevant Articles

To the Darien: Panama From Above

Back to the Colombia Travel Guides


45 Comments

  1. Hi Brendan,

    Thx for the travel tips! When did you travel up to Capurgana? I want to go there in a week (nov 2011)… just checking if it is safe there!

    Cheers. Inge

    Post a Reply
    • Hi – I was there just a month or two ago. September. It’s safe, and brilliant… you wont regret going there. Especially get to La Miel, which is beautiful

      Post a Reply
  2. is safe, but the hotel prices of $ 12 corresponds to the most basic, dont think that the choco – Colombia everything is free or inexpensive, think about the beautiful beach with people friendly, great biodiversity, or use tents.

    Post a Reply
  3. Hi Brendan! Thanks for the reply on your other post. You have a really cool blog going. I read here about a possibility to get to Providencia from either Sapruzzo or Capurgana, but i have found no other info on the web about it.
    ” You can arrange this in either Capurgana or Sapzurro and the price of a half day trip is about 30$ a person.”
    How does the trip work?

    All the Best,

    -John

    Post a Reply
    • @John – I think you’re referring to snorkeling? Basically all hostel will arrange something for you. If not, you’re not going to have too much problem finding a tour company if you’re in Capurgana. If you’re in Sapzurro give the hostel “El Chileno” a try as he can surely point you in the right direction.

      Post a Reply
  4. I’m Swiss and since a few month a partner of Hostal Capurgana. Therefore we can offer to communicate in English or German. Please feel free to contact us.
    Gracias
    Silvio y Beatriz

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Silvio. We are in medellin and want to go to capurgana at 10 december we would like to stay at your place if possible until 14 or 15dec depending of return options. Do you know which flight we can take to capurgana or is the only option to fly to acandi? We hope to hear from you soon.
      Greetz Cathy

      Post a Reply
  5. nice report!!!
    which town is better to stay sapzurro or capurgana??? Is it possible to do a long hike (guided) from one of the places?
    And which places organises trips to San Blas?

    Post a Reply
    • Suzanne, best to stay in Capurgana, way more hotels and restaurants. Yup, guided hikes are possible too! San Blas is best organized in Capurgana, I doubt you can do it in Sapzurro.

      Post a Reply
  6. thank you!
    that is helpfull!

    I am doubting to organise the san blas tour before (from home)… as i have to be in Panama to catch a flight and i cannot wait for a week for example if there is boat going that way.
    What can you advice?

    ps. very nice site you have btw.

    Post a Reply
  7. We Will go to this places by boat can we get fuel there?

    Post a Reply
    • Uhmm, can’t be sure because I’ve never tried. But I’m almost positive you can in Capurgana. Everyone travels around here by boat, you should be able to get fuel.

      Post a Reply
      • Yeas. In Capurgana you get easy fuel. Be aware of that Capurgana still does not have an ATM maschine.

        Post a Reply
        • Thank you for the update Silvio!

          Post a Reply
  8. Hi Brendan. Any advice for a keen flyfisherman and the opportunities in the region? Thanks in advance.

    Post a Reply
    • Hey Andrew,
      Honestly, I have no idea. They do full day boat trips out of Capurgana, but I’m not a flyfisherman, so I’m afraid I can’t give any advice there,

      Post a Reply
  9. Hello. I’m wanting to travel from turbo to Panama City in December. Just wondering if you could give advice on boats, flights timing and prices. Thanks. Drew

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Drew,
      It’s been a while since I did that run. But, it’s not that expensive, I don’t think. I did it the opposite direction and went:
      Fly from Panama City to Puerto Obaldia (about $80), go to Panamanian customs in Puerto Obaldia, catch a boat to Capurgana ($5) and go to Colombian customs there, then catch a speed boat to Turbo (about $40).
      Of course, prices change. If you were in a hurry, you could do it in two days. But the area of Capurgana, Sapzurro, and La Miel, Panama is awesome and well worth 3 days of exploration as well.
      Hope that helps.

      Post a Reply
      • Yea the prices have changed. Panama City to Porto Obaldia about USD 120.–
        Boat from Porto Obaldia to Capurgana about USD 12.–
        In Capurgana there are Charterflights on Frifay and Monday to Medellin.
        About USD 150.–
        Great. in one our you are in Medellin. By boat it takes 2.5 hours to Turbo and then 9 hours by bus.
        I am living now since 3 years in Capurgana and I am now a partner from Hostal Capurgana.
        Wa are happy to give any inforamtion you will need.
        Hasta pronto
        Silvio

        Post a Reply
        • Ciao. Vorremmo prendere una lancia da Capurgana/ Sapzurro per andare a San Blas e starci 2/3 notti (dal 24 Agosto) Dove parte la lancia? Sapzurro oppure Capurgana? Possono tornare a riprenderci dopo qualche giorno? Fino a dove ci possono portare? Carti? Oppure è troppo lontano? Grazie.
          Monica

