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15 EPIC Things to do in San Gil, Colombia & Visitor Guide

15 EPIC Things to do in San Gil, Colombia & Visitor Guide

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This is a complete guide to San Gil, Colombia, and the best things to do. It includes all of the best things to do in San Gil, where to stay, FAQs, and a few awesome places to eat!

San Gil, Colombia is the adventure capital of Colombia. This small town’s surrounding landscape is perfect for all the things adrenalin lovers (like me) enjoy.

This was San Gil’s biggest drawcard but what I found out when I visited is that there’s plenty more to do for the relaxed traveler. From exploring quaint towns to visiting one of the natural swimming holes to eating at fantastic restaurants, you can really unwind in San Gil, Colombia.

We spent five days in San Gil, Colombia. Although we came for the adventure activities, we were surprised by the amount of time we spent just exploring the town, hanging around in the central park, and at the fruit market. So much so that we now consider San Gil as one of the best places to visit in Colombia.

So here’s our guide to the best things to do in San Gil that includes everything you need to know before you go!

About San Gil, Colombia

View of San Gil Town
View of San Gil Town

San Gil, Colombia is a small town located in the Santander Department in Colombia’s northwest.

Home to under 50,00 residents, San Gil, has managed to stay well off the typical tourist trail. However, San Gil is very popular among backpackers and adventure travelers because of the unique and cool activities you can do in San Gil. These include white water rafting, bungy jumping, and kayaking.

Because San Gil isn’t a huge tourist town, prices are lower than other destinations – especially compared to Medellin and Cartagena. There’s also a more authentic Colombian community which is something worth experiencing on its own.

San Gil was founded in 1689, making the town well over 300 years old. This means a rich history, beautiful architecture, and cobblestone streets just waiting to be explored. It won’t be long before San Gil becomes one of the top tourist destinations in Colombia.

Until then, be sure to discover San Gil as an undiscovered destination and enjoy the cheap activities, friendly locals, bustling markets, and delicious food!

Getting to San Gil, Colombia

the quiet streets of san gil, colombia
The quiet streets of San Gil

By Bus 

The most common and cheapest way to get to San Gil is by bus. However, busses don’t go directly to San Gil. Instead, buses stop in Bucaramanga where you’ll need to change buses to San Gil.

For that reason, be sure to look for a bus from your destination to Bucaramanga. For cities such as Medellin, Bogota and Santa Marta these are easy to find.

By using the website busbud.com, you can search for buses to Bucaramanga from any destination in Colombia. The cost of each bus varies but is $22 to $30 USD from Medellin, $25 from Bogota, $20 to $25 from Santa Marta, and $25 to $30 from Cartagena.

Keep reading below on how to get from Bucaramanga to San Gil.

By Air

As with the bus, those wanting to save time and travel to San Gil by air will need to fly to Bucaramanga first before catching a bust to San Gil. To do so, you must take a taxi to the main bus terminal to catch one of the mini-buses to San Gil as described below. Or, you can get a taxi all the way to San Gil but I can’t imagine that this would be cheap at all.

Domestic flights in Colombia are super cheap, but just be aware that the price usually doesn’t include a checked bag and the fee for that is about the same price as the actual flight!

How to get from Bucaramanga to San Gil, Colombia

We took a bus from Medellin to Bucaramanga on a 9-hour long journey. Once in Bucaramanga, we jumped straight on a mini-bus or “colectivo” for only 12,000 COP which took us right to San Gil. These minibusses are frequent (about every hour or so) and leave from the main bus terminal in Bucaramanga so it’s an easy transfer to make.

Hot Tip: We have taken the “Expresso Brasilia” buses a couple of times now in Colombia and have found them quite comfortable, affordable, and professional. I would recommend this bus company for a more enjoyable journey. You can book this bus on busbud.com easily. 

15 BEST Things to Do in San Gil, Colombia

1. Go Bungee Jumping

bungee jumping in san gil, colombia
There goes, Bailey!

San Gil is famous for having one of the cheapest bungee jumps in the world. This adventure activity is easily the best thing to do in San Gil and the reason I originally came here.

I have to admit, I almost didn’t do it! But wow, am I glad I did! Bungee jumping is so much fun – don’t miss this adventure activity in San Gil!

The largest and most popular San Gil bungee is with a company called Colombia Bungee Jumping. They have a great safety record and the entire operation was very professional and safe.

The jump with Colombia Bungee Jumping is 70 meters (230 feet) high and off of a crane hanging over the top of the river. This makes for a gorgeous view of the city from the top where you jump (I used the view as my excuse for delaying my jump when really I was just trying to get my nerves under control.)

