In this quick Minca travel guide, you will find everything you need to know before you travel to Minca, Colombia. If you’re not sure if Minca is worth visiting, I’ll answer this, and many more questions too.
Minca will surprise you. In the best way possible.
If you are travelling from hot and sticky Santa Marta or busy and bustling with street vendors, Cartagena – Minca will be like a breath of fresh air. It is a stunning, tranquil and magical mountain town you have to put on your Colombia travel itinerary.
Minca appeared on the Colombia tourist map not too long ago. Before that, it was a destination that no tourist should venture to because of its paramilitary presence. But now, Minca is one of the best places to visit in the whole of Colombia with some of the most amazing hostels, great hikes and waterfalls. It is completely safe. Minca in fact, is one of the safest destinations in Colombia and found a firm place on backpackers’ trail.
Just under an hour drive away from Santa Marta, you will find the small town of Minca located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It enjoys a bit cooler temperatures and tranquillity that cannot be experienced in Santa Marta or Cartagena.
The weather is still hot enough for you to be able to swim in the pool with mountain views and sleep in the open-air bed or hammock, yet without sweating buckets.
Peaceful, beautiful, magical and somewhat mystical – Minca will steal your heart and the views will remain printed in your memory forever.
Is Minca, Colombia worth vising?
Minca is worth visiting if you can spare at least two days and if you are looking for a serene mountain retreat. If you are looking for a backpacker town up in the mountains boasting amazing biodiversity, coffee and cacao farms, hikes and waterfalls, and some stunning hostels – you should visit Minca.
What better than waking up early in the morning to the sounds of nature, looking through the window into the vast mountains of Sierra Nevada, swimming in the pool overlooking the jungle peaks, and soaking up the early sun with a cup of coffee or exotic fruit juice. Then, taking a hike to the waterfalls, exploring the small town of Minca, eating pan de chocolate and returning to your hostel for some of Colombia’s best sunsets and a delicious meal and cold beer by the fire.
No one goes to Minca because of the array of things to do and sights to see. Anyone who goes there is searching for tranquillity and dream-like hostel views sprinkled with great treks, waterfalls, artisan bread and some adventurous moto taxi rides.
How many days should you stay in Minca
I mean, you can stay as long as you want, but I recommend you stay at least two days in Minca.
Minca is one of those places that can only be truly appreciated if you give it a bit more than a day trip. Going to Minca for a day is like leaving a spa after 5 minutes. See my point?
Staying in Minca for one night is an absolute minimum, but optimally you want to give it at least 2 full days. This will allow you to explore, be able to do one or two hikes, visit a waterfall or two, take part in a cacao ceremony, or visit a coffee farm. And of course, during those two days, you will be able to fully appreciate the beauty of the place and enjoy the serenity of the surroundings.
With no rush. You need it, you deserve it!
I actually think going to Minca for a day trip is a waste of your time and money. You go to Minca for the experience, to feel it, to chill. You won’t feel it in two hours. If you do not have the time to spend two days in Minca, don’t go at all. It’s genuine advice.
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Things to do in Minca Colombia
Enjoy Hiking in Minca
There are many wonderful hikes you can do in Minca, ranging from easy forest strolls to challenging 2-day hikes. Here are a few you should consider:
- Las Piedras Trek – a beautiful and easy walk perfect for those who want an easy trek. Las Piedras is a relaxing spot by the River Minca, only a 15-minute walk from the town. It is more of a stroll than a hike, but if you are staying up in the mountains you can walk down to make it a bit more challenging.
It’s a great relaxing spot where you can take a swim in the very (!) fresh waters of the river and chill for a bit. It’s a popular spot among weekend visitors, so I recommend visiting early to avoid the crowds.
- Viewpoint at Los Pinos – Los Pinos is the most popular hike in Minca, