The Juan Curi waterfalls - or Cascadas de Juan Curi in Spanish - is a popular day trip destination for adventurous travelers staying in San Gil. The mountains and the jungle in the Santander region make it a perfect area for trekking and chasing waterfalls.
It is actually quite some time ago that I visited the Juan Curi waterfalls and stayed that the little farm by the waterfalls where I ended up being infected by some kind of bug and being declared "a city girl" by the doctor at the local hospital in San Gil (read the whole story here). I have been wanting to write sum-up post about Juan Curi waterfalls for quite a long time now, and then finally sat down and got all my notes together and wrote this piece for you.
With its 180 meters height and natural pools for swimming and relaxing, the Juan Curi waterfalls have naturally become a perfect spot for day trips from San Gil. In this post, I will give you some practical information on how to plan your day trip to the Juan Curi waterfalls.
How to get to the Juan Curi waterfalls from San Gil?
The Juan Curi waterfalls are located a small 20 km away from San Gil. You can easily take the local bus from San Gil going towards Charalá. In San Gil, the bus stop is located just down from the clinic “Clinica Santa Cruz de la Loma”. A place which the locals call “terminalito” - if in doubt, ask at the hotel or hostel where you are staying.
In the bus, ask the driver to drop you off at “las Cascadas”. The drive should take around half-an-hour, thus, there might still be construction work going on there which might delay you quite a bit.
What to do when arriving at the Juan Curi waterfalls?
The bus will drop you off by the side of the road in what seems like the middle of nowhere. From the minute, you step outside the bus, you will hear the incredible sound of massive amounts of running water. From the road, you have a beautiful panoramic view of the falls. Nevertheless, this is nothing compared to what it is like from inside the jungle.
By the road, there are two farms just right next to each other from where you enter the trek to the falls:
- Donde Efigenia is a small family farm (the place where I stayed) which for a small amount will let you use their private trek, and offer different meals for a decent price. The son of the owner sometimes offers rappelling on the falls. Ask them when you arrive.
- Parque Ecológico de Juan Curi is a bit more modern and offers different kinds of activities on and around the falls such as rappelling/abseiling and horseback riding. Read more on their website (information on in Spanish, so maybe you rather want to contact them here). According to Lonely Planet, the Parque Ecológico is the only of the two places that offers access to the higher sections of the falls.
How to do the Juan Curi waterfalls-trek on your own?
The trek is through a jungle-like forest and takes around 20 minutes to the lower part of the falls. You enter on a natural path between one of the two farms and just follow that path. When you have done the lower part of the falls, return to the path leading up a bit steeper. There are ropes to help you get up it sides – otherwise, ask for directions before you enter.
The walk is nice but the paths are muddy and slippery. There have been placed ropes to guide and support you on the way. Anyway, watch out not to fall (that is coming from somebody who DID fall... Nothing serious but still... )
When you have walked for a bit, you will arrive at a naturally formed pool which is great for swimming. In the very corner, there are small stairs leading up to the next level. From here you can get a closer look at the Juan Curi waterfalls. It is very impressive to stand and watch the massive falls from below. For further information, check out this trekking map. As mentioned above, according to Lonely Planet, the Parque Ecológico is the only place which offers access to the higher sections of the falls.
I did not do any rappelling down the Juan Curi waterfalls as I’m too much a chicken and actually ended up getting sick before I even got time for it. However, you should definitely give Practical Wanderlust's story from the Juan Curi waterfalls a read.
Do you want to get off the beaten track? Continue to Charalá!
Most people will head back to San Gil after visiting the Juan Curi waterfalls. However, if you are looking to get off the beaten track, and do something else than all the other travelers in Colombia than jump back on the bus, and continue to Charalá.
Charalá is a beautiful little colonial style village located around 14 km from the Juan Curi waterfalls. The village both offers more outdoor experiences and an authentic village feeling. Not many foreigners pass by Charalá, and you will be treated with a great deal of curiosity from the inhabitants of the village. Read more about Charalá and what to do in the village here.