A green hill side covered with very tall wax palm trees and a statue in the foreground at the start of the Cocora Valley hike near Salento Colombia

Cocora Valley Hike: How to See Salento’s Wax Palms

Home » Colombia » Cocora Valley Hike: How to See Salento’s Famous Wax Palms 🌴

Nearly every visitor to Salento will want to go on the Cocora Valley hike. It is one of the best things to do in Salento and no trip would be complete without going on it.

I had seen many pictures of the famous wax palms online before visiting. To be honest I thought that it looked a little overrated. But after visiting I have to admit I was wrong.

Seeing the wax palms towering over the valley is truly beautiful and unique. So keep reading to find out all you need to know about the Cocora Valley hike! 🤠

How to get to the Cocora Valley Hike

The Cocora Valley hike starting point is only a 15-minute drive from Salento. Luckily because Salento is such a touristy town it is super easy to get there.

Simply head to Plaza Bolivar which is the main square of Salento. There you will see a lineup of colorful jeeps called Willys. These jeeps are the transport to the Cocora Valley.

A lineup of colorful jeeps parked at a town square in Colombia that are the best way to get to the Cocora Valley hike

There is a ticket booth next to the jeeps to purchase tickets to the Cocora Valley. A ticket costs only 4,500 COP (1 USD) each way!

You can return at whatever time you like. Simply just turn up the parking lot where you get dropped off and jump on the next Jeep. The last jeep returns to Salento at 5:30 pm.

Tip: It is quite cramped in the back of the jeeps and you cannot see out the windows well. So try to get one of the 3 spots on the bumper. The view is amazing and it’s so much fun! 🤠

Cocora Valley Hike Map

Make sure to have the Cocora Valley hike map on your phone before you go. I recommend downloading the Salento offline map on Maps.me, it’s much better than Google Maps and will show you all the trails in the Cocora Valley.

Although the Cocora Valley is the biggest tourist attraction in the area the trail is not signposted well. So you can easily take a wrong turn if you do not know where to go.

A map showing the route of the Cocora Valley Hike
Cocora Valley Map📍

When you arrive at the entrance to the wax palm forest you will see the map above. It is a useful illustration to show you what to expect and the different options you have. But it won’t help you navigate through the Cocora Valley hike so make sure to have Maps.me.

Read also: 10 Best Things to do in Salento

Cocora Valley Hike Starting Point

🥾 Hike Time: 5-6 Hours
🧭 Length: 10 km (6.2 mi)
💪 Difficulty: Moderate
🧢 Clothing: Bring sun protection, a raincoat, sturdy shoes
🍎 Food: Bring enough water and healthy snacks

If you do the hike clockwise then the starting point is at El Bosque de los Palmas (Palm Tree Forest). But if you do the hike anti-clockwise you will need to start on the path further down which is marked as Cocora Valley Trail on Google Maps.

Hiking Clockwise or Anti-Clockwise?

The biggest decision you have to make when starting the hike is whether to do the hike clockwise or anticlockwise. We recommend clockwise! Here is why:

The hike is a loop so if you do the hike clockwise you will see the famous palm tree forest at the start. But if you do the hike anticlockwise you will see the palm forest at the end.

We saw many people recommend doing the hike anticlockwise. The reasoning was that if you did the hike anit-clockwise you would see the best part at the end.

A view of the Cocora Valley with the very tall palm trees in the foreground

But I think this is a bad idea! Because we spent 10 days in Salento we know that the weather is much cloudier in the afternoon than in the morning. So if you go clockwise you will have a higher chance of seeing the palm forest in sunshine.

Plus if you go anti-clockwise you will go up a steep valley to start. The path is also muddy and we saw many people struggling. But if you go clockwise you will walk that part downhill instead of uphill which is way easier. So I highly recommend going clockwise.

Read also: How to get to Salento cheap 🚐

Cocora Valley Hike Entrance Fee

Entrance to El Bosque de las Palmas (The Palm Forest) at the start of the Cocora Valley hike is 20,000 COP (5 USD). If you do the hike clockwise you pay this fee right at the start of your hike. But if you do the hike anti-clockwise you will pay the fee at the end.

