Only half an hour drive in a car from the bright lights of Santa Marta, Minca, Colombia, is a mountainous paradise! Here, temperatures are cooler than in Santa Marta and nature is abundant.
Cascading waterfalls, clean fresh mountain air, hiking trails, organic coffee plantations, hummingbirds, toucans and a variety of other colourful birdlife makes Minca a haven for nature lovers.
From certain viewpoints on the trails in the mountains it is possible to see the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada in one direction and the exotic white beaches of the Caribbean – it is here in Minca that the incredible diversity of Colombia really hits home. (See more on the best treks to do from Minca below…)
The main village of Minca has some awesome and cheap places to stay as well as a few really great local restaurants and cafés. After reading this guide, you’ll be well prepared for making the most of your trip to Minca!
When is the best time to visit Minca, Colombia?
Minca can be visited all year round. However, at certain times will be busier than others.
The best months to visit Minca is November to February (winter) with warm weather (highest 33 degrees), little rain and sunny, bright days, great for hiking.
The busiest months for tourists are December, as well as June, July and August (hot summer months), so if you’re trying to avoid crowds it could be best to avoid this season, also hotel prices rise during this time. However, if you book accommodation in advance, you can avoid paying more.
March to May is considered the spring in Minca and are the least crowded months to visit when you’re likely to get good cheap deals on hotels and empty hiking trails. The weather at this time is still pleasant and good for hiking. Autumn (September to November) is also a fine time to visit, though these months see the most rain, so hiking can get a little muddy!
Is Minca, Colombia Safe?
During the week that we stayed in Minca, we felt safe the entire time. As two girls travelling alone in Colombia, we had researched a lot on safety before travelling and were apprehensive about setting off on treks alone in the mountains, which we did several times without any issues in Minca.
It’s true that the Colombian Paramilitary used to control the lands around Minca for decades and Minca was actually completely shut off to tourists until very recently, around 2010. Even locals were scared to visit.
Today, however, you’ll see many backpackers and Colombian families enjoying the beautiful hiking trails and waterfalls around Minca and the enthusiasm of the local people as they get the chance to explore their country once again is infectious. Like anywhere you travel, don’t wander around with valuables on show, especially late at night. Have your wits about you and chances are you’ll be fine. In our opinion, Minca felt like one of the safest places that we’d travelled in Colombia due to the friendly locals, village atmosphere and great hostels.
Where to Stay in Minca, Colombia
There are lots of budget options around town, yet as tourism is increasing in the area, the hotels are becoming more upmarket and expensive. The cheapest dorm bed you’ll find is around $5 USD, while many rooms average at $50 USD per night. There’s even glamping! Here are some of our absolute favourite backpacker hostels and guesthouses in Minca…
The Best Hostels in Minca:
OUR TOP PICK! Hostal Casa Loma – You will find an absolutely amazing community of travellers sharing this colourful house on the hill (loma)! With a range of accommodations to suit all budgets from hammocks and dorms to treehouses and luxury double rooms with private balconies and amazing views! Meals are excellent (plenty of options for vegetarians) join in the family dinners every night, a great place to meet fellow backpackers. With yoga, massage, social gatherings, open-air cinema featuring an international selection of films, and a friendly atmosphere (no WIFI, makes actual conversations a must) this English and German-owned hostel is a truly unique experience – we can’t recommend it enough! Beds go fast so make sure you book in advance.
The Chill Out Hostel: A friendly family-run hostel with tents as well as dorm beds, starting at just $5 USD per night. Set in a lovely location with a beautiful terrace with great views, it’s a great place to relax with a good book and watch hummingbirds flying around. All in all, cheerful, clean, spacious and the cheapest option in Minca!
Hostal Coco Bomgo: A friendly and fun hostel in the heart of town with beds starting at $8 USD. Travellers rave about the delicious free breakfast with different foods every day, as well as the free coffee and juices free all day.
Casa Relax Minca Guesthouse: A relaxing hostel that’s great value for money with a lovely outdoor swimming pool! Views of green mountains from the rooms, a games room, shared kitchen and common area and free breakfast make this place a big hit with travellers! Did we mention the amazing pool? Dorm beds from $10 USD. Private rooms from $46 USD.
