Bahía Solano: Pick Your Paradise
This Bahía Solano guide is one of our 4-Part Pacific Paradise series that uncovers all our favorite finds in this undiscovered corner of Colombia.
Bahía Solano is an up-and-coming tourism town in the up-and-coming department of Chocó on the Pacific coast of up-and-coming Colombia.
Three “up-and-comings” means the place is pretty much deserted tourism-wise, especially outside of whale watching season (Jul-Oct).
The internet is also deserted when it comes to info on things to do in Bahía Solano and where to stay. That’s probably how you ended up here at our “up-an-coming” little site for answers.
Well, coming up right now is everything you need to know to pick your paradise and decide where to stay in the Bahía Solano area.
Bahía Solano Area Map
This map gives you an idea of where all of the potential places to stay in Bahía Solano are relative to one another.
Potential Paradises Around Bahia Solano
Getting around is time consuming, sweaty, and expensive, so your best bet is to stay at each location for a few days at a time instead of trying to hop around every day.
Here are your options, starting from the north and working your way on down south of the Bahía Solano area.
The only thing Playa Huina offers that no other potential place to stay in Bahía Solano does is calm water. So if you can’t swim well but really want to swim in the ocean, this is the choice for you.
Otherwise, we’re not clear what the draw is. Huina is a beach and party destination for Bahia Solano locals, so it’s not quieter. The beach faces northeast so it doesn’t have great sunsets. And it’s less conveniently located than many other locations.
Nevertheless, Huina offers local character, restaurants, and a nice beach. If you find a hotel there that looks appealing to you, you’re sure to have a great time.
Getting there from Bahía Solano airport: Either walk from town when the tide is out (about 2 hours) or take a short tuk-tuk ride to the pier (6,000 COP) then a 25 minute boat ride.
Playa Mecana is a remote 3-kilometer long beach northeast of Bahia Solano and opposite the bay from Playa Huina. There are only a handful of huts along the beach and one village a hundred meters inland along the Mecana river. It’s so small that when I asked the owners of Mecana Ecohotel how many people lived there, they listed each inhabitant by name.
Aside from being on a beach so remote you can skinny-dip in peace, the other draw of Playa Mecana is the Jardín Botanico del Pacífico. This 177 hectare (1.77 square km) private eco-reserve is constantly drawing biologists to study its flora and fauna. There are a few different, and affordable, guided hikes—from 2 to 8 hours—through the park that you can take. Boots are provided.
The Mecana Ecohotel is where to stay on Playa Mecana. It’s owned and managed by the same family that runs the Jardín Botanico. All proceeds from the hotel go towards keeping the park going. And to keep you going (and maybe never leaving), they serve truly fantastic food. There are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
We also recommend borrowing their kayak to explore the mangroves and river behind the beach.
Getting there from Bahía Solano airport: A short tuk-tuk ride to the pier (6,000 COP) followed by either a 1 to 1.5-hour walk from town at low tide or a 20-minute boat ride (60,000 COP split among the number of people taking it).
Bahía Solano Town
Bahía Solano reportedly has 9,500 residents, but it feels even smaller than that. It’s a bunch of dirt roads, wooden shacks, and no beaches. And one ATM that sometimes has cash in it.
We wracked our brains trying to think of reasons to stay in Bahia Solano. All we could come up with are: A) You’re visiting for business in town (maybe buying and selling coconuts and fish?) and B) The only thing you want to do in Bahía Solano is whale-watch and you want to avoid the time, expense, and hassle of going further from the airport.
Playa El Almejal
Playa El Almejal is a 1.5 km long beach that’s a 20-minute walk north of El Valle.
Strangely enough, it reminds us of another famous beach 6,500 km to the northwest: Tofino, Canada’s Long Beach. It’s wide and rugged with driftwood and big rock mounds along it and waves fit for surfing. El Almejal has no bears though. And it’s slightly warmer.
There is a range of accommodation options along Playa El Almejal. We recommend The Humpback Turtle Hostel for backpackers and El Morro for those with a more flexible budget. Check out our detailed guide of things to do in El Valle for complete info.
Getting there from Bahia Solano airport: A 50-minute tuk-tuk ride costing 45,000 COP total (15,000 per person if you can find two other to share it with).
The town of El Valle is just as underwhelming as Bahía Solano, but even smaller. What makes it a much more appealing place to stay is that it’s closer to most of the area’s top beaches and attractions.
From El Valle, it’s an easy 10-15 minute walk south to Playa Cuevita or north to Playa El Almejal. Tours such as those to El Tigre Waterfalls and Utría National Park all leave from town as well.
For everything you could possibly want to know about El Valle including where to stay, the best places to eat and drink, and all the best activities, check out our El Valle guide.
Getting there from Bahía Solano airport: A 40-minute tuk-tuk ride costing 30,000 COP (10,000 COP per person if you can find two others to split it with.)