There is also another fee to pay to pass over private land. If you do the hike clockwise you will have to pay 6,000 COP (1.50 USD) at the end of your hike. If you do the hike anti-clockwise it will be at the start.

However when we walked through there was no one at the hut to give the money to. So maybe if you go late in the afternoon it will be free for you too.

Read also: Day Trip to Filandia from Salento 🚐

El Bosque de las Palmas

El Bosque de las Palmas is where you will start the Cocora Valley hike and it was easily my favorite part of the hike. The wax palms are super beautiful towering over 60m (200ft)!

There are a few cheesy attractions such as jeeps and angel wings to take your photo with. But the best part is just to admire the amazing palm trees swaying in the wind.

Salento's wax palms swaying in he wind

The path up to the palm trees is quite steep but only takes 5-10 minutes. Many tourists only come to this point which feels a bit like an attraction park and return to their cars.

So if you feel like a Cocora Valley short hike you can do that too! You will have seen the most beautiful part but I encourage you to do the whole loop.

Fact: The wax palms are the national plant of Colombia and the Cocora Valley was designated a National Reserve specifically to protect the palms. They were in danger of becoming extinct because of their use in religious celebrations. But luckily the Colombian government stepped in to protect them for future generations 🌴

A hand holding a 100,000 COP Colombian bank note up in front of wax palm trees on a green hill
The wax palms of the Cocora Valley are also on the 100,000 COP bill

To continue on the hike you need to follow the path up the hill behind the palm forest. The path here is quite steep but short and will take you to another lookout point where there is another beautiful mini palm forest.

After this lookout point the road continues uphill for quite a long time. This is on a wide road so it is easy terrain but it is a long grind. If you are not used to the elevation you may get a bit out of breath.

At one point you will pass a hut that sells snacks and drinks if you feel like stopping to refuel. But better to bring your own, get ideas for healthy cheap snacks here.

A hut on the Cocora Valley hike trail that sells snacks and drinks
Hut to refuel along the way

The path will continue for quite a while until you reach another building with a nice view over the valley. At this point, the path will go steeply downhill.

The path down the hill is easy to follow and fairly straightforward. But once you get to the bottom there is a turning point that is not obvious.

A man in a purple t shirt and blue hat walking down a steep winding trail on a green grassy hill
The start of the steep trail downhill

We came to a muddy section and it was not clear whether to turn left or right. The right didn’t look like a path to us as there were logs over the path and it was very muddy.

But going to the left will take you to the hummingbird house, more on the below. While going to the right will take you to the end of the hike.

I am sure the hike can change a lot depending on the seasons. But there is a picture of a puma on a tree where you need to turn right so you can use that as an indication. The offline Cocora Valley hike map on Maps.me will also show you where to go.

Read also: Visit Jardin in Colombia’s Coffee Region ☕️

Hummingbird House

At this turning you will have the option to go to the hummingbird house. This is a property in the middle of the park where you can see wild hummingbirds and have a drink.

Although it sounds like a cool place to visit I would recommend not visiting. They charge 20,000 COP (5 USD) to enter including a drink.

But I think it is not worth the money. Although 5 USD is not much in other countries it is expensive in Colombia and they do not offer much in return.

Two humming bird sitting on top of a red plastic feeder with trees in the background

There were a few hummingbird feeders scattered around the property. But most of them were not clean and many of them were empty.

It is also quite a big detour to go here. It takes about 40 minutes in total. So I recommend skipping the hummingbird house and spending more time on other parts of the hike.

Read also: 6 Amazing Hikes in Jardin 🥾

Hiking down the Valley

After making a right downhill you will follow a river down the valley. This path continues downhill for about another 1.5 – 2 hours.

The path can be quite muddy and rocky. So you will see why I recommend going down here rather than up. We passed a couple of people who looked super worn out after battling their way up the hill. Plus, at this point, clouds have come in!

A woman posing in front of a staircase and a wooden bridge in a forest
A woman in a rain jacket crossing a wooden suspension bridge on a hike near Salento Colombia

There are multiple rickety wooden bridges to cross the river as you make your way down the river. Many have signs saying one person at a time. I would follow these instructions because many of the bridges look like they can barely hold one person!

