Minca Colombia’s best secrets: A travel guide to the Sierra Nevada (2020)

Minca Colombia’s best secrets: A travel guide to the Sierra Nevada (2020)


At first sight, Minca is not appealing. A couple of dirt roads lead to a church on the main square and moto-taxis are everywhere. It’s loud and hot. You don’t know where to go or what to do.

Fortunately, you will be ready to find the Minca’s hidden gems thanks to this travel guide.

Minca, Colombia: What you must know

Where is Minca: Minca is on the Eastern Caribbean Coast, next to Santa Marta and Paso del Mango.

Why visit Minca: Add Minca to your Colombia itinerary if you want to enjoy some hiking between 2 beach towns.

How to get to Minca: Taxi from Santa Marta (35 min) or a bus at Calle 11 con Carrera 9′ in Santa Marta (45 min).

Things to do in Minca: Minca is in the Sierra Nevada. The city is famous for birdwatching and beautiful ecolodges. There are various half-day trips to waterfalls you can do on your own.

Where to stay in Minca: Beautiful hostels and ecolodges are scattered all around Minca. You will need a moto-taxi or a jeep to get there.

  • Casa Loma: if you are looking for an affordable and very nice hostel close to the center | See prices
  • Casas Viejas: for a charming top-of-the-range hostel surrounded by nature| See prices
  • Reserva Natural Tierra Adentro: for a top-of-the-range hotel in the middle of the Sierra Nevada | See prices
  • Sierra Alta Finca Boutique: if you’re on your honeymoon trip you’ll love it | See prices

Safety in Minca: Minca is 100% safe.

Weather in Minca: The rainiest months are from September to Mid-November.

My favorite restaurant in Minca: Lazy Cat to eat delicious burgers.

My favorite bar in Minca: Donde Raul (Next to Lazy Cat).

Best tour to visit Minca if you’re running after time: I recommend this one.

Best tour in the Sierra Nevada: If you want an amazing in-depth jungle experience, then I recommend this tour.

Best of Minca’s tips: There is no ATM and avoid going on the weekend and on a public holiday.

Discover our guide on Minca to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to explore the Sierra Nevada.

Read our Minca Travel guide

Where to travel after Minca, Colombia

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers HERE

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Table of contents: Minca, Colombia

  1. How to get to Minca
  2. Where to stay in Minca 
  3. Things to do in Minca
  4. Bird watching in Minca
  5. Where to eat in Minca
  6. Best time to visit Minca
  7. How long you stay in Minca
  8. What about coffee
  9. Where can you go after Minca
  10. Conclusion 
  11. Let’s create your Colombia Itinerary
  12. Use our premium service

How To Get To Minca, Colombia

There are 3 options to get to Minca from Santa Marta.  

Coming from Cartagena, the bus will drop you at the main terminal outside of Santa Marta.

Then, you will have to take a cab to Minca or to Calle 11 con Carrera 9 to get a shared taxi.

Take a cab #Fastest (+)

It’s not too far from Santa Marta.

Price: 40 000 COP / 35 min

Take a shared jeep #Cheapest (+)

From Santa Marta, you can take a jeep in La Estacion de Minca’ at ‘Calle 11 con Carrera 9’ near Supermercado Olimpica. They leave when the vehicle is full.

The bus company is called Cootransminca.

Price: 8000 COP / 45 min

Take a Moto-taxi (+)

If you arrive in Santa Marta by bus after 7-8 pm, you will have to take a moto-taxi or a cab to avoid sleeping in Santa Marta.

Price: 15 – 20 000 COP/ 25 min

Casa loma Minca
Casa Loma

Where to stay in Minca, Colombia

Are you looking for something specific? An activity or a place to rest? How far are the hostels? How to get to the different hotels in Minca?

The choice of your accommodation will be very important in Minca, as many of them are far from town.

Sierra Alta Finca Boutique
Sierra Alta Finca Boutique

#1 Our list of favorite hostels and hotels in Minca, Colombia

Please note that most of these hotels are not in Minca.

I wrote below a short description of each place and how far they are from the center. More details here.

