A gorgeous hike through the coffee region of Colombia and the rolling foothills of the Andes, cows in green pastures, and the end—A beautiful gushing waterfall tumbling down through a cave.
Sounds pretty amazing, right? I thought so! So I made it a point to visit Jadin’s La Cueva del Esplandor. It’s one of THE things to see in the area. But I couldn’t find any info on how to hike it myself. I don’t need anyone to hold my hand during a hike like this, so I didn’t understand why there were no signs or info on how to simply get to the start of the trail and go.
So I found it all out on my own, and I’m here to pass down the info on how to do this hike to you.
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Jardin’s La Cueva del Esplendor—Is It Worth It?
Aside from having to figure out how to get to this waterfall cave, I was certainly curious to find out if La Cueva del Esplandor was living up to its hype! Spoiler alert – yes, it’s gorgeous! But not everything about this adventure was so great…
How to Get to La Cueva del Esplendor: The Starting Point
Get public transport: At the corner of Calle 5 and Calle 8, in town, where the La Brasa Restaurant is, you can grab public transport up towards the start of the trail I describe below to give you a head start on the long hike. (Around 5,000p)
Private transport: Or you grab a jeep, tuk-tuk, or some mode of transport to Finca Carrizalez/Alto de Las Flores. If you want, grab a quick coffee at the Finca, it’s only a one minute detour off the road. They have horses, lunch, and a nice view too.
Hike it: There is no road on Google maps, but a dirt road does exist here! If you don’t want to pay for a ride up here, know it’s about 6km from town, uphill, and not the most exciting. There are also portions at the beginning that are on the main road until you turn off on to the dirt path.
I would not recommend hiking this portion honestly. It will be a long hard slog up here, and when you make it to the finca, where the transport would have taken you, you still have another 5-6km to the actual cave—all uphill. And this is just one way!
TOTAL DISTANCE: We walked a total of 16 miles for this hike!
That was getting a ride to the starting finca, walking to the cave, and then walking all the way back to town. You’ll read below why.
The Hike to La Cueva del Esplendor
When you begin walking away from the Finca, and towards the falls, you’ll see a hill with a red house and then a white hut just behind it. Walk towards that area!
Do NOT go to the left of this hill; you won’t reach the cave. You can walk “through” the middle of this hill and up to those houses for a slightly more scenic walk, or stick to the right of the mountain.
You will be following a dirt road the entire time.
You’ll have to pass an orange gate, it states you will need to pay 20,000 pesos, but you don’t pay here. It’s just a notification that you will pay if you continue on this road.
The view of the road is quite beautiful. Rolling hills, mountains in the back, cows, birds, horses… But this is a road with people going on tour to the cave. So you’ll have motorbikes and jeeps dusting you as you walk. Horse tours also use this path, so watch your step or forever smell like horse shit for the rest of your hike.
You’ll finally pass a little hut, this is where the jeeps stop, and the people on tour walk a bit further to the house at the end where the cave is.
We knew we had to pay the 20,000 and were fine to do so, but this is where our vibes started going downhill. I’ll explain it below.
At this house, you’ll turn over your 20,000 per person, fill out a paper with info (ID number, name, and blood type…!?) and when the group (yes, group) is ready to leave, a “guide” will take you the rest of the way to La Cueva del Esplendor.
You’re on private property at this point after going through their gate, it snakes through some more jungle, down rock stairs, and over streams.
At the end of the quick ten or so minute hike from the house, you’re FINALLY at La Cueva del Esplendor!
The Hike Back from La Cueva del Esplendor
We noticed before going that there was a trail on Maps.Me leading to La Cueva del Esplendor. We asked around, and it wasn’t clear if this path was accurate. We also decided getting a bit of a head start with the jeep would maybe be a good idea, and people KNEW there was a path there for us.
So we went and met some people at the top who waited with us to enter La Cueva del Esplendor. They confirmed the way Maps.Me showed accurately! However, there were a few questionable areas where you aimless walked through meadows and fields. They also experienced quite a bit of mud, horse poop, and bugs.
They were cleaning themselves off, emptying muddy water from their shoes, and tending to bites.
So know—You can go the way I explained and loop back around following Maps.Me, or take the way I explained in and back out.
Lastly, the jeep that dropped us off was still at the finca and available to take us back. But it was waiting for a tour group to finish up before heading back down. We did NOT want to wait. So we walked the 6km back down to town. We never saw the truck pass us, and we were happy we didn’t wait.
The trail back down is easy and all downhill, so it wasn’t bad going back this way, but again, I’d get a ride up to get you started.
What Is La Cueva Del Esplendor Like?
