No Regular Waterfall
These Colombia Pacific Coast travel tips are part of our 4-Part Pacific Paradise series that uncovers all our favorite finds in this undiscovered corner of Colombia.
Even if you don't care about whale watching, sport fishing, turtle saving, or beach lounging, there's one tour makes it worth your while to visit the small Pacific Coast town of El Valle, Chocó, Colombia: The Cascada El Tigre tour.
This isn't your typical tour to one set of waterfalls. It's got five waterfalls! Plus three beaches, a cave, a great meal, a snake (maybe), butterflies (for sure), and hiking. But this is only true if you do the tour in the unconventional way we describe below.
Prepare to overdose on waterfalls.
The Cascada El Tigre Experience
Starting The Day
As we'll explain later (see: Which Tour to Choose), we made the wise decision to do our Cascada El Tigre tour with a man, the man, named El Nativo.
After a basic Colombian breakfast made by El Nativo's daughter and served by his granddaughter at his restaurant (10,000 COP), the tour started at 8 a.m. We were joined by two french girls, a Colombian, an Argentine, a German, El Nativo, and his two sons.
The boat launch over and through the crashing surf woke us all up, but after that the trip was a smooth 25 minutes. Along the way, we slowed down so Nativo's sons could fish among the huge schools of tuna that were splashing around close to the reef. No luck but, as we were to find out later, we were not lacking in fish anyways.
As our boat approached the the cove and private beach, everyone on the boat hurried to take out their cameras. We'd found paradise. A beautiful waterfall fell right onto the beach into a small pool that led into the ocean. It was incredible.
Into the Jungle and Up the Stream
Shortly after we arrived at Playa El Tigre, we left our clothes, bags, and shoes under the beach shelter and ventured up into the jungle to explore the stream above the Cascada El Tigre waterfalls. El Nativo's eldest son, Enrique was our guide.
As we walked up the stream, ducked under fallen branches, and got natural massages in the pools, Enrique gave us some history about El Valle and the waterfalls, pointed out uses for different flora, and shared other entertaining anecdotes.
After about 40 minutes of walking up the stream and taking the necessary selfies, we headed back the same way we came.
Back on the beach, we had to wait for the tide to go out so we could explore the nearby caves and another waterfall. Bring a book or, if you're feeling the viche (a strong, homemade, local liquor made from sugar cane) from the night before, take a nap. But watch out, the sun is STRONG.
Another Cascada El Tigre, A Cave, And Some Wildlife
Once Enrique deemed the tide to be far enough out, we headed along the shore in the direction of El Valle, climbed a few rocks, and in about 15 minutes arrived at another beach with another beautiful waterfall also called Cascada El Tigre.
Ten minutes further and we reached a seaside cave called, of course, la Cueva del Tigre. For me this was the least interesting stop of the entire day because the cave was filled with garbage and bats, two things I strongly despise.
On our walk back, Chris quickly jerked his hand back and stopped in his tracks. At the last second he realized the branch he was about to grab was actually a meter-long, orange and brown snake!
Lunch was waiting for us back at the shelter.
El Nativo had been busy cooking for us, along with a buddy who had appeared out of nowhere and was wearing nothing but a ripped pair of Calvin Klein boxers with a few too many holes.
Lunch was fresh tuna grilled over a homemade wood bbq with a spicy jerk-style rub. It was served with rice, sautéed cambute (a type of conch), fried plantains, and a cold Aguila beer. While the color of the food was rather monotone, the flavors were definitely not. It was more delicious and sizeble than we had expected.
Playa Larga & Three More Waterfalls
After lunch and a bit more "chilling" in the blazing heat, it was time to say goodbye to Playa El Tigre.
But we weren't going home quite yet!
Instead of going back to El Valle with the others, we arranged for El Nativo to drop us off halfway at Playa Larga. We had read on another blog (this one) that this beach had multiple waterfalls, plus we wanted to get in a bit of exercise.
Every time we hit a stream on the beach we followed it into the jungle and within a couple minutes would find a new waterfall. Chris, a self-proclaimed waterfall-phile, was having the time of his life.
See our map below to find out more or less where all the wateralls are located. Or be adventurous and explore! They're honestly even easier to find than you'd expect.
Back to Playa El Almejal and El Valle
After we'd swam in all the waterfalls we continued on along the shore back to El Valle. The beach comes to an end and becomes jagged, sharp volcanic rock. Luckily we brought shoes, because it wasn't flip-flop or barefoot friendly. Unless you're El Nativo, that is, who probably can run on these rocks without flinching.
This last part was longer than expected, taking about forty-five minutes. Some sections were tricky, and depending on the tides you may have to venture inland a bit. The tide pools kept us entertained. They were real-life, brilliant turquoise aquariums of tropical fish full of pufferfish, crabs, and neon fishes.
El Valle is so off the beaten path that Google Maps hasn't mapped out its streets. So we did.
Use this map to help you get acquainted with the area. Zoom up or scroll up north to see the locations of Cascada El Tigre and the waterfalls at Playa Larga. To download it, use our directions here.
Which Tour To Take (and How Much to Pay)
On our first day in El Valle, a guy on a motorbike approached us to try and sell us the tour to the Cascada El Tigrefor 80,000 COP each without lunch. When we told him we wanted to do Cascada El Tigre and Playa Larga on the same day, he assured us it was not possible. He generously offered to sell us both tours separately, though.
Don't fall for any of that
bull tiger crap.
Keep it simple and go with El Nativo. He's a cool, super fit, 50-something-year-old El Valle native (hence the name) that has a family business running tours, a restaurant, and a small hotel. He's also the town's steward of Cascada El Tigre, so in a sense they're his waterfalls.
Everyone who visits Cascada El Tigre either takes a boat both way or hires a guide to hike there. We recommend you do neither because both miss the Playa Larga waterfalls (the hike goes inland, not along the shore). Ask El Nativo to drop you off at Playa Larga and walk back yourself with one of his sons as a guide.
We paid 70,000 COP each including lunch, a beer, and a drop off at Playa Larga on the way back. You might be able to negotiate lower price, especially if you stay in one of his cabañas (30,000 COP per night per person). One guy we went with paid just 50,000.
What to Pack
While you're only gone for maybe 6-7 hours it's good to be prepared. Here's what we recommend:
- Book (you get a bit of down time between exploring the first waterfall and the caves)
- Runners (these will come in handy when you're scaling rocks on your way back from Playa Larga)
- Dry bag or a couple ziplocs for your electronics
- Water (the only drinks at lunch were lemonade and beer)
When To Go
Depending on the tides, your Cascada El Tigre tour may be best done in a different order than we did. You don't want to be walking to the cave or along Playa Larga at high tide. Be sure to coordinate beforehand with El Nativo.
More Time in El Valle?
Since there's little info online about what to do on Colombia's Pacific Coast, we went all out to share what we discovered. Check these out: