Cabo De La Vela (Colombia) Spot Guide/Review

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Cabo De La Vela (Colombia) Spot Guide/Review

Postby Topher4 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:36 pm

Hey BAK,

This year I stepped away from the familiar community and fantastic wind of La Ventana to try some low budget kite travel in Colombia.

It did not disappoint.

In fact, it has been so good that 6 weeks have passed and I’m still here… So if you still consider yourself a budget/minimalist traveler looking for an adventure, keep reading. If you’ve decided you need A/C, top-notch service, and ice cubes in every drink you throw back, congratulations – You made it! But this spot probably fell out of your bottom comfort range a few years ago.
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The sunset kite show is the only show in town.
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Here’s my guide to Cabo de la Vela where, including on-the-ground travel to the spot, I spent 9 nights on a $200 budget.

Background on Cabo De La Vela:


The little village of Cabo de la Vela is located on a sweeping bay on the Carribean coast of Northeastern Colombia in the state of La Guaijira. If you are familiar with the flowing rivers and lush jungles of Colombia’s interior (or seen these regions on programs like Narcos), arriving in La Guaijira will feel like landing on the moon. Cactus, green shrubs and desert stretch as far as the eye can see. Electricity and luxuries of the western world are scarce. Internet is nonexistent (but cell phones with data will work). Guidebooks, which just started featuring the state a few years ago, will tell you that food and water are scarce here. They aren’t wrong about the food, you will eat fish everyday, but don't worry – you can find all the water and ice-cold beer you need.
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Early mornings in Cabo are calm
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What is plentiful here is wind. From about 10 AM till sunset, it nukes. Bring your 6. Bring your 8. Leave the 12 at home and get ready for epic sunset session after epic sunset session on your beloved smaller kites.
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This place has the most amenities...
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Colombians view La Guaijira as the “wild wild east,” but also regard it as a magical, exotic place where the indigenous culture (Wayu) still flourishes. In fact, Cabo de la Vela is the Spanish name for the town. In the Wayu language, the name of the town is Jepirra. For those of you that have spent some time in Baja, the feeling of self-governance will be familiar. That said, life here is hard and you don’t have to look any further than the little kids who will stop your vehicle on the way into town to sell you handmade bracelets and beg for food and money. (The bracelets are nice and cost $1-2…so just buy a few on your way in or out of town).

Tourism is just starting to pick up in La Guajira and Cabo de la vela is the main outpost for visitors trying to experience the laid back lifestyle of the Wayu and visit the famous sand dunes and natural beauty of Punta Gallinas. If you stay more than a few days, you will realize that the only other travelers that stay that long are also kiters, which makes this place fantastic if you are looking for community. Kiting took off here about 5 years ago. Many schools line the beaches, but despite the fact that I went during the beginning of peak season, it didn’t seem crowded at all. The most kites I saw on the water was maybe 20.

Kiting in Cabo
It’s offshore and the water is butter flat. Darkslide practice galore! Yes, I know – offshore is not ideal. It scared me for the first day or two, but the water is only about 2-5 ft deep for several hundred yards. In my 8 days there, I never saw a school have to get the boat out and grab a student. Why? The bay is huge and gives kiters of all levels plenty of time to bail to either side of the bay. Rumor has it, if you end up in real trouble, it costs $20 for a rescue. Before that happens though, some young kids from the village will swim out and help you with your gear. The only other hazard other than the offshore wind is the occasional sea urchin. No one during my stay stepped on one. Apparently they only live in the seaweed, which is scarce out in the bay.

Expect 25-35 knots everyday from January through April but it’s possible to get wind all year round. October and November are the rainy season and are the worst months of the year to go.
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Typical kite day
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Don’t expect the wind to be LV clean. It can get gusty. In my experience, most offshore wind that comes off a large land mass is gusty. The key here is that it’s always strong and the gusts are long and predictable. After a few hours on the water it becomes very manageable and you start to understand how the local kids, some as young as 7!, can practice megaloops and nasty old school tricks in these conditions. The beach huts on the shoreline also add a bit of turbulence, but if you stay a few yards from the shore, it cleans up nicely. Last year I spent some time in Bahia Salinas in Costa Rica (read this review http://www.bayareakiteboarding.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=14423from Ben C). If you’ve experienced those gusts, Cabo feels like the cleanest wind in the world.

If this place ever becomes as popular as LV, the conditions might be a problem. For now, don’t expect to share the water with more than 15-20 kiters. And if you feel like mixing it up, hire a 4x4 to take you to Punta Gallinas or Bahia Hondita to have a surreal, solitude session amongst some for the most stunning views in Colombia.
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5 Ft. from my hammock
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If someone in your crew needs lessons, this is the cheapest place I’ve ever seen to learn. I believe I heard it’s $30 per hour. I recommend Ompi (great guy) who works for Chiwi or anyone teaching for Martin at Kite Addict.

