15 Things To Do in San Gil: Colombia’s Adventure Capital

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Sometimes you get to a city and you quickly realize that you’re going to need more time. This was the case for us in San Gil, Colombia. We checked into Sam’s VIP Hostel (which was more like a boutique hotel) and asked the receptionist at the front desk what we should do while we were in San Gil.

She pulled out a book that was packed full of amazing activities and we knew that we were going to love the city and the adventures around it.

There was so much to do in fact, that even though we spent 5 nights here, we weren’t able to see and do it all, which was fine for us because San Gil is a place that we could definitely return to. The town is actually quite charming, and there are some great restaurants and nearby day trips as well.

If you have the opportunity to stay 5 nights or more, hopefully, you can check off a few of the activities from our list below. We highly recommend staying at Sam’s VIP Hostel because the rooms are amazing (ours even had a jacuzzi) and the staff can help you organize all of the activities in this post and many more.

All of these tours include transport, bilingual guides, hydration, insurance, all gear, and food.

Here are 15 things to do in San Gil, Colombia you won’t want to miss!

Please note: We were not sponsored or paid by any hotel, hostel, tour operator, restaurant or other company in Colombia. We chose to travel this country on our own dime just like you would and wanted to share our findings with you. As always, all thoughts and opinions remain our own.

Backpacking Colombia is fantastic, but planning a safe and fun trip can still be stressful. ViaHero makes traveling worry-free by pairing you with a Colombian local who plans your trip *and* provides 24/7 phone support. Click here to learn more about this unique service!

1. Kayaking Course

  • Requirements: You should be a solid swimmer
  • Duration: 3 Days (4 Hours / Day)
  • Difficulty Level: Medium
  • Group Size: Maximum 6 People
  • Price: 450,000 COP ($155 USD)

This class is a great way to learn all of the basics of Kayaking, including important maneuvers, proper paddling techniques, capsize training, rescue procedures and swim roll techniques.

During this 3 day course, students will learn how to solve problems while on the river and how to work as a team. At the end of the course, all students will be able to paddle confidently in the company of others. This is not a teacher/trainer course, but it’s very in-depth and will help you with your abilities on the river.

☞ SEE ALSO: 21 Awesome Things To Do in Bogota

2. Paragliding

If you’re like us and you have a hard time remembering which “para” is referring to what activity, paragliding is the one where you have a parachute strapped to your back and you run off of a high mountain or cliff and rely on thermals to send you high into the air. There are some great paragliding opportunities around San Gil to choose from.

Chicamocha Canyon

  • Requirements: Courage & A Strong Stomach
  • Duration: 5 Hours+ (Depending on conditions & wait times)
  • Departure: Daily between 8:30 am – 10:00 am (pick up at hostel or at operator’s office in San Gil)
  • Group Size: 8 per vehicle (1 person / pilot)
  • Flight Time: Up to 30 minutes depending on weather
  • Cost: 170,000 COP ($58 USD)

This is definitely a highlight of anyone’s trip to San Gil and is one of the top things to do in Colombia. The Chicamocha Canyon is the second largest of its kind on Earth and strapping a parachute to your back, running off a cliff and catching thermals high above it will likely be an experience that you never forget.

Chicamocha is regarded as one of the best paragliding spots in the world due to the lack of rain and the great thermals in the area.

Things to do in San Gil Colombia paragliding

This is the more popular of the two main paragliding options around San Gil both because of the spectacular views over the canyon and the longer flight duration (30 minutes in the air rather than 12 at Curiti).

The cool thing about this option is that you can land back in the same spot where you took off from because the thermals are so good.


  • Requirements: Courage & A Strong Stomach
  • Duration: 3 Hours+ (Depending on conditions & wait times)
  • Departure: Daily between 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm (pick up at hostel or at operator’s office in San Gil)
  • Group Size: 8 per vehicle (1 person / pilot)
  • Flight Time: 10 – 12 minutes
  • Cost: 60,000 COP ($20 USD)

Many people opt for Curiti because it’s a cheaper and quicker option to try your hand at paragliding. Some people (including me) get a bit nauseous when flying high in the clouds, so the shorter flight time may not be a bad thing for those people.

