Exploring Santa Rita Waterfall — One of the Top Adventures Near Salento, Colombia
Sitting in the heart of the Colombian Coffee Region, the Santa Rita Waterfall — as well as the whole Finca Santa Rita area — is definitely one of the top things to do in Salento, Colombia. This is especially true if you are visiting the area during the dry season and are looking to spend a bit of time cooling down in a nice temperate body of water (this is one of the few swimming areas in the Salento area).
Below is an in-depth adventure travel guide to the Santa Rita Waterfall. It includes everything you need to know about getting to the waterfall (by bus, Willy or by foot) and what to expect once you actually arrive. Plus, it also outlines a few other amazing things to do in the Salento area — including visiting a reserve with a somewhat creepy backstory.
Keep reading to learn more.
\\ Where is the Santa Rita Waterfall
Located just outside of the small town of Boquia, Colombia, the Santa Rita Waterfall sits on the privately-owned Finca Santa Rita (finca means farm/estate). The waterfall is very easy to reach and definitely worth checking out if you are already staying in nearby Salento, Colombia.
GOOD TO KNOW: because the waterfall is on private land you do need to pay an entrance fee (roughly 7000 COP per person). This fee includes access to the waterfall as well as all of the other amazing things on Finca Santa Rita (caves, swimming holes and trails).
The Best Time to Visit the Waterfall
Due to it being closely located to Salento (5 kilometers // 3 miles away) you can expect very similar weather.
Weather in Salento, Colombia, and the whole Colombian coffee region as a whole, is often characterized by having mid-afternoon rain showers (especially during the rainy season) and nice, mild temperatures (70° F // 21° C) year-round. Actually, during the dry season, sunny mornings and afternoons can surprisingly feel quite warm due to the high elevation (Salento sits at 1,828 meters or 6,000 feet). Luckily, the Santa Rita Waterfall is the perfect place to head to to cool off.
GOOD TO KNOW: due to Colombia’s close proximity to the equator there are not really seasons, instead altitude plays a big role in weather and temperature. That being said, there are two somewhat distinct “seasons”: wet and dry, which alternate every three months. For example, December — February is dry, March — May is wet, June — August is dry and September — November is wet (usually October and November are the wettest months overall).
\\ How to Get to the Santa Rita Waterfall
Because the Santa Rita Waterfall is so close to Salento it is really easy to reach in a variety of ways; including, by bus, taxi/Willy, and of course, your own two feet.
The fastest way to reach the Santa Rita Waterfall is to take a bus to the nearby town of Boquia and then walk from there. The bus ride from Salento to Boquia should cost around 2000 COP ($0.50 USD // €0.42 Euros) for it is a pretty short ride. You will need to pick the bus up from the main bus terminal in Salento, which is located on the far west side (exact location here).
Once you reach Boquia, take the road that runs parallel to the Quindio River. You will see Restaurante Monterroca (and a campground) on the left side corner (there is a big metal turtle too). Take the dirt road until it gets to a sort of Y. The left road (Hacia la Patasola) keeps going until it reaches La Patasola Reserve (more on that below). You need to take the road on the right (there will be a clear sign saying SANTA RITA).
Keep walking on the dirt road for another 25 minutes. Along the way you will pass a couple of small waterfalls and get a great overview of the river. Make sure to take the time to look for many different species of birds along this section of the road. Altogether, it is 1.5 kilometers from the turn off in Boquia to the entrance of Finca Santa Rita.
GETTING TO THE SANTA RITA WATERFALL (& SALENTO) FROM PEREIRA & ARMENIA BY BUS
Due to the Santa Rita Waterfall being off the same road you would need to take to get to Salento, it is really easy to reach if you are coming from either Armenia or Pereira, the two biggest cities close to Salento (both have airports and big bus stations).
Just as you would if taking the bus from Salento, you will need to get off the bus in the town of Boquia (near the river) and walk from there to the waterfall. If you are planning to take the bus from Armenia or Pereira to Salento you can simply tell the driver beforehand that you actually need to get off in Boquia (it is a common stop).
It should cost around 4000 COP if taking the bus from Armenia (it costs 5300 COP to go from Armenia all the way to Salento) and around 8400 COP if taking the bus from Pereira (it costs 9700 COP to go all the way from Pereira to Salento).
Taxi or Willy Jeep
If you don’t want to take a bus or would rather not walk at all to reach Finca Santa Rita then you also have the option to hire a taxi, which in Salento means taking a colorful, WWII-era jeep known as a Willy.
The Willy jeeps can be found in the main plaza of Salento on the opposite side of the church. Most of the Willy’s are used to head to Cocora Valley — another great day trip from Salento — which is unfortunately on the opposite side of the town and valley. Therefore if you want to take a Willy to the waterfall you will likely need to hire one completely or try to find one that is already heading to either Circasia or Filandia (which are two towns located in somewhat the same direction as the Santa Rita Waterfall).