Important info: The jump is COP 80,000 (or about $21 USD) and includes a couple of photos that they will email to you along with a certificate. Getting to the bungee is easy via a taxi from San Gil for around 10,000 COP each way.

Related read: Another region with beautiful views like San Gil is Guatape!

2. Whitewater Rafting

White water rafting on the Rio Suarez in San Gil, Colombia
White water rafting on the Rio Suarez in San Gil, Colombia

Whitewater rafting is another very popular activity in San Gil, Colombia. On the outskirts of San Gil is one of the very few opportunities in the world to raft Class 5 rapids (really intense rapids offering a guaranteed adrenaline rush!)

Rio Suarez is the river we chose to whitewater raft on for the simple fact the rapids are rated as Class 4 or 5. The entire day was so much fun and we certainly got wet!

We went with the company Colombia Rafting Expeditions as they are very experienced and have high safety standards. This full-day tour we went on cost 180,000 COP including lunch. The tour was so much fun and our guide was fantastic.

If Class 5 rapids sound like a bit too much of an adventure for you, this half-day Class 3 trip is available too. It also includes lunch but is much less scary because the rapids are smaller.

3. Explore San Gil

the central square in san gil
The central square in San Gil, Colombia.

The central park/plaza is the small square in the center of town. Although it is small, it is very busy! I recommend getting yourself an ice cream or croissant from one of the many stores around the park and sit on a bench, and people watch for a bit.

San Gil is a nice relaxing town, but at the same time, there is a lot going on in the square. I also found that although San Gil is a tourist destination, I didn’t see that many tourists around and felt like I was really experiencing the local lifestyle.

Only three blocks from the central park is the Casa de Mercado (which is truly a local market.) We shopped there every day picking up avocados, strawberries, bananas, mangos, and basically anything else we could throw in a salad or fruit smoothie. They also sell tasty local meals and it’s really cool place to check out.

4. Swim at Pozo Azul or Pescaderito

Pozo Azul is only 2km from San Gil, Colombia
Hanging out at Pozo Azul

One of the most popular activities for locals in San Gil is to go swimming at Pozo Azul or Pescaderito. Both are great for swimming but the one we went to was Pozo Azul.

The river at Pozo Azul has a small current but it is tame enough for hanging out and relaxing. We went here one afternoon and just spent our time tanning and having a couple of beers (which are sold icy cold at a restaurant nearby.)

Pozo Azul is located only 3km from town and is easily reached by a cheap taxi ride. It was only a COP 7,000 taxi ride each way, and the entrance to the river is free! Although it isn’t the most beautiful river we have ever seen, it made for a nice (cheap) afternoon.

Pescaderito is a nicer place to swim but is a little further out of town. To get there you’ll need to take the bus to Curiti from the bus station and ask the driver to drop you at the falls. From here, it’s another 40-minute taxi or moto-taxi ride away.

Once at the falls, you can swim at a few different places but the best ones are further down the river from where you get dropped off.

5. Visit Juan Curi Waterfall

Juan Curi Waterfall, San Gil, Colombia
Juan Curi Waterfall, San Gil, Colombia

Juan Curi Waterfall is the most beautiful waterfall near San Gil, Colombia. This huge waterfall towers above you and the lush greenery around it is stunning.

You can choose to visit the waterfall on your own or on a guided tour. But in all honesty, the guided tours aren’t needed.

At Juan Curi Waterfall you can enjoy a relaxing swim at the bottom pools or if you’re up for it, repel down it. You can book the repelling once you get there for only about 50,000 COP.

Even if you don’t want to do the repelling be sure to climb to the top of the falls for an amazing view!

The bus you catch to the waterfall leaves from the bus terminal in San Gilcalled Terminalito. Just ask for “Juan Curti” when you get there or head to stand number 4. The bus leaves often so don’t worry too much about the schedule, which regularly changes and is rarely on time. The bus costs 5,000 COP each way.

On the way back, jump on the opposite side of the road and wait for the bus heading to Charala.

Be sure to pack plenty of water as it’s a 25-minute walk from the parking lot to the waterfall. Oh and make sure you bring cash for the 9,000 COP entrance fee.

6. Paragliding

paragliding in Colombia
Imagine the views! (Photo from Medellin)

The landscape surrounding San Gil is perfect for paragliding, so it’s no wonder it is a super popular activity to do. Paragliding, for those who don’t know, involves running off a cliff or hill with a parachute strapped to your back.

This rather safe activity is very relaxing and most of the tours in San Gil take you out to Chicamocha Canyon to fly.

The views you’ll get are incredible and despite not paragliding in San Gil (I did it in Medellin) I know this because I have been to Chicamocha National Park (more on that below.)

