We had heard mixed reviews about this beach town just outside of Santa Marta, but we ended up really loving this place! It’s a basic chill beach town, with dirt roads, ocean side vendors and some fun restaurants to try out. The main beach is mostly dominated by fishing boats, but a short 15 – 20 minute walk along the cliffs will get you to beaches where you can relax and swim. The main reason we went was for the cheap diving, and it didn’t disappoint. If you’re looking for a place to relax and unwind for a few days in bustling Colombia, Taganga is the place to go.
How to Get There
Taganga is a quick 10 minute taxi ride from Santa Marta, and it should only cost you 10,000 COP. Alternatively you can hop on one of the many blue buses with “km 11 Taganga” signs in the window, which will take you to Taganga in about 15 minutes for 1500 COP. The buses are everywhere, but they are guaranteed to show up at the Mercado Publico, the main bus hub in Santa Marta. The buses do get busy, so try to avoid going in rush hour, especially if you’re taking your whole backpack.
If you want to take a bus on your way back into Santa Marta, wait in front of the only ATM in town, at the corner of Calle 13 and the main road.
Where to Stay
Sierraventura Hostel – We splurged a little bit on this one, but it was well worth it after our rough night in Tayrona. Our private double 80,000 COP room came with all the perks a backpacker could want: Aircon, private bathroom with a great hot shower, a safe, and working wifi in the room. The hostel had an awesome pool and chill areas to lounge in. They also open up a small bar on weekends, but sell relatively cheap drinks from a fridge by reception when it’s closed. All of that AND it’s only 5 minutes from the beach.
What to Do
- Playa Grande – We’ve heard this beach gets unruly and packed on the weekends, but when we were there during the week, the crowds were manageable. It’s a much nicer beach than what you’ll find in the south corner of the main town. There are restaurants offering cheap drinks, and guys selling ice cream and popsicles walking along the beach. It’s not the most beautiful beach you’ll encounter, but the water is clear and warm, and it’s a little bizarre to be able to swim in the ocean surrounded by cacti (in a good way of course). You can get there by walking along a trail for 15-20 minutes beginning at the north end of the main beach in town, which takes you up the cliffs and back down to Playa Grande. Alternatively you can pay 7000 COP for a boat ride over, but if you’re able the walk is easy.
- Other beaches – If you’re looking for more pristine untouched sand you’ll have to be willing to pay a pretty penny. You can reach some really nice beaches in Tayrona Park via boat, including Playa Blanca, Bahia Concha or even Cabo San Juan, but you’ll be looking at 50- 80,000 COP ($23 – $36 CAD) round trip.
- Scuba Dive – Taganga is known as one of the cheapest places in the world to dive. There are multiple dive shops around, ranging from 150,000 COP to 210,000 COP for a two dive trip ($67 – $94 CAD). We went with Octopus Diving for 150,000 COP and were fairly indifferent about them. The boat was pretty squished, and although we were told we would have our own dive guide to ourselves, we ended up in a group of five for the first dive. We did end up by ourselves on the second dive, though our guide was constantly rushing us around the reef so we just ended up ignoring him and took our time checking out the coral. In between our two dives we made a landing at a basic beach and had an underwhelming snack. Most dives will take you to Isle de la Aguja off the coast of Tayrona Park. The area is nice to dive in, we saw lots of moray eels, as well as trunkfish and puffers. If you are looking to get your diving certification, we would definitely recommend checking Taganga out as it is a basic place for learners and soooo cheap! Other dive centres we would recommend you check out are Nautilus Dive Centre (on the cheaper side but very nice!), Tayrona Dive Centre, Oceano Scuba Dive Centre, and Poseidon (which comes well recommended but is on the more expensive side!).
Where to Eat
- Pachamama – Hidden down a side street, Pachamama embraces the beach vibe with bare sand floors and a hippie aesthetic. Cocktails are half off during happy hour from 6-10pm, and the tapas are cheap, although fairly small. Definitely a place to check out if you want to snack and have a few drinks.
- Babaghanoush – A great spot for a delicious sunset dinner. The restaurant is raised up and provides an amazing view of the beach and bay below (seen in the picture to the right!). It’s a little expensive (23-27,000 COP), but the meals are big and also come with free bread and hummus. We recommend getting a big glass of fresh juice for 5000 COP, sitting back with your meal and spending a nice evening here.
- Yammy Yammy – We ended up here for dinner and were pleasantly surprised. The patacones here are awesome!
- Cafe Tropico – This small cafe is close to Sierraventura hostel, and lured us in with promises of good brunch. Not the cheapest cafe, but the meals were yummy and the modern air conditioned shop is a nice getaway from the heat of the beach.