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By No owner — last modified Feb 22, 2018 12:22 PM

 Colombia - Profile


  • Colombia has a coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea; most of the coastal development is on the Caribbean side, which has the large towns of Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta.
  • Despite persistent reports about the danger of cruising in Colombian waters because of the risk of being intercepted on the high seas by a drug-running vessel, a determined campaign by the US Coast Guard, whose vessels patrol the Caribbean Sea, has made this area into one of the safest in the world, with no recent reports of yachts being molested on the high seas. US Coast Guard vessels patrol at all times and private cruising yachts are boarded on a regular basis. Though it may feel like an imposition to be boarded, this constant presence is an effort to keep the seas in this area safe. (Security issues in other areas closer to shore still remains a problem. See the Security Section below for recent reports.)
  • Most cruising boats visiting Colombia do so on their way from the Eastern Caribbean islands to the Panama Canal, while those heading in the opposite direction use Colombia as a convenient stepping stone in their battle with contrary winds and current.
  • Cartagena is a popular landfall, with a safe anchorage for extended stays and excellent haul out/repair facilities.
  • For a shorter visit, Santa Marta has a modern marina which offers the most efficient and organised yachting facilities and is a good base to explore Colombia, for day-trips or beyond.
  • There are also good repair facilities at Barranquilla with both haul-out and repair services, but the approaches to the port, which lies on the bank of the River Magdalena, are very difficult, Barranquilla is also considered a high security risk area. There is now a new marina at Puerto Velero, approx. 25nm SW of Barranquilla.
  • If intending a prolonged stay in Colombia, be warned that formalities and regulations are complicated, tiresome and the costs can be much higher than elsewhere in the Caribbean. Regulations also have a tendency to change.
  • The Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andres are visited by boats on their way north from Panama. Repair facilities and provisioning are good on San Andrés Island, but more limited on Providencia.
  • Some of the cays and reefs further north, such as Serrana, Serranilla and Roncador also belong to Colombia, which maintains a military presence on these cays. Boats that have sought shelter there have been visited by the military, but have been allowed to stay.
  • If going from Colombia to Haiti, it is recommended to clear first elsewhere (such as Jamaica at Port Antonio) before proceeding east to Haiti. See comment at bottom of page (dated 13 Feb. 2015) for further details.


Although the overall security situation in Colombia has improved considerably in recent years, Noonsite continues to receive security reports from cruisers, most of them violent. Petty theft is common so be cautious when going ashore.

Lastest Incidents

The most recent violent attack on a cruising boat was in March 2017 at Isla Baru, when a yacht at anchor was boarded by armed robbers.

In July 2016 in Islas del Rossario, two crew managed to repel attackers but were badly shaken and very lucky to escape.

This is the 2nd violent attack in Islas del Rossario. A similar incident which sadly resulted in the murder of one crew member happened in September 2015.

In November 2015 an armed boarding and robbery (with assault) occured for the 2nd time (the first in 2012) in Santa Marta, Taganga Bay.

It is suggested that sailors file a simple "float plan" for their own security - see Formalities for further details.

Dinghy & Outboard Theft

Cruisers should take basic safety precautions and use common sense when leaving the boat or going ashore at night. Dinghy and outboard thieves operate throughout the Caribbean and best advice is to place your dinghy and outboard on deck and chain them, and everything in it, overnight. Reports continue to come in from cruisers who do lift and lock their dinghies at night, but overlook locking the outboard and fuel tank and of course, these are what get stolen!

Other Security Concerns

The threat of terrorism is still high in some parts of the country. It is advisable to check a website such as the British Foreign Office before travelling inland. However, visits to major cities and other popular tourist destinations is not usually a problem.

Use great care when banking in Colombia, especially outside of the main cities, and carrying large amounts of cash. Perhaps use a taxi for return trips to your boat. Be aware that in a bank others may see you counting out large sums or you may be marked as a good target.

Colombia is a major drug-smuggling area, and police and customs are especially active on the north coast, San Andrés Island and in other tourist resorts. Penalties for possession are up to 12 years' imprisonment. Searches are frequent and one should beware of anyone claiming to be a plainclothes policeman. Apparently foreign visitors have also been set up by police with planted drugs, so caution is essential. Walking alone at night is to be avoided as this is dangerous in many towns. The Tourist Office (CNT) will advise on the dangerous areas.

The Caribbean Safety and Security Net ( provides information by anchorage or by island, so sailors can plan their cruising in the Caribbean with an eye to appropriate behaviour and precautions wherever they decide to go. Should you have suffered a boarding, robbery or attack on your yacht or have information about a yachting-related security incident, go to the CSSN homepage and click on the "Report an Incident" icon. The associated form is quick and simple to complete and ensures that all the necessary details are reported. The CSSN is the most comprehensive source of Caribbean security incidents against sailors. Remember, it is every cruiser's responsibility to ensure that incidents are reported. Also cruisers can subscribe to e-mail alerts, follow on facebook and twitter.