This specific tour is the most highly rated paragliding tour in San Gil and it includes transport, photos, and an English-speaking guide – not bad for $65 USD!

7. Play Tejo

Tejo in Colombia
Tejo in Colombia

If you haven’t already, then you need to go give Tejo a go! This crazy game involves throwing a disk at a target that’s loaded with gun powder. If you hit the target it will explode!

In San Gil, you can play this at a few places with one of the most popular being the Tejo Hall of San Gil. Here you can play a few games for 10,00 COP. Come ready to drink as Colombians treat Tejo as a drinking game!

If you’re a solo traveler then Sam’s VIP Hostel has Tejo nights where a large group of travelers typically go for a fun night out.

8. Visit the cute town of Barichara

A cute street in Barichara near San Gil, Colombia
A cute street in Barichara near San Gil, Colombia

If you’re looking for an awesome half-day trip to get out of San Gil then you simply must visit the cute town of Barichara. The town’s name actually means “place to rest” and when you visit you’ll see why it’s a suitable name.

The best thing to do in Barichara is to grab your camera, walk the beautiful streets, and just enjoy its beauty. Honestly, you could spend a few hours just exploring. Be sure to pop into a local restaurant for a bite to eat or even visit a bar to try Sabajon or Chica, a liquor made in the region.

Getting there: From the main bus terminal in San Gil, you can get the bus to Barichara for 4,600 COP each way. The journey takes around 45 minutes.

9. Explore Chicamocha National Park

Viewpoint in Chicamocha National Park, San Gil
Viewpoint in Chicamocha National Park, San Gil

Ok, so Chicamocha National Park (Parque Nacional del Chicamocha) isn’t your usual national park. In fact, it’s actually a theme park overlooking the Chicamocha Canyon. Of course, the main reason to visit is to see the canyon but at the park, you can also enjoy some other activities.

One of the best things to do at Chicamocha is riding the cable car that crosses the canyon. This massive cable car is actually one of the longest in the world at 6.3 kilometers or 3.9 miles long. Other cool attractions include the large swing that overhangs the canyon or ziplining.

Regardless, the views from the park are amazing, and from San Gil you can easily get a shuttle to the park and do as much or as little as you want. The entrance fee to the park is 25,000 COP per adult and you can buy combo tickets that include the gondola.

My recommendation is to come at sunset and enjoy the views of the canyon!

Chicamocha National Park’s hours of operation are Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm. and Saturday/ Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm.

10. Learn to Kayak

Kayaking on a river
Kayaking is actually harder than it looks (believe me!)

I’ve been whitewater rafting many times and I love it. But, what I found out is that I actually love kayaking even more. The first time I tried river kayaking was in Chile and learning this surprisingly challenging sport was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

In San Gil, you can also learn to kayak and if you love whitewater rafting or just water sports in general, give it a go! I definitely recommend doing a lesson first as it’s hard to stay upright on your first try.

On a lesson, you’ll learn rescue procedures, how to roll in your kayak, and how to stay upright (the important part.) It can be scary at first but it’s also super rewarding.

You can choose between a 1 day to 3-day course. This half-day course is a great introduction to kayaking and it includes your lunch, expert guide, and equipment.

11. Go canyoning

Canyoning in San Gil, Colombia
Canyoning is so much fun!

Canyoning is another adventure activity I love that you can do in San Gil. For those who don’t know, canyoning involves repelling down waterfalls, swimming, jumping, and climbing through a canyon. It’s so much fun!

In San Gil, you can book this guided tour and head off into Las Lajas Canyon for the adventure of a lifetime. The tour includes transport from San Gil, a guide, water, and all your equipment. This includes a wet suit for the cold water.

Seriously, if you haven’t been canyoning before, you need to give this extreme sport a try!

12. Go mountain biking

In true San Gil fashion, the next thing to do in San Gil is another adventure sport. Mountain biking is very popular in San Gin as the trail travels through the beautiful Chicamocha Canyon as well as Barichara.

If you choose to do this famous mountain biking track, the full length is just over 61 kilometers (38 miles). It’s classified as moderate to difficult and is best done on an organized tour. The first part of the tour is downhill, but the trail is a little bumpy, so some experience is helpful. The last 16 kilometers of the trail is slightly uphill, but the path is in much better condition.

The company that books this ride is called Colombian Bike Junkies. It’s a full-day tour that lasts around 12 hours with transport and breaks. The tour costs $90 USD and includes lunch, snacks, and beer!

13. Hike up Cerro de La Cruz

View from Cerro de La Cruz in San Gil, Colombia
View from Cerro de La Cruz in San Gil, Colombia

Located just outside San Gil is a beautiful viewpoint over the city. Cerro de La Cruz is home to a huge cross installed by Jesuits back in 1888. At night the cross is illuminated and you can actually see it from town.