          Post a Reply
        • Hi I have a boat that takes passengers between Colombia and Panama via San Blas Islands. The trip is for 4 nights, we arrive in Sapzurro on 16 March and leaving again on 19 March. I will come and see you when we get there. Cheers Debby

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  10. Thank you for the great info! My first backpacking adventure is coming up next month and I have been trying to find the cheapest way across the Darrien Gap. Do you know of any good places to stay in Puerto Obaldia? I am really interested in spending a couple of days there. Do you think it is safe for a female to travel through this area alone? Thanks in advance:)

    Post a Reply
    • Porto Obaldia is just a very little place with panama military and imigration. There is nothing to do. Not a place to stay for long. No beaches. Not many restaurants.
      We do see female travelling alone in this area. Until now nothing bad has been reported.
      Hasta pronto.
      Silvio, Hostal Capurgana

      Post a Reply
  11. Hi Brendan –

    I am thinking of heading to Capurgana in January 2016. If I want the easiest easiest way to get there what do you think is best.
    Cartegena to there or Panama City to there

    The plan as it is is getting to Columbia, doing the north coast (cartgena) and then head towards panama via Capurgana and then head home vi panama city. I don’t mind changing this plan though.

    Post a Reply
    • Either way will work, I’m sure. I think it would be easier via Cartagena or Medellin, though, as the flights from Panama City are on a tiny little plane and the flight times are pretty irregular.

      Post a Reply
  12. In August next year we will be travelling to Colombia. Capurgana & Zapzurro are definitely on our bucketlist!

    From where in Colombia can we fly to Capurgana?

    Post a Reply
    • You can fly from a lot of places, but almost everything will connect you via either Bogota or Medellin. So, those are your best two options.

      Post a Reply
  13. Hi Nen

    You only can fly to Capurgana from Medellin. There are charterfligths from the big hotels on Monday and on Friday. The national airline ADA stoped to fly to Capurgana,
    The charters are a bit expensive. The other option is to fly via ADA to Acandi. About 1 hour. And from there you take a boat. The ride is about 30 minutes.

    The other option is to fly to Panama City. From there you fly by PANAMA Air to Porto Obaldia. This is at the border to Colombia. The flight is 1 Hour and the price is about 120.- USD.
    From Porto Obaldia you take a boat who will bring you to Capurgana in about 40 minutes.
    Be aware of that the sea will be very bad in the months of December to February.

    In high season you will not find any accomodation. All colubians like to spent there holidays at the beach. Without reservation you will be lost. But this will be also in Cartagena and Santa Marta as well.
    Saludos
    Silvio, Hostal Capurgana, Capurgana

    Post a Reply
    • Updated

      Charter flights to Capurgana from Medellin are not possible until end of this year 2015. The runway is under repair.
      Saludos
      Silvio, Hostal Capurgana

      Post a Reply
      • Hi Silvio, is it now possible to take a flight from medellin to capurgana?
        Yoa also offer trips from capurgana to san blas for one day or overnight?

        Thank you in advance!

        Leon

        Post a Reply
        • General update.

          The runway in Capurgana is now in very good conditions. The carterflights from Searca (Medellin -Capurgana- Medellin) are in operations again.
          It is cheaper to fly with the local airline from Medellin to Acandi. From there with a local boat to Capurgana. About 20 minutes. Around 8 USD.
          Saludos
          Silvio
          Hostal Capurgana
          I am Swiss and can help you as well in Deutsch.

          Post a Reply
          • Hola Silvio

            Estoy planeando un viaje con mi esposa desde Pereira. En qué mes (o fechas) hay mejor clima. En Julio o en Agosto?. Me puedes enviar un número de teléfono (celular colombiano) al e-mail?
            Gracias

            Post a Reply
  14. Brendan,

    Any idea how often boats leave from Puerto Obaldia to Capurgana or vice versa?

    Thanks,
    Angelica

    Post a Reply
    • All the time. They are small motorboats, like water taxis, and they run as soon as they fill. I didn’t wait more than about 20 minutes. I imagine they run pretty often.

      Post a Reply
      • Yea, it is as Brendon van Son is writting you.

        The price can be different, when you need a taxi.

        At the moment are many Cubian People in Porto Obaldia ….waiting for to go to Panama.
        This is new because they dont need a visa for Ecuador anymore.
        So tickets from Porto Obaldia per avion have now a waiting list of more then 2 weeks. Sometimes even longer.

        Saludos
        Silvio, Hostal Capurgana, Capurgana

        Post a Reply
  15. HI Brendan,
    we plan to visit capurgana on our backpacking trip at the end of feb 2017. Travelling two adults + 2 kids (4 and 7 years).

    We are thinking to take a boat from turbo on the way there and fly from acandi to medellin on the way back.

