Located just 5km north of Santa Marta, backpackers used to flood to Taganga, Colombia.
Initially planning to spend only a few nights, they often ended up staying for weeks after falling in love with the town’s charm and accessibility. The gorgeous bay and green mountains are undoubtedly beautiful.
However, reports of crime and run down, dirty streets (see comments below this article for example) have affected Taganga’s image in the South America backpacking scene. While some travellers still rave about the place, others shun it in favour of other nearby towns.
Whoever you ask, there is a mix of opinions about Taganga. The best thing to do is to go check it out for yourself!
Taganga, Colombia – Travel Guide
Taganga Map and Resources
Best Time to Visit Taganga, Colombia
Much like Santa Marta, Taganga is hot year-round and the dry season of December-March is the best time to visit. During these months, it’s less humid and a cooling breeze off the sea often blows through in the afternoons.
December-January is a popular time for Colombians to travel to Taganga so expect accommodation prices to go up around the holiday season and New Year period.
June-September marks the rainy season. Humidity is higher during these months and temperatures can feel stifling.
Is Taganga Safe?
Taganga, Colombia, has garnered a bad reputation in the last decade. The once backpacker hotspot has, in the eyes of some travellers, become a violent and scary place that should be avoided at all costs. You don’t need to spend long on TripAdvisor before stories of travellers being robbed at gunpoint and reports of child sex tourism in the town arise.
“I’m a male from the USA and got robbed by knife by two males in Taganga on Sunday, 2/17/2019. Be extra vigilant at night and while walking alone. I would avoid the steps that run from the main road to the beach, passed the Hotel Mirador de Taganga. I stupidly took these narrow steps at night, alone. Don’t do what I did. Save your self from broken bones (like me) or worse. I hate to scare off any tourists as that is basically the local economy, but you must first have your safety. Many of the locals were tremendously helpful and empathetic to what happened. I appreciate all they did for me.“Quoted from the comments section on our Santa Marta guide!
At one point, there was no doubt that the town was dangerous. In 2018, an illicit sex ring was shut down by Colombian authorities. With many bad guys forced out of town, Taganga sought to restore its reputation and backpackers began to return.
Then the pandemic happened.
Tourism brings a huge amount of revenue to Colombia and when it suddenly stopped in 2020, everyone struggled. As is the case no matter where you are, a poor, hungry population results in increased crime rates and Taganga once again became an apparent no-go zone.
But since the world reopened to tourism, the travel industry in Colombia has grown dramatically and Taganga is safer than it’s been in a decade. Of course, like with many other places in Colombia, you should still exercise caution when visiting. There are areas in Taganga that aren’t safe but your hostel will be able to tell you where to avoid.
Don’t go out alone after dark and always stick to the main areas no matter the time of day. Drugs are common in the town but should be avoided. Narcos used to control the area and they still have a presence here today. You might think it’s just a bit of weed but transactions with dangerous gangs can go south very quickly!
You should be very careful when withdrawing money in Taganga and never carry your valuables with you. If someone does try to mug you, don’t resist. Handing over your phone or wallet is always better than getting stabbed! Besides, that is why we have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is the travel insurance of choice for scores of backpackers!
- Subscription style insurance
- Cheap and flexible
- Available after your trip has started
It’s also worth noting that the police in Taganga have a reputation for being incompetent and corrupt. Don’t expect much help from them should anything happen.
Where to Stay in Taganga, Colombia
The small fishing village of Taganga has a dearth of paved roads but plenty of hostels, guesthouses and hotels. There’s accommodation in Taganga to suit all budgets, from shoestring backpackers to high-flying world travellers.
We recommend staying a little way back from the main road if possible. It can get super lively at the weekends and the music will keep you up all night if your accommodation is close by!
Here are some of our favourite places to stay in Taganga…
Best Taganga Hostels for Backpackers
This hostel, complete with a small swimming pool and hammocks in a tranquil courtyard, is one of Taganga’s most popular! The staff are always on hand to help you with anything you need. Beds are well priced, with dorms and private rooms available, and the whole place is clean and spacious. The hostel is located just a minute’s walk from the centre of Taganga.
Located just over a kilometre from Taganga beach, this chilled-out hostel proves popular with backpackers from across the world. The staff speak a range of languages and are more than willing to help you with any queries! There are dorms and private rooms available and each includes a simple breakfast. The only downside of Hostel Hiplandia is the lack of A/C which means the rooms can be roasting during the day!
Popular in the backpacker scene, Hostel Nirvana is a good choice if you’re looking for a place to stay with a buzzing social vibe. Dorm beds are available for less than $10USD and there are private rooms too. The on-site restaurant serves good food and is open 24/7! The best thing? The awesome swimming pool of course!
