Department of Chocó of Colombia

The Department of Chocó of Colombia, with capital Quibdó - population of almost 100,000 - has a primarily Afro-Colombian population, descendants of African enslaves brought by the Spanish. The second race/ethnic group is the Emberá, a native American tribe. The latter practice hunting and fishing and live near rivers. In 2005, the total population was less than half a million, with more than half living in the Quibdó valley. According to a 2005 census the ethnic composition of the department is:

  • Afro-Colombians (82.1%)

  • Amerindians or Indigenous (12.7)

  • Whites and Mestizos (5.2%)


Why consider booking our Colombia National Parks Tour? Because for the same price, our tour gets you to ALL places for which Colombia is famous, and on top of that, you get to see 7 National Parks/Reserves accompanied by a naturalist guide. There is nothing similar on the market. As Colombia can be combined with other countries, we organize tours in modules: Bogota and surrounding Andes, Caribbean Coast and the Amazon of Ecuador; the latter for the Colombian Amazon still not being recommended for foreign visitors. Colombia is a very large country, so you need to fly. To do so at hardly any additional costs, you need to book both Bogota and Cartagena - and Quito if you want to include the Amazon module - in your international ticket.

Destinations Overview:  Bogota old town, Cartagena, Villa de Leyva Zipaguira Salt Mine Church, Chingaza Reserve, Iguaque National Park, Flamencos Reserve, Cienega Mangroves Reserve, Lake Fuquene, Tayrona National Park, Manaure Salt Flats.


The Cocó is the only Colombian department to have coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, while it borders on Panama. There just a few roads in and around some of the larger villages, basically leading from nowhere to nowhere, while people travel along the coast by boat. Its population is among the poorest in the country. Despite its abundant rainfall, Quibdó has no good functioning drinking water system. Other important villages to mention are Istmina, Condoto, Nóvita and El Carmen in the interior, Acandí on the Caribbean Coast, and Solano on the Pacific Coast. Resorts include Capurganá on the Caribbean Coast, and on the Pacific Coast, Jurado, Nuquí, and Bahía Solano.


Much of Colombia's internal consumption of wood comes from the Chocó, while it produces a significant quantity of platinum(28,359 ounces in 2011). Choco is also Colombia top gold-producing region (653,625 ounces in 2011).


Chocó Biogeographic Region

The Chocó Biogeographic Region covers the entire Pacific coast from Panamá to Ecuador. Biogeographically, Most of the territory is formed by coastal plains and low valleys that cutting through the Baudó Mountains, the latter mostly less than 1,000 masl; while the eastern part is made up by the western Andes slopes. Most of the Chocó is still covered by inaccessible rainforest.


CHOCO COLOMBIA TOURISM SAFETY: Endless impenetrable jungles.

Endless impenetrable jungles.


With the highest rainfall in the world - the average annual rainfall of 13,300 mm was recorded  in Lloro, the region is suspected to also have some of the highest biodiversity in the world, but few data are available. The Chocó biolgeographical region is primarily drained by the Atrato River, the San Juan River and the Baudó River.


CHOCO COLOMBIA TOURISM SAFETY: Baudó River from the air.

Baudó River from the air.


To the north is the Darién Gap and the Serranía del Darién at the border with Panamá, to the South the Province of Esmeraldas in Ecuador. Administratively, the region is within the departments Chocó, Valle del Cauca, Cauca and Nariño.


Protected Areas in the Chocó Region

  • Los Katíos National Park

  • Ensenada de Utria National Park  (including the adjacent sea)

  • Uramba Bahía Málaga National Park

  • Isla Gorgona National Park

  • Sanquianga National Park

  • Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary


Choco, Colombia, Tourism

First of all, Most websites talking about the Choco greatly exaggerate or outright lie about the things you can do and their quality. I tell you that because nobody should go to a place with false expectations. If you want to bake in the sun on a beach with a piñacolada.... DONT GO TO THE CHOCÓ. If you want good service in a 3 -star or better hotel...... DON'T GO TO THE CHOCÓ. If you expect smoothly run ecotours....... DON'T GO TO THE CHOCÓ.  If you want restaurants with good food...... DON'T GO TO THE CHOCÓ.


If you want to visit some of the last wild places on earth, DO GO TO THE CHOCO. I do think the Chocó is great place for visitors who seek a honest wild and remote experience.


Like in so many coastal villages, the fish is fresh, but totally overcooked, or rather, baked to death. If you go to the Chocó, you go for experiencing wild places and not to enjoy 5 star hotels with well-trained staff attending to all your needs. Such places simply don't exist along the Pacific coast. You will find humble, well meaning local people who do their best to make you feel welcome in simple hostels, cabins and restaurants along the coast. I enjoy such environments tremendously, and - a sushi lover - take deep fried fish fish, rubbery squid rings, dry rice, yucca and tough beef for granted. But, you will find many websites disagreeing with my assessment.


Whale-Watching in Choco Colombia

After having traveled some 8,000 kilometers north 30 m long and up to 40 ton Humpback Whales flock together along the Pacific coast to give mate and give birth during July and November. The best places to watch them are Nuqui, Bahia Solano and Bahia Malaga, near Buenaventura, where you can either view from beaches or aboard one of the small simple non-touristy tourist boats.


