Some backpackers come to Taganga, Colombia, initially planning to spend only a few nights, but end up staying a month after falling in love with its charm and accessibility. The setting of a gorgeous bay with a background of green mountains is undoubtedly beautiful.
However, reports of crime and run down and dirty streets (see comments below this article for example!) have been putting travellers off lately! Whoever you ask, there is a mix of opinions about Taganga, Colombia’s small seaside town just half an hour (5km) north of the city of Santa Marta. The best thing to do is to go check it out for yourself!
Where to Stay in Taganga, Colombia?
This small fishing village that has no paved roads but plenty of hostels, guesthouses, bars and diving centres is visited by both Colombians and internationals extensively. There are loads of accommodation options in Taganga to suit backpackers on a budget or flashpackers looking to treat themselves. Here are some of our favourites…
5 Best Taganga Hostels for Backpackers
1. Hostel Nirvana Popular backpacker digs Hostel Nirvana is a good choice for those looking for a place to stay that has a buzzing social vibe. Dorm beds begin at $7USD and private rooms start at around $38USD. The on-site restaurant serves good food and is open around the clock. The best thing? The awesome swimming pool of course!
2. Villa MaryThe cheapest option in Taganga with a bed in a mixed dormitory at just $5 USD. It’s a basic, no-frills, but a friendly place and the staff make sure that backpackers always enjoy their stay! It’s a great place to chill, meet fellow travellers and there’s a shared kitchen where you can cook food together with guests.
3. Villa Mandela This hostel (with beds from $5 USD) has the best quality and price ratio and thus accordingly many of the Taganga workers are staying in there. It has Internet, Wi-Fi, hammocks and music, but no A/C, and it can sometimes get pretty warm!
4. La Tortuga Hostel: BACKPACKER FAVE! A sweet hostel, that is very clean and comfortable. It has rooms with A/C and without, a lovely swimming pool and a rooftop bar with an awesome view of Taganga Bay. A bed in a dormitory costs $8 USD and a double room costs $24 USD. It’s a great place to meet people and it’s just 10 minutes walk from the beach (though it is up a hill!). Check out their video showcasing the best bits of Taganga here…
5.Hostal Palohe Taganga This hostel, complete with a small swimming pool and hammocks in a tranquil courtyard, gets excellent reviews from guests. The hostel is run by the very helpful Guliano and Miro who are on hand all day to help you with anything you may need. It’s located just 1-minute walk from the centre of Taganga and costs $9 USD for a bed in a dorm, or $21 USD if you prefer a private room. The rooms are spacious, modern and super clean.
3 Best Flashpacker Accommodations, Taganga:
1. Casa RelaxThe beautiful Casa Relax offers exactly what it says on the tin and boy does it do it well! This adults-only accommodation has a swimming pool, spacious private rooms and great views. Breakfast is included in the room rate and consists of eggs, toast and fruits. The coffee is also rated highly! All of the rooms have balconies and start at $40USD for a double room, of course, that also comes with a paradise sea view!
2. La Ballena Azul HotelSituated in front of Taganga beach, this hotel is a great base for those exploring the village or heading off on a dive course nearby. A double room with ensuite starts at $36USD per night which includes an American style breakfast. The hotel is located close to many great restaurants and bars which offers plenty of options for evening entertainment.
3.Casa Baloo A flashpacker’s favourite in Taganga located in an exceptional spot with a huge terrace and beautiful views over the bay of Taganga. A double room with terrace starts at around $40 USD per night. Breakfast is included and the owner, Sandra, is super helpful and will assist you with transport and trip bookings.
Top 10 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 can be reached by a 15-minute walk that has a great viewpoint over the whole coastline. The trail begins on the right of Taganga Beach. If you can’t find it just ask a local fisherman.
However, please note that several robbery incidents have been reported by travellers taking this short walk, even during the daylight hours. So if you decide to do it, better not to bring any expensive belongings with you!
Another option to get to Playa Grande, if you are concerned about safety, is to take a boat from Taganga Beach, that should cost just 7,000 pesos ($2) per person for a round trip. 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 nature park of Tayrona is definitely a must visit for backpackers, with gorgeous blue waters, wonderful beaches, dense rainforest – and all easily accessible from Taganga.
To get to Tayrona National Park from Taganga:
Many locals offer boat rides from Taganga Beach and are around 60,000 pesos which also includes the National Park entrance fee.
(The entrance fee is 54,000 pesos for foreigners and 16,000 pesos for Colombians. If you have an international student identification card, the entrance fee can be reduced to 8,500 pesos.)
