Some backpackers come to Taganga 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, recent reports of crime and run down and dirty streets have been putting travellers off lately! Whoever you ask, there are a mix of opinions about Taganga, Colombia’s small seaside town just half an hour away from the city of Santa Marta. The best thing to do is to go check it out for yourself!
This small fishing town that has no paved roads but plenty of hostels, bars and diving centers is visited by both Colombians and internationals extensively. The small beach is surrounded by picturesque mountains and can get quite busy especially on weekends.
Nearby beach, Playa Grande can be reached by 15-minute walk that has a great viewpoint over the whole coastline, although it has been reported that there have been several robbery incidents on the way, so 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 around 5,000 pesos for a round trip. Once at Playa Grande, there are many things to do, from renting kayaks, to snorkelling and exploring nearby beaches.
Where to Stay in Taganga?
There are loads of accommodation options in Taganga, here are just two…
Cheap option: Villa Mandela (Casa Mojito) Carrera 4 – This spot 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!
Comfortable option: La Tortuga hostel – A sweet hostel, that is very clean and comfortable. It has rooms with A/C and without, a swimming pool and a rooftop bar with a great view of Taganga bay. Price: dorms from 24,000 pesos and privates room from 50,000 pesos.
Things to do in Taganga and around:
Visit Tayrona National Park!
Tayrona is definitely a must visit for backpackers, with gorgeous blue waters, wonderful beaches, dense rainforest – and all easily accessible from Taganga.
There are a few options of transportation; many locals offer boat rides from Taganga Beach, and are around 60,000 pesos which also includes the National Park entrance fee (38,000 pesos). If you have your an international student identification card, the entrance fee can be reduced to 7,000 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.
Furthermore, if you fancy a swim be aware that some beaches have very strong rip tides and can be dangerous, although there are several natural ‘piscinas’ to enjoy the refreshing waters.
Get into Diving:
Diving is a vibrant industry in Taganga and there are plenty of dive shops that offer to take you out into the deep blue, whether you’re a beginner or a Dive Master. 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.
Most dives will take you to Aguja, a small island that is a part of Tayrona National park. 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 and get the best deal. Be aware that some schools have better equipment than others, thus for your own safety choose wisely!
Most of the hostels have kitchens, and there are quite a few small shops that you can buy groceries and cook your own meals. But if you get tired of it, or just want to try some amazing local food, here are some good options…
Deriva, Calle 14 N°1B34: French restaurant with a chef that cooks amazingly, only fresh products are picked every day from the market and the menu can vary from day to day, a highly recommended spot for great food. Price: between 20 000 and 35 000 pesos per meal. Take a look on Facebook.
Risto Pizza Garibaldi, Calle 14: Traditional Italian cuisine with an Italian owner that has great pizza, cocktails (also a happy hour 2×1) and live music every week. Price: between 15,000 and 25,000 pesos.
Restaurant La casa de Ada, Calle 18: Local food restaurant that has a simple and cheap lunch and is only open… for lunch! Price: from 6,000 to 10,000 pesos.
Taganga has quite a few places to go wild in for such a small place, although there were some drug and robbery related incidents in the past, so please take cautions at night. There are more than few places to go out, but a typical night out in Taganga ends up with a party on the beach – siempre!
Muscaria Bar: Calle 13 – 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 (2 500ps).
The Mirador: On the left, and up the stairs of Tagangas 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.
Taganga is easily accessible with a bus from Santa Marta’s market, just 1,500ps.
Where to go next?
Minca: Just 30 minutes by car from Taganga or Santa Marta, Minca is a backpacker heaven in the mountains. Waterfalls, trekking and chilled out restaurants and bars. Don’t miss a stay at Casa Loma, Minca – one of our favourites!
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!
By Gintare and Danas (All photos in this guide by Off to Somewhere)