CHOCO COLOMBIA TOURISM SAFETY: Humpback whale surfacing.

Humpback whale surfacing.


Other marine mammals include: Bottlenose dolphins, Sperm whales and Orcas.


Choco Colombia beaches

The Chocó has some of Colombia’s most spectacular beaches, wide and totally abandoned! From the dramatic, black-sand Playa Guachalito near Nuqui, to the tiny, untouched white strips in Utria National Park, there are few places better on earth for that Robinson Crusoe, lost-on-an-island feel than the Chocó. But, sunshine hours are far less common than overcast skies with rainshowers.



From just North of Nuqui all the way to the border with Ecuador (and beyond) are enormous estuarine regions, consisting of river mouths pouring out into the ocean - usually protected by sand bars - and along the coast, parallel estuarine canals lined by mangroves, which at the time were among the best mangroves worldwide. Sadly enough, most of the mangroves have been cut down and at best thin lines of mangrove are still lining these canals. Nevertheless, they are still great for birdwatching.


CHOCO COLOMBIA TOURISM SAFETY: Sand bars and mangroves line the murky coastal waters.

Sand bars and mangroves line the murky coastal waters.


Birdwatching and wildlife

Colombia is the second most rich country in number of species of birds after Brazil. The Chocó is probably the richest region in bird species in the world; richer than the Amazon! Nature reserves like Las Tangaras and Cerro Montezuma and Nutria National Park host a wealth of endemic bird species. Mammals, like jaguars, peccaries, mountain lions, brocketts deer, howler and spider monkeys, giant anteaters and brown-throated sloths, they are all there, but it takes a lot of luck to see them. With a good naturalist guide you have a good chance to see amphibians and reptiles.


CHOCO COLOMBIA TOURISM SAFETY: Overcast skies and rain are the brand marks of the Chocó.

Overcast skies and rain are the brand marks of the Chocó.


Scuba-Diving in the Choco

Scuba diving is definitely not similar to diving in the Caribbean. The water is wild most of the time and along most parts of the coast extremely murky, as it is an estuarine coast, which are always very loaded with silt. So don't believe those websites that try to sell you crystal clear blue waters. Those don't exist at this part of the Pacific Ocean. Only a few places have interesting diving spots, particularly Utría National Natural Park. There are 11 species of - mostly soft - coral, including both Pocillopora and Porites corals, as well as a variety of mollusks, including ark clams and the eastern pacific giant conch. More interesting are the over 180 species of fish, from the imposing whale shark right down to the tiny goby. When I was there, I could only find 1 diving shop and the gear was rather poor. But again, if you want to explore a different and wild place, you take any inconvenience for granted. 


Marine Turtles

It’s not just about the whales in the Chocó; another popular wildlife activity is to head down to the local beaches at night to watch turtles laying their eggs. Nearby Cuevita beach is the place to witness the Olive ridley sea turtle nesting, the smallest of the turtle species and the most common turtle nesting here. Other turtles include the Leatherback sea turtle (Tortugas cana), the green sea turtle and the hawksbill turtle.


Late August to January are supposedly to be the best times to watch turtles nesting. April and May seem to be the best time to see hatchings of leatherback sea turtles head for the sea  on Acandi Beach, which you can reach from Capurganá with a short boat ride.



CHOCO COLOMBIA TOURISM SAFETY: Leatherback Turtle nesting.

Leatherback Turtle nesting.



With less than 10,000 inhabitants living in the municipality, this is the largest coastal town with the local hotel that once was the home of the infamous drugs lord Pablo Escobar, who had his own zoo.



Nuquí from the air.


Nuquí is the local airport with flights to and from Quibdo. Don't expect punctual service. With the rainy weather of the region, flights are often cancelled and rather pricey.


CHOCO COLOMBIA TOURISM SAFETY: Flights are irregular and pricey.

Flights are irregular and pricey.


The town is also the center for organizing excursions. Near to Nuquí, at La Cascada de Cuatro Encantos, you’ll find natural hot springs, known as termales.



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Just look at the quality of our high resolution pictures. We took them all ourselves. We have thousands of high resolution pictures on this website, that you can see enlarged by clicking on them. These pictures show that we have been everywhere in the country of your interest and really know the details. We are professional explorers and biologists with MSc and PhD.


National Parks Tours Worldwide, a social responsibility and conservation company, is a brand name of the World Institute for Conservation & Environment, registered in the Netherlands with headquarters in the USA.


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Parks Man Dr. Daan Vreugdenhil is author of this website. He dedicated his life to the conservation of nature., He was part of the team that selected the first 39 protected areas of Ecuador in the 1970s and he initiated the Cuyabeno Lodge in Ecuador's Amazon in 1985, making him one of the world's eco tourism pioneers. A speaker of 8 languages and having traveled to 80+ countries, Dr. Daan Vreugdenhil has is one of the world's greatest connoisseurs of nature and national parks in the world.