There are also possible options to stay overnight, with some places offering hammocks or tents. If you’re planning to stay in Cabo San Juan, we would recommend arriving earlier, as it is a very popular spot and likely to fill up early!
There are a few restaurants in the park, but they are a little pricey, so if you are a budget traveller bring some snacks with you!
If using public transport, or are just looking for a beautiful trek through the jungle, going through Pueblito would be a recommendation, though be aware that it can take up to 4-5 hours to reach the bus stop, so it is better to start early!
There is a possibility to purchase water on the top in Pueblito indigenous village, but just a small reminder to be respectful and do not take pictures without permission in the village.
WARNING: If you fancy a swim while you are in Tayrona National Park, please be aware that some beaches have very strong rip tides and can be dangerous. (Someone actually drowned while we were there!) Much safer are the several natural ‘piscinas’ where you can enjoy the refreshing waters without a worry.
4. Taganga Diving:
Diving is a vibrant industry in Taganga and there are plenty of dive shops that offer to take you to explore the dive sites of Taganga, whether you’re a beginner or a Dive Master. 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 and to dive, though the quality of the diving has had contrasting reviews over the years. With one of the lowest prices in the world, it is definitely worth a try and many backpackers have been pleasantly surprised!
We have heard good reports about Calipso Dive Center, though, for individual preferences, it would be ideal to ask around, check online reviews and get yourself the best deal. Be aware that some schools have better equipment than others, thus for your own safety choose wisely!
5. Snorkelling in Taganga
If diving isn’t your thing, you can speak to one of the dive schools about taking you out on a snorkelling trip. Unfortunately, it’s not safe to snorkel straight from the beaches of Tayrona National Park due to the dangerous rip tides, and it’s too cloudy to dive straight from Taganga Beach due to the nearby harbour. Poseidon Dive School offer a 3-4 hour snorkelling trip for 100,000 COP (around $30 USD).
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 of time. Delphinus Freediving Club offers freediving in the waters 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 any tourists have 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 yet cheerful bar on Taganga Beach, grab yourself an Aquila and watch the day disappear over the ocean.
9. Book a Lost City Trek
Many backpackers chill out in Taganga before or after experiencing the famous Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) Trek. Treks can be booked from travel agencies in Taganga. Read more about the Lost City Trek here.
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’d really recommend staying overnight, as there’s so much to do here! 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, Minca – one of our favourite hostels in the whole of South America! Read our guide to Minca, Colombia here.
Most of the hostels 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 it, or just want to try some amazing comfort food, why not try the following great options:
Risto Pizza Garibaldi – Traditional Italian cuisine with an Italian chef, on Calle 14. With great pizza, cocktails (also a happy hour 2×1) and live music every week. (Price: between 15,000 and 25,000 pesos.)
Taco Beach Bar & Grill – For delicious tacos, cocktails and live music, head to this atmospheric spot right on Taganga Beach. A sundowner here is the perfect way to kick-start a night of fun in Taganga, but the prices are a little on the high side, as you’d expect from a prominent beachfront location.
Babaganoush – For a real treat, check out this Dutch-owned restaurant, where you can pick up a special three-course meal for around $12 USD. From seafood to falafel to curry, the meals are delicious and amazing value for money, complete with a gorgeous view over Taganga Bay.
Pachamama – With a variety of tapas, pasta, meat and fish dishes, this atmospheric spot is a favourite of flashpackers in Taganga. Live music and cool setting, great if you’re looking for a fancy evening in Taganga.
Taganga, Colombia Nightlife!
If you’re wondering what to do in Taganga, there’s always partying! Taganga has quite a few places to go wild in for such a small place. 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…
WARNING: There have been some drug and robbery related incidents in recent years in Taganga, so please take caution at night, particularly solo travellers.
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). Tequila shots every night for any traveller who’s up for it, though the vibe is not pushy here, just chilled out Taganga style.
Muscaria Bar: NOW CLOSED Muscaria Bar is an underground bar that is open to artists and a more abstract crowd, it has incredible psychedelic paintings on the walls and a great price for Aquila beer (2,500ps). You’ll find it on Calle 13.
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 drinks a little more expensive (5,000 pesos for a beer). Nevertheless, this place is always packed and has live DJs every night.
Getting to Taganga
Taganga is easily accessible with a bus from Santa Marta’s market, just 1,500 COP.
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!
Cartagena: Beautiful colourful streets and colonial charm, Cartagena is the gem of the Colombian Caribbean coast. A few nights or more here is an absolute must!
Check out our Travel Guide to Colombia.
By Gintare and Danas of the travel blog Off to Somewhere.