Alexander Tegelaars takes a trip to the remote fishing village of Rincon del Mar to discover a laid-back haven on Colombia’s Caribbean coast
On a crisp early morning I set off from Medellin for a well-deserved Easter paseo with friends. The four of us were packed together in a tiny car, heading to Rincon del Mar, in the department of Sucre. The 500 kilometres that lay between us and the final destination did little to discourage us, determined as we were to make it to the tiny, remote fishing village we were so intrigued to visit.
In fact, the landscape was an integral part of the trip, constantly changing during the ten hours we spent on the road. From the green mountains of Antioquia, through the scorching tierra caliente of Monteria, to the majestic bright pink veranera trees of Sucre, the journey was a never-ending scenic dream.
Once at the village of San Onofre we took the unpaved, dusty track that leads to the sea, and forty minutes later we finally made it to Rincon del Mar. At 4pm, the village was starting to shake off the celebration that, the night before, had marked the start of Semana Santa. There were young lads laughing at each other and causing mischief, women chitchatting on the doorsteps of their colourful houses, and kids (kids, everywhere!) running excitedly along the sandy streets.
Our host accompanied us to our cabaña, a simple, two-floor wooden structure built directly on the beach, where we were served the typical costeño dish: fried fish, patacon, salad and coconut rice.
As Rincon is far from a tourist destination, the accommodation and infrastructure are quite basic, and therein lies its charm. It is the kind of place you go if you want to disconnect from the world and relax on the beach with nothing else to think about except your next swim. The laid-back and relaxed attitude of the locals is utterly contagious and you quickly find yourself adjusting to their pace of life.
This is all well and good, but it would be a shame if you didn’t drag yourself away from your spot on the beach and visit the neighbouring islands of Santa Cruz del Islote, Mucura and Tintipan, a mere 30 minute boat ride away.
El Islote is surely one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen: it is, apparently, the most densely populated place on Earth, with more than 1,240 people living on an island a little larger than a football pitch. Houses are literally piled on top of each other, and I couldn’t help but think that everyone on the island must know when a person takes a snooze or visits the loo. As someone put it, they sleep so close to each other that they even have the same dreams.
Isla Mucura, on the other hand, is much closer to the typical Caribbean island people dream of: soft, sandy beaches, palms, and perfect crystalline water. How- ever, the picture-postcard scenery is not what Isla Mucura is famous for: in 2012, a police operation barged in on an extravagant wedding that was being celebrated there to arrest the groom, Camilo Torres alias Fritanga, a drug baron who, declared dead, had been escaping justice for years.
Isla Tintipan shares the same picturesque scenery, but without an exciting story to tell, the most thrilling discovery was the massive shells that line the beach.
If you are looking for something a little different, a taste of genuine Caribbean living and a sense of beautiful simplicity, Rincon del Mar and its islands, imbued with Colombian magic realism, are nothing short of the perfect option.
San Onofre is about two hours from Cartagena. Buses leave daily with Rapido Ochoa, Expreso Brasilia and Copetran. Tickets cost around COP$20-25,000.
It is also one and a half hours from Corozal. Satena offers regular direct flights from Bogota. From San Onofre, take a taxi or moto taxi to Rincon del Mar.
Accommodation: Tourist infrastructure is basic but there are a couple of places to stay. Rincon del Mar Cabaña Punta Coral offers six cabins for between four and 12 people. Pay about COP$80,000 per person per day, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. [email protected], 313 6833228
By Alexander Tegelaars