A sweet hostel, that’s clean and comfortable. It’s located just a 10-minute walk from the beach with well-priced dormitories and private rooms – all include a fan or two but these do little in the roasting shared dorms. The swimming pool area is a great spot to meet fellow travellers and the rooftop bar offers a range of well-priced drinks!
5. Villa Mary
One of the cheapest options in Taganga, expect to find a dorm bed for around $5USD at Villa Mary! It’s a basic, no-frills, but friendly place, and the staff make sure that backpackers always enjoy their stay! Villa Mary is a wonderful spot to chill and meet fellow travellers. The shared kitchen means you can save even more money by cooking your own dinner too!
Divanga Hostel is primarily aimed at divers but don’t let that put you off. The place is lovingly cared for and the staff do their utmost to accommodate all guests’ needs. Booking dive courses and trips through the hostel unlocks a discount for accommodation, as well as food in their top-quality restaurant! With dorms and private rooms – both available with A/C or fan options – Divanga Hostel has options for all budgets!
Best Flashpacker Accommodation, Taganga
If you’re looking to splash out on a more relaxing stay during your time in Taganga, we recommend these flashpacker favourites!
1. Casa Relax
The beautiful Casa Relax offers exactly what it says on the tin. This adults-only accommodation has a swimming pool, spacious private rooms and great views. Breakfast is included and consists of eggs, toast and fruits. All rooms are private and come with an amazing view, either out to sea or towards the verdant green mountains.
Situated in front of Taganga beach, this hotel is a great base for those exploring the village or heading off on a dive course nearby. An ensuite double starts at approx. $40USD per night and includes an American-style breakfast. The hotel is well-located, with plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance.
Ocean Lovers offers a relaxing place to stay in Taganga. It’s just a 20-metre walk to the beach and the hotel is centrally located, so arranging dive courses or tours around the area is easy! The staff are some of the friendliest you’ll find in Taganga – they’ll help you with any tips or ideas about how to spend your time in the town! The rooms are massive, with each having a private balcony or terrace, ensuite bathroom and cooking facilities. Ocean Lovers is a true home away from home!
Located at the far end of Taganga beach, Casa D’mer is within easy walking of all Taganga’s main attractions while still offering a quiet night – by Taganga standards! The beach is a mere forty metres from the front door and there are plenty of shops and restaurants just a stone’s throw from your room. If you want to prepare your own food, the communal kitchen is clean and well stocked – although it’s not the biggest space so be prepared to get cosy with your fellow travellers!
Things to Do in Taganga, Colombia
1. Visit Taganga Beach
The small beach at Taganga is shared with the harbour and is surrounded by picturesque mountains. It can get extremely busy, especially on weekends, when Colombians descend from the nearby city of Santa Marta.
2. Visit Playa Grande
One of Colombia’s best beaches, Playa Grande has a great viewpoint over the whole coastline and is just a 15-minute walk away. The trail begins to the right of Taganga Beach. If you can’t find it, just ask a local fisherman.
Another option to get to Playa Grande, if you are concerned about safety, is to take a boat from Taganga Beach. A round trip should cost less than 10,000COP (around $2USD) per person. Once at Playa Grande, there are many things to do, from renting kayaks to snorkelling and exploring nearby beaches.
3. Visit Tayrona National Park
The spectacular Tayrona National Park is a must-visit for backpackers, with gorgeous blue waters, wonderful beaches, and dense rainforest – all easily accessible from Taganga.
Getting to Tayrona from Taganga is relatively simple. The simplest way is to get a boat from Taganga dock to Cabo San Juan in Tayrona. This costs around 60,000COP ($12USD) one way and you’ll need to pay your park entry fee too. The entrance fee is around 60,000 to 80,000COP for foreigners depending on the season and approx. 20,000 to 30,000COP for Colombians.
Alternatively, you can opt to visit Tayrona via road and hiking. This will involve either getting a taxi or shuttle from Taganga to one of the Tayrona entrances – Calabazo or Zaino. From there you’ll need to hike into the park. Calabazo is quieter but the hike is longer and more strenuous.
You can also get to Tayrona using public transport. First, you’ll need to get into Santa Marta either by bus or taxi. Then, from Santa Marta, take a bus heading out towards Tayrona, Palomino or Riohacha. Ask the driver to drop you off at your desired entrance.
4. Taganga Diving
Diving is a vibrant industry in Taganga and there are plenty of dive shops offering trips for all experience levels. Most dives will take you to Aguja, a small island that is a part of Tayrona National Park.
Taganga is promoted as one of the cheapest places in South America to get certified to dive. However, it’s worth noting that the quality of the water and biodiversity is limited compared to other dive spots around South America. But don’t let that put you off too much – with some of the lowest prices in the world, get your diving certificate then find some better dives elsewhere!