Also, departure leaves a bit later in the afternoon and this option doesn’t take an entire day of your itinerary because Curiti is very close (45 minutes from San Gil as opposed to 2 hours to Chicamocha).

Things to do in San Gil Colombia paragliding

You’ll be flying over the farmlands of Las Vueltas and Macaregua, but you won’t get the amazing view of Chicamocha because it is far off in the distance. If conditions are good, your flight will take you over the tobacco, bean, corn, banana and coffee plantations of Mesa de los Santos which is quite beautiful.

3. White Water Rafting

As with paragliding, there are a couple of great spots for white water rafting. Rio Suarez is the most popular option because it’s more challenging and really gets the adrenaline pumping, but Rio Fonce is also beautiful and can be enjoyed by weaker swimmers and even children over the age of 5. The latter is also much cheaper and doesn’t take a whole day off of your itinerary.

Rio Suares

  • Requirements: You should be a solid swimmer
  • Duration: 5 Hours total (2 hours on the water)
  • Difficulty Level: Class 3, 4 & 5 Rapids
  • Group Size: Maximum 6 People
  • Price: 130,000 COP ($45 USD)

This tour can be a great introduction to white water rafting for beginners or a challenging day on the river for pros. The bilingual tour operator and guides will help you chose which rapids are best for you.

The tour includes a delicious chicken meal with a cold beer to celebrate surviving the trip and it also includes water, snacks, insurance and all equipment.

things to do in San Gil Colombia rafting
Image Via: Sam’s VIP Hostel

It’s recommended that you wear a bathing suit, a shirt, sandals with a secure strap (not flip-flops), sunscreen and mosquito repellant. If you don’t have good water sandals you can wear sport shoes or hikers, but just know that they’re going to be soaked and you’ll have to dry them out after the trip.

Rio Fonce

  • Requirements: You should be able to swim
  • Duration: 2 Hours total (1.5 hours on the water)
  • Difficulty Level: Class 2 & 3 Rapids
  • Group Size: Maximum 6 People
  • Price: 35,000 COP ($12 USD)

The Rio Fonce is another great option for white water rafting around San Gil. It’s much closer than Rio Suarez and a lot easier. The tour includes everything that the Rio Suarez tour includes except for the meal and beer at the end. It’s also considerably cheaper at just $12 per person and it doesn’t require any advanced level of swimming or experience on the river.

4. Canyoning

  • Requirements: A decent level of fitness & upper body strength
  • Duration: 5 Hours
  • Difficulty Level: Easy – Medium
  • Group Size: Maximum 8 People
  • Price: 75,000 COP ($25 USD)

On this tour, you’ll head out with El Dorado Expeditions to a nearby canyon where you’ll have the opportunity to climb, repel, jump off of and descend down huge waterfalls and cliffs up to 40 meters high.

There are some beautiful natural pools that you can jump into and swim in and you will be accompanied by an expert guide and well-maintained climbing gear.

Image Credit: Sam’s VIP Hostel

The tour includes transport to and from San Gil (with a pick up at your hostel), as well as light refreshments, all safety equipment and insurance.

5. Caving

  • Requirements: Comfort in small spaces
  • Duration: 2 Hours (1 – 1.5 hours in the cave)
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Group Size: Maximum 8 People
  • Price: 30,000 COP ($10 USD)

La Cueva de la Vaca (The Cow Cave) is located in Curiti, just a 30-minute bus ride from San Gil. You don’t really have to join a tour from San Gil for this one, just hop on the bus that says “Curiti” at the bus station on Carrera 10 and Calle 17 in San Gil and ask to get dropped off at “Gua-iti Adventura” which is the tour operator that will take you into the cave.

The Cow Cave is easily the best cave in the entire region and boasts an abundance of stalactites and stalagmites which take on an impressive white hue in the dim light of the flashlights.

