My love for two-wheeled adventures is not limited to leg-powered bicycles. No, I’m a fan of any adventure that involves riding any sort of ‘bike’.
So during my three-week jaunt around Colombia in late 2017, I was thrilled to discover 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 steep 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 Medellin.
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.
I arrived at Gautape Motos early in the morning to find two super friendly gringos ready to set me up with my scooter. 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 were stunning and I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road lest I veer off over the side.
After about 45 minutes I passed through the bustling town of San Rafael where my newly formed scooter skills were put to the test as I navigated the busy streets.
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 local hotspot for sure and there were several families splashing around in the pools.
I got the feeling that 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 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