Buenaventura is not a place you want to stick around in for too long. It’s a loud, dirty, ugly, dangerous port city on Colombia’s Pacific coast. Why would anyone want to go there? Buenaventura is the gateway to the beach town of Ladrilleros, which is only accessible by boat.
There’s almost nothing to see in the city. On our short overnight stay, we were hoping to visit the seaside park, which is considered the most scenic part of the city. Unfortunately, it was completely gutted in preparation for a major renovation.
In front of the park is the city administration building, which has a huge mural on the side. The rest of the few streets we walked on were nothing special.
The place in Buenaventura that sees the most tourists is the Muelle Turístico (Tourist Pier), which handles all the boat traffic to towns on the Pacific. Again, it’s nothing special. At the beginning of the pier are offices for many companies offering boat service to different places. In the mornings, especially on weekends, it’s quite hectic.
Further along there’s a row of ramshackle restaurants sitting on wooden piles and a partially collapsed concrete pier. I can’t speak for the quality of the food, but if this is touristic, I’m definitely missing something.
The pier ends where all of the boats are waiting to take passengers to their destinations on the Pacific. Boats typically leave at 8am, 10am, 1pm, and 4pm to Juanchaco (for Ladrilleros), but there are more departures during weekends and holidays when Caleños escape to the coast.
For a hotel, we chose Ofihotel Plazamar. It’s located right in front of the seaside park and next to the administration building, just a short walk from the Muelle Turístico. It’s a beacon of hope in an otherwise dreary city. The rooms were spacious and bright with comfortable beds and big bathrooms. Wifi was excellent, staff was attentive, and there are plenty of restaurants a few steps from the door. For about COP$150,000, it was a great deal.
Eating in Buenaventura
For dinner on the night we arrived, we ate across the street from the hotel at Palo Alto. This very informal and simple restaurant serves excellent smoked meats at reasonable prices. We shared a picada of chorizo, lamb, and ribs with two beers and a bottle of water for just COP$25,000.
For breakfast the next morning (the hotel didn’t include breakfast), we at a block away at Faro. They have a nice variety of egg dishes and combos including coffee or hot chocolate. Service was fast and friendly. We both had a combo with huevos llaneros, which is two fried eggs and two chorizos. It cost us COP$12,400 total.
Getting There and Away
To get to Buenaventura, the easiest way is to go through Cali. Buses leave every 10 to 15 minutes and have three levels of service. Camionetas are the fastest and most comfortable, but also the most expensive. We paid COP$26,500 per person one way. On the way back to Cali, taxi drivers will offer shared rides as you return from the boats at the Muelle Turístico. We had already purchased our return tickets but next time we’ll use the taxi because it’s definitely faster and more comfortable than any of the bus options.
The run-down bus terminal isn’t too far from the Muelle Turístico. We arrived from Cali at about 8pm to see the terminal completely shuttered. A sign indicated that it closes daily at 6pm. When going to your hotel or the Muelle Turístico, it’s best to take a taxi. We paid COP$4,000 each way.