Accommodation

Take your pick – spend $5-7 a night to sleep in a massive hammock on the beach, or pay about $25-50 to stay in a room with a bed and separate shower. Prices are similar all over town. Most places have dirt floors. Many hammock shacks don’t have 4 walls. The plus side of this setup is that you can watch the sunset from your bed. It also means you will wake up quite early, which is fine since the town starts to move around 7 AM.
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View from my hammock.
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I brought my own hammock and used the facilities at Pujuru, the most developed posada in town. I paid 10,000 pesos ($3). Water is scarce in Cabo. Most places only let you use it to shower at night. During the day, the electricity and water will be cut off. (You can grab a bucket of water to help the toilet flush if you need some mid day relief).

Martin at Kite Addict Colombia has a nice little Posada, but I recommend showing up without a reservation. You will pay more by using sites like Booking.com and it’s nice to explore all the options in town. In many cases, travelers end up staying in the home of a Wayu family. This helps the local economy immensely. No matter where you stay, you will be within a 5 min walk to the kite spot, which is located in the middle of town, across the street from Martin’s kite school. You can arrange with one of the kite schools to store your gear overnight if you need to lock it up somewhere

Food
Fruit and veggies are sacred here. Fried arepas, empanadas and fish run the show. That said, the fish is amazing and Cabo has the cheapest lobster you will ever eat. For $10, you can have your own – just make sure to tell them the night before so they will catch it fresh. As I said earlier, refrigeration isn’t really a thing. Restaurants and shops bring in coolers from nearby Uribia (90 min drive). Expect to pay between 15K and 20K ($5-7) for a big plate of fish and rice at most restaurants for lunch and dinner. Although this sounds expensive for a budget travel option, just remember you are paying $5 a night to sleep and transportation is also extremely cheap, so food is your main cost.
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Lobster! ($10 plate. Most expensive thing in Cabo)
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Breakfast is basic. An arepa with scrambled eggs and cheese will run you about 8K ($2-3). There are also a few juice spots that bring in fruit from other areas, but be careful with the ice ($2-3 per big cup).

Getting There
A few years back they say this was a real adventure. Now you can do it through a combination of taxi and 4x4 tourist taxi. I made the mistake of going the local way and it looked like this (see photo below) and took forever. I do not recommend this method if you want to save your strength for the kiting.
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Can you spot my kite bag?
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Here’s the easiest way to get there:

Find your way to Riohacha. The best way to do this is to either fly there directly or take a bus from Santa Marta or Barranquilla. From Barranquilla, it’s about a 5 hour bus ride. From Santa Marta slash an hour or two off. If you need to spend the night here (recommended if you get in after 1 PM) I recommend checking out Italo’s spot. You might even get a kite session in since he’s right on the beach. Once you reach Riohacha, take a colectivo (in Colombia this means shared taxi) to Uribia. This should cost about 15-20K ($5-7) and take about an hour and a half.
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Italo's place in Riohacha (beach is across the street)
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Uribia is like a seen out of Madmax. It’s hot, dusty, and the currency appears to be gasoline, tires, and auto parts. With all of the illegal oil flowing in from Venezuela via water jugs and coke bottles, it’s really not that dramatic of a comparison. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my life, and this place is…unique. I’ll leave it at that.

From Uribia, hire a 4x4 to take you to Cabo de la vela. This will also end up being a shared car and should also cost about 15-20K. Keep in mind, drivers won’t go to Cabo after dark. Once you get about 30 minutes outside of Uribia, the road looks like something out of the Dakar rally. The journey is stunning. I recommend keeping the camera close by.

If you are lucky and don’t have to wait for your taxis to fill up with people, the journey from Riohacha should take no more than 3-4 hours. If you are lucky and take a night flight out of the US, you can be kiting in Cabo about 36 hours after you leave the US.

My Trip Expenses (not exact but very close):


Round trip flight on American: $605 (I recommend flying into Santa Marta as it’s closer than Barranquilla)

Roundtrip bus Barranquilla to Riohacha: $25
One night in Riohacha at Italo’s kite hostel: $13
Roundtrip transport from Riohacha to Cabo: $20
8 Nights in hammock: $26 (again, if you rent one this will cost $40 in total).
Meals for 8 days (breakfast/lunch/dinner): $112
Beers (Why would I count how many beers I had??...but let’s say 4 per day) $32 ($1 per beer)
Cocktails = expensive so didn’t really buy them. Expect to pay $6-10.

Expenses after flight: $196

If you can get the flight with frequent flier miles… you are looking at $196 all in for a 9 night trip. Nice, right?

Need more info? Shoot me a message. Want more kite spots in Colombia? Motivate me to write another post.
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Re: Cabo De La Vela (Colombia) Spot Guide/Review

Postby BayAreaKite » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:50 am

Amazing report, thanks so much for sharing! I think despite all your detailed traveling instructions, it's a long time before this place turns into La Ventana;) Very cool.

I'd send you a hat or t-shirt, but it sound like you're still down there? Let me know when you get back! BAK
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Re: Cabo De La Vela (Colombia) Spot Guide/Review

Postby tulley » Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:25 pm

Amazing! I wish i was still 20 and could go for a month. Maybe in a few more years...

Do you need to be fluent in Spanish? I have passable travelers Spanish, would this suffice?
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