We took the bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta and then caught a collectivo up the hill to Minca. Minca is a wonderful little town in the mountains above Santa Marta with waterfalls and plenty of hiking opportunities. It was a refreshing break from the heat and humidity along the coast. Once we got there, we had to hop on the back of a mototaxi to get us to our hotel. It cost 10,000 pesos each, which we thought was a little expensive, but it was better than walking all that way with our heavy bags. We stayed at Casa del Pozo Azul, a nice hotel along the river about 2 km outside of town. We loved our room which had an outdoor shower that overlooked the river and the first hot water that we had had in weeks. Not bad for $30 a night.
Pozo Azul and Cascada Marinka are 2 popular waterfalls to visit around Minca. Since Pozo Azul was only about 1/2 a kilometer from our hotel, we decided to visit it first. It is a very popular day trip destination for people visiting from Santa Marta. It’s a series of falls and pools. We went on a Sunday and there were hundreds of people that had the same idea. It was still fun swimming around in the cool water. Might be a good idea to try to get there early in the morning if you are looking to
avoid the crowds. Cascada Marinka is less crowded and more remote. We decided to walk, which we almost always do to save money and get our steps in. It took us about an hour and a half from our hotel. We swam for a bit and then grabbed a couple of beers at the bar/restaurant overlooking the falls. It was worth the hike up the hill.
For us, Minca was a breath of fresh air after the four days we spent in the heat in Cartagena. You are at a higher elevation, up in the midst of a cloud forest, and surrounded by green jungle. We met our budget every day that we were there. We walked into town and back, the cost to enter Cascada Marinka was 4,000 COP/each, and the food in town was delicious and cheap.
We took the collectivo from Minca to Santa Marta, which cost 8,000 COP per person and takes about 45 minutes. The collectivo takes you into town and drops you off in front of their office. When we exited the man who sells tickets asked where we were going and directed us around the corner to take the city bus to Taganga. The city bus was only 1,500 COP each, and we didn’t have to wait long. We found Santa Marta to be a little rough. Definitely a place where you want to watch your belongings and be extremely aware of your surroundings. We heard there are some spectacular beaches there, but will save them for the next time around.
Tayrona National Park
Taganga is a dusty little down, with dirt roads, and has a reputation for being a little sketchy at night. We stayed at Summer Hostel just two nights with one purpose: Tayrona National Park. You have to take a bus from Taganga and it is about an hour drive (do not forget your passport for entrance). Once inside the park, the bus conductor tells you where the entrance is, what time, and where to catch a ride back. We walked for about two hours before reaching the beach. It was pristine with soft white sand underneath your feet and warm, clear water to swim in. There is a spot to camp, and also a huge cabana where you can sleep in a hammock (we decided not to – if you do, please tell us how it was). This was the first time for us seeing Cotton-top Tamarins and they are ADORABLE! After the park experience it was time for us to move on.
Tip: Do not forget your passport, as you will need it to enter the park. A photo on your phone will suffice.