Report from Colombia's North Coast

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Report from Colombia's North Coast

Postby andydavis » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:04 pm

I was in Colombia ten days, from March 18th to the 28th, and sailed nine of them. Flying into Barranquilla (COPA through Panama City ~$500), intending originally to get up to Cabo de la Vela (see Topher4’s excellent report); however, it is on a remote, Indian reservation, and la comunidad indígena was temporarily banning kiters when I made my reservation. Hence, I decided to just rent a car and wing it. I went to two places, Puerto Velero and Santa Veronica.

Puerto Velero is about a half hour drive from Barranquilla on a divided toll road. It is flat, windy, but super gusty. The inner part of the bay is unattractive and is surrounded by “kioskas” (which is what they call the palapa type shacks down there). It seems to be a spot for day tripping Barranquilleros and weekends only. On a holiday Monday, there were about ten kites out at various times, and the kioskas were 100% filled with Colombians -- on Tuesday, no one. There are two kiting/windsurfing businesses there, but they seemed to be doing little, if any business. I found (and it is the consensus of the European kiters as well) that the inner bay is so gusty, that it is basically unkiteable. Because it’s offshore and in the lee of some bigger hills, the wind can drop from 25 to 0, which causes kites to just fall from the sky. I saw two boat rescues on the one busy day I was there. Personally, I would not kite again in the inner bay.

One day, I drove about 20 minutes on a very rutted road through a filled in marsh (which tested the little rental car) to “La Punta” at the tip of the bay. The wind there is very consistent and clean, but offshore. I sailed quite happily on my 8m2; although, very aware that if I broke down, there was no possibility of rescue...the next stop being Panama. I would return to La Punta, but only if I went with others.

Santa Veronica/Salinas del Rey was a completely different experience. I would rate it as one of the best and most consistent wave sailing spots I have ever visited. I kited there six days on my smallest kite (unfortunately an 8m2...I wish I’d brought a 6m2). Everyday it blew a consistent 20+ knots from 10 am, and built to 25+ in the afternoon...too much for me. 100% of the kiters on the weekdays were foreigners, mostly Europeans, but some Canadians...I didn’t meet another American. I’d say about 70% were on surfboards, mostly strapless, most on 5, 6 or 7m2. There’s officious French hotel owner who has put up a little palapa for his guests and some signs: “parking”, “private” and “no twin tips” (although twin tips in the point break are okay if you’re French).

There were maybe fifteen kites out there at certain times, mostly concentrating at the point and nearer the beach; however, at other times...none. The prime spot is the point break. The well formed Caribbean waves refract around the point, breaking left. They were consistently about six feet. There is a little rock at the point, but nothing dangerous. The wind is onshore and the bay itself is wide open with a powerful break on a kind of steep beach. I’d rate the site as “safe” ...no obstacles, and if you lose something or break down, it/you will end up on the beach.
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a tangle
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I stayed at the Hotel Juanmar in Santa Veronica. It is owned by Maria and Elkin, who are both English speakers. They will pick you up in Cartagena and drive you to the kite beach every day. You can also launch at the beach in front of the hotel and do a downwinder to the kite beach. The hotel was cold water only, but very clean and hospitable. Breakfast is included, and I ate dinner there as well. Total cost (including getting a shirt washed) was about $40/day.
There are many new houses being built in Salinas del Rey, and I believe it is on the cusp of being discovered. I would definitely return, but I would take a surfboard and a 6m2 kite.

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Hotel Juanmar
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Kiters
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a dinner
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