They are good fun to cross the rivers on and are not that high off the ground. But they will most definitely sway a lot as you cross. Adventure!

The path down the valley is heavily forested so you will not have much of a view of the valley. But towards the end of the hike you will enter some farmland and the views of the valley are beautiful.

Farmland in the Cocora Valley near Salento Colombia
Amazing view at the end of the hike

If you decide to do the Cocora Valley hike clockwise as we did you will have to pay the 6,000 COP (1.50 USD) fee here to pass over private land.

The end of the path will take you to the road right next to where the jeeps are parked. So you can just jump straight on for a ride back to Salento.

You like Salento? Visit Filandia and Jardin! 🚐

Cocora Valley Tours

We loved doing the Cocora Valley hike on our own but if you are short on time or prefer a guide you can book this highly-rated Cocora Valley Hike Tour.

In my opinion, it is best just to do the hike by yourself. The Cocora Valley Hike is not too difficult and it is always a sense of accomplishment at the end.

However, if you are not a confident hiker the tour could be a good idea. We had no trouble finding our way but we met multiple people who got a bit lost or were having trouble with the difficulty of the hike.

Book a Cocora Valley hike guide here or here 👇

Cocora Valley Hike FAQ

We have answered here some of the most frequently asked questions. Still in doubt? Ask away in the comment section at the end of this blog post!

How long does it take to hike Cocora Valley?

The whole Cocora Valley hike takes 4-5 hours to finish. It’s a loop so you finish at the car park where the jeeps drop you from Salento. We recommend doing the loop clockwise.

Is the Cocora Valley hike hard?

The Cocora Valley hike difficulty is medium. There are some steep and muddy sections so bring adequate footwear. If you are in good shape it will be no problem for you. We recommend doing the loop clockwise so you walk down the steepest parts instead of up.

Can you hike Cocora Valley alone?

Absolutely! You can hike the Cocora Valley alone and without a guide. There are plenty of people on the way so you don’t need to worry about safety as on other hikes in Colombia. However, if you are an inexperienced hiker, we recommend booking a tour guide to avoid getting lost.

Do I need hiking boots for Cocora Valley?

No! But you should bring sturdy shoes that can get wet and dirty. While hiking boots can be useful on the muddy and steep parts we felt perfectly fine in running shoes.

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Where to Stay in Salento

🛌 Yambolombia Hostel is a 35-minute walk from Salento but in beautiful peaceful farmland. There are plenty of common areas and breakfast for 15,000 COP (4 USD). Dorms start at 8 USD and privates at 28 USD. Book it here.

🛌 Hostel Tralala is just one block from the main square and has excellent reviews. You can book a dorm bed from 10 USD so it is great value for money. Book it here.

Check out more hostels here 👇

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😴 This Airbnb is awesome if you like to stay with a local family and practice your Spanish. We stayed there for 2 weeks and loved it! Book it here.

😴 La Posada de la Plaza is a great option if you are looking for a budget hotel in Salento. It is centrally located and has a shared kitchen so you can prepare your own meals. Double rooms start at 45 USD per night. Book it here.

Check out more hotels here 👇

Looking for a FREE place to stay in Colombia? Sign up to Trusted House Sitters for free + use code HAPPYHEALTHYNOMADS for 25% discount on your yearly membership! 🏠 Read about our experiences here.

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Enjoy the Cocora Valley Hike!

The Cocora Valley Hike is a must-do while you are in Salento. It is a spectacular place to see Colombia’s tall wax palms and worthy of all the attention it gets.

There are many cool things to do in Salento so make sure to read our other articles too. Let us know if you have any questions or additions in the comments below!


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Hi, I am Allan, a travel, health and fitness fanatic from New Zealand. I'm a former lawyer who turned into a full-time nomad in 2020. For the last 4+ years I've been traveling the world. I'm always on a hunt for good food, activities on a budget and workouts on the go. I hope you find my tips helpful and get inspired to travel more!

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