Some guides don’t speak English, so if you don’t speak Spanish, consider waiting for a bilingual guide.

things to do in san gil caving

At some points in the cave, depending on rain levels, you may be required to swim through openings that are submerged underwater. If you’re uncomfortable with small spaces where you’re unable to get air for 1 or 2 seconds, then this may not be a good activity for you. The guides are very experienced however and the tour itself is very safe.

We highly recommend that you check out the Cow Cave. Dariece is a bit claustrophobic but conquered her fears in this cave and had a blast doing it.

6. Waterfall Rappelling

  • Requirements: A decent level of fitness & upper body strength and some courage
  • Duration: 2 Hours
  • Difficulty Level: Medium
  • Max-Height: 60 meters
  • Price: 75,000 COP ($25 USD)

While there some rappelling opportunities on the canyoning tour, none are quite as exhilarating as the descent down the powerful Juan Curi Waterfall. Depending on recent rainfall, this waterfall can be a real beast and rappelling down it with the deafening roar of its cascading might crashing down beside you is a memorable experience.

Image via: Sam’s VIP Hostel

Like the Cow Cave, you’ll have to organize your own transport here, but it’s easy to catch the Charalá bus from the same bus station on Carrera 10 and Calle 17 and it only costs 5,000 COP ($1.70) to get here (40 minutes from San Gil).

Ask to get dropped off at Las Cascadas. As with all of these tours, your hostel can usually help you organize them and figure out how to get there, but it’s quite easy to do.

7. Swim in Natural Pools

  • Requirements: None
  • Duration: 2 Hours+
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Price: 75,000 COP ($25 USD)

Pescaderito Area

There are two excellent natural pools around San Gil. The first is the pools in Pescaderito, an area that is great for hiking and picnicking. This is a great place to meet Colombians as they also come here for their own picnic (Paseo de Olla in Spanish). There is more to see here than just one pool as there are numerous hot springs and beautiful topography to enjoy.

To get here you simply take the bus to Curiti and ask the driver to drop you at Pescaderito. From there you can walk into the pools in around 40 minutes or take a mototaxi in about 40 minutes.

Pozo Azul

This is another great swimming option and it’s located just 2 km from San Gil on the road towards Bucaramanga. The best way to get here is by taxi and it won’t cost you more than 5,000 COP each way.

You could also walk here if you want, or hop on the bus towards Bucaramanga, but make sure you tell the driver you’re getting off near Pozo Azul before you pay for your ticket.

The pool here is part of the Quebrada Curití (the Curití River) and it is set in nature and jungle with fresh air and opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife.

8. Visit Barichara

  • Requirements: None
  • Duration: 4 Hours+
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Distance from San Gil: 45 minutes by bus
  • Price: 9,200 COP for a return bus ticket ($3.15 USD)

Once you’ve enjoyed a few adventure activities, you’ll probably want to let your adrenal glands settle down for a day. Now’s the perfect time to head to the beautiful Colonial town of Barichara where you can saunter along the cobblestone streets, eat a delicious vegetarian lunch at Shanti Restaurant, and head to a bar to sample Sabajon or Chica, traditional liquor from the region.

Things to do in San Gil day trip

The town is pretty small but it’s still giving yourself 3 hours or more to walk around. There’s also a cool little paper factory here where you can pick up some nice souvenirs and learn how they process the paper and make jewelery, lamps and picture frames from materials like palm, marijuana and fique plants.

9. Camino Real

  • Requirements: None
  • Duration: 3 Hours+
  • Difficulty Level: Easy (if it’s not in the mid-day sun)
  • Starting Point: Carrera 10 & Calle 4 (North-West of Barichara)
  • Price: 75,000 COP ($25 USD)

While you’re in Barichara, you’ll definitely want to plan to take the hike along the Camino Real. This historical stone walkway was originally used by the indigenous Guane people, then when the Spanish came the used it to transport goods between villages.

In the 1800s the entire path was restored by a German settler who added large stones and some beautiful rock walls.