OUT OF TOWN: Hostal Sierra Minca: It’s a right trek to get there (30 minutes by van from Minca town) – but the views at the top of the remote hill where Hostal Sierra Minca is situated are worth the journey. Run by a group of ex-backpackers, the place feels like a playground for adults with (what they claim) is the world’s biggest hammock, a tight ropewalk and a treehouse. Barbecues and party atmosphere. No wifi, dorm-style accommodation.
The Best Ecolodges in Minca:
Minca Ecohabs: If you’re looking to treat yourself these special bamboo cottages are just divine! The cottages are located in the jungle so you’ll feel like your staying very close to nature and a delicious breakfast is provided, served up in a gorgeous setting with a great view of the surrounding mountains. Great for birdwatching and hiking trails. Cottages with mosquito net, balcony, hammock and view from $56 USD.
Finca Carpe Diem Ecolodge: This is the perfect spot for hiking and nature lovers located not in Minca itself, but in the village of Paso del Mango, a beautiful tropical valley crossed by two rivers (one hour from Minca town). The lodge has three swimming pools, magnificent views over virgin forests and river access at their doorstep. There are dozens of hikes and tours you can do from here (waterfalls, bees, coffee, cacao, etc.). Other reasons for visiting this beautiful nature lodge are the daily yoga classes and farm-to-table dinners. A very important cornerstone for Carpe Diem is their organic farm and the growing of organic food (always delicious vegetarian options) in a sustainable way. Lodges start at $41 USD.
15 Things to do in Minca, Colombia
1. Las Cascadas de Marinka (Minca) Waterfalls
A 45 minutes / one-hour walk outside of town along an undulating track will take you to these beautiful cascadas (Waterfalls) where you can splash around in the cold mountain water, take a refreshing shower and just absorb the gorgeous surroundings. To get there, walk past the church on your left and keep going straight up the hill until you see a sign that reads “Finca la Esperanza, La Cascadas Minka.” It’s 5,000 COP per person to enter the two stages of the falls.
2. Pozo Azul Swimming Holes
A beautiful set of swimming holes with small waterfalls all around – a walk to Pozo Azul will take around 45 minutes from the main village. The further up the river you climb the more you will discover unspoiled river spots amidst the tropical jungle. At the main swimming hole, there’s a swing where you can jump right in the river to avoid the agonising edging in of body parts inch by inch into the freezing, sorry refreshing, water. Update – Pozo Azul is also not the unspoiled paradise it once was, big bus fulls from tour agencies in Santa Marta are bringing people up and it can have over 300 people at a time nowadays! The best bet is to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the chaos.
3. Las Piedras Trek
Where the waterfall stream meets the River Minca, Las Piedras is a beautiful relaxing spot only a 15-minute walk from the village, perfect for those who want an easy trek to paradise.
4. Los Pinos Trek
A spectacular day trek that takes you on a loop around the mountains of Minca walking past both Pozo Azul and Las Cascadas. On a clear day right from the top, after passing through cloud forest to the highest point on the trek it is possible to see the snowy peaks (usually best seen early in the morning!). The day trek takes around 5-7 hours all round – and either way, you can’t avoid a solid two hours uphill climb – but it’s worth it!
5. Watch the sunset at Casa Loma
Probably one of the best places to watch the sunset in Minca from the beautiful quirky terrace of Casa Loma. Get yourself an Aquilar, pick your deckchair and relax as the sky changes to hues of pinks and oranges. Amazing! (Header photo.)
6. Visit a local family farm
Around an hour’s walk from the village, you will come across a local family farm where they grow vegetables by hand using simple methods, coffee, make sweets from fruit – the lovely family will take you around the farm.
7. Visit La Victoria Coffee Farm
By no means is this a big commercial coffee farm – they accept visitors onto the local family farm – and they won’t try to sell you coffee – they will give you a free tinto though! You can take a tour of the coffee farm and see all of the original machines which are all run on water until this day. German-born, American educated owner Micky cuts out the middlemen and pays coffee farmers a fair wage. Take a motorbike taxi there (around 15,000 COP) – it’s about one hour and a half to walk or 20 minutes by moto. The tour of the farm costs 15,000 COP per person. Read more about La Victoria Coffee Farm in this article.
8. Mountain Biking
Several travel agencies can take you in the mountains around Minca and show you an amazing adrenalin-fuelled adventure! There are tours for beginners or advanced and you can book from Casa Loma or other hostels in the town.
