Situated about 2/3 of way to Medellin from Bogota, we wanted to check out the Rio Claro Reserva Natural since we had read pretty good things about this (click for link). It was supposed to have great fun activities and the river was supposed to be very beautiful and clear to the bottom, i.e. RioClaro.
To book at the actual resort it somewhat pricey, it starts at 100,000 pesos *per person, per night* for a dorm style room which holds 4-6 people. The price does include 3 meals a day, but no activities. In the high season, the price is slightly higher.
Reserving a room is not straight forward either as you have to call or email them to make a reservation. We were still new to Colombia and unsure of our Spanish and how things exactly worked, so we decided to instead book a nearby hotel on booking.com.
This hotel (BioHotel) was 200m away from the refuge and $35(usd) a night for a private room. Felt like a steal compared to American and European prices! Alas, in Colombian prices it was not. For more on this tragic tale, read my post about why you should always carry cash in Colombia.
Back to Rio Claro. We went there for a day and entrance was 15,000 pesos a person. Well, okay. We walked some along a paved trail (which Augustin complained about, “it feels too touristy!”). We found the center of activities and proceeded to see and decide the various activities we wanted to do. I wanted to do the zip lining since I hadn’t done that in many years and we were both interested in the rafting excursion. 20,000 + 25,000 a person. We asked if we could pay with card and said the total had to be over 100,000 to use a card. Well, okay we will buy food. We are told to come back an hour or so later to pay and have lunch.
We go along the hiking trail, it’s easy and paved, but we soon get to an area good for swimming and decide to get in the river. There’s a few spots where we can see the clearness of the river, but thanks to the recent rains it’s fairly cloudy. The river feels nice and cool and we enjoy the water flowing over us. Eventually we got out and change and leave out swimsuits out to dry in the sun. We keep walking. We pass a cave, a mini bathroom, some canopy (ziplining) launches, and suddenly the trail dead ends. It didn’t feel like we had reached the end of the map, but we had no where else to turn and had to get back to the activity center.
Lunchtime. Lunch costs 20,000 a person (if you are a guest and not staying) and consists of the typical food of Colombia. Soup, rice, beans, a meat of your choosing, coleslaw/salad, fried plantain, and juice. It’s a big portion, but twice the price that you would find at a regular Colombian restaurant.
We pay and prepare for the ziplining. This activity is cheap compared to the US, but it could have had more to it. There were 3 zip lines ranging from 100m to 280m long. It took about half an hour for us to complete all of them. There were some good views and some good exhilaration to them.
Rafting. Definitely worth the money. We got to float and paddle down the river, seeing plants and birds, and even a little monkey. We got completely soaked! The other rafting boats would splash us whenever we got near and of course we would do the same back. There was this area of the river we had the chance to swim in, even had a rope swing nearby. By the end of the tour my hands were pruned and we were tiring. The bus back was more of a wagon, but it was nice to dry off.
I hear the other activities like caving and such are fun to do in Rio Claro, but by the time we got back, the sun was setting and it was time to find some dinner.
Overall, Rio Claro is a great and fun place! A little costly if you’re on a budget, but be smart and try to learn from our mistakes.
1) Firstly looking back we should have just booked a room with Rio Claro as all our meals would have been included.
200k for a cheap room option with 3 meals each
100k room (+extra 50k charge for bullshit reasons, you’ll have to read this post) + 30k for entry + 40k for lunch + 35k for dinner (at a local diner, although a nice man ended up paying for our meal because he heard us talking about our money troubles, thanks David!).
The room wouldn’t have been as nice, but we could have avoided some troubles and had our food. Our problem with these was we took a night bus to Medellin and were dropped off in Rio Claro around 4am. Yikes.
2) We could have stayed in Doradal, the closest town to Rio Claro, and taken a colectivo to Rio Claro. The room would have been cheaper, there are more food options there, and atm service (usually at least). Colectivos are kind of a mix between a taxi and a bus. You share the car with others (sometimes more people than are seat belts), but it’s a fairly cheap fare. If you don’t speak much Spanish it might be a little tough though. Having phone service, google maps, and basically Spanish should help. The biggest problem would be on the way back. Getting the colectivos phone number or flagging down a bus would be smart for the return to Doradal.
3) Argue about prices. Seriously. It’s hard. But if the price of a colectivo or a bus or a taxi seems unfair. Argue. Sometimes if you just say something then the price will go down. I’ve felt scammed so many times and I continue to feel that way because I don’t want to create conflict and if they start using weird Spanish works then I’m lost. Another tip: always check your receipts at bars because the price doesn’t always match the menu. That’s on purpose and called a scam.
4) Also if we had stayed in Doradal I would have tried to stay another night to visit the Hacienda Nápoles. A former estate of Pablo Escobar, it has a mini zoo and other fun activities to check out.