Today this is one of the most picturesque walks that you can take in the entire region. It has stunning views over the Chicamocha canyon and passes through some beautiful farmlands before ending in Guane, where you can take a bus all the way back to San Gil (1 hour 15 minutes).

things to do in San Gil

Most people recommend that you don’t do this hike past 11:00 in the morning or before 4:00 in the afternoon because the heat between those hours can be unbearable. We did, however, take the trail at this time and with a bit of cloud cover and some extra water, we were fine. There are a couple of places to purchase refreshments and snacks along the way.

Once in Guane, you can choose to visit the Guane Museum if you’d like. It’s near the central plaza and it showcases preserved artifacts from the indigenous Guane tribes as well as a mummy that was found in a nearby cave.

There is no need to take a guide for this hike as it is very well sign-posted and you really can’t get lost (if we didn’t get lost, nobody would).

10. Cerro De La Cruz (Mountain of the Cross)

  • Requirements: None
  • Duration: 30 minutes +
  • Difficulty Level: Easy (if it’s not in the mid-day sun)
  • Starting Point: Carrera 10 & Calle 4 (North-West of Barichara)
  • Price: 75,000 COP ($25 USD)

This is a pretty easy hike up to the top of a mountain for beautiful views of the city of San Gil and a closer look at a large white cross (if you’re into that sort of thing). The cross was built by some Jesuit fathers as a reminder of the mission of 1888.

To get here you’ll have to walk down the Via San Gil road south of town. You can take a taxi here for around 30,000 COP (40 minutes) or ask at your hostel about which is the best option for buses (they run all day from the San Gil bus station).

11. Parque El Gallineral

  • Requirements: None
  • Duration: 30 minutes +
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Location: In San Gil near Aratoka Street and Calle 6
  • Price: 6,000 COP ($2 USD)

Also known as Bosque El Gallineral (The Gallineral Forest), Isla Del Amor (Love Island) & Bella Isla (Beautiful Island), the Gallineral Park makes for a great stroll and it’s a good way to get away from the busy traffic in San Gil town.

It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the main plaza and Sam’s VIP Hostel and is the best place to see the bearded trees that are famous in the region.

things to do in san gil

Barbas de viejo (old man’s beard) hangs off of the branches of the enormous trees in the park and creates an eerie but breathtaking atmosphere.

It’s worth noting that the park closes on Tuesdays.

12. Massage

  • Requirements: None
  • Duration: 30 minutes +
  • Enjoyment Level: High
  • Location: Book through Sam’s VIP Hostel
  • Prices: 20 minutes = 25,000 COP ($8 USD), 30 minutes = 40,000 ($12 USD), 1 hour = 50,000 COP ($17 USD)

After all of the exercise and heart-pumping action that you’ll enjoy around San Gil, there’s no better way than chilling out and having a good 20 minute to 1-hour rub down.

The massages offered at Natural Spa in San Gil can be arranged by Sam’s VIP Hostel and come highly recommended. You really can’t beat the prices either with a 1-hour full-body massage costing less than $20!

13. Learn Spanish

  • Requirements: None
  • Duration: Courses Vary (1 – 10 hours)
  • Difficulty Level: Easy – Difficult
  • Location: In San Gil at Centro de Idiomas
  • Price: Varied Prices (See Below)

San Gil has a good amount of language classes available, but the one at Centro de Idiomas is geared towards travellers who don’t have much time between adventure activities. You can opt for a 1-hour private lesson or a 10-hour course that spans over a few days. The teachers are well-trained and it’s a great place to learn.

The courses include a 10-hour conversational Spanish course with a professional teacher, notebook with a list of common verbs, classroom materials to keep practicing, free access to Speaking Club with local English students (Friday 4:00pm), free online resources and student support.

The prices and classes are as follows:

Cost in a group of 2 to 6 students: $280.000 COL ($93 USD) for 10-hour Level

Private Lessons one to one (All levels)
$45.000 COL ($15 USD) per hour.

