Minca is a small town 20 km away from Santa Marta in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. It sits 580 m above sea level with a slightly cooler climate than the coast, within a lush tropical forest, and as such is a popular retreat for tourists looking for a relaxed atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of Santa Marta.
It is famous for its organic coffee and has a much cooler temperature than the sweltering Santa Marta. The village is charming and has, in the past few years, grown as a traveler and birdwatching destination. It attracts mostly backpackers who want a week or two off from the beaten track and indulge into tranquility. It's a great base for hiking, mountain biking, bird-watching, and other outdoor activities, offering a fresh mountain breeze, over 300 bird species and spectacular views.
The road leading to Minca was rebuilt in 2015 and is in good condition. Local Santa Marta taxi drivers are willing to take you up to Minca for about COP$200,000 for the day. They will drive you around and wait for you and then take you back to town.
Shared taxi vans (called colectivos) leave from the Plaza de Mercado in Santa Marta. In Google Maps you can also search for 'bus stop to Minca'. The journey costs COP$8,000 (Sep 2021). The van leaves when it is filled up, which can take 20–30 minutes. The last shared van departs Santa Marta around 17:00. You can also pay a car to take you instantly for COP$30,000 (June 2016). The journey to Minca takes 30–60 minutes, however, on weekends and public holidays it may take longer.
From the Santa Marta airport, take the bus until the Plaza de Mercado. From there take the shared taxi van to Minca.
From El Rodadero many buses go to the Plaza de Mercado, for example the ones to Yucal or Bonda. From there take the van to Minca. Or take a bus from El Rodadero to Yucal, exit at the Panadería Rosalia and take the mototaxi from there.
Coming with the bus from Taganga, you can leave that bus near the Plaza de Mercado and take the shared taxi van to Minca.
In the Terminal de Transporte the prices of mototaxis and taxis to Minca might be inflated. You can cross the highway and ask there. There is said to be a direct bus from the Terminal de Transporte to Yucal during daytime. Go until the Panaderia Rosalia. There are mototaxis who head to Minca for COP$8,000 (Sept 2021). In the evening it's COP$10,000 (Sept 2021). The mototaxi prices are not fixed, drivers try to inflate it. To get a good price to Minca, ask mototaxi drivers who do not approach you.
From Palomino or the Tayrona national park, get off the bus shortly before the Rumbodromo Mamatoco. Cross the street and take a taxi or mototaxi to Minca. From the Rumbodromo Mamatoco you could also take one of the frequent buses for COP$2,000 (Sept 2021) to Yucal until the Panaderia Rosalia. There are mototaxis who head to Minca for COP$8,000 (Sept 2021).
Mototaxis can be found in front of the Mono Mink office. They charge COP$10,000 (and can be haggled down, Sept 2021) for little trips around Minca which are sometimes the only way to quickly access your guesthouse as most roads around the village are dirt roads. Relying on these numerous times over one day may end up making your stay in Minca more expensive than expected – think about it when booking a remote accommodation.
A ride to the famous Casa Elemento Hostel takes about half an hour and costs COP$20,000. Be careful about overcharging. The price should be appropriate for the length of your ride.
1 Pozo Azul. is a popular swimming hole with two small waterfalls. You can jump from the top of the second waterfall into the refreshing water below. Reached by walking for about 45 minutes from Minca town - if coming from the church, walk to the junction, then turn right and follow the signs. There is no entry fee. With mototaxi it's around COP$8,000 one-way (Sept 2021).
2 Oido del Mundo waterfall. From Minca it's around 45 minutes hiking. You can walk through the flowing river or relax on the big rocks. The entry is for free. From here you can continue to the Marinka waterfall and Los Pinos.
3 Marinka waterfall. A beautiful waterfall with a natural pool for swimming down below. You can walk there in around 1:30h or take a moto taxi for approx COP$6,000 (June 2016). The entry is COP$5,000 (Jan 2021).
4 Los Pinos (The Pine trees). From Los Pinos you have an amazing view all over the mountains of Minca and all the way to the coast and Santa Marta. It takes 2½ hours from town to walk there or you can make a trip of it by visiting the Marinka waterfall, sleeping in a hostel up there and then walking the last bit the following morning, or just pay a mototaxi to take you up there. There are two roads leading to the spot: one is the main road and the other is off-track, taking small paths leading you through coffee-plantations. Ask your hostel for information. On the way to Los Pinos are the Marinka waterfall and the Oido del Mundo.