With that said, come up for the view during the day to enjoy a beer or read a book. The trail to the top is fairly easy and you can walk from the main plaza to the beginning of the trail. All up it takes around 30 minutes to hike up.

14. Explore Parque Gallineral

Parque Gallineral in San Gil, Colombia
Parque Gallineral!

Just on the outskirts of San Gil, is a beautiful park called Parque El Gallineral. It’s a beautiful place to take a stroll and enjoy some peace and quiet. Take a book, a few cheeky beers, or just enjoy nature.

There are a few trails through the 4-hectare park that leads to bridges, small streams, and lots of moss-covered vegetation. There is also a pool in the park that you can take a swim in.

Parque El Gallineral is a 10-minute walk from the plaza. Unfortunately, the park is not free, however, the entrance fee is only 6,000 COP and is open from 8 am to 6 pm.

15. Enjoy an amazing steak at Restaurante la Mansion Vegetariano & Steakhouse

The steak at the La Mansion restaurant in San Gil, Colombia
The steak at the La Mansion restaurant in San Gil, Colombia

Restaurante la Mansion Vegetariano & Steakhouse was attached to our hostel (La Mansion), so we ate there a couple of times.

They offer a menu of the day for lunch for only COP 12,000 and also have other options such as burgers and steak (also some vegetarian options.)

This place advertises as having the best steak in Colombia, so naturally, we had to test them on that claim – and they weren’t wrong! 

In fact, it was probably the best steak I’ve had at any restaurant in all of South America, and only for COP 22,000! I highly recommend The Steakhouse. My mouth is actually watering right now just thinking about it.

Where to Stay in San Gil, Colombia

the la mansion hostel in the center of san gil, colombia
The gorgeous Mansion Hostel in the center of San Gil, Colombia

Where we stayed

We stayed at The Mansion Hostel right at the central park/plaza and it was lovely. This hostel is a sister hostel to the very popular San Gil hostel called Sam’s Hostel which is only one block away. The rooms were clean and spacious and the hostel also had a large well-equipped kitchen for guest use.

You can book your stay on Booking.com or Hostelworld

Sam’s VIP Hostel

Sam’s VIP Hostel is the most popular place to stay for backpackers. They have a great bar, rooftop pool, and nightly activities for guests. Overall, a good option for solo or social travelers.

You can ook your stay on Booking.com or Hostelworld

Hotel La Montaña San Gil

Hotel La Montana is a good medium-budget hotel in San Gil. The hotel has really amazing reviews, includes breakfast, and has a pool. Overall a great stay at a really good price!

Best Places to Eat in San Gil

San Gil is home to some surprisingly good places to eat. Below are a few of the favorites we found during our visit.

Mano

Mano restaurant was affordable and good
Restaurante Mano!

Mano is a local place with the nicest owner. They specialize in burgers but also offer other options such as wraps, mixed meat dishes, and gourmet salads.

The prices were extremely low for the size and quality of food. Mano’s hasn’t gained its fame with tourists yet as it isn’t on any of the top lists on TripAdvisor, but the locals have definitely figured out how good it is because when we were there it was packed on a Sunday evening!

We ordered a dish for two people for only COP 25,000 and it had chicken strips, steak, pork belly, onion rings, potato wedges, avocado, tomato, and arepas. It was more than enough for two people and really tasty!

Gringo Mike’s

A burger at Gringo Mike's in San Gil, Colombia
A burger at Gringo Mike’s in San Gil, Colombia

Gringo Mike’s is, as the name suggests, a place to get some comfort food from back home. Imagine a pub menu with amazing burgers and desserts. Of course, you didn’t come to Colombia to eat “gringo food” but once you smell the restaurant it’ll be hard to say no!

Prices here are still cheap and you can get a meal for around 20,000 COP. If you love tacos then get the prawn tacos, they were amazing!

Before you go…

Bailey and I take a selfie together
Thanks for reading

San Gil is easily one of my favorite places in Colombia. It’s small, cute, and filled with adventure! I really hope this guide has helped you plan your trip here. If you have any questions at all about San Gil, Colombia or the world in general, please leave a comment below!

Also, if you liked this guide then jump over to our Colombia page here and check out all our travel guides from Colombia or check out these related articles below!

Complete guide to Medellin, Colombia

13 things to know before visiting Tayrona National Park

Things to do in Taganga

5 Tips for Visiting Ipiales, Colombia

 -Bailey

Medellin Itinerary: How to Spend 1 to 5 Days in Medellin, Colombia
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