Surfing in Colombia

Long coastlines provide plenty of opportunity to ride the waves
Surfing in Colombia

Colombia’s best surfing spots are along the Pacific Coast, where currents are stronger, waves higher and the sea less busy than on the Caribbean side. They are however, generally less easy to access and with significantly more limited infrastructure than those on the northern coast.

The diversity of surf spots mean that surfers of all abilities and skill levels are able to find the perfect place for them. Overall, and in a similar way to scuba diving in the country, the Caribbean side is generally more suited to beginners, or those who want ease of access to the waves. The Pacific side tends to cater to a more advanced crowd. The best times of year for undertaking this activity are around January and February on the Caribbean side, and April/May to December on the Pacific one.

Surf schools are available in Baranquilla, Cartagena and Santa Marta along the north coast, as well as in Nuqui in the Pacific. Prices vary but tend to be around the 250,000 COP mark for a full course. Surf board rental prices are again not uniform, but as a guide expect to pay around 20,000 COP per hour or 80,000 COP for the day.

Surfing on Colombia’s Pacific Coast

The best surf spot on the Pacific Coast, if not in the whole of Colombia, are those in the vicinity of the laid-back town of Nuqui. To get to Nuqui you will need to fly from Medellin, or take the long boat journey up from Buenaventura. Once there, the surfing beaches are all accessible within a short hop of the town on one of the waiting boat taxis. Of the various surf spots near the town it is only really Terco and Termales which are suitable for beginner and intermediate surfers.

Most surf spots in Nuqui are for advanced surfers only since they are in isolated areas, with strong currents

The remaining surf spots are for advanced surfers only since they are in isolated areas, with strong currents, and can be very rocky. These sites include Juan Tornillo, El Valle, and the lesser known Pico de Loro. To reach any of these surf spots you will need to travel by boat and may wish to take a local guide to help navigate to the best areas for surfing. Most are situated in remote areas so you will need to take food, drink and camping equipment with you if planning on staying overnight. Alternatively, you can travel back to Nuqui where there are a number of eco-lodges and basic accommodation options available.

The swell off Juanchacho is notorious, with waves here reported to be amongst the world’s best

Outside of Nuqui, the main other surf sites are on the beaches just outside the city of Buenaventura, a few hours bus journey from Cali. The swell off the beach at Juanchacho is particularly notorious, with waves here reported to be amongst the world’s best. Again, this area is suitable only for highly experienced surfers due to the strong currents.

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Surfing on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast

Surfing on the Caribbean coast is easier in a number of ways. Waves are not as high, surf spots are much more easily accessible, and tourist infrastructure is more developed.

Cartagena’s main surf spot is very calm and ideally suited for beginners

Cartagena is perhaps the clearest example of this. There is an abundance of hotels, restaurants and transport options, and the main surf spot, towards the western side of the principal beach, is very calm and ideally suited for beginners. Galerazamba, the other surf area near Cartagena, is about 25-30 minutes’ drive away. Waves here a little larger, but are still suitable for all ability levels.

Other popular tourist sites where you can surf are in Buritaca, just outside Santa Marta, and at Mendihuaca in Tayrona National Park. The latter is most often visited by upper intermediate to advanced surfers. Other good spots for experienced surfers are around Baranquilla, especially at Punta Roca, and El Muelle.

Far off the Caribbean coast, on the island of San Andres, it is also possible to surf at the Punta Sur site. Surfing here is generally limited to the periods November-February and June-September when the waves are slightly larger. Outside of these periods, the swell is poor as a result of the offshore corral formations around the island.

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