Crash Course SPECIAL DEAL for….
2 people = $500.000 (save $30.000)
3 people = $720.000 (save $40.000)
4 people = $920.000 (save $50.000)

**Update December 2019: It seems as though this company is no longer running. Speak with the receptionist at your accommodation to find out which Spanish classes in San Gil Colombia are the best. 

14. Play Téjo

  • Requirements: A love for beer & explosives
  • Duration: 2+ hours
  • Location: In a Téjo Hall near San Gil
  • Price: 10,000 COP ($3 USD)

If you haven’t had the opportunity to play téjo in Colombia, San Gil is a great spot. Sam’s VIP Hostel has téjo night when they organize a group and transport to take you to the téjo hall and explain the game to you in English. It’s a lot of fun to go with the hostel, but you won’t be as likely to meet Colombians playing the game when you show up with 15 gringos.

Things to do in san gil tejo

Nevertheless, it’s a great introduction to the game and it’s a lot of fun. Téjo is Colombia’s national drinking game and it’s basically exploding bocce ball. You throw large lead discs at a ring that has small envelopes of gunpowder on it. If you hit the ring, the friction between your lead disc and the gun powder will cause the little envelope to explode (very loudly).

You get points for getting the closest to the ring, but of course, your biggest points are when you blow stuff up. Even if you don’t take a tour with the hostel, there’s usually an excited Colombian at the téjo hall that will be happy to explain the game and the points system to you.

15. Eat at Gringo Mikes

  • Requirements: A love for beer & fatty American food
  • Duration: Open til midnight
  • Location: In San Gil just north of the main plaza
  • Price: Meals from 20,000 and up

All of these adventure activities are bound to make you hungry. If you’re missing some of your favourite western food like burgers, fries, pasta, and American-style tacos, then you won’t find a better place than Gringo Mike’s. This is probably the best American restaurant in all of Colombia and yes, it’s owned by an excentric gringo guy named Mike.

things to do in san gil food

Everything here is fresh, sufficiently greasy and oh so delicious. It’s also very affordable with many meals coming in at under $10 and double-shot cocktails are just 13,000 COP ($4) each.

Very seldom do we put a restaurant as a “Thing To Do” in a city, but Gringo Mike’s is an exception. It’s the perfect place for weary travellers to sit down, drink a cocktail and enjoy a (huge) slice of home.

There’s also a Gringo Mike’s in Barichara but I would recommend the one in San Gil so that you don’t miss Shanti Restaurant in Barichara.

If you’re looking for local food in San Gil, we highly recommend the menú del día at El Mano Restaurant (13,000 COP for a huge meal).

Catch Your Breath…

San Gil is so jam-packed with fun adventure activities, beautiful landscapes, tasty restaurants and excellent nearby day trips that you may just want to double the allotted time that you gave it on your itinerary. If you’re planning to visit here on a very short trip (one or two days), try to cram in at least 2 or 3 of the above activities.

We can’t recommend San Gil enough and we hope that this epic list of 15 things to do will help you better plan your trip to this adventure-crazy little Colombian town.

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Nick Wharton Author Bio Picture

Written by

Nick Wharton

Nick is the co-founder, editor and author of Goats On The Road. He contributes to numerous other media sites regularly and shares his expert knowledge of travel, online entrepreneurship and blogging with the world whenever he can. He has been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and has more than 10 years of experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship.

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10 thoughts on “15 Things To Do in San Gil: Colombia’s Adventure Capital”

  1. Great post and as I’m heading to Colombia at the end of this year it’s given me plenty to consider. And the waterfall rappelling looks like a must!

  2. Never heard of San Gil, but awesome to see so many activities for all budgets … I’ll have to include this place on my upcoming visit to Colombia!

  3. missed this place last time i went but did paraglide somewhere else. my girlfriends shoulder straps fell off at 1800 feet lol. but they do let you drink before you fly. it might be a good idea

  4. Thank you for this amazing blog. I found your blog when googling about ‘things to do in San Gil’ and we followed a lot of your suggestions and we had an amazing time.
    Your entries about Medellin were very informative as well and we specifically liked he City Tour and Comuna 13 tour.

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