We have personally never taken a taxi to the town of Boquia (let alone the waterfall) so we do not know what this trip would cost. Though for reference it costs 4000 COP ($1 USD // €0.89 Euros) per person to ride out to Cocora Valley, which is much farther but also much more popular.
Another great option (and definitely our favorite way) for reaching the Santa Rita Waterfall is to simply walk right from Salento. And the best part is that you don’t even have to walk on the main highway (which is a bit narrow) but instead on a dirt trail that runs parallel to multiple coffee fincas.
To start the walk (if coming from the main square in Salento) first head out on Calle 6 as if you were heading to the main bus terminal on the west side of town. Once you reach the intersection of Calle 6 and Carrera 2 turn left (you will see Salento Cycling on the corner). Keep walking until you reach the next road on the right (it will be rock instead of concrete). Turn right here and walk all the way down, past The Plantation House Hostel until you reach dirt. You will see a narrow trail start to turn downhill — that is the way to go.
Once on the trail, just keep following it downhill until it becomes quite ravine-like. If you are doing the walk after a rain shower definitely wear shoes with good grip for the mud and rocks can be quite slippery.
Eventually, the trail will end at the main highway (there will be a house on the left side). Cross the highway and continue a bit further down the trail. Soon it will intersect the highway again. From here, turn right and walk about two more minutes until you get to the middle of Boquia. Turn right on the dirt road after the yellow bridge. From there, it is another 1.5 kilometers on the dirt road until you reach Finca Santa Rita.
Another great option for walking to the Santa Rita Waterfall is to simply add it to the Salento Coffee Route or Rute Cafecito. This was actually our original plan and if it hadn’t been for lack of daylight and an incoming thunderstorm, we would have definitely done both the coffee route and the waterfall on the same day.
THE SALENTO COFFEE HIKING ROUTE
Here is a quick rundown of the Salento Coffee Route, which is another fantastic thing to do in Salento — especially if you are looking to explore the area by foot and drink delicious coffee along the way.
To reach the Coffee Route, first head out of the main square in Salento down Carrera 5 until you reach a bright yellow walking bridge (a totally different bridge than the yellow bridge you cross in Boquia). Once past the bridge keep going until the road turns to dirt (you will pass the cemetery on your right). Keep heading down the dirt road for another 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) until you reach the first coffee finca, Finca Las Acacias. From there you keep walking down the dirt road until you reach Finca Ocasio, Finca Luger and Finca Don Elias.
The road eventually circles back around the valley until it reaches Boquia (here). Once you get to Boquia, turn right onto the major highway and walk until you see the dirt road next to the Quindio River on your left. From the turn off the main highway it is another 1.5 kilometers until you reach Finca Santa Rita.
INSIDER TIP: if you want to cut the Coffee Route short (and shave off a couple of kilometers) then you can simply take a shortcut at Finca Ocasio. To do this, instead of going down the dirt road towards Finca Don Elias take the narrow singletrack in front of the finca down to the river. Then cross a metal bridge and turn right on the next dirt road. From there you follow that road back to Boquia. From the metal bridge to Boquia it is about 2.3 kilometers (1.43 miles).
The Adventure Breakdown
It is 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) from the main finca house (where you will pay to enter) to the actual Santa Rita Waterfall. The hike is along a singletrack trail that crosses open meadows full of cows, an old railroad tunnel and a small creek.
Now, if you are wanting to do a longer hike you can also do a 6-kilometer loop that runs up past the waterfall and then back around to the concession stand area. This hike is only recommended if you are fine going up steep muddy slopes and also down narrow (often slick) hills. BUT, that being said, we did the loop hike and really enjoyed being able to explore different ecosystems and see many types of birds. And best of all, it was super quiet.
If 6 kilometers sounds like too much, there is also the option to take a bit longer trail back around to the finca from the waterfall. This hike includes a long cave (which looks to be an unfinished railroad tunnel), two more waterfalls and the ability to see the old railroad that once went through the whole finca (remember that railroad tunnel we mentioned above?).
To do the different trail back to the finca house, head to the left after the small concession stand. You will see wooden signs pointing you towards the cave (cueva) and the other waterfalls.
Cost to Enter
It costs 7000 COP ($1.76 USD // €1.56 Euros) per person to enter Finca Santa Rita; this fee includes access to the namesake waterfall as well as the ability to hike around on all of the trails and see the various sites.
Plan to spend a couple of hours in the finca, which actually feels more like a nature reserve. There is a map at the entrance showing various trails to hike and things to see (including the aforementioned caves). Also, if the owner is there, he will make sure to point you in the right direction and give you some insight into the area.
