Lush green mountains, magical waterfalls and beautiful views await you in the small mountain town in northern Colombia. Travel just an hour up into the mountains and away from the chaotic city of Santa Marta and you’re there! Use one of the hostels as your base for day hikes or trek further up and stay in one of the many secluded hostels or “fincas” for a truly amazing experience! Minca is the perfect balance of relaxation and exploration, and we definitely recommend it as a top destination for Colombia!
How To Get There
We took a bus to Minca from Santa Marta, in a small van that left from the Minca bus stop (marked on maps.me on the corner of Calle 12 and Carrera 9 near the Mercado Publico). It was 8000 COP/person with Cootrasminca (bus company) and it took just under an hour to get up the mountains and into the town. The bus drops you off near the centre of the small town, and any of the in-town hostels are within walking distance.
On the way back head to the bus stop you were dropped off at originally, and buy tickets there. This bus will drop you off at the market where you boarded on the way to Minca. If you’re heading to Tayrona National Park or the airport, you can also ask to be dropped off at the Mamatoco Roundabout, and from there catch a taxi to your next destination. This will be more direct and allow you to avoid city traffic.
Where to Stay
- Hotel Brisas de Minca – A small family run hotel right next to the town’s bus stop. It’s clean and for 64,000 COP/night, offers a good price for a room. Also includes a good breakfast, private bathroom and while the shower isn’t HOT, it definitely does the trick in the hot weather! Full disclaimer, we found the beds a little hard! There is also only wifi in the common area. We stayed here for 3 nights and they even let us keep our big bags there when we went to stay overnight at our next hostel. If you’re staying for more than one night, you can try to bargain the overall price down a bit. You can book online here.
- Mundo Nuevo – This is a “finca” or farm located about an hour trek north of the main town. This amazing hostel provides a unique experience in the mountains. It is completely vegetarian, self-sustainable, and most of the food is grown on site. Your breakfast is included in the price of your room or bed and each meal after that is 15,000 COP. As you are pretty isolated the odds are that you will be eating all your meals there but trust us, its DELICIOUS! Fresh, homemade, and so filling! Panoramic views of the surrounding mountains leave you speechless, and as it’s located just across from a chocolate farm (yes seriously), the location is prime! The friendly staff provide information on how to get to all of the well known treks and waterfalls in the area. There are also amazing opportunities to enhance your experience by learning to make homemade bread and fresh soap, or to visit the nearby native village, or even to garden for a few days and learn about sustainable living. They also help you with longer journeys such as the Lost City trek! To get here, you can do a moderate uphill trek for about 50 minutes or take an 8000 COP/person motorcycle ride up. We highly recommend that you book ahead, as it’s a popular place and there’s not a ton of rooms/beds. You also don’t want to make that climb and find out there’s no room left! You can book online here.
What to Do
- Pozo Azul – A well known waterfall in the area, Pozo Azul makes for a great afternoon of swimming and exploring! It’s under an hour walk (can be done in flip flops), or an 8000/COP mototaxi one way. Entry to the falls is free, and it’s a great spot to cool off and enjoy the jungle. You can cross the first pool and venture upstream to more secluded areas. If you’re really adventurous you can venture just past the “No Entry” sign and you’ll have a pool all to yourself with three waterfalls flowing into it!
- Take a Night Safari or Go Birdwatching at “Faunal” – Located about a 10 minute walk from Pozo Azul, this small conservation area called Faunal offers a lot of different activities. Stroll by on your way back from Pozo Azul and enjoy coffee and juice for 5000 COP while birdwatching in the backyard. Take a hike around the area and try to see toucans! You can also book a night safari for 40,000 COP (this can be booked at Cafe Minca in the town as well). We didn’t do the night safari but we heard there was potential to see howler monkeys! Pretty awesome!