9. Visit Museo Minca
The only museum in Minca is definitely worth a visit especially for those travellers looking to find out how they can help support the local community of Minca! (Open Tuesday-Saturday from 2pm – 7pm.) Museo Minca is a community storytelling museum based on years of interviews with members of the local community. It is home to history about the four indigenous groups of the Sierra Nevada, the arrival of coffee, the roots of the town and families who settled here, both sides of the armed conflict, and the transformation caused by the arrival of tourism.
The museum is free and the storytelling experience is donation based, which funds community projects aimed to rebuild the sense of community destroyed by the conflict (community events and activities), support opportunities for locals (free English classes, business workshops, marketing) and facilitate intercultural exchange and understanding. You can see some visitors’ comments here on TripAdvisor.
10. Bird watching at Hotel Minca
Have a coffee and watch tiny buzzing hummingbirds less than a metre away from the beautiful balcony view at the charming Hotel Minca – La Casona. It’s a wonderful relaxing experience and a must for any twitcher! If you want to wake up to this wondrous sight, a room at Hotel Minca will set you back $30 USD.
If you’re staying longer in Minca, you may have time for the following epic adventures which take two days or more…
11. Trek to Cerro Kennedy:
An overnight trip taking two days and one night will take you to the viewpoint of Los Nevados (snow peaks) – one a clear day this is surely one of the most incredible views in the whole of Colombia as you can see the coast, city and snow-capped mountains from the same spot! You can arrange the trek with a guide in the town. Read more about the Cerro Kennedy Trek here.
12. Extreme Camping at Bella Vista:
Only for hardcore adventurers – local Minca man Juan Carlos can take you camping in the wilderness where you stay overnight with no water, electricity or bathroom – but the fresh food cooked on an open fire and incredible views make up for the rustic surroundings! Ask at Casa Loma for more information.
13. Volunteer on a farm:
Many of the farms in the area happily accept volunteers. Check out La Tagua Farm run by an excellent chef (Adam) or Finca Semilla, ran by Swiss guy Guiseppe and Colombian Ana-Maria. For more information (yep – you guessed it!) ask our friends at Casa Loma!
14. Jungle Joe’s Adventures:
Local Colombian Jungle Joe can help you to explore off the beaten track adventures around Minca – from tubing along the River Minca to bird watching, the tours are a great way to explore!
15. Visit the Village of Paso del Mango
Enjoy the amazing scenery in this traditional village one hour from Minca in the midst of the rainforest. It fully merits its name because of the abundant mango trees. Discover indigenous ancient ruins (there used to be a Tayrona town about 100 years ago), spectacular mountain views, beautiful waterfalls, natural pools, and coffee and cacao farms. This is an ideal place for relaxation, meditation and outdoor activities.
Places to eat in Minca
The options for great places to eat are certainly growing in Minca as more travellers head up the hill. Here are a few we tried personally…
- Bururake – Friendly staff and great food with delicious homemade sauces, (also great 2 for 1 cocktails!) this place is a quirky gem! Try the ‘Pollo Tropicale’.
- Lazy Cat – Great place for lunch on their forested balcony – delicious wraps, pastas and fruit shakes – German owned and one of the only places in town with WIFI. (Don’t expect t o get fast WIFI anywhere in town!)
- Casa Ei Mox Muica – Delicious Crepes and pastas with Colombian style fruit salsas – this place serves great food in a cool house with just a few tables – Andrea and Andreas are the hosts (Andrea is also an artist).
Getting to Minca from Santa Marta
Minca is located just 30-45 minutes from Santa Marta by car. You can get a taxi from the Plaza Mercado which will cost you 7,000 COP.
Where to go next
Parque Tayrona – This National Park with stunning white beaches fringing the Caribbean is many travellers next destination from Minca – making a great switch from the mountains to the beach! The park can be easily reached by the small fishing village/backpacker ghetto of Taganga.
Lost City Trek (La Ciudad Perdida) – Tours can be booked from Minca for this amazing six-day trek taking you through indigenous Kogi villages and ending up at an ancient Inca city that strikes comparisons with Macchu Picchu.
Santa Marta – This coastal city is a jump-off point for many destinations and backpackers often spend a night or two here in the city before heading on to further adventures.
Barranquilla – City where Shakira was born! Shakira Shakira! This built-up city is only really an attraction for travellers during the famous Carnival at the beginning of March.