Caño Cristales in Colombia is a magical river. It is beautiful and clear and isn’t filled with wildlife or various plants. However, it does have one plant that gives the river its popularity by causing the river to change colors between May and early December.
When visiting Caño Cristales, you will want to book a tour. Unfortunately, the number of people that can enter the river a day is limited, and it may be difficult to do so if you don’t speak much Spanish.
However, many tours out there provide gorgeous views of the river and additional benefits for not that much more than if you were to go yourself.
Keep reading to learn more about Caño Cristales, including how to book a tour and what to expect when you go.
Is Caño Cristales open for Tours?
Yes, the Caño Cristales is open for tours between mid-May and the end of November.
Though the season runs until usually the middle of December, most companies stop with tours earlier than that, as the season may end sooner than expected, leaving unhappy customers.
During this large chunk of the year, there isn’t any time that is better than others. You may want to plan a day or two extra in case of rain, but overall, you can expect to see the gorgeous water at any time during the season.
If you want to wait until a little into June just to make sure the rainy season is over, that will give you the best chance of seeing this beautiful water feature.
Some tours suggest going earlier in the season, as they tend to be a little less busy than at the end.
How Can You Organize a Tour on Caño Cristales?
It is highly recommended to get a tour, although it is possible to go by yourself. However, it is much easier to have someone come with you, especially if you do not know the language.
One of the biggest stresses is that only 318 travelers can enter the park a day. Then, you need to find a place to sleep and make sure you register at the Centro Ambiente.
However, if you organize a tour with a local agency, they handle all of that for you.
Many local agencies can help you schedule a tour. However, it is important to note that even if you get a tour guide, it may not be easy to completely enjoy your experience without a little Spanish knowledge, as most guides don’t speak any English.
As far as organizing a tour, you can search online to see what other people recommend, find reviews of agencies, or get an idea of the best places to look.
If you have friends or family that have gone before, It is worth asking them as well. They can tell you what they thought about their trip and tour guides, so you know if you should use them or not.
For How Long Do You Travel on a Caño Cristales Tour?
Most tours offer two or three-night stays. Those that have been on this tour before often recommend the three-night stay if you can. While you may only want to visit the river once or twice on your trip, there is plenty else to do around the area.
Plus, it helps to make sure that you can visit the river in case there are a few rainy days.
How much does it cost to do a Tour in Caño Cristales?
With a trip to another part of the world, you might expect the cost to be a little cheaper. But you aren’t saving much with a site like the Caño Cristales. Generally, you can plan for the cost to be around $100 USD a day per person.
Some of the nice ones with tours and multi-day trips can cost upwards of $900 for three days, which is about $300 or more per day.
This covers two people, some meals, a personal or small-group tour, plane tickets, and assistance 24 hours a day in Dutch, English, and Spanish.
On top of seeing the river, you also get to take hikes through the jungle and swim in nearby natural pools. Some smaller companies may even charge less.
As we mentioned above, that extra cost for a tour guide is well worth it, as it ensures that you can get into the park to see the water and provides additional benefits like hotel accommodation and food.
Are there fish in Caño Cristales?
No, there are no fish in the Caño Cristales. This is because the water doesn’t have the right nutrients to sustain wildlife like fish. Only one thing grows easily in the river, which is a river weed known as Macarenia clavigera.
This river weed grows underwater by clinging to the bottom of the river on stones and rocks. It is rather fragile but has beautiful colors that change depending on the water’s depth.
The most common colors are pink, magenta, red, and purple. However, they have also been known to turn blue, yellow, green, or orange.
This is what gives the river its colors. As the plants move and get different conditions every year, the colors shift and change.
This is in part why the season for viewing the Caño Cristales is from May to November, as this is when the plants thrive and start to adjust their colors.
In really hot and dry seasons, the plant focuses more on shedding its seeds, and some of the colors may be lost for a while.
Final Thoughts on Tour of Caño Cristales
The Caño Cristales is a must-visit. It is breathtaking. You can even visit multiple times throughout your life, as the colors move and change based on the plants in the water, so it’ll never look the same.
While it is possible to go on your own, it is much better to visit with a tour guide, as they can tell you more about the area, and guarantee that you can get into the park in the first place.