Our list of the best accommodations in Minca (+)

Coco Bomgo Hostel is a cheap option and perfect option for backpackers traveling on a shoestring budget | In the center of Minca | Best Prices

Casa Loma is a family hostel that serves great vegetarian meals and cocktails for sunset | 5 min walk from Minca | Best Prices

Sweet harmony is an upscale hotel surrounded by nature but still close from Minca | 15 min walk from Minca | Best Prices

Minca Relax is another economical option for backpackers who want to wake up with birds and river sounds | 15 min walk from minca | Best Prices

Minca Ecohabs are luxury cabins located before the entrance of the town | 15 min walk from Minca | Best Prices

Minca Glamping is a romantic hotel with private bungalows | 20 min walk from Minca | Best Prices

Finca San Rafael is a coffee and cacao farm that offers tours and sleeping options | 45 min walk from Minca | Best Prices

El Paraiso de Tuki belong to the famous Candelaria, a coffee and cacao farm | 1-hour walk from Minca | Best Prices

Mundo Nuevo is a permaculture eco-lodge with a fantastic view of the Sierra Nevada | 1-hour walk from Minca | Best Prices

Casas Viejas is a piece of paradise surrounded by beautiful vegetation and wildlife | 2 hours walk from Minca | Best Prices

Sierra Alta Finca Boutique is a luxury option for travelers who want to escape the real world | 1 hour by car from Minca | Best Prices

Carpe Diem is not even in Minca but this Finca is a fantastic place for travelers who think that Minca is touristic already | Near Bonda | Best Prices

# 2 Tips to decide where to stay in Minca, Colombia

For the hotels and hostels which are not in Minca, you can organize with them private transport. There are also moto-taxi who can take you up to different places. This service stops after 6 pm.

Also, the wifi is bad in Minca. Don’t hope to work on the internet if you’re a digital nomad.

Regarding the bug haters, they will have to take on themselves. Minca is surrounded by nature and bugs love lights. However, don’t forget your repellent for the sandflies – I hate hate hate them.

If you decide to pick a place up into the mountains, take a jumper. Nights are fresh.

Things To Do in Minca, Colombia

The Sierra Nevada is an excellent opportunity to plan short or long hikes and do birdwatching.

#1 Las Cascadas de Marinka, Minca

Las Cascadas de Marinka is composed of two waterfalls and one natural pool where you can swim. Lush vegetation surrounds the place and a restaurant overlooks the spot. They serve a basic but good Menu del Dia and cold beers 😉

Chances are that it will be crowded during the weekends. Try to get there early.

More info about Marinka (+)

Price: Approx 2$ for the entrance

Time: 1-hour walk from town or 15 min by Moto Taxi | 10 – 15 000 COP

How to get to the Marinka Waterfalls: The Moto-taxis wait at the intersection between the road Santa Marta – Minca and the road leading to the church. However, walking is a better option as it’s not that far. Follow the Cerro Kenedy road – the one leading to the church from the main road – until you see the signs.

Don’t forget to buy your bread at La Minga before!

Cascadas In Minca Activity
Las Cascadas

Get some fun: Book this rappelling experience in Minca

#2 Pozo Azul, natural pools in Minca

Pozo Azul is the main activity to do in Minca, Colombia.

Every weekend, many Colombians rush from Santa Marta to swim is these 2 cold natural pools. The surroundings are lovely but I consider it’s a bit over ranked as the experience will be spoiled if it’s crowded.

However, there are 2 things you could do to avoid swimming into a sea of armpits and legs.

  • Arrive early if you’re on a weekend or on a public holiday.
  • Most of the people stop at the 2nd pool. But it’s not the end of the adventure. Climb the rock on your left to continue toward another pool located 15 min away. Nobody goes there!

More info about Pozo Azul (+)

Price: Free

Time: 40 min walk from Minca

How to get to Pozo Azul: Moto-taxi from the center or walk in the direction of La Victoria – The same road coming from Santa Marta. The Pozos Azules will be on your left (there is a sign).

Pozo Azul in Minca
Pozo Azul in Minca

#3 Las Piedras, a river next to Minca

It’s the closest river spot from the city. Take your swimming shorts and relax on the rocks.

Price: Free

Time: 5-10 min walking from the center

#4 Hiking to Los Pinos and enjoy the view 

Hike to Los Pinos to get an astonishing view of the Sierra Nevada, Santa Marta, and the Caribbean Sea. Besides, if you are lucky, you will see the snowy peaks of the highest mountains in Colombia.

View-Los-Pinos
View from Los Pinos

Hiking options to Los Pinos (+)

Option 1 Hike to Los Pinos: On foot, from Minca. It’s a loop so you won’t pass twice by the same path. But, it’s not very interesting as you follow a dirt road.

