San Gil, Colombia – Things to do & Visitor Guide
This is a complete guide to San Gil, Colombia to prepare every traveler for visiting Colombia’s adventure capital! It includes all of the best things to do in San Gil, where to stay, and a few awesome places to eat!
San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia. This small town’s surrounding landscape is perfect for all the things adrenalin junkies (like me) love.
To me, 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 an amazing restaurant, you can really unwind in San Gil, Colombia.
We spent 5 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 San Gil that includes everything you need to know before you go!
Getting in/out & Bucaramanga to San Gil, Colombia
There are a few bus routes directly to San Gil, Colombia, one I know about for sure is to and from Santa Marta.
But since San Gil is a smaller town, there is definitely less of a selection of buses to choose from. I recommend looking at buses to a nearby city called Bucaramanga, which is more of a “transport hub” and will easily be reached. By using the website busbud.com, you can search for buses to Bucaramanga.
Keep reading below on how to get from Bucaramanga to San Gil.
The nearest airport to San Gil is in Bucaramanga. From there 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 “collectivo” 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.
10 BEST Things to Do in San Gil, Colombia
1. Go Bungee Jumping
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 70,000 (or about $20 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.
2. Whitewater Rafting
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. If Class 5 rapids sound like a bit too much of an adventure for you, this half-day Class 3 trip is available too.
3. Explore San Gil
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, 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 great local meals and it’s really cool place to check out.
4. Swim at Pozo Azul or Pescaderito
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 a 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 5,000 taxi ride each way and 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 is the most beautiful waterfall near San Gil, Colombia. This huge waterfall towers above you and the lush greenery around it is stunning.
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!
Getting there: The bus you catch is from the bus terminal in town, just ask for “Juan Curti” when you get there to find out how long it will be until the next one. Pack plenty of water as it is a fair walk once you get dropped out there and bring cash for the 9,000 COP entrance fee.
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 exact tour is the most highly rated paragliding tour in San Gil and it includes transport, photos, and an English-speaking guide – not bad for $60 USD!
7. Play Tejo
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
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
Ok, so Chicamocha National Park 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!
10. Learn to Kayak
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. The 3-day course is $160 USD and involves 4 hours of lessons every day.
Where to Stay in 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.
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.
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 our favorites we found during our visit.
1. The Steakhouse San Gil
This restaurant 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.
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!
3. Gringo Mike’s
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…
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!
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April 28, 2020