5 Cerro Kennedy. The end of this hike is the viewpoint of Los Nevados. From here you can almost see the entire Sierra Nevada and the sea. If the weather is good the two highest mountain Pico Cristóbal Colón and Pico Simón Bolívar are also visible. The difference in elevation between Minca and the mountain top is 2,200meters. It takes at least a day to hike up and is recommended for experienced hikers. A moto-taxi takes around 1:30hours.
6 Paso del Mango. Continue up past the police station, and after a few hundred meters you will see the first sign - the whole way is signposted, but some signs can be missed or misinterpreted, so pay attention. The hike takes around 6 hours, and as you get closer to Paso del Mango, you can swim in the beautiful mountain rivers and waterfalls. You can also do this hike from the bus station in Bonda. From there it's just 2 hours hiking.
7 Minca Museum. As of September 2021 it's closed and might be open again in 2022. A wonderful place to learn about the history of coffee, indigenous people, civil wars and political conflicts in Minca.
On some maps is shown a chocolate museum, which is actually a chocolate shop.
- 1 La Candelaria Coffee Farm, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Offers interesting chocolate and coffee tours. You can also stay overnight and buy organic coffee and cocoa. Included is a pet tucan ("Tuci"), which was rescued as a baby and now inhabits the house. Reached by a one hour hike, with good views, or take a moto taxi (COP$12,000-15,000) to the entrance path and walk the remaining 10–15 min. COP$20,000.
- 2 La Victoria Coffee Plantation. A completely self-sustaining coffee plantation, using water from mountain streams to power generators. Coffee beans are moved and processed using only gravity and power from the generators. People who own the plantation will sell you a cup of coffee they make and will be pleased to give you a tour of the place COP$10,000.
- 3 Aiwa Spa Biomassage, ☏ . Offers relaxing massages with a technique called biomassage which is a mix of chiromassage, kinesthetic massage and reflexology/shiatsu, with natural and locally produced oils. Certificated practitioner. English spoken. Turn left after the church and follow the "Aiwa Spa" signs. One session lasts one hour. COP$80,000.
You may want to go to an ATM before going to Minca as there are no ATMs. There are only agencies which withdraw money from your credit card for a 6% fee (September 2021). The next ATM is at the Yucal gas station or in the Buena Vista shopping centre (BBVA), both in the outskirts of Santa Marta.
There are several tiendas in the village for your basic needs – expect to pay a bit more. Minimarkets with higher prices are Minca Express and the Tienda de la Union right next to each other on the main street. Minca Express accepts credit cards - for extra fee of 10%. A big Olimpica supermarket is in Yucal, and in Santa Marta where the shared taxi vans depart from.
There are several restaurants in town and near the waterfalls.
- 1 Simple local restaurant. You get a tasty main dish plus soup and drink for COP$10,000 (Sept 2021). It offers lunch until around 12:45.
- Lazy Cat  is known for its good hamburgers, but offers a wide range of other dishes as well, its located right in the town center. On the terraces below one can have a nice view of the river.
- Casa Cristi  An Argentinian steak house with many different meat meals. There's a seating area just beside the kitchen where you can see how your steak is being prepared. Also try their homemade Chimichurri (herbal sauce with parsley, garlic, oregano, and cilantro) along with your dish.
- Santisabella  is a 5-minute walk from the main junction and features a lot of good meals as well. Try the different Raviolis, they are worth it! If you want a liquid appetizer, can go into the bar below.
- Tienda Cafe de Minca  A nice café, by the main road with very good local coffee. Try the frappuccinos! The shop sells various interesting things and is definitely the best place buy souvenirs in Minca.
- Hotel Restaurant Casa d'Antonio  About 200 m after the bridge in direction Pozo Azul. Run by a Spanish-Colombian couple. Spanish and Latin American Cuisine. The seafood and the paella are delicious.
There is tasty street food / Colombian snacks which you may not have found elsewhere. It's in Minca itself.
- In Carrera 4(a) during the day at the entrance of the 2 Restaurant Costeño Jr. It's open everyday and from COP$2,000 (Sept 2021).
- A few meters away it's from COP$1,000 (Sept 2021) in the 3 Panadería Muju. It's open from Thursdays to Mondays.
