I recently visited two small villages in Colombia and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty that surrounds them, and the thriving culture they have based on the rivers that support their communities. They have very humble homes, the hotels are very basic rooms, but very clean. The prices so reasonable. In Zabaleta’s I stayed right on the river with the most incredible view that the room did not matter because sitting outside on the balcony and watching the sunrise was awe-inspiring. These little pueblo’s have thriving populations and little stores with everything you could need. The restaurants are outside of people’s actual homes with the most delicious Colombian food, shrimp from the rivers and seafood from the coast of Buenaventura including lobster. Zabaleta’s, Colombia is known for their river of extreme beauty while San Cipriano, Colombia is known for the motorcycle powered tram that is the only way to get to their village AFTER you cross the hanging bridge which is intimidating. The river in San Cipriano is known for the swimming, tubing and snorkeling. The river in Zabaleta is known for its exquisite beauty. The farms along this gorgeous waterway are available for rent, which during certain times of the year both pueblo’s have not a single room or place available. In Zabaleta’s canoe’s will take you anywhere you want to go, picking you up at your hotel or at any farm. In San Cipriano you hire guides who will carry your tubes and take you to an exquisite waterfall.
San Cipriano is a 4 hour drive from Villa Migelita. Riding the motorcycle tram along with tubing fun and hiking in this beautiful spot was amazing. We left the Villa in the mid morning and were on the river tubing by 4pm and stayed in the water for 2 hours. The water was clean, and warm, I was surprised by the temperature! We brought wine with us and just drifted along laughing and enjoying the birds, sounds and sights of this lovely river. I have tubed in the mountains of Tennessee when my children were growing up and remember the rivers there to be like ice. This river was refreshing. The late afternoon tube ride was a blast. After the tubing we walked all around the village and had so much fun looking at other hostels and talking with the locals. We met our guide for the next day and arranged to have him pick us up the next morning for a long hike to a beautiful waterfall in the nearby rainforest. It was a challenging hike, with beautiful views and lot’s of butterflies and birds. Our guide told us that it is very important to have a person of knowledge take us on this journey because some tourists had just gotten lost on the same hike and were not found for 7 days! The result at the end of this challenging hike was a lovely waterfall that was surrounded by a natural pool. We all went swimming and it was a beautiful experience to go underneath the waterfall and let the water run over our bodies. . We stayed for a while and met up with another guide with tourists and walked down with them. The walk down was quick, and our tubes were waiting for another fun tubing experience after such a strenuous hike. We floated along, snorkeling and enjoying a perfect day. After lunch it was time to end our fun excursion and once again we took the tram. There is an actual little train station that you sit and wait for the tram. The tram is a delightful experience, we piled on with our luggage and dogs and took off with smiles on our faces.
While I thoroughly enjoyed San Cipriano, I had some problems with the hotel where I stayed. I would recommend to anyone who is going to visit San Cipriano to check out all the hotels on arrival. This is easy to do with all the guides that meet the tram when it stops in San Cipriano. The people are quite friendly and love to show off their hotels and cabana’s. We were cheated on the price of a meal at the hotel we stayed at. This hotel is called Don Hatel Cabana’s and Restaurant. I would definitely say do not stay there! The room had a private bath, but was nothing fancy. No TV, no space to put your articles of clothing or accessories. The shower, toilet, and sink were all together in a straight line, so when you showered the sink and toilet got wet. The restaurant was an outdoor kitchen in another building that also had rooms for rent. The food was just ok and when we went to pay the bill the proprietor doubled the price on us because she assumed I did not speak Spanish nor thought I lived in Colombia and would not know she was cheating us. Imagine her surprise when I challenged her in Spanish. I told her I would pay the bill but would find out if it was correct from other restaurants and hotels in the village. Well, it was not correct as the other restaurants were surprised by the amount she asked, and told me so! When we checked out I discounted what I paid for the room, after speaking in Spanish in front of other paying guests that she had cheated me. I asked those guests how much they were charged for the meals they were eating and it was half the price we had been charged. I told all of them of her cheating ways as they looked at her with disgust. Colombian’s love Americans and find such behavior abhorrent. She sent an employee running after me, but I ignored him and then went to another hotel for lunch and was asked how I enjoyed their village. I gave the name of the hotel I stayed at and told them of my bad experience. It will take her a long time to live down what she did to me with the other hotel proprietor’s in San Cipriano. I am sure she will think twice the next time an American visits her hotel. San Cipriano is wonderful and I would highly recommend the journey to anyone visiting Colombia, just make sure you compare prices and ask what the cost of a meal is before you eat!
The village of Zabaleta is a similar experience but is smaller and has more farms along their river. The canoes that will pick you up right at your front door (well almost) are wooden and handmade by the locals. Upon arrival in this quaint spot, we were met by many locals who gave us a nice place to park our truck and took us around to local hotels. We chose a very basic room with the bathroom down the hall. The views were incredible and the experience here absolutely perfect. I have had many experiences in my life, lot’s of camping trips, and Zabaleta’s is a place where I want to return to again and again. The charm factor is off the chart! The people of this village delightful. I loved every second I was there, even the room which was just a basic room with a bed. I slept well and will always remember watching the sunrise. The locals were delightful and the food just delicious. I can assure those who love coffee there is nothing like the home brewed coffee on the wood stove! The most wonderful part of Zabaleta’s is the children. They come along with their parent on the canoe ride. They are always smiling. Can anyone ask for a better experience?