This Year for Christmas, we gave each other three gifts – special experiences for our 2019 travels: a freebie, a splurge, and something food-related. The splurge gift I gave Chad was for our time in Medellin – a trip out to the Colombian rainforest to spend two nights at an eco-resort called Rio Claro. Rio Claro translates to “Clear River” and the river was definitely the highlight of our time there. But we really enjoyed the whole experience.
We booked our stay about three weeks in advance (after we’d already arrived in Medellin). They offer several different accommodation options, including some air-conditioned rooms, but we chose to stay in their ecolodge called “The Refuge.” What is special about these accommodations is that one wall is open to the river and the forest. You’re high up the hill, so it doesn’t feel like someone (or something) would get in, but you’re definitely wide-open to nature (except for the mosquito net at night over the bed).
The price includes meals served in an open-air cafeteria prepared by local women (employment preference is given to women heads of household, I believe because of the ongoing difficulties caused by the years of drug wars). The food was decent, especially breakfast, and you could buy beer or soda to drink and coffee was provided.
There wasn’t a lot to do at the resort – we wandered around, hiked a trail, and went swimming in the river three times. Swimming was the highlight. The water was clear but the current was brisk, so you had to be cautious not to be carried away. They had a few marked swimming areas which were the nicest spots, but with caution I think you could get in anywhere, which we also did. The best swimming spot was across from a natural cave, which was fun to climb up into. The best part was letting yourself get swept by the current, making sure you were aware of where you could find a place to touch your feet to the bottom to stop yourself and return to the riverbank.
There was no wifi and limited cell service, so we really had a fantastic relaxing couple of days in the forest. I’d definitely recommend Rio Claro for a short getaway out of Medellin if you’re there for a while. It was easy to get to – we got bus tickets in advance on the company Transoriente for the trip there (though I’m certain we could have gotten them day-of) and then flagged down a return bus the day we went home (we had the schedule from the company, though the bus was about 20 minutes late and we really had to flag it down; it was crowded and we had to sit in the very back for a while, though a little bit into the ride a few people got off and we were able to move up into a pair of nicer seats). It is about 3 hours each way and the busses are comfortable enough, though not as nice as Mexican busses.
On our second night, there was a big rain storm, which interrupted our sleep a little and flooded the river, making it unswimmable the next day (and not at all clear!). We felt really lucky our trip fell on the days that it did so that we could enjoy the river on our two main days there. I’m not sure what we’d have done with all that time if we couldn’t have gone swimming.
Although we didn’t see much wildlife (highlights were the incredible Blue Morpho butterflies and a toucan), it was definitely a worthwhile trip and I think Chad really loved his gift!