The cave is magnificent, and the waterfall is stunning. It’s a unique site that offers something a bit different than your average cave or waterfall.
It’s tucked away in the middle of a jungle; moss adorns the rocks as water trickles down, the waterfall is rushing and echoing in the cave, there are some rocks to scramble to get different angles. If you’re down to brave the cold water, you can take a dip as well.
How Much Does La Cueva del Esplendor Cost?
The cost of La Cueva del Esplandor in Colombian Pesos:
- Entrance fee – 20,000 per person for foreigners / 5,000 for locals
- Jeep ride to the starting point (the finca)- 5,000 per person (one way)
- For ice cream at the house before the cave – 2,000 (optional but delicious)
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The Not so Great Part of La Cueva Del Esplendor
The vibes were ruined once we got the house, as I mentioned.
Let me first say… This is just my opinion and feelings, but we were not a fan of the process and the way everything is handled to enter this cave. I will also say that after speaking to locals, they were not fans of this spot either and have had issues with the people running it. Some locals we spoke with have stopped recommending people to go because they know the experience isn’t the greatest.
Once you get here, you’re “greeted” by not the most helpful people (not our experience in the country, in fact, our first not so great encounter in almost two months). There was a group leaving to go to La Cueva del Esplendor, and they didn’t let us tag along. They told us we had to wait.
OK, that’s fine. They said 20 minutes—we knew this would never be the case because, ya know, South America isn’t known for its timeliness but again… OK. No problem.
We filled out our papers, bought ice cream, and had a seat.
More and more people start arriving. Around 45 minutes pass, and now there are about 25-30 people. The “guide” said, let’s go… And we went.
That’s it. The guide was not a guide; our 20,000 to pass through the land was a bit high for literally getting nothing else out of this. Not a huge deal. But we just paid and waited for a “guide” for absolutely nothing. But OK, again, fine…
We had fun at the cave, taking pictures, enjoying, but Garrett and I are now done. And since, in our eyes, there’s pretty much no guide… We decide we are free to leave. Right? The walk back was literally less than 10 minutes as well and very easy.
We walk back, only to find out the gate is locked behind us! Surely, this is to avoid people going to the cave without paying, we get it, but the problem is, the gate is down the hill from the house. So we are stuck. Nobody can see or hear us.
Luckily, I found out that this gate was pretty loose and we nudged the lock out of the wood within a few minutes and were on our way.
My Thoughts on La Cueva Del Esplendor
Was anything terrible done? Did someone die? Did we get scammed?
No… None of these things happened. Everything was all and all… fine.
But this could have been handled better. We felt like sheep.
I’m happy to pay you to go on your private property but getting herded around like sheep, not offering anything else for a relatively steep price (of what it was), and just totally ruining the vibes of people who enjoy being in nature, hiking, and exploring…
Womp womp. It just kind of sucked.
I get it – They deserve to make a buck, but I think they are greedy. $6 is nothing, but no matter where in the world you are, you’d expect to get SOMETHING for $6. At least just let us walk the few minutes to the cave on our own, I would have been very happy with that. But instead, we paid $6 to be herded around.
I get it – They have people on their private property, and I’m sure there are some regulations, but the way it’s done is shit.
I get it – It’s your business, run it the way you want. But don’t expect people not to catch on and avoid your establishment.
But unfortunately, it just wasn’t THAT worth it in the end!
Am I glad I did it? Sure.
Was the cave beautiful? Yep.
Would I do it again? Nope.
Take what you will from this! At the end of the day, the experience isn’t the worst, but it could have been so much better handled. Nobody wants to feel like herded sheep. And after a long-ass hike, we just wanted to continue to our main destination—La Cueva del Esplendor.
The waiting around, the expectation of buying drinks and ice cream, a steep price, not a nice family running it, not even getting answers to questions (when we asked in Spanish too), absolutely zero info or value, paying for a guide and not getting anything more than a dude who says “let’s go,” and the large groups just ruined it for me.
I just want to stress that it IS a beautiful hike, a gorgeous cave, and waterfall and IS nice. The price is not a real issue either it’s just the vibe and the fact that it feels like you’re a sheep, and they are taking advantage a bit. That’s not a fun feeling.
What to Bring For The La Cueva del Esplendor Hike
- 20,000 pesos per person for entrance plus a bit extra for transportation, food, and drink.
- LOTS of water. There’s almost no shade and nowhere to really fill up.
- Sunscreen – You will get burned without it.
- Decent shoes, at the least runners. No open toes shoes.
- A day backpack that’s comfortable. This is a long hike.
- Snacks would be a good idea too. At least some nuts or something to keep you going.
- A swimsuit if you want to take a dip and a towel or sarong.
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.