Riohacha is a big town located on the Northern coast of Colombia. It is the biggest town in the department of La Guajira. It is known for its long beach line and the Caribbean atmosphere. It is the ultimate stop before entering the desert of La Guajira. This area is known for the ethnic group of Wayuus. Their traditional and colourful handmade bags and other handicrafts can be bought from the Avenida Primera, beach boulevard.
The city was founded by a German conquistador in 1535. Later on, Spaniards found a lot of pearls from Riohacha, which was one of the reasons for many pirate attacks that the town had to go through. Even the famous English pirate Francis Drake came to Riohacha looking for gold and pearls. In the time of independence war, the port of Riohacha served many vessels in the battles for the Colombian and Venezuelan independence.
Many travelers come there on their way to the desert. It is a charming little city with not too many specific tourist attractions, however if you find yourself from there and you've got some extra time to explore the surroundings here are some general tips and suggestions on what to see and do there ;
How to get there?
Riohacha can be easily reached from cities like Santa Marta and Bogota. There is an airport called Almirante Padilla airport where there are flights to/from capital Bogota, Valledupar, Santa Marta and the island of Aruba.
There are minibuses operating between Riohacha and Santa Marta many times a day. It takes around 3 hours and cost around 20 000COP. Make sure to catch the local's minibus, it departs on the side of the road in front of a gas station.
The weather is great throughout the year and thanks to the Sierra Santa Marta mountains it doesn't rain too often. The average temperature is around +30 celsius at daytime and around +24 celsius at night. You can feel the humidity just like in any coastal city. The dry season is from December to February when it hardly rains. The rainiest month is May. Make sure to check out my packing list for the Caribbean coast of Colombia, so you'll pack the right clothing!
Now that you know a little bit of the history and the common tips here are some of the best things to check out in Riohacha!
The beach The beach in Riohacha is a perfect place to have an afternoon stroll or dipping yourself in the cooling water after exploring the city. There are some outdoor beach bars and cafes you can order a cool drink and enjoy the view or you can take a walk on the deck which leads to a boat stand.
Avenida Primera This is probably the nicest street in the town. You can enjoy the statues along the boulevard, poles decorated with colourful mosaics, nice restaurants and cafes as well as Wayuu handcraft vendors. Stop by one of the restaurants and enjoy some local Colombian dishes while you gaze to the ocean and follow the daily life of fishermen selling their catches. Make sure to walk the whole avenue as there are some cool details worth seeing, such as old cannons and a beautiful butterfly statue.
Cathedral Close to the beach, there is a beautiful catholic cathedral which was built in the mid 19th century in a Colonial style. There is always masses or other events going on and the doors are kept open during the daytime, therefore if you are a curious kind like I am, but don't feel like entering, you will be able to see a little bit just by stopping at the doors.
Restaurants and bars
Riohacha has it all, you can find many restaurants and cafes along the streets that offer various kind of dishes. Despite the small size of the town, there are plenty of places to choose from. Walk down the 15th Avenue in the evening and have a relaxed dinner at one of the local outdoor restaurants selling barbequed meat and hamburgers or head to the center and look for Lebanese, Colombian or international dining places. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes also on the Avenida Primera, but the quality and the price range is mainly worse than the ones mentioned earlier. If you still haven't eaten (enough) of fish, this is the place where you have to try it!
If you are looking for a night out, Riohacha might not be the craziest party town in Colombia, but if you wish to head out for a nice beer or a tasty cocktail, make sure to stop by Happiness Hostel's bar. It's super cosy and with lots of good vibes!
Riohacha offers rather good shopping possibilities. You can head to the modern mall where you can find international brands as well as high-end products. There's also a supermarket at the mall, so you can stock up on groceries at the same time. If you start to miss food that you know from back home, you can secretly head to upstairs where you will find Subway and other international fast food restaurants, that are most likely a safe bet. If you are looking for more local atmosphere, you can head to the Carrera 7 in the centre where you can find all kinds of local boutiques and shops selling daily items and clothes.
For souvenirs, head to the Avenida Primera along the beach to buy local handcrafts by Wayuus. They are a lot cheaper than in Cartagena, therefore make sure you get one for yourself
Hang out in the parks Riohacha has some parks where one can sit down and relax and watch as the locals spend their days. Simon Bolívar Park is located on the side of Avenida Quince. It is popular among families and the locals enjoy spending the evenings just relaxing in the park. If you are visiting Riohacha during Christmas time the park is lighted with beautiful Christmas lights.
Another, maybe the most known park in Riohacha is the Plaza Jose Prudencio Padilla, which is located just next to the Cathedral. The park has a statue of the famous admiral Jose Prudencio Padilla, who led the battle of Lake Maracaibo successfully in the Spanish American wars of independence. The wreck of him lays in the Cathedral next to the plaza.