Option 2 Hike to Los Pinos: Take a moto-taxi from Minca to El Campano then continue in the direction of Los Pinos. In doing so, you save 3-4 hours.

With Option 1, you can stop at Pozo Azul and la Victoria coffee farm.

During this expedition, stop at the following places:

  • Casa Elemento
  • Las Cascadas de Marinka.

Prices:

  • Motorbike to El Campano: 20 000 COP
  • Casa Elemento: 10 000 COP for the entrance
  • Cascadas: 4 000 COP

Time:

  • 5-7 hours if you walk to Los Pinos from Casa Loma and come back
  • 6-8 hours if you take the motorbike till El Campano then stop at El Pino, Casa Elemento, and Las Cascadas
  • More than 10 hours if you decide to walk and stop at all the activities on the way

Tip: Take water, hat, rain jacket, etc…

#5 The giant hammocks in Casa Elemento, Minca

Legend says the biggest hammock is in Casa Elemento hostel. It’s above the edge, with an astounding view of the valley, particularly for the sunset.

While I don’t recommend sleeping there – It’s not what it used to be (new owner) -, it’s still a cool spot to hang out on your way back from Los Pinos.

More info Casa Elemento (+)

Prices:

  • Entrance for the visitors: 10 000 COP – 1 beverage included
  • Moto-taxi one way: 30 000 COP

Time:

  • 3 hours walk from Minca Or 30 min by moto-taxi
  • 1 hour from Los Pinos

#7 Coffee tour in Minca – La Victoria

Coffee farm in Minca
The coffee farm in Minca

If you want to visit a coffee farm still working with original machines, then you have to stop at La Victoria!

You don’t need to book a tour. Go by yourself, and they will find someone to show you the propriety.

Besides, don’t forget to taste their tasty local beers and the food!

It’s 60 min after Pozo Azul, uphill. It’s on the left side of the road.

More infor about La victoria (+)

Prices: 

  • Tour in the coffee farm: 10 000 COP
  • Moto-taxi: 8000 COP – 1 way

Time:

  • 1.5 hours walking up or 50 min walking down
  • 20 min in Moto Taxi
  • Duration of the tour: 1.5 h

Get some fun: Include la Victoria in an E-biking experience

#8 A 2-day hike in the Sierra Nevada

Cerro Kenedy is the best 2-day hike you can do from Minca without a guide.  The trail starts from the town, and you have to walk 8-10 hours to arrive at the top.

The excursion through the rainforest is impressive and you will be able to admire many birds and waterfalls along the way.

But there is an even better reward. 

The view of the Sierra Nevada from Cerro Kennedy is astounding, and I advise you to wake up early to admire an unforgettable sunrise.

We recommend: Go on a trip with these guys

Sunrise Cerro Kennedy Minca, Colombia
Sunrise from Cerro Kennedy

More info about Cerro Kennedy

Price:

  • Night in the hostel El Ramo | 100 000 COP with 3 meals
  • Moto taxi: 30 000 COP to the “Y”

Time:

  • Two days hiking or 2h30 by Moto taxi (1 way)

More information:

Take a moto-taxi till the Y intersection then hike 4 hours till reaching the hostel El Ramo. Wake up the next morning at 4 am and hike the last 2 hours to reach the military base at sunrise. Then, walk down to Minca.

Note that Cerro Kennedy is at an altitude of 2 800m. Take warm clothes for the night.

#9 Chocolate tour at la Candelaria, Minca

One day, I read in an article that you could have an orgasm if you eat a huge quantity of chocolate. While I don’t know the veracity of it, I think it resumes well my love for the chocolate.

Yes, chocolate is great.

La Candelaria is a family-run coffee and cacao farm and they are proud of their heritage. Learn with them how do they make chocolate.

Besides, they own a bed and breakfast (see the accommodation section).

More information La Candelaria (+)

Price and Duration: 1 hour / 10 000 COP

How to get to la Candelaria: Be ready to walk 1h on a steep path or take a moto-taxi for 15 000 COP. Then, you still have to walk 15 min on a dirt road.

#10 The best spots to observe sunsets and sunrises in Minca

Nestled among mountains with a memorable view of the Sierra Nevada and the Caribbean Sea, the town of Minca has got all the conditions for sunset parties.