5. Snorkelling in Taganga
If diving isn’t your thing, consider a snorkelling trip with one of the dive schools. The water straight off Taganga isn’t suitable for snorkelling and the currents in Tayrona make swimming extremely dangerous, so you need to take a tour to make the most of snorkelling in the area.
6. Freediving in Taganga
If you want to take your underwater adventures one step further, why not try the unique sport of freediving? Freediving is taking the plunge, without any underwater breathing apparatus, by simply learning the technique of holding your breath for long periods. Delphinus Freediving Club offers freediving courses in and around Taganga.
7. Take a Fishing Tour with a Local Fisherman
For an authentic ‘Taganga experience’, get chatting to a local fisherman and ask him to take you out on his boat fishing for the day. You’ll have to leave early to get the best catch, but it’ll be worth it as you bob around the beautiful beaches around Taganga before other tourists have even woken up!
Organised tours are available from some hostels in Taganga, or you can negotiate a deal yourself with a fisherman on the beach (brush up on your Spanish before doing so!).
8. Watch the Sunset
As evening approaches, head to a cheap and cheerful bar on Taganga Beach, grab yourself an Aguila and watch the sun disappear into the ocean.
9. Hike the Lost City Trek
10. Visit Minca
If you’re short on time, it is possible to visit the mountain town of Minca on a day trip from Taganga, however, we recommend spending at least a few nights if you can!
Amazing treks, waterfalls, coffee plantations, bird watching and great cafés are all reasons to stay longer in Minca. Don’t miss a stay at Casa Loma – one of our favourite hostels in the whole of South America!
11. Enjoy Taganga’s Nightlife
For such a small place, Taganga has quite a few places to go wild in. However, a typical night out in Taganga ends up with a party on the beach – siempre! Before it gets to that, don’t miss the following Taganga party hotspots…
Republika Divanga: This hostel-turned-bar is a great place to hang out if you want to chill and meet like-minded travellers. The cool owner, Lucy, is a secret DJ who plays a wicked deep-house set (if you ask her nicely). There are tequila shots every night for any traveller who’s up for it, though the vibe is not pushy here, just chilled-out Taganga style.
Love Restaurante Bar: Tempting people in with 2-4-1 cocktails, free shots and promises of ‘amor y amistad’ (love and friendship), this cheerful bar, located right on the beach, is a good place to watch the sunset and start a night of frivolity in Taganga.
The Mirador: On the left and up the stairs of Taganga Beach. The view is incredible but the drinks are a little more expensive. Nevertheless, this place is always packed and has live DJs every night.
Food and Drink in Taganga, Colombia
Most of the hostels in Taganga have kitchens and there are quite a few small shops where you can buy groceries to cook your own meals. But if you get tired of this, or just want to try some amazing comfort food, why not sample the following great options:
Risto Pizza Garibaldi – Traditional Italian cuisine complete with Italian chef, on Calle 14. With great pizza, cocktails (also a happy hour 2×1) and live music every week.
Pachamama – With a variety of tapas, pasta, meat and fish dishes, this atmospheric spot is a favourite among flashpackers in Taganga. Live music in a cool setting, this place is great if you’re looking for a fancy evening in Taganga.
Divanga Bar and Restaurant – Set a few blocks back from Playa Taganga, Divanga Bar and Restaurant offers a vast array of dishes from steak and chips to coconut curry. They also have a range of fresh seafood dishes, featuring locally caught fish!
Getting Around Taganga, Colombia
Taganga is a small town and you never need to travel far. Everything is within walking distance but there are also moto-taxis available if you need to get somewhere in a hurry. With recent reports of crime in Taganga, we don’t recommend walking around alone at night. If you’re out after dark, try to stay with a group.
How to Get to Taganga, Colombia
Taganga is easily accessible by bus from Santa Marta’s downtown market. It takes just 15 minutes and costs only a few thousand pesos.
Alternatively, you can get a taxi which will set you back a little more.
If you’re coming from elsewhere in Colombia, you first need to get to Santa Marta, then catch onward transport to Taganga. Make sure you know how much the taxi should cost (ask in your accommodation if possible), as they have a reputation for ripping off tourists in Santa Marta.
Where to Go Next:
Minca: Just 30-40 minutes by car from Taganga or Santa Marta, Minca is backpacker heaven in the mountains. Waterfalls, trekking and chilled-out restaurants and bars.
Santa Marta: Many backpackers base themselves here for a few days before they travel to Tayrona National Park or tackle the legendary Lost City Trek. A relaxing stay at the luxury backpacker hostel Masaya doesn’t go amiss either!
Cartagena: Beautiful colourful streets and colonial charm, Cartagena is the gem of the Colombian Caribbean coast. A few nights here is an absolute must!
By Gintare and Danas of the travel blog Off to Somewhere.