Ladrilleros, Colombia

The pacific coast of Colombia is still not on most backpacker's itineraries but if you find yourself in a position to visit between the months of June and September, it will certainly be an unforgettable experience.

Eighty percent of the whales born on the Pacific coast of South America are born in Colombian waters and eighty percent of those are born just off the coast of Larilleros , an hours boat-ride north of Buenaventura . Around 1500 whales come to this area to rest and give birth each year and it's a rare spectacle that really shouldn't be missed.

Aside from this, the area offers rich plant and birdlife, mangrove swamps, waterfalls which splash straight into the sea, caves and long, charcoal coloured beaches under steep, sandy cliffs. Sunsets are spectacular and the seafood is deliciously fresh.

On the downside, this part of the country is seriously lacking in infrastructure and many beaches are dirty and polluted, service is friendly but disorganized and it certainly misses the charisma and comfort of the Caribbean. It also rains on average 250 days a year and experiences very high humidity and temperatures can easily reach the 30s. Given that almost everything is shipped here from Buenaventura, prices are high for basic supplies and a set lunch will cost around 12,000 Pesos, more than double the mainland price.

Ladrilleros is a small village connected to Juanchaco, where the boats land, by a 5km strip of road – this is the only road for miles and rickety old tractors, jeeps and moto-taxis make their way back and forth carrying anything from tourists to fresh fish. The villages are novel with brightly painted wooden shacks lining the streets where everyone seems to have all the time in the world to sit back with a beer and watch the kids, street dogs and chickens scrabbling about in the dust.

The villages of Juanchaco and Ladrilleros are quite untidy because there is no waste disposal infrastructure and the major beaches by both places are litter strewn and not very inviting. In the surroundings however, there are some spectacular places to visit including deserted beaches, waterfalls, caves and mangrove covered islands. The ‘Bahia de Malaga', just round the bay from Ladrilleros is home to many rare land and marine bird species and is considered the most florally diverse area in the world.

Although not a glamorous destination, if you're looking to get off the tourist trail and see a different side of Colombian culture, the Pacific coast certainly offers a refreshing contrast.
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You might need...
Alicias Restaurant - Tasty lunches with fresh fish for around 12,000 Pesos. Opposite the 'Super Tienda' on the main street in Ladrilleros.
Supplies - There is a slow and expensive internet access point in Juanchaco. Calls to the mainland can be made all round town at shops selling 'minutos'.
Banks - There are NO BANKS in Ladrilleros or Juanchaco so take everything you'll need with you from Buenaventura.

Don't Miss...
Mangrove Tours - A popular tour is to a natural swimming pool deep in the mangrove forests called la sardinera. Guides explain a bit about the wildlife and landscape as the boat winds its way through the salt/fresh water rivers. 40,000 Pesos full day
Whale Watching - Most active from the end of August to the beginning of September, boat-tours take visitors out to see them up close for 30,000 Pesos which includes a stop at a special bird watching point.
El Chorro de La Maestra - Along the road past Supertienda and to the left past a musicians workshop, this short walk brings you to a series of caves and interesting formations by a quiet and clean little beach, perfect for swimming. Be careful of strong currents.
La Barra - A cleaner beach north of Ladrilleros on the very edge of the Choco region. Just follow the track north out of town. The road deteriorates and eventually joins the beach for the last section before arriving in La Barra.
Las Sierpes waterfalls - spectacular day trips out into the 'Bahia de Malaga' to see a 65 metre waterfall crashing into the sea. There are also fresh water pools fed by waterfalls which are perfect for cooling off. 30,000 Pesos for a boat tour.
Indigenous Communities - Just to the north of Ladrilleros and along a semi-paved pathway there's a small indigenous community where they sell handmade crafts.
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