The best Sunset spots (+)

  • Casa Loma. You don’t have to sleep there as it’s only 10 min away from town.
  • Mundo Nuevo, Casas Viejas, and Casa Elemento also offer a great show for sunset. But they’re far from town. You will have to sleep there.
  • The hike to Los Pinos
  • The Hike to Cerro Kennedy – Sunrise.

#11 Hike From Minca to Paso del Mango

At the present time, Minca is becoming trendy in Colombia, especially among the backpacker community.

Organize a hike to Paso del Mango to spend a couple of nights in Carpe Diem is a great idea to escape the crowd.

Let your backpack in Minca, buy all the food, bread and water you need and walk in the direction of La Candelaria and Mundo Nuevo. There were multiple signs along the road, but the trail worsens year after year. Download the App Wikiloc or Maps.me, just in case.

Duration: 5 hours

More information: Finca Carpe Diem

Read our Paso del Mango travel guide

Birding in the Sierra Nevada: The Lorenzo reserve

There are 1900 species of birds in Colombia. It’s 20% of the total number of species on the planet! Pretty impressive numbers, don’t you think?

The Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta is one of the best places to observe them in Colombia. More than 635 species have been recorded in this small area (only 1.5% of the area of Colombia).

The odds to observe birds are higher early in the morning or late in the afternoons. Don’t forget your binoculars!

There are different options to watch these incredible birds in Minca, Colombia:

  • You can decide to walk a full day around Minca
  • You can sleep directly in the Reserve, in El Dorado
  • You can go to the ridge of San Lorenzo. It’s easier to start from Casa Elemento

Birdwatching in Minca (+)

Jungle Joe is a great option. He knows a lot about nature, and you can be sure to see a lot of animals with him. He also offers other activities in Minca. Binoculars are included.

Price: 40 000 COP / pers

Time: 3 hours

More information

Birdwatching at El Dorado (+)

El Dorado Reserve is an excellent option for bird lovers. The Eco-lodge is well equipped, the staff friendly, and the food delicious. Moreover, the view is astounding and birds offer a continuous show.

Price:

  • From 180$ for a private room (3 person max) with the entrance of the park and the 3 meals included!
  • Transport to get to El Dorado from Minca: 80$ – one way
  • Transport to get to El Dorado from Barranquilla: 280$ – one way
  • Transport to get to El Dorado from Cartagena: 350$ – one way

Time: I advise you to stay for at least two nights

Contact: Booking now

Map Of The Activities in Minca, Colombia

Map of the activities in Minca, Colombia
Map of the activities in Minca, Colombia

Where To Eat In Minca, Colombia

Most of the hostels I recommend in Minca serve delicious meals (Casa Loma, Casa Elemento, etc.). However, you can decide to save money by eating in town. All these restaurants are near the center of Minca.

Minga, The bakery (+)

There are two amazing bakeries where you can buy bread and hummus. Sometimes, the simple things are the best. Don’t forget to try their chocolate bread!!!

Price: Around 6 500 for the bread + Hummus

Santisebella, italian food (+)

Tasty Italian food: Pizza, Pasta. They sell local beers, cocktails and wonderful fruit juices!

Price: From 10 000 to 23 000 COP

Lazy Cat, burgers (+)

Fantastic homemade hamburgers, quesadillas, and mojitos. Don’t try the Wok; you risk to become a food addict.

Price: From 12 000 COP

Casa Cristy, burgers (+)

Good hamburgers and meat. Higher standing.

Price: From 15 000 COP for the burger and 30 000 COP for the meat.

Burukake, bohemian restaurant (+)

Burukake is a cool bohemian restaurant with a view on the river. Cocktails and tasty meals. The kitchen is open and the meat perfectly cooked. You won’t be disappointed

Prices: From 25 000 to 40 000 COP

Best Time To Visit Minca, Colombia

The raining season in Colombia is not an Omg-I-Need-Gills-To-Breath season. There are however months where it rains more than others, especially in the afternoons.

  • Mid-December to April: Dry season – It’s the perfect time to visit Minca
  • May and June: It’s humid, and it rains frequently in the afternoons
  • July and August: Dry months in the raining season. It alternates between rain and the sun
  • September to November: You are becoming an Octopus. It’s great because you have eight arms, but you’re living in the water. Usually, It’s still sunny in the morning.

 

Also, as Minca is becoming more and more touristic, I advise you to avoid weekends and public holidays.