- In the late afternoon and early evening you will find street food in front of the before mentioned simple local restaurant. It's where Google Maps has pinned the "OPERTUR DE LA SIERRA SAS" and the prices are from COP$2,000 (Sept 2021).
There are several bars and clubs in Minca. The most central one is just beside the bridge. Restaurant Santisabella also has a very nice bar with exotic drinks. If you want to dance go to Donde Raul. The hostels will sell you beers as well (COP$3,000-4,500). Locals also sell beers at the waterfalls (COP2,500). At Los Pinos lookout ask for a delicious milkshake. The Lazy Cat Cafe is also a popular spot for travelers, offering burgers, quesadillas, and woks.
- Casa Loma  is a 10-minute walk uphill from behind the church in Minca. Great view from the patio area, accommodation from hammocks to dorms to privates. Communal meals, but vegetarian only. You can always walk down to town for some meat, or to use the internet (Casa Loma is a "wifi-free zone").
- Finca Hostal Bolivar  100m after the main bridge in direction Pozo Azul. Boutique - style Guesthouse with view on the river as well as terrace and kitchen. Satellite-TV in the living room and Wi-Fi. 2 Double rooms and 1 Dorm for 4 people available. Prices between COP$45.000 and COP$160.000, COP 400.000 for the whole house per day. Private access to river and hut with fireplace.
- Hostal Mar y Monte  is around 1 km from the village, close to the telephone antenna. A campground, hammocks, dorms and private rooms are available. Prices range between COP$35,000 and COP$110,000. From the terrace, you can have a great view of Santa Marta. Other features include a little bar, an à la carte restaurant, free WiFi, free parking and a pool.
- Emerald Green Guest House  Irish run hostel next to the police station with single, double and 4-bedrooms. Every room comes with a private bathroom fitted with a shower It also includes a restaurant and a nice garden and the forefront looks like a castle. Rooms start at COP$100,000.
- Minca Ecohabs  This lodge is just before the Marymonte and also offers private rooms and huts. It also features a restaurant, free parking and Wi-Fi. However, this spot is a proper hotel and therefore more expensive. Prices start at COP$250,000.
- Casa Marinka  Leaving the town walking towards the waterfall Marinka you will find the hostel. Hostel started by two young climbers and they offer different kinds of tours and activities like canopying, rock climbing, and rappelling. Prices vary depending on whether you want a private room with private bathroom, dorm room or just want to crash in one of their many hammocks on the roof.
- Casa Elemento Accommodation options vary from private rooms to dorms to tents and hammocks (use theirs or bring your own). Bring coconut oil as there are lots of sandflies here. No Wi-Fi. If you only visit Casa Elemento on they way to/from Los Pinos, you have to pay COP$10,000 entrance fee (includes a drink).
- Yoga Pati Hostal A 5-minute walk from the bus stop in the direction of Los Pinos. Apart from yoga classes one private double (COP$50,000/room) and a 7-bed dorm (COP$15,000/bed) are available, the plumbing for both toilets blocks up frequently. No Wi-Fi. There is a kitchen but this isn't available for guest use, food and drink are offered to try but expect this to be added to your bill on check out.
The only place in town with Wi-Fi outside of hotels and hostels (Spring 2016) is the Lazy Cat restaurant (closed every Friday). There is an internet café next door with just a couple of computers. It is a good idea to buy a SIM card with a data plan (very inexpensive) before arriving here if you want to remain connected.
All of these places have hostels and private rooms:
Santa Marta – Take a moto back down to Yucal and from there one of the frequent buses to Santa Marta. Or wait in Minca for a colectivo to fill up (both about COP$7-8,000)
Palomino and Tayrona National Park – Take the shared taxi van for COP$8,000 (Sept 2021) or a moto-taxi for around COP$12,000 (Sept 2021) and get off shortly before the Rumbodromo Mamatoco. Cross the street and flag down a white bus in the direction of Palomino.
Taganga – Take the shared taxi van to the Plaza de Mercado. Ask there where the bus departs nearby to Taganga.
Cartagena – Take the shared taxi van to the Rumbodromo Mamatoco. There take a bus/taxi/moto-taxi to the Terminal de Transporte of Santa Marta. You can also take a moto-taxi from Minca to the Terminal de Transporte for around COP$15,000 (Sept 2021).