Also be sure to check the noonsite Piracy & Safety Pages

Last updated March 2018.


The climate varies according to altitude, the coast being tropical, hot and humid. The NE trade winds cool the coast during the winter months, while the summer has much lighter winds. Hurricanes rarely reach as far south as Colombia.

The typical route around the Caribbean is clockwise, and one of the most cited reasons is because of the weather patterns near Colombia (the easterly winds) combined with the heavy swell pushed up by the contours of the sea floor. See Frank Virgintino's discussions on routing in this area of Central and South America in his free guide here. (Large PDF download.)

Colombia Weather Forecast

Sailing Advisory North West Coast of Caribbean Colombia

For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page

Main Ports

Mainland - Caribbean Coast: Barranquilla * , Cartagena * , Puerto Velero * , Riohacha * , Santa Marta * , Sapzurro *

Mainland - Pacific Coast: Bahia Solano * , Buenaventura * , Tumaco *

Off Lying Islands Caribbean: Isla de Providencia * , Isla de San Andres * , Islas del Rossario

Off Lying Islands Pacific: Gorgona , Isla Malpelo

* indicates port of entry

Val Ellis
Val Ellis says:
Feb 22, 2018 12:22 PM

Report from Mary Bock

Regarding TIP.
We are using an agent, that is OK with us.
However, it is costing 1700.00. USD
Something to do with this being the second year our boat is here.

Lizevans says:
Jan 05, 2018 02:19 AM

I would like to advise cruisers who need to receive spares into Santa Marta not to use DHL as they do not acknowledge the 'Vessel in Transit' status and charge the import duty and local VAT which are 29% in total plus high currency uplift.
Advice is to use FedEx and keep the value of shipment under US$1000.00.
Have the package delivered c/o Marina Santa Marta and ask the friendly office staff to point out to the FedEx delivery person the 'Vessel in Transit' status of the shipment, to avoid paying the import taxes.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Oct 26, 2016 03:10 PM

Posted on behalf of Evan Gatehouse & Diane Selkirk (Canadian Cruisers):

We got a surprise when visiting Cartagena recently. Because Canada's government charges a fee to Colombias for a biometric identity check when they apply for a visa, Columbia charges Canadians a "reciprocity" visa fee. It's 171,000 pesos (about $85 CDN) each and we got a nice official sticker in our passports to prove it. Otherwise we loved Cartagena.

More details in this older news report.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
May 31, 2016 02:07 PM

Posted on behalf of Javier Palacios Fenech:

1 - Stolen Caribe dinghy with Yamaha motor in Islas del Rosario, Isla grande. Thieves from Baru go at the weekends to Rosario Islands. Many related events there in the last few weeks. Thefts on the rise.
2 - Bureaucracy getting worse and more expensive for boaters in Colombia. Get ready to pay 200 Euros to enter the country for import permits and so many more permits to feed the agent and Colombia bureaucracy.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Feb 26, 2016 08:25 PM

Posted by Scuppers under San Andres:
I used Julian Watson from Agenport as my clearance agent. I cannot say enough great things about Julian. He speaks great English, answers all e-mails quickly, he met me at the wharf on arrival to sort the clearance and even showed me around town on his scooter to get my bearings. He was always on time and never kept me waiting. He also organised good tradesmen for work that I required onboard and even stayed for translation as my Spanish is minimum. He is professional and does all this with a big smile on his face. Thanks Julian, we couldn't have achieved what we did without you. I would highly recommend Julian and will definately be using him again.
Ph: 3204899772
VHF: 16

Keith Pomeroy
Keith Pomeroy says:
Oct 09, 2015 07:11 PM

Recently entered Colombia at Santa Marta, we would like to give a big recommendation to Dino of csc-shipping agency. Dion is prompt efficient and wealth of knowledge. Santa Marta is an excellent stop with major hiking opportunities and travel. Email him before you com or ask for him when you arrive.

eaudree96 says:
Oct 21, 2017 12:32 PM

I did the opertation with the PNH coast guard that day. I worked for the UN. The women on the boat had no ID plus crew did not check in with immigration. THATS THE REAL STORY

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Feb 14, 2015 06:58 PM

Posted on behalf of Frank VIrgintino from Marina Zarpar, DR:
13 February 2015
We have received a few boats, the most recent today, Canadian flagged, that sailed directly from Cartagena to Ile a Vache Haiti. I have never heard of boats being boarded by the authorities in Haiti, but in this case, the Haitian Coast Guard assisted by what appears to be United Nations military or police, boarded the boat and retained the owner and crew a number of days while the boat endured extensive checking.
I would recommend that boats coming from Colombia to Haiti, clear first at Jamaica at Port Antonio before proceeding east to Haiti.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Feb 05, 2015 01:36 PM

Colombia Cruising Guide: A PDF copy of the Colombia Cruising Guide in Spanish and English can be downloaded from the following link: - note this is a large file (300MB).