A ten-minute walk south of El Valle, Playa Cuevita is the second longest (9 km) beach on Colombia’s Pacific Coast. The southern part of the beach is even more isolated than Playa Mecana. It’s just kilometer after kilometer of unconventionally beautiful beach, driftwood, and, sadly, quite a bit of plastic trash that the ocean spits out.
Also coming out of the Pacific Ocean onto Playa Cuevita are turtles. From June to December, five different species come onto the beach to lay eggs.
The turtles and their eggs are protected by Mama Orbe Family Eco-Farm. Halfway down Playa Cuevita from El Valle (i.e. 5 km), Mama Orbe is an inspiring sanctuary and hostel run by a local family. Come down for a day visit, or better yet stay for a night or two to support their cause and play turtle-helper for a while.
Getting there from Bahía Solano airport: Take a tuk-tuk to El Valle then either walk along the beach or inland jungle path, or coordinate a low-tide motorcycle ride with Dario.
Utría National Park
Utría National Park is mostly visited on day trips, but there is on-site accommodation.
Unfortunately, the accommodation is ridiculously expensive, costing over 500,000 COP per person per night. We didn’t see the cabins, but have a hard time imagining how that price could be justified even if the food, snorkels, and kayaks are included.
Getting there from Bahía Solano airport: Take a tuk-tuk to El Valle. From there you can hire a guide (60,000 COP per person) and walk the 9 km to the park entrance where you’ll still have to pay 80,000 COP each for a boat ride to the cabins plus the 46,500 COP per person park entry fee. Alternatively, you can hire a boat to take you the whole way. The Utría hotel manager quoted me 638,000 COP return for the two of us.
How to Choose Where to Stay
Are you a non-Spanish-speaking budget party traveler?
Go straight to Humpback Turtle Hostel at the northern end of Playa El Almejal and stay there your entire time.
Are you a foodie and/or non-budget non-Spanish-speaker?
If you have a budget of about $100 a day and want to ensure you eat more than the same fish, rice, and patacones every day, spend a night or two at Mecana Ecohotel on Playa Mecana, explore the Jardín Botanico. Then move south to stay at El Morro, which is on Playa El Almejal, but at the closest end to El Valle town (and the must-try Rosa del Mar Restaurant).
Both of these hotels have fluent-English speaking hosts.
Are you a low-key couple or group of friends?
Depending on your budget, pick between the Mecana Ecohotel on Playa Mecana (higher end) or Mama Orbe on Playa Cuevita (budget) for a couple of relaxing nights with a beach pretty much to yourself. Afterwards, spend a couple more nights in El Valle at the Posada Eco-Turística to get a taste of the local culture and explore the nearby attractions.
Are you an ultra adventurer?
None of the options listed above.
Bring a tent, befriend a native upon arrival, and hire them to take you into the woods for a multi-day, overnight camping trip where you’ll explore the less-touristed beaches, waterfalls, and hills of the area.
Are you an AC-loving, internet-addicted, supreme-comfort-seeking, five-star type?
Even the highest-end places in Bahía Solano don’t have AC, useful internet, fancy cocktails, and fluent English-speaking staff ready to wait on you hand and foot. Go to Cartagena or some Caribbean Island instead.
Are you a do-good, budget, eco-warrior (and we mean that fondly)?
Spend all your time at Mama Orbe Family Eco-Farm on Playa Cuevita.
Save some turtles, clean up the beach, and become a worshipper or worship-worthy Dario, Mama Orbe’s son who runs the place. You can also relax by exploring the jungle behind the beach, hiking to the waterfall at the south end of Playa Cuevita, or surfing or body-surfing on the beach.
Are you a Medellín-based professional in need of pure relaxation?
Stay at one of the two very-private cabañas at the Mecana Ecohotel on Playa Mecana and be bothered my nobody and nothing but the sound of crashing waves.
Are you a snowflakes who thinks you don’t fit into any of the above criteria?
Message us on Facebook and we’d be glad to help.
How to Get to and from Bahía Solano
Not possible (…unless you put the bus on a boat or airplane). There are no roads from inland to Bahía Solano.
According to the owner of Mecana Eco-Hotel (which you can read about in our Bahía Solano guide), San Germán is the most reliable but also most expensive and Satena is the least reliable.
From Bahía Solano’s airport, take a motor-mouse (a.k.a. tuk-tuk) to El Valle. It takes about 40 minutes and costs 30,000 COP (so 10,000 each if you can fill it with three people).
To get back to the airport either ask your hotel or go to El Valle’s main square. Wait there with the rest of the locals for the next tuk-tuk, car, or truck to come by.
Boats leave from Nuquí to El Valle every Monday and Friday at 6 a.m. and return at around 11 a.m. They cost 70,000 COP.
Colombia’s Pacific Coast
Complete our 4-Part Colombia Pacific Paradise Series with:
The Rest of Colombia
And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions to share with other readers, please share them in the comments!
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