During my 6-months trip around the world, I spent 6 weeks in Colombia and I cannot avoid talking about one of the highlights of my world tour: Rincón del Mar, an unspoiled and still off-the-beaten track fishing village on the Caribbean coast.
1. What makes it so special?
It all starts with how I heard about Rincón del Mar which was not even in the Lonely Planet at the time I visited. A traveller I met in Cartagena and who was praising Dos Aguas, the fantastic eco-lodge where she had been staying, recommended me the place. What makes Rincón del Mar so unique is the combination of this fantastic lodge and the very rough and unspoiled environment. It is not the typical instagramable and beach destination but rather a place you have to “feel” and experience. Nothing you see there is extraordinarily beautiful but there is that very special atmosphere which fills up your heart and soul.
Getting there is another unique experience. After a few hours’ bus ride from Cartagena to the city of San Onofre, I needed a 20-minute motorbike ride to get to the village. Once I got there, I fell in love with this unpolished diamond: dirty roads, very few shops, loud music, basic houses, children running up and down and no sight of tourists in the main street. Nothing is arranged or made beautiful to cater for tourists and that is exactly why I loved it.
After a 5-minute walk in the sand carrying my backpack, I reached a cosy, intimate beautiful beach with a very special vibe which made me feel at home. I had arrived at my amazing lodge: Dos Aguas. This is undoubtedly among the top 3 hotels I stayed at in Latin America.
In Rincón del Mar, visitors can still experience the fishing culture of an Afro-Colombian village with its music, celebrations and traditions. The combination of beach, mangrove, dry forest, livestock and fishing culture and the Afro traditions makes it a very unique place.
2. What can you do there?
I spent around a week exploring activities ranging from swimming in the warm Caribbean Sea, visiting the nearby exotic San Bernardo islands, which you can explore on a day excursion, doing yoga, savouring delicious fruit juices, playing board games with other travellers or just lying on the beach. It is also possible to go for guided walks in the mangrove or dry forest around the lodge.
There are also plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the life of the village. The most special memories are my conversations with the villagers, my experience watching one of the dancing shows of the local kids or a villager teaching me how to prepare a local dish at her place.
3. The strong sustainable concept of Dos Aguas
I cannot talk about Rincón del Mar without further elaborating on the meaningful concept of the star accommodation there: Dos Aguas. If the village has a very special vibe, it would not be the same without the fantastic sustainable tourism project the owners have created. Their main objective is to preserve the essence of the village both on a social and environmental level. They wanted to make sure the locals are integrated in the project.
The lodge, which offers dorms and private rooms, is a bioclimatic construction which was built by local people with materials available in the region and using ancestral techniques. The owners really wanted to have an open space hotel fully integrated in the natural environment with no barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Dos Aguas took the deliberate choice to only offer a very limited vegetarian menu in the evening and reduce their benefits to ensure the travellers’ integration in the village and the development of local seafood and fish restaurants. While the owners of the lodge have come up with the ideas of activities, they do not take commissions and all the tours are operated by the community.
Other interesting features include a zero waste mission, a compost system, a water filter system, the local production of shampoo and soap and a short supply chain with vegetables bought locally and jam and cheese made in the village. In addition to this, the water of the showers is reused for the toilets, no chemical products are used for the cleaning and there is no air-conditioning.
As the owners of the lodge said, they would only recommend Rincón del Mar to people who can appreciate how the village is now. When people say it has potential, they do not like it because they would like the place to remain the way it is. I would highly recommend Rincón del Mar to live an authentic cultural experience close to locals in a relaxing and beautiful setting which has not lost its soul just to please the tourists. The atmosphere, the feeling of being part of the village and the wide variety of activities will make you stay longer than expected.