My love for two-wheeled adventures is not limited to leg-powered bicycles. No, I’m a fan of any adventure or excursion that involves riding any sort of ‘bike’.
So I was thrilled when I saw a shop in Guatapé that rents scooters by the hour.
Most people who come to Gautapé come for two things: to see the colorful zocalo in the center of town and to hike up the steeps steps of La Piedra for an amazing view over the lakes and islands that make up this part of Colombia. Most, in fact, just make Gautapé a day trip from Medelln.
But before coming to Guatapé I had done some research and found out that there is much more to this area than a colorful plaza and a big rock. There are cascading waterfalls, beautiful rivers with sandy beaches, off the beaten path Colombian towns, and lush, green coffee country to explore.
So I decided to spend three nights in Guatapé and dedicate one full day to exploring by scooter.
The guys at Gautape Motos are super friendly and helpful and on the morning I showed up they made sure I had everything I needed before setting off into the unknown. They gave me a laminated map with points of interest clearly marked, a pre-paid phone for ‘just in case’, and a surprisingly brief overview on how to operate a scooter. Then they sent me off with a wave and probably more confidence in my abilities than I had for myself.
My mighty steed for the day was a little red Yamaha Fino that was perfect for my limited motorized bike experience, but after a few miles I began to feel pretty silly as Colombian men, women, and kids passed me by on their beefy motorbikes. Needless to say, I got quite a few funny looks. A solo gringa on a bright red scooter is probably not something they see every day.
My ultimate destination for the day was San Carlos - a small town about 70 kilometers or two hours away from Guatapé. Yep two hours one way. The road (which is actually quite good and not heavily trafficked at all) plunges over 3000ft into a lush, tropical valley with Rio Guatape running through it.
The views are stunning and I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road less I veer off over the side.
After about 45 minutes I passed through the bustling town of San Rafael where my newly found scooter skills were put to the test as I navigated the busy streets and the funny looks multiplied tenfold. An eccentric old woman tried to strike up a conversation with me - something about my shoes vs her shoes and the scooter…. I just smiled and nodded. Then it was open road to San Carlos.
My destination: a waterfall right outside of town. It’s a locals hotspot for sure and there were several families splashing around in the pools, but I have a feeling very few tourists come to visit. I was definitely off the beaten path.
There are two tiers to the waterfall. The lower falls cascade over a giant slab of rock and is quite an impressive sight, but there isn’t much opportunity in the way of swimming. The upper falls, however, tumble down into a deep, clear, inviting plunge pool ringed by mossy rocks and giant ferns. Go even farther up the river and there are some beautiful, quiet pools that you’re likely to have all to yourself. I chose the secluded pools for myself and lounged on the sunny rocks for awhile until it was time to make the two hour return trip back to Guatapé.
This was definitely one of my highlight days in Colombia for sure.
How to book: Guatapé Motos is located at Calle 32 # 22-09, Guatapé. They'll tell you all you need to know about getting to San Carlos and the waterfalls
Cost: full day rentals are between 100,000 COP and 120,000 COP
MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
Traveling is all about making your own experiences! My adventure was awesome, but here's some ideas on how to make your adventure your own
✦ Choose a motorbike instead of a scooter if you’ve got the skills
✦ Join one of Guatapé Motos tours to get more of a guided experience. You can pair motobiking with paragliding or tubing
✦ If you’re on a motobike, visit Pieda del Marial, a lesser known monolith with much few tourists. Scooters can’t travel on the dirt roads, though…
✦ Spend the night in tranquil San Carlos for more time at the waterfalls