Gerard  Van der Horst
Gerard Van der Horst says:
Jan 20, 2015 03:31 AM

Prices has gone up for "clearance" in januari 2015 due to transportcosts of the officials to visit the harbour or your yacht to be payed by the yachtowner(new 1/1/2015). And there is an Ebola check now so also ICA (ministery of agriculture) is involved now. Totalprice (up to 2 month stay) has gone up to us$280-$350 ( jan 2015) Agent costs are just about $100. It really is a lot of work.(23 forms) White Light agency (Manfred +57 311 400 6394) in Cartagena did his work well. You have to show up several times( different days) to sign papers If you are with a group of several yachts you can negotiate as "travelcost" and " propinia" can be shared.
We sailed from Aruba with next port of call "Cartagena". We stopped 4 to 5 times in Colombia and even were visited by the coastguard for " inspection" No trouble at all". Do not say "your motor broke down" or they order a mechanic for repairs. Only the captain can decide or he is too tired or it is blowing too hard) We were 3 weeks on route to Cartagena. We did not stop in Santa Marta but just anchored in Taganga 2 miles north and went by public bus. If you cleare in in Santa Marta (Marina is also Agency to clear you in now) you have to pay again in Cartagena only for the Port registry and Agent fee in Cartagena).(Cartagena portcontrol have an AIS receiver and sent you a request to contact them) . Nb The port captain legally only deal with agents. Other officials can be done by yourselves but i certainly do NOT recommend this as is see how time consuming this is (days) even for a proffesional as your agent
!!! White light Acency gave us a sound bill with all costs specified). Nb the noonsit info " New Fees" dates from november 2011 so is not up to date anymore!)

wiphepfer says:
Jul 20, 2014 11:45 PM

contractor recommendation
we had recently 3 month refit of a 85 ft motor yacht, all new paintsyainless steelwork , new teak decks , hydraulic piping , anchor and chain galvanizing
work was very satisfactory done by " Cartagena Caribbean Boat Repair",
tel0057 318 272 2458
Alvaro is an american trained manager , fluent in english, always on time , and gets the impossible done , reliable and honest
i was there 3 years ago and got already some good work done
all prices are app. one third of the USA standard
300ton new travel lift available
wip hepfer
m/y contina

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jul 07, 2014 02:06 PM

Just to let you know we are now hosting both the Colombia Tourism's Cruising Guide Book as well as our Pacific Lesser Known Coast of Colombia cruising guides on our website:
The tourism's book is a massive 300Mb so we encourage only people who really plan on cruising there to download it. Otherwise it costs us a lot to host such a big file.
Eric & Sherrell - SV Sarana

kairos48 says:
May 02, 2014 10:05 PM

When arriving in Colombia you must use an agent to clear in and out. You cannot do this on your own. I cleared in at Providencia and I would like to take the opportunity to recommend Bernardo from the "Bush Agency" email: or go directly to his office in town after you anchor in the bay. He is easy to find, from the dingy dock (next to the commercial dock) turn right and go to the only intersection, make a left and walk a couple of hundred yards...his office is above his store on the right side of the street. Mr. Bush provided me with a friendly, professional and easy clearances. Not only did he handle my entry into Colombia and my exit for San Andreas but he was most helpful with my Temporary Import Permit. He did not charge me for the TIP and made arrangements for me to pick it up in San Andreas with Mr. Rene who was also quite helpful. Mr. Bush speaks English excellently and his fees were totally transparent. Mr Bush does a great job and gets it done quickly. The reports of long waiting times were not what I experienced at all. If you go to Provedencia, Mr. Bush is the agent to see.

peterdstokes says:
Feb 17, 2014 02:25 PM

Arrived at IGY marina in Santa Marta on Nov 1st 2013 and stayed until mid January 2014 whilst we travelled extensively in Columbia and Ecuador. We had the marina highly recommended to us and we also had our agent Dino also highly recommended and both were absolutely right. The staff at the marina were courteous, friendly and very helpful at all times, and facilities were excellent with showers, laundry, lounge and clean toilets.
Dino was superb. He handled all the customs and immigration requirements efficiently and effectively, keeping us informed throughout, and even attempted to teach us Spanish! Sorry we weren't such good pupils Dino!
Santa Marta is a great base to travel from in this corner of SA. Cartegena is one of the prettiest cities you could imagine, but make sure to stay in the old town. Bogota is a 'must', very cosmopolitan, with many museums (particularly the Gold Museum), opera house and much more - get a guide, it's a good investment.
Barichara is a short flight and taxi ride from Bogota but is another 'must see' place. Stay in one of the fabulous little boutique guest houses, and do the walk from there to Guane - fantastic!
We moved on to Ecuador to do Quito, Cotopaxi, and a week in the Yasuni National Park experiencing pristine Amazonian rainforest - stupendous! Then easy trip back to Santa Marta via Bogota.

Peter and Helen
S/V Common Crossing
Tatyana 48cc

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