Juanchaco and Ladrilleros

A beautiful red orchid; Colombia is the world's largest orchid exporter.

A beautiful red orchid; Colombia is the world’s largest orchid exporter.

Located forty-five minutes from Buenaventura by boat, the Juanchaco, Ladrilleros, and la Barra region is one of the last largely unexplored and untouristy areas of Colombia. But give it time.  Get there now before it gets overrun by Dutch backpackers and Australian adventurers looking for their own slice of unspoiled Colombian paradise! Basically all roads here lead through Cali. From there it is a 4 hour bus ride through some seriously steep and windy roads down to Buenaventura.

Yellow orchid.

Yellow orchid.

Endless tropical paradise awaits. I stumbled upon this spider while walking down a little-known jungle path, and for me it encapsulates the wonder, the mystery, the raw and magical beauty of this exotic land. Likewise, you are bound to see spectacular orchids in the wild. Flowers have proved to be an incredible boon to the Colombian economy, and currently account for one of their biggest exports.

A butterfly, quietly vertically perched on a tree.

A butterfly, quietly vertically perched on a tree.

While I would recommend going here, I want to give a few caveats. First of all, Buenaventura is not to be entered lightly. While its days as a murderous cocaine port have largely subsided, it still has an appreciable presence of guerillas, paramilitaries, and criminal elements. Fortunately, they are not in the zones where tourists would have any reason to go, so as long as you do your research and use common sense, you will be fine. Additionally the area has a significant police and military presence, so you will feel safe.

A jungle river, winding its way from the Western Cordillera down to the Pacific Ocean.

A jungle river, winding its way from the Western Cordillera down to the Pacific Ocean.

You will arrive by boat at Juanchaco. From there I would suggest heading to the slightly larger and more developed Ladrilleros, just five minutes away by motorbike. It should be only $2.000 or $3.000 COP to get there. There are no cars in the area. Due to the tides, you need to time your beach time correctly. Basically from noon to sundown, the Ladrilleros beach is at its best, that is to say, low tide. For $5.000 COP rent a table on the beach, and plenty of vendors will walk by selling water, beer, and coconut deserts.

A typical Pacific Colombian meal: shrimp soup, fried fish, rice, cabbage salad, and fried coconut balls for desert.

A typical Pacific Colombian meal: shrimp soup, fried fish, rice, cabbage salad, and fried coconut balls for desert.

Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Traditional lodging.

Traditional lodging.

Enjoying a freshly sliced open coconut on the beach.

Enjoying a freshly sliced open coconut on the beach.

For just a dollar, (or 2,000 Colombian pesos), you can ask this guy to pull you down a coconut.

For just a dollar, (or 2,000 Colombian pesos), you can ask this guy to pull you down a coconut.

Treat yourself to a swanky resort.

Treat yourself to a swanky resort.

My first view of the Pacific Ocean.

My first view of the Pacific Ocean.

These river boats are often the most practical transportation.

These river boats are often the most practical transportation.

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