A picturesque view of the sea in Capurgana, on the boat from Capurgana to Necocli

How to Take the Boat from Capurgana to Necocli

Everything you need to know about taking the boat ride from Capurgana to Necocli, Colombia. Including where to buy your boat tickets, where to get on the boat, and how wet you’ll get!

If you’re reading this guide, chances are you’re planning to arrive in Capurgana on the boat from Panama. Either that or you’re hoping that I’m also going to tell you how to get from Necocli to Capurgana by boat. Well, I can’t tell you where to buy your ticket in Necocli because I haven’t done it myself, but I can tell you that you’ll need to go to the dock. You can’t buy tickets for this boat online or over the phone, you have to go there physically. (The good news is that you can usually buy tickets on the day.)

Capurgana is a small town situated in the Darien Gap, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It’s one of the last habitable towns in Colombia before you reach the border to Panama, and the only way to get to or from Capurgana is by boat.

This may not be great news if you’ve just been on a four day boat ride through the San Blas Islands and haven’t seen true civilisation since Panama City. If you’re lucky you will have had a magical time, but if you’re slightly less lucky (like I was), the last thing you’ll want to do is get on another goddamned boat!

Luckily, I have some good news for you. The speed boat from Capurgana to Necocli is on a larger, more modern boat, which is much better equipped to save you from the waves than the small boat you probably took through Kuna Yala (San Blas). I can’t promise you won’t get wet, but you are unlikely to get soaked like you do on the speed boats you take through the San Blas Islands.

If this is your first time in Colombia, arriving from Central America, congratulations, you made it! You’re also following in my footsteps as that’s exactly what I did. After spending one month travelling in Central America I took a four day boat trip through the San Blas Islands, and Capurgana was my very first stop in South America. I spent another 2.5 months travelling in South America, so if you’re doing or planning to do a similar trip, you’ve come to the right place. 

Over the next few months I’ll be writing articles on everything I did when I travelled through Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile, so stay tuned!

How do I Buy a Boat Ticket from Capurgana to Necocli?

Capurgana is a very small town, and it would be difficult to get lost. There is one main street in front of the dock, on which you’ll find somewhere to exchange your money (you can’t really spend dollars in Colombia like you can in Central America), buy a SIM card, and pick up some street food if you’re hungry straight off the boat. It’s also here, on the main “road” (that doesn’t seem to exist on Google Maps), that you’ll find the ticket office to buy your ticket to Necocli. It’s literally a one minute walk from the dock. As you leave the dock and face the town, turn left and you’ll find Hotel Katamaran in front of you. To your right, the last building on the block belongs to a courtyard surrounded by chicken wire. The ticket office is inside this courtyard, and it’s also here that you will go to register for your boat ride.

The ticket office is only open during the day, and I would recommend going the day before, so that you can be sure to get a spot on the boat you want (there are two boats per day). However, tickets are generally available on the day, too.

​They don’t take debit or credit card here at the ticket office, you have to pay in cash in Colombian pesos.

You can buy a standalone ticket for the boat from Capurgana to Necocli, or you can also purchase a bundle that includes your onward travel to Medellin or Cartagena. I’d recommend doing this if you want to travel straight on from Necocli, because the boat terminal and bus stations are a chaos right after the boat comes in, and I was relieved to already have my onward ticket. Of course, if you’re planning to spend a few days in Necocli then you won’t need to do this. 

How do I get on the Boat from Capurgana to Necocli?

When it comes time to take the boat from Capurgana to Necocli, you will need to go back to the courtyard where you bought your ticket. They will tell you what time to be there; when I was there, they told us to arrive 30 minutes before the boat left. You have to pay extra to put your luggage onto the boat. The price varies depending on how much your bag weighs, but it’s usually just a couple of dollars. There is also an extra cost if you want to have it wrapped in a plastic bag, which you should definitely do (either pay for it there, or wrap it in plastic before you go). You will need to pay for this in cash (Colombian pesos, not USD).

You’ll watch your bags get whisked away and taken onto the boat, and at some point they will tell you to follow them onto the dock

You have to pay a tourist tax when you get onto the boat. This extra cost is, of course, only for tourists and not Colombian residents, so they will let residents through first and ask you to wait if you’re a tourist. They will then call your name one-by-one, and as your name gets called you’ll go up, pay the tourist tax (it was just over $1 when I was there, but again, you have to pay in cash in Colombian pesos). You’ll then be allowed onto the dock and be able to queue up to get on the boat.

I’m not opposed to taxing tourists, at all, but this would have been useful information to have beforehand because quite a few people didn’t have cash or small denominations. 

What is the Speed Boat from Capurgana to Necocli like?

Like I mentioned earlier, if you’ve just come from the San Blas Islands then you might be wondering what on earth you’re in for next. Well, the good news is that the speed boats going between Necocli and Capurgana are much bigger and more modern than the boats in San Blas. So, you’re much less likely to get wet (I got sprayed in the face a couple of times, but it was nothing like being on one of the San Blas boats).

If I hadn’t just been through the San Blas Islands, I probably would have thought that this was a bumpy ride. But, after four days of being desensitised in the wet and windy Caribbean Sea, I thought this ride was pretty mild. There weren’t any moments where I felt like we were about to capsize, anyway, which was an improvement…

Arriving in Necocli by Boat

When you arrive in Necocli on the boat from Capurgana, there is a fair amount of chaos as they unload everyone’s bags onto the pier. They give you a ticket and attach the other half of your bag, so it would be difficult for someone to steal your bag or wander off with it by accident, but it is chaos waiting for them to call out your number. When we arrived there was also a chaos of people trying to sell you a taxi or a bus ticket or just asking you where you’re going. It seemed like a small miracle when we found the guy that was supposed to be arranging our onward transfer. “Supposed to” being the operative phrase here. For a run down of your onward travel options and the story of how we got scammed on our first day in Colombia, read this article on how to get from Capurgana to Medellín!

Your onward travel options from Necocli include taking a flight from one of several small airports nearby (they run daily flights to various cities in Colombia), taking a direct bus to Cartagena or Medellin, which is the most common option, or doing something more bougie like taking a private transfer or hiring a car. 

If you do decide to take the onward bus to Cartagena or Medellin, I recommend booking it in advance at the ticket office in Cartagena. The “bus station” in Necocli was chaos. I also talk more about this in my article about how to get from Cartagena to Medellin (you can use the same advice if you’re going to Cartagena, all you have to do differently is, well, buy a ticket to Cartagena instead of Medellin).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *