Only half an hour’s car drive 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 some 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 in another – it is here in Minca, Santa Marta that the incredible diversity of Colombia really hits home.
The main village of Minca has some awesome and cheap places to stay, as well as a few great local restaurants and cafés. After reading this guide, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most out of your trip to Minca!
Minca Map & Resources
Minca, Colombia – Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Minca, Colombia
Minca can be visited year-round, however, different times of the year offer a different experience. The best months to visit Minca are from November to February (winter) with warm/hot 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, so if you’re not a fan of crowds, it’s best to avoid these times. Accommodation costs rise during the summer months but booking in advance should mean you avoid peak prices.
March to May is considered the spring in Minca and these are the least crowded months to visit. During this time, you’re likely to get cheap deals on hotels and benefit from 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 be little muddy!
Is Minca, Colombia Safe?
The Colombian Paramilitary indeed used to control the land around Minca for decades. In fact, Minca was completely shut off to tourists until very recently, around 2010! Even the locals were scared to visit.
Today, however, you’ll see many backpackers and Colombian families enjoying the beautiful hiking trails and waterfalls around Minca. The enthusiasm of the local people as they get the chance to explore their country 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 the three months we’ve spent in Colombia, Minca feels like one of the safest places we’ve been in Colombia, due to the friendly locals, village atmosphere and burgeoning backpacker scene.
“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 about safety before travelling and were apprehensive about setting off on treks alone in the mountains. However, we did this several times without any issues in Minca.”Tyler
Where to Stay in Minca, Colombia
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There are lots of budget options around town, yet as tourism is increasing in the area, many of the hotels are becoming more upmarket and expensive. If you want to feel really close to nature, there is even glamping! Here are some of our absolute favourite backpacker digs in Minca…
Best Hostels in Minca
OUR TOP PICK! Casa Loma
You will find an absolutely amazing community of backpackers sharing this hippie hideaway on the hill (loma)! With a range of accommodations to suit all budgets, from hammocks and dorms to jungle cabañas with private balconies, there is something for all kinds of traveller!
There is an excellent on-site veggie restaurant and coworking space which is free for guests. With yoga, massage, cacao ceremonies and tantric sunset sessions, this is a free-spirited stay which you’ll never forget. We can’t recommend it enough! Beds go fast so make sure you book in advance.
“Casa Loma is only of my favourite places I’ve ever stayed. I woke up in the mornings to the sound of nature all around me and got a front row seat at the best sunset spot in Minca. The hostel staff were friendly and accommodating and there was even somewhere I could work on my laptop. I’d go back in heartbeat.”
A popular hostel set in beautiful surroundings while still being close to town. Offering private rooms and dorms, breakfast is included and drinking water, tea and coffee are available around the clock. The communal chill-out areas are great and booze is cheap too. Less than $3USD for a glass of wine? Count us in!
Set in a Colombian finca, Finca Hostal Bolivar is a small and quaint accommodation option for budget backpackers. The place has just a few rooms, allowing you the opportunity to really get to know the other guests. There is a well-equipped communal kitchen which makes whipping up your own meals a breeze.
Costeño River Minca offers guests a wonderful relaxing stay just a short walk from the town centre. Thrifty travellers will love the dorm rooms but beware, they get hot at night! The real magic of Costeño River Minca is the private rooms. The standard doubles are in unique, palm-roofed huts with shared bathrooms. The ensuite rooms house beautiful bathrooms with the more expensive options also featuring private balconies. Guests have access to the fantastic swimming pool, which offers a great place to relax, unwind and meet fellow backpackers!
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 tightrope walk and a treehouse. We might be well into the twenties but there is still no WiFi – remote workers should go elsewhere.
OUT OF TOWN: Masaya Casas Viejas
Another option located outside Minca is the Masaya-run Casas Viejas. Known for its stunning location and friendly vibe, it is a good choice for those who like to be in the thick of nature. It also offers one of the best swimming pools around, a big plus for those who find the warm weather of Santa Marta and the surroundings a bit stifling!
Also read: Top Minca hostels for backpackers.
A Note About WiFi…
Best Ecolodges in Minca
If you’re looking to treat yourself, these special bamboo cottages are just divine! The cabañas are located in the jungle so you’ll feel like you’re staying in the heart of nature. 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.
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.). Daily yoga classes make this place feel more like a retreat than an ecolodge!
Nestled in an old coffee farm, Mundo Nuevo Ecolodge is a little pricier than other hostels in Colombia but offers unrivalled views, easy access to surrounding hiking trails and a beautiful infinity pool in front of the incredible mountain vista! The onsite restaurant provides excellent meals and the communal areas make it easy to meet other travellers! Mundo Nuevo is more than accommodation, it’s an eco-museum designed to encourage thought and debate on how we can save our planet! It’s a little way out of town, so you either need to walk or get a mototaxi from Minca.
Things to Do in Minca, Colombia
Whether you want to relax and unwind, hike, go bird watching or visit some epic waterfalls, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Minca!