    My biggest concern is how the kids will survive the lancha from turbo to capurgana..it takes around 3 hours. I am afraid it is small boat, which can be bumpy and rough on the sea.
    What do you think? would you recommend or go with the kids on this lancha:)? if not, is there any other option? the point is, we will be arriving from cartagena..that is why to fly medellin-capurgana is little bit complicated and out of hand for us.

    thanx for any suggestions

    Post a Reply
  16. Hi ladislav
    From December to March the see here is very unstable and sometimes the boats can not leave the ports.
    Happened 2 days ago. People had to stay an other night.
    You are coming from Cartagena. There is a new connection between Necocli and Capurgana.
    The lancha needs only about more then one hour.
    So leave Cartagena and stay one night in Necocli.
    The lancha should leave the next day at around 08:00.
    Flying back from Acandi to Medellin is possible with ADA. A local carrier.
    Sometimes you also can fly from Capurgana directly to Medellin.
    This are charter flights and therefore more expensive.
    Let me know if there are mor questions.
    Silvio Gubler
    Hostal Capurgana, Capurgana

    Post a Reply
  17. Hi guys, very useful blog and conversations. We want to visit Capurgna, Sapzurro and La miel at the end of this February. Our main goal is to swim in the sea, so I wonder if the sea is rought, is there any Jellyfish (Medusa/impala) or any other thinks that might be a problem to have a nice swim.
    Also wonder how is Snorkeling and driving in this time of the year.

    Thanks in advanced.

    Post a Reply
  18. Hi Reuven Kost

    Sorry to say that end of February is not the best time for enjoying the sea. Some days can be very nice and some days can be very, very rough.

    In the last for 4 weeks the port was closed 2 times for 2 days because of the rough sea.

    But still as mentioned before. Some days can be very good for snorkeling and diving.

    For more information regarding snorkeling and diving please look for the company dive and green here in Capurgana.

    Hope it helps a bit

    Silvio
    Hostal Capurgana, Capurgana

    Post a Reply
  19. HI to all

    The sea is now perfect to swim or to snorkel.

    How do I get to Capurgana ?

    From Cartagena

    Take a bus to Necocli. Stay overnight and take the boat in the morning to Capurgana.

    From Medellin

    There a some more options.

    Take a bus to Turbo or to Necocli.
    From there a boat to Capurgana.

    More fast is to take a plane.

    1). Flight from Medellin to Acandi. The operator is called ADA. They don’t accept credit cards out of Colombia. We can help you in booking some flights. From Acandi you have to take a boat to Capurgana.
    If you want to book a flight from Medellin to Acandi then let s know about.
    Just contact Hostal Capurgana and ask for Silvio.

    2) There are charter flights directly to Capurgana. But.. only Monday or Friday. In high season there are more flights. This option is far more expensive.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Silvi my name is Ian and will be in Capurgana around the end of October 2017 with my girlfriend Jane. We are just wondering how busy is it usually around that time of year and are there any ARM’s ? Any help would be much appreciated. Cheers

      Post a Reply
      • Hi Silvio, Ian here again. I meant to say are there any ATM’s in my last post. Thanks again

        Post a Reply
  20. This week is high Season here in Capurgana. It is now difficult to get accommodation. The beach is crowded and the restaurants are full.

    Saludos
    Silvio, Hostal Capurgana

    Post a Reply
  21. Hi Silvio,
    thank you for so much information.
    I am currently reaserch in for our trip next year, could you assist in some more information please?
    We plan to do the following…
    4×4 from PC to carti – boat to san blas island tbc 3-4days – boat to capurgana 2/3 days – boat to neccoli 2 days – coach to Cartagena.
    I have managed to find most of the information apart from the boat from san bias to capurgana…..I know there are day trips possible but can we just go one way?
    Thanks so much
    Gemma

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Gemma

      There are a few Companies who are offering trips via San Blas to Capurgana, Colombia

      – Mia San Blas
      – San Blas Frontera
      – San Blas Adventure

      Check them out. There are different options and prices.

      In Capurgana you can buy all tickets you need from us. Just check out our Hostal Capurgana. We are also running Capurgana Tours who is a registered Travel Agency here in Colombia.

      Capurgana to Cartagena:

      There are two options at the moment.

      1) Capurgana – Turbo – Cartagena
      2) Capurgana – Necocli – Cartagena

      1) Is more fast because the boat is leaving Capurgana at 08:00 every morning
      2) Is longer because the boat is leaving at 10:00 every day

      Travel time around 10 hours ……….. at least from Capurgana to Cartagena.

      Avoid high seasons like December, Year End, Easter time and long weekends.

      Ohter opition is to visit first Medellin.

      Thea are daily flights from Acandi to Medellin.
      20 Min. to Acandi and less then 1 hour to Medellin

      Hope it helps a bit
      Saludos
      Silvio
      Hostal Capurgana
      Capurgana Tours

      Post a Reply

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