  • Mid-December to Mid-January: High Touristic season
  • Holly Week “Semana Santa”: Don’t go there
  • July and August: High Touristic Season
  • March to May: Low touristic season

How many days in Minca, Colombia

Do you travel to Colombia faster than Flash Gordon? In that case, You should avoid Minca.

There is no famous highlight there. It would be silly to organize a day trip from Santa Marta – Except if you’re interested in bird watching.

Travelers like to stay in Minca because they love the vibe present in the different accommodations. They rest and eat healthily before exploring slowly the surroundings.

I recommend you to pick your hotel or hostel in Minca carefully, to get the best experience possible.

Example of a Minca itinerary (+)

————————DAY+1————————–

Morning: Arrival from Santa Marta

Afternoon: Rest in Casa Loma, Expedition in Minca, the fantastic combo Hummus/bread, and Las Piedras

————————DAY+2————————–

Morning: Departure for the Big Expedition! Los Pinos, Giant Hammock, Las Cascadas de Marinka

End of the afternoon: You need some rest, mark your territory in a hammock of Casa Loma

Evening: Restaurant in Town

————————DAY+3————————–

Morning: Departure to Pozo Azul

Lunch: On the way back, you eat at the grill restaurant Asedero Camarita

Afternoon: If you’ve stopped at la Camarita, you should be high by now. You fought with a pillow in Casa Loma to recuperate your hammock from a German hippie

————————DAY+4————————–

Last night, you’ve decided to leave the following day. Unfortunately, you became a friend of the German dude. You decide to stay one more day in Casa Loma

————————DAY+5————————–

You’re going to Tayrona Park with Helmut. You know you’re taking a risk because you will have to fight each night for your hammock. Whatever, it’s a cool dude.

Stay at least 2 nights in Minca – And arrive in the morning.

In case you want to hike to Cerro Kennedy or Paso del Mango, you will have to add more days at your itinerary.

  • At least 1 extra night for Cerro Kennedy
  • At least 2 extra nights for Paso del Mango – Stay in Carpe Diem.

What about Coffee

#1 Coffee Plantation in Minca

Minca will be your best chance to drink an organic Coffee made by indigenous tribes of Kogi and Arhuaco. They use traditional machines and try to produce quality coffee in harmony with nature (Natural Energy, sustainable farming network).

Micky and Claudia are the owners of La Victoria Farm. They are doing their best to produce organic coffee, and you can visit their farm for a small fee – 10 000 COP / 1h.

Meal Casa Loma hostel MInca
Breakfast in Casa Loma

#2 Zona Cafetera

After a major coffee crisis, a lot of small coffee producers appeared in the department of Antioquia and around. Although coffee beans are cultivated in many departments of Colombia, there is one area who attracts most of the tourists. It’s called the “Zona Cafetera”, between Pereira, Manizales, and Armenia.

Within the Zona Cafetera, there are many Finca you can visit to learn more about coffee. Salento is the most popular town in this region, and the ambiance is a lot different from Minca. Within the colonial town of Salento, travelers wander between old buildings painted with strong colors – blue, green, yellow – and Colombian farmers with their Cowboy hat.

Colonial House in the Zona Cafetera - Salento
A colonial house in Salento

Cultural note: The Character Juan Valdez “is born” in the advertisements for the National Federation of Coffee Growers.

Where To Travel After Minca

My two cents about visiting Minca, Colombia

It’s a great stop if you want to merge with nature, chill and enjoy a home feeling. You can learn about organic coffee, plan easy 1-day treks or multi-day hikes, and swim in cold waterfalls.

Walk away from beaches and come here to realize you don’t have to be super active to be happy while traveling.

Views from los pinos Minca
Direction Los Pinos!

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Minca Colombia Casa Loma Casa Elemento
Information Minca Casa Loma cOLOMBIA

Did you notice any further information while you were there? PLEASE, let us know in the comment section. Thus, we can update this post for the next fellow travelers!

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4 comments

  1. Looks like a great place. I visited Colombia last year and just loved it! However, I didn’t make it to the Caribbean coast. It’s still on my list, though- yet another reason to return to Colombia in 2019, maybe. Cool information on Minca!

  2. Hahaha, that intro made me laugh. I remember going to Minca for the first time in 2011 and while I had gotten used to Motos, the curving mountain roads did left me in a sort of exhilarated but scared a car was going to come around the corner too fast nervous feeling. I was back last May and the road had been redone since then, but not sure when. It’s a cool place though, and this is as complete a guide as you could ask for!

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