Kate Dana

Independent Writer. International Educator.

Burros, Dives and Chivas: Your Guide to a Quick Weekend in Playa el Rodadero

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One of the many benefits of living in Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is its convenient proximity the historic cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta, and their beautiful beaches of Isla Barú and El Rodadero, respectively. While Barranquilla has beaches, they aren’t quite as scenic and pretty as those of Barú and Rodadero; when there is an opportunity to visit either, it seems only sensible to go and discover new things in these areas.

colorful art along the streets of Playa el Rodadero

Arrive then Dive

Deciding on El Rodadero and arriving after about a ninety-minute drive from Barranquilla, Calle 11 Hostel staff member Jose Antonio extended his warm greetings and asked what was planned for the weekend.

a hammock nap is a must at Calle 11 Hostel

When the subject turned to scuba diving, he recommended nearby Casa de Buceo (Diving House), a company founded in 1991 by Francisco Martinez and Maria E. Pelaez under the original name “Tienda de Buceo el Rodadero” (TripAdvisor). 

delicious arroz de coco and patacón

After enjoying a vegetarian snack of coconut rice, patacón and a chilled cerveza, a fun dive was booked for next morning with the help of friendly Margarita at Casa/Tienda de Buceo.

happy burro morning at Tienda de Buceo

Waking well-rested, the sunrise walk from Calle 11 to Maria’s home on the beach was both relaxing and rejuvenating, observing the beach town come to life.

“make my flippers size meow-and-a-half”

After a good morning hello from two burro who live on the grounds, Maria fitted divers with wetsuits, flippers and masks to prepare for the day’s activities while her son (and Divemaster) David briefed the group on dive times and depths for the area.

Maria and her impressive map of Magdalena’s coast

Two really wonderful dives around Parque Tayrona were enjoyed by our group of about twelve divers, with a guide-to-diver ratio of 3:1, including a first dive in somewhat silty waters among several levels of colorful corals and vast, hearty barrel sponges.

Diving in El Caribe, Colombia

After a quick snack of sandwiches and fruit on a remote beach in the park, the second dive was much clearer, with the addition of bright angelfish, spotted moray eels, shiny trumpet fish and multicolored pez lima, or scrawled filefish.

Maria’s fish chart is faded but very helpful

Heading back in the afternoon, our small boat experienced one scare of a deep wave that rushed over the hull, dumping a few liters of water in, plus and less-than-delightful doggie barf from the co-captain and dive mascot, Scubi.

Daniel and Scubi, just before Scubi tossed his snacks

Beautiful, historic Santa Marta from the sea

Arriving safely back in el Rodadero, our crew and guests enjoyed a birthday celebration for Divemaster David, complete with songs in English and Spanish.

Divemaster David, surrounded by women on his birthday

Chiva Ride to Bahia Concha

The next morning, eager to see more of the area surrounding Rodaero, another suggestion from Jose Antonio of Calle 11 Hostel was followed: ask in the nearby parqueadero about a day trip to Bahia Concha, a picturesque beach famous for its gold sand and clear waters.

Chiva parking lot, choose your ride!

A large dirt lot held several Chivas, colorful buses like those made famous in Cartagena and Cali, and organizer Juan was happy to oblige with a price and information as vacationers and tourists made their way onto the bus of their choice.

Inside the Chiva, before the guests arrive

This trip resulted in VIP seating next to the driver, Chuki, whose bus La Ponderosa proudly displayed the words “Coge, Copia y Pega”, literally “Grab, Copy and Paste,” but with some flirtatious connotations intended.

VIP seating with dashboard view

The Chiva drove from El Rodadero to just outside Santa Marta, passing La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, before winding through the small pueblo Bastidas, and arriving about 30 minutes later to Bahia Concha.

Bahia Concha – blue and white beauty

A breathtaking view of a huge, blue bay flanked by tall, lush mountains was a welcome sight as Chiva-goers made their way to pink carpas (beach shelters) set out before the water.

Rainbow clouds over Colombia – la magica

Putting on masks and fins, snorkelers headed out to the rocky bases where the mountains met the ocean, and swam in the brisk, colder areas near two large peidras where kids dared each other to jump into to the sea below. Shimmery, grey slim fish swam in large groups while mottled rascacio (Black scorpionfish) and small manta ray darted in and out of the rocks beneath the surface.

One of La Piedra and the many rocks of Bahia Concha

After a full day of sun and sand, happy but tired guests walked back to their respective Chivas to enjoy a cool evening ride back to Rodadero.

Clowning around with other Chiva drivers in traffic

Passing through Gaira, a small town that boasts the Gaira Café, owned by Guillermo Vives, younger brother of Grammy-award winning singer Carlos Vives, Chuki happily blew the deep, bellowing horn of El Ponderosa for local friends, as well as the occasional street dog in the middle of the road.

Back to Barranquilla

Good evening, El Rodadero, thanks for everything

Returning about an hour before another classic sunset in Playa el Rodadero, there was just enough time to prepare a light dinner in the kitchen of Calle 11 Hostel before heading back on an evening Berlinas bus to Barranquilla. Passing through Pueblo Viejo on highway 90, a sign read “Vivir para ver otro día,” or “live to see another day,” a message heeded with happy reflections of a few great days just lived.

4 Comments

  1. Still following you and loving it!

  2. How much was the scuba diving and how much was the bus to the beach?

    • Hola Amigo! A Fun Dive (2 total) with Tienda de Buceo is $190,000 COP and the Chiva is normally $40-50,000 COP, but I received a bit lower (promotional) price. Remember to check the Tienda de Buceo website for any price changes. Thanks for following my blog!

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