- Waterfall Hike to Casa Elemento – Home of the giant hammock that you might have seen on Instagram, Casa Elemento is a hostel overlooking the mountains of Minca. Make a day of hiking up to it for the view, while visiting some awesome waterfalls on the way! To get there follow the road out of town that starts just past the café La Miga. About 25 to 30 minutes in, you will see a a gap in the fence and a path leading down to “secret vladi waterfall” (it’s marked on Maps.Me). Once down the path and to the falls, continue left for a shallow swimming area, or right across the bamboo bridge for more falls. After getting back to the main road continue your hike for another 45 minutes before you see signs for the Cascada de Marinka, massive falls with great swimming! You will have to pay a 4,000 COP entry fee for these larger falls. We stopped for lunch here and spent an hour or so swimming and relaxing. Another hour of steep uphill on the same path will get you to Casa Elemento where you can rest on the giant hammock and take in the beautiful view. Apparently you’re supposed to pay to enjoy the hammock, but we were never asked. Just a heads up that you may have to! Now the question is: is it worth it? There was a LOT of hype about this hostel online, and though we found it relaxing and pretty cool, you don’t NEED to visit this giant hammock in order to truly experience Minca. Our advice would be to see how you’re feeling that day. We preferred the view from Mundo Neuvo way more.
- Los Pinos – A lookout with a few standout pine trees is just a 20 minute walk from the entry to Casa Elemento. We’ve been told the view is great, but you need to go early before the fog sets in or else you’ll only see white (as our picture shows!). We walked from here back down to Minca and it took us 2.5 hours.
- Visit La Candellaria – This is a chocolate and coffee farm nestled in the mountains, next to Mundo Nuevo. It is a 15 minute walk from Mundo Nuevo or an hour hike up from Minca. There aren’t designated tour times, they’ll start a tour anytime during the day if you have a group of 3 or more. You can choose to do either a coffee or chocolate tour, and our understanding is that they just decide based on what the majority of the tourists wanted. A tour is 20,000 COP per person and lasts about an hour. We chose a chocolate tour and really enjoyed it. They took us through the whole process and gave us each a taste of hot chocolate, and even a homemade chocolate face mask to try! You can also buy homemade chocolate cake to munch on while your mask is on, cacao or coffee beans for 15,000 COP (3 for 40,000 COP) and homemade honey for 15,000 COP . Take them home as a souvenir!
Where to Eat
- Café Miga – We fell in love with this adorable cafe when we ventured over and they offered us a taster of each of the homemade breads they have in the shop. They have sourdough, chocolate chip and delicious baguette among others! They also offered homemade spreads and dips like cream cheese, baba ghanoush and hummus. For just 7000 COP you could get a half loaf of bread and two dips. The coffee was also delicious. Hint: Grab a loaf of bread and your favourite dip before you head on your hikes! Perfect for lunch or snacks!
- Lazy Cat – This popular backpacker restaurant offers good food and a great happy hour from 5-7:00pm: 6000 COP Lazy Toucans (local beer), 6000 COP cocktails and 9500 COP burgers. Dishes ranged from 10,000 COP to 17,000 COP and had a range of vegetarian options as well. It had a funky vibe and we definitely ate here more than once!
- Smoothies and Coffee – Surprisingly, this restaurant provides great pizza as well! You can split a medium pizza for 20-25,00 COP between two people. The only thing we wouldn’t recommend were the hummus plates; they were kind of dinky! This place doesn’t sell alcohol but lets you bring in beer from the convenience store down the street. Comment to let us know if you go there for the smoothies (we never actually tried them)!
There isn’t a whole lot going on at night in Minca, but there was one place that had some fun music and bright lights going. It didn’t have a name and the way we found it was by seeing the lights flashing down the river from the main bridge in town. Across from the Smoothies & Coffee place, there are stairs leading down to a small and simple open air cement “club”. To get drinks, there is a man behind a counter and you can go up, order and pay, then take your drinks where you please. There is fun music playing, a little bit of dancing. Why not check it out?