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.
- In spite of 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 reports of yachts being molested on the high seas, although many have been stopped, and even boarded, by a US Coast Guard vessel.
- 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.
- While Cartagena is a popular landfall, and has excellent repair facilities, with a good boatyard, haul-out facilities and a complete range of services, the new modern marina at Santa Marta now provides a very attractive alternative.
- 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 wanting to have a prolonged stay in Colombia, be warned that formalities and regulations are very complicated, tiresome and the costs can be high. Read this report for full details if arriving in the Santa Marta region (July 2012).
- The Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andres are visited by boats on their way north from Panama, and repair facilities and provisioning are good on San Andrés Island although 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.
Although the overall security situation in Colombia has improved considerably in recent years, 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.
It is suggested that sailors file a simple "float plan" and the necessary form and email address are included in the guide. In addition, new contact information for all the Pacific Military bases, with their email addresses, can be found in this guide.
The officer who is 2nd in command of the Colombian Pacific Naval Fleet, has extended the long standing offer for visiting yachts to use the mooring buoys at Isla Malpelo.
Use great care when banking here, especially outside of the centro area, 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.
For the latest security reports from cruisers in Colombia, see reports adjacent.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) gather 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 information about a security incident, as well as contacting Noonsite please also forward details to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net, as theirs is the most comprehensive source of Caribbean security incidents against sailors on the net. Please be sure to include boat name, date of incident and anchorage/port where the incident took place.
Last updated September 2012.
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.
For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page
Off Lying Islands Pacific: Isla Malpelo
* indicates port of entry