Getaway Compass

Guide to Hiking Cocora Valley, Colombia’s Wax Palms

Cocora Valley Palms

Cocora Valley, Colombia is known for the tallest palm trees in the world. In Cocora Valley you will find Colombia’s Wax Palms, which can grow up to 200 feet tall. The Cocora Valley hike takes about 5 hours, and the hike has a valley of palms, a forest, a river, and beautiful views. The scenery changes throughout the hike from open valleys to a lush forest. This guide has everything you need to know to hike Cocora Valley, Colombia including where to stay, how to get to the hike, and what to expect while hiking to Colombia’s famous wax palms.

Where to Stay Near Cocora Valley

Cocora Valley is a 30 minute jeep ride from the town of Salento. If you are planning to visit Cocora Valley, you will want to stay in Salento for at least one night. The town is colorful and cute, with many restaurants and shops. You can find a variety of hostels, guesthouses, and small hotels in Salento on Booking.com. Continue to our two days in Salento guide for more information on where to stay and how to get to Salento.

 

How to Get From Salento to Cocora Valley

Salento Colorful
Salento Jeep

The best way to get to Cocora Valley from Salento is to take a Jeep (also called a Willy) from Plaza de Bolivar in Salento which takes 30 min. The jeeps start at 6 am and leave every hour or when full. Typically around 8:30 am and later they start to get full fast so they leave very frequently. 

The jeeps cost 3K Colombian Pesos per person each way and you can purchase your ticket in the small ticket booth next to the jeeps in the main square in Salento. They try to get as many people into the Jeep and as possible, including having 3 people stand on the back of the Jeep. If the only spots left are on the back of the jeep and you don’t feel comfortable, you can ask to go on the next jeep.

To get back from Cocora Valley back to Salento you will find a line behind the information booth near where the Jeep dropped you off. In the afternoon the jeeps come often and they leave when they are full. At about 4 pm we had to wait about 20 minutes to get on a jeep since there were a lot of people ahead of us.

What to Pack for Hiking Cocora Valley

  • Sneakers or Hiking Boots: We hiked with sneakers because we didn’t have enough space in our luggage for hiking boots, and it wasn’t a problem at all. When we hiked it was dry so sneakers were fine.
  • Water: Make sure you bring plenty of water with you for the long hike.
  • Snacks: The hike can take about 5 hours, so make sure you bring snacks with you. Some people bring a lunch, but as long as you eat a good breakfast I don’t think it is necessary to carry a lot of food with you.
  • Bug Spray: There are a lot of mosquitos when you are walking by the river, so make sure you have bug spray with you.
  • Sunscreen: Since you are at a higher elevation the sun is strong here. Make sure to bring sunscreen with you so you can re-apply
  • Sunglasses: It can get bright so bring sunglasses to enjoy the views.
  • Rain Jacket: In Cocora Valley the weather can change at any point, so make sure to bring a rain jacket with you just in case.
  • Camera: Don’t forget your camera to capture photos of Colombia’s Wax Palms.
  • Cash: You will need cash to pay for the jeeps, entrance fee for the hike, and an additional fee on the trail near the end of the hike. 

How to See Colombia's Wax Palms Without Doing the Full Cocora Valley Loop

Cocora Valley Palm Trees

If you are not up for the full 11 km loop but still want to see Colombia’s famous wax palms you can hike out and back just to the forest of the palms. This part is about 1 km uphill from the official entrance to the forest of the palms. 

Where to Start the Cocora Valley Hike: Clockwise or Counterclockwise

Cocora Valley Views

I recommend hiking Cocora Valley clockwise. Hiking this direction is more enjoyable and you get to the valley of palms early instead of when you are already tired and ready to finish the hike. If you hike Cocora Valley clockwise the hike will start with a climb but it is on a paved trail so it makes it easier to enjoy the views while you hike. In order to start the hike clockwise you will continue walking straight up the dirt where the jeep drops you off for about 10 minutes until you reach the entrance on your right marked by a small hut. Here you will pay a small fee when you start the hike, and again later towards the end of the hike there is another fee station.

The reason I don’t recommend hiking Cocora Valley counter clockwise is because this side has a lot of horse poop, big rocks, mud, and a river which makes it already difficult to hike down, and hiking up this part wouldn’t be fun. By the time you get to the valley of the palms, the prettiest part of the hike, you will be exhausted and won’t be able to enjoy it as much. Either way you are hiking up the same elevation and either way it is a great workout, so there is no need to hike counterclockwise.

Cocora Valley Hike: Forest of Palms

Cocora Valley Palm Trees
Wax Palms Colombia

If you hike Cocora Valley clockwise, you will hike uphill for 1 km from the official entrance to the forest of palms. The views here are breathtaking, so take your time enjoying it and get close to the palm trees to experience how tall they are from up close. Note that there are a lot of horses here and therefore a lot of horse poop, so watch your step! 

As you continue hiking you will have another chance to hike back down a bit on the other side of the open valley. If you have the energy to hike down and back up from the other side of the valley, you will be able to get a different perspective and more nice pictures here. Note that if you do choose to hike down here it is a very, very steep climb back up. The first picture above is from this part.

Cocora Valley Hike: Endless Views

Cocora Valley Mirador
Cocora Mountain

As you continue hiking up you will get to see different viewpoints, or mirador, with varying perspectives of the valley and surrounding mountains. Take the time to stop at the viewpoints in Cocora Valley.

Cocora Valley Hike: Along the River

Cocora Valley Hike

As you hike down you will get to the wetter part of the hike as you are hiking along a river. Here you will see several interesting makeshift bridges that you will need to cross. Note that this part of the hike had a lot of horse poop so watch your step.

Cocora Valley Hike: Pasture and Valley

Pasture Cocora
Cocora Valley Cows

In the final part of the hike the forest clears and you will be walking through a pasture. Here if you look to the right you will see the wax palms towering over the rest of the forest that you just hiked through. 

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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