1. Pozo Azul Swimming Hole
This beautiful set of swimming holes is still worth visiting, despite its popularity. 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 stunning 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 inch by inch into the freezing (sorry, refreshing!) water.
Remember, Pozo Azul is also not the unspoilt paradise it once was… Big buses full of tourists from Santa Marta mean you can see 300 people at the swimming hole all at once nowadays! Your best bet is to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the chaos.
2. Las Cascadas de Marinka (Minca) Waterfalls
A one-hour walk outside 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 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 10,000 COP per person to enter the three stages of the falls.
Bear in mind that the waterfall gets much busier than the first photo implies (see below) – avoid the weekends if you don’t like crowds!
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 at the top, it’s possible to see the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevadas (usually best seen early in the morning!). The day trek takes around 5-7 hours in total and unfortunately, you can’t avoid a solid two-hour climb uphill – but it’s worth it!
5. 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.
6. Watch the Sunset at Casa Loma
Watching the sunset in Minca is nothing short of an event and the best place to catch the sunset is from the beautiful bar terrace at Casa Loma. Get yourself an Aguila, grab a cushion and relax as the sky shifts into hues of pink and orange. Amazing!
7. Visit La Victoria Coffee Farm
This is by no means a big commercial coffee farm… They accept visitors and they won’t even 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 the original machines which are still run on water. German-born, American-educated owner Micky cuts out the middlemen and pays coffee farmers a fair wage.
Take a motorbike taxi there (around 20,000 COP) and the journey will take around 20 minutes. The trail takes around an hour and a half on foot. A tour of the farm costs 20,000 COP per person and includes a cup of coffee. Read more about La Victoria Coffee Farm in this article.
8. Mountain Biking, Motorbike Riding and ATVs
Several travel agencies can take you into the mountains around Minca and show you an amazing adrenaline-fuelled adventure! There are tours for beginners or advanced cyclists and you can book from tour agencies and hostels in the town. If you want something a bit more fast-paced, rent a motorbike or ATV.
9. Bird Watching at Hotel Minca
Grab dinner and watch the tiny buzzing hummingbirds less than a metre away from the beautiful balcony at the charming Hotel Minca – La Casona. It’s a wonderfully relaxing experience and a must for any twitcher! If you want to wake up to this wondrous sight, the rooms at Hotel Minca also come very well-rated.
10. Spot Toucans on a Birdwatching Tour
A number of agencies offer birdwatching tours around Minca. Beginner-friendly and starting at 6 am every morning, these tours are a great way to get an introduction to twitching. Tours begin at around 50,000COP per person. Talk to Jungle Joe (below) to book.
11. Check out 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!
12. Trek to La Ciudad Perdida
The Lost City Trek (La Ciudad Perdida) is an absolute must-do for travellers in Colombia. It can be booked online in advance or direct in Minca. Rates for the trek are set by the government so it’s unlikely you’ll get a better price if booking in person.
This amazing trek takes you through indigenous Kogi villages and finishes at Colombia’s ‘Lost City’, often striking comparisons with Machu Picchu.
If you’re staying longer in Minca, you may have time for the following epic adventures which take two days or more…
13. Trek to Cerro Kennedy
An overnight trip which takes two days and one night. It will take you to the viewpoint of Los Nevados (snow peaks). On 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.
14. 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, run by Swiss guy Guiseppe and Colombian Ana-Maria. For more information ask our friends at Casa Loma!
15. Visit the Village of Paso del Mango
Enjoy the amazing scenery in this traditional village one hour from Minca amid 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.
Food and Drink in Minca
As Minca continues to establish itself as the backpacking hub of Colombia, more and more great food options catering to foreigners have popped up. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Bururake – Friendly staff and great food with delicious homemade sauces, (also great 241 cocktails!). This place is a quirky gem! Try the ‘Pollo Tropicale’.
- Lazy Cat – Great place for lunch on their forested balcony – delicious wraps, pasta and fruit shakes. Look out for the gringos sitting outside!
- Cattleya Fast Food & Souvenirs – If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful bite to eat, don’t miss the holy grail of arepas! There are also veggie options available.
- Soul Kitchen – Located at Casa Loma, this veggie restaurant offers a variety of western and Colombian plant-based dishes to tantalise your tastebuds. If you’re not staying here, combine a dinner visit with a sunset view.
Getting Around Minca, Colombia
Minca is a small pueblo, making it easily walkable. Moto taxis (a literal motorbike) are available for trips a little further out.
Getting to Minca, Colombia
Minca is located just 30-45 minutes from Santa Marta. You can get a bus from the Plaza Mercado which will cost you around 9,000 COP. These depart regularly and leave when they are full.
Where to Go Next:
Parque Tayrona: Switch from the mountains to the beach! This national park, complete with stunning white beaches is many travellers’ next destination from Minca.
Santa Marta: This coastal city is the jumping-off point for many destinations and backpackers often spend a night or two here in the city before heading on to more adventures.
Barranquilla: The city where Shakira was born! Shakira Shakira! This built-up city is only really an attraction for travellers during the famous carnival celebrations which take place at the beginning of March.