If it is a warm day, definitely put aside enough time to swim at the waterfall and then in the river above (there is a sign for a swimming hole near the concession area). Similarly, if it is a cloudy day, make sure to bring your binoculars and look for birds — the finca is a known hot spot for bird (pajaros) activity!
What to Bring
Because the weather changes rather quickly in Salento, especially during the rainier months, it is smart to come prepared to the Santa Rita Waterfall with at least some form of rain protection. This can include actual rain jackets or just plastic ponchos (which you can pick up in Salento). We also suggest shoes that can handle thick, slick mud, a trash bag or plastic bag for your backpack, some water and snacks and some sun protection and bug spray.
GOOD TO KNOW: there is a small concession stand in the finca where you can buy arepas with chorizo and obleas, which is a traditional Colombian snack consisting of a thin sweet wafer and arequipe in the middle. They also serve drinks, including beer, but mostly in plastic bottles.
EXTRA ADVENTURE! THE PATASOLA NATURE RESERVE
If you want to really escape the hustle and bustle of the area and are looking for a truly off the beaten path Salento experience, then consider heading up to the Patasola Nature Preserve.
Located 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Boquia — up the same dirt road you walk up towards Finca Santa Rita — this hidden gem is a great place to explore if you want to see lots of wildlife; including, many species of birds (like toucanets, toucans and parrots), and mammals, including mountain tapirs and agoutis.
This nature reserve is absolutely stunning. It also feels really undeveloped and not treaded on — which is a-okay in our books.
So where did the name La Patasola come from? Interestingly enough, it doesn’t come from a specific animal or plant (like many natural places seemed to be named after) but instead it comes from an old Colombian folktale. In a very quick summary of the likely much more nuanced folktale, this is what we found about “La Patasola”.
The Colombian myth states that La Patasola is a (possibly) evil spirit that is the result of a woman who did not value her children and also cheated on her husband with the owner of a nearby farm. When her husband found out about the infidelity he murdered the lover with a machete. In return, his wife then cut off her husband's leg when he tried to flee towards the mountains. La Patasola is supposedly the husband's soul and it is said to wander around the nearby mountains. But like every great folktale and myth, La Patasola always disappears when people get too close to it.
Now for another weird turn of events, there is another tale surrounding the nature preserve and how it got the name La Patasola. Though this story is rather more interesting and slightly creepier. According to some locals, the name “Patasola” actually comes from the story of a man who lived in a small house with his 7 kids in the reserve. The man always went hunting in the area to feed the seven of them, but one afternoon when he returned to his house he did not find his children. After searching in the area, he went back to the house and found one of them nearby (the other 6 were never found). From then on some of the locals who pass through the area have said they have seen “La Patasola” hovering near the now-abandoned house — which you can actually see if you do the full hike down to El Cedral.
After doing a bit of digging we cannot decide whether the myths are related or if they use the term La Patasola for two different things (though in both stories it seems to be a singular man). Either way, the two stories are quite interesting and definitely add a bit of spice to the reserve.
You can learn more about the myths and the nature reserve here.
If you are looking to check out La Patasola for yourself (the reserve, not the spirit) then your best bet for reaching it would either be to hike there yourself (the whole 10 kilometers is on a nice dirt road) or if you can, to ride up on a mountain bike.
| COST: the reserve is free to enter! Also, there is not really any infrastructure so make sure to bring everything you could need (food, water, bug spray, etc.)
| TIME: the walk up to the reserve took us 2.5 hours for it was pretty steep in sections; once you reach the reserve give yourself a couple of hours to explore and look for wildlife (especially birds)
| DO: there is a nice singletrack trail from the top of the reserve (around the 10-kilometer mark) that heads down through the forest and to a waterfall (you will need to hop a bright red gate on the left side of the road). The single track trail actually keeps going — though it starts to fade out a bit in places — all the way to the road to El Cedral, down near Pereira. If you want to see the abandoned house from the myth above, you will need to walk around 2.5 kilometers down the singletrack trail.
INSIDER TIP: if you want a certified, off the beaten path Colombian jungle adventure, then we recommend doing the full hike down to El Cedral. We did the whole out-and-back hike and while it was exhausting (around 30 kilometers total round-trip) it was beautiful and in our eyes, 100% worth it. Just make sure to bring proper rain gear — we didn’t and we got stuck in TWO super strong downpours. Learn from our mistakes :)
If you are looking for one of the best things to do in Salento, Colombia then make sure to add the Santa Rita Waterfall to your travel list. The whole finca — which honestly feels more like a nature reserve than a working farm — is absolutely beautiful. Come for the afternoon and soak in the waterfall and river and then walk around looking for birds and butterflies. This is truly what makes the Salento area so amazing.