Jul 10

Travel Colombia: Not Living the Dream in Riohacha

Riohacha, lots of potential
Riohacha, lots of potential

Sometimes a place and you just don’t click. It just doesn’t happen. This can be for various reasons: you’re tired, it’s not what you’re in the mood for, you’re ill, you’re missing home, someone just put you in a bad mood…

Sometimes, however, it’s just the fact that the place simply isn’t that great.

As you’ll all know I write lovingly and often about travel to Colombia, since I think it’s a fantastic destination and an incredibly exciting place to be right now. There are small (and big) things, however, that need to change and improve. Indeed, part of the remit of new and ambitious travel companies such as See Colombia Travel is to help guide and instruct members of the Colombia travel industry – such as hoteliers and tour guides – on just what is expected from the international travel standard.

For the most part these are symptoms of the neglect Colombia has received by the travel industry in the past and therefore I’m optomistic that things will improve (all places, for example, should have toilet paper and a toilet seat). Also, for the most part, the problems are forgotten in the bigger picture of the whole experience, or chalked up as ‘rustic charm’.

Not so in Riohacha.

Riohacha is the first place in Colombia that I have visited and not enjoyed, and there were a variety of reasons for this. First and foremost, there is very little to do in the city itself. The beach is quite nice, the food is ok and, of course, nearby is the stunning La Guajira (an absolutely essential visit). Other than that, however, you’ll find little in the way of nightlife, absolutely no touristic landmarks and precious few hotels.

The beach at Riohacha
The beach at Riohacha

Accommodation in Riohacha is, in fact, the major problem. The cheapest night you’ll find is in Castillo del Mar, which will set you back $20,000 for not the greatest sleep you’ll ever have. More criminally, the next cheapest I found was $40,000, which got me a tiny room that wouldn’t look out of place in a Noe film. The hotel I stayed in, which was over $100,000, was old, had bad service, and the food wasn’t great at all.

Oh, the food! Firstly, it is hugely overpriced, and you’ll struggle to find anything of high quality for under $25,000 (whereas in Bogota, for example, this will get you a plate of high quality sushi). Secondly there is little choice, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering the region but something beyond fish or fast food wouldn’t be too much to ask, surely?

My final complaints are that the city is littered with garbage and, when you go to get your flight to leave, there’s a $3,600 charge that no-one tells you about. If you don’t have the money you have to get a taxi back into the center of town to use a cashpoint. Ugh.

Nearby fishing village
Nearby fishing village

Riohacha is firmly on the tourist trail since it is the nearest city to La Guajira, where you’ll find Punta Gallinas and Cabo de La Vela. These are stunning destinations that make a night in Riohacha worthwhile, and I highly recommend checking these places out. There are also other great things to do nearby, like visit local villages and local indigenous communities… It’s just a shame that, with all the potential Riohacha has thanks to it’s location, no-one seems to be taking the time to get tourists to enjoy the city, rather than seeing it as just a stop-off. Here’s hoping that changes soon.


9 thoughts on “Travel Colombia: Not Living the Dream in Riohacha

  1. Pamela Postma on

    The fee is called a Reciprocity Fee and Colombia charges this tax to Canadians basically because we charge them a tax to enter Canada. No one really seems to know about it until they arrive, which is unfortunate. Surprises like that aren’t nice to come across when traveling. Hopefully Canada and Colombia will soon come to an agreement and do away with the taxes.

  2. Glen Green on

    Things have changed somewhat in Riohacha more hotels and better restaurants
    I’m Canadian and in 2013 opened a B&B Casa Patio Bonita three blocks from the beach here in Riohacha.
    In our web site you can see what we offer, http://www.casapatiobonita.com
    We are small, only 6 rooms and a 2 bedroom apartment. Prices include breakfast and we offer meals on request.
    If you or any of your readers plan a trip to Riohacha and the beautiful la Guajira please check us out. Thanks Glen


      Chris on

      Hi Glen,

      I personally have only passed through Riohacha on my way further into La Guajira, but I’m always excited to spend time in new Colombian locations. This post only reflects the opinion of one writer, and I’d love to check out your place when I’m next travelling along the North coast (it might be a little while though). Good luck with the B&B, it looks like a nice place. In fact, I’m keen to spend some more time in Riohacha and learn more about it’s history and culture as it was the first Colombian city I ever heard of thanks to the early references to it in 100 Years of Solitude.

      Thanks for your comment and for reading,


  3. Andrew on

    Was that a 3,600 dollar charge? OR a 3600 colombian peso charge?


      Azzam on

      Hi Andrew, it’s 3,600 Colombian pesos. I’d like to think that they wouldn’t be able to get away with a ghost 3,600 dollar charge!

  4. Luis on

    Riohacha is NOT the nearest city to La Guajira or is nearby La Guajira, Riohacha IS La Guajira, Riohacha IS in La Guajira, in fact Riohacha is the Capital City of the Department of La Guajira


      Paul on

      Right you are! Us travellers to the region usually distinguish the stunning beach area as ‘La Guajira’, even though as you say it technically isn’t correct to do so. The post is written the way it is because that’s what most people understand, however I’ll put a note in there to make it clearer.

  5. Ronie on

    I always wanted to travel to different places. The only thing that’s stopping me is, budget. My former boss lived in Colombia once and told us that it’s fancy living there. I hope i could visit that country soon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *