Colombia's Caribbean Coast - 7 Days - Dec 25 - Dec 31, 2018
Overall we had a really good trip. We were greeted at airport by Daniel, who was sweet, engaging and very knowledgeable. His English was quite good and he was very informative, sharing personal insights on history and culture. We never felt threatened or unsafe on the trip - we're also assuming that the second man who accompanied us during our first afternoon tour, and did not speak English, was there for security! Our lodging at Casa Canabal was very comfortable and very accommodating - though the rooms are small and have no windows. A very creative lighting system in the walls, however, gives the semblance of outdoor lighting and ended up being fine. Breakfasts were good and the waiters were wonderful and very friendly. I would suggest that the hotel have towels available at the pool.
We enjoyed the cooking class the second day with Sandra and Ellie. The trip to the market was eye-opening and truly a cultural experience. Visitors should be forewarned, however, not to wear nice shoes! We made ceviche, guacamole, fried plantains, salad, fried fish, coconut rice and passion fruit panna cotta - all delicious!! Sandra was engaging and very interactive - teaching us new skills and lots about Columbia.
We had been told in our tour itinerary that we would be going to Playa Azul in the Rosario Islands and getting there by private speed boat. We were surprised and a bit confused when we arrived at the dock, and amidst a large and equally confused crowd of tourists, found out we were going to Bendita Beach on a speed boat with 30 other tourists. No one spoke English, other than the other tourists, so all the safety and general information given once we got on the boat was entirely in Spanish - not very helpful OR safe! Once we got to the beach, we were pretty disappointed with the number of people there (masses) and being "herded" to the lineup of beach chairs which weren't very comfortable. All activities were pretty haphazard - again, because English was limited and there were so many people. The lunch was good. I'm not sure we would have gone if we had known it would have been so crowded and uncomfortable - it certainly wasn't very relaxing and not what had been depicted and described in our itinerary. There certainly wasn't any place to go walk and "explore the island" and no one was around to talk about the flora and fauna.
All transfers were very good and on time. Our driver to the Tayrona region was excellent - Jorge was a wonderful driver and spoke relatively good English. Our lodging at La Mer de Bien was lovely - though we didn't we didn't realize we were staying there until we read the fine print itinerary (it wasn't the lodging listed in the larger itinerary which was actually quite a bit closer to the park). We loved La Mer de Bien - and Sergio and Diana couldn't have been lovelier hosts. Food was delicious and they were very accommodating making us sandwiches to take with us with our pre-breakfast early departure. Tour of Tayrona and the Victoria Coffee plantation in Minca with José were great. At Tayrona we had a great hike and saw monkeys and lizards. The afternoon at the beach was terrific. The tour at the coffee plantation was incredibly interesting and very well done. Again, visitors should be forewarned about the bumpy road from Minca to the plantation! We were fine, but our driver seemed worried in the van he was driving - especially since the road is so narrow and there was definitely traffic going both ways. Overall - a great trip and we very much enjoyed seeing this part of Columbia. We felt the country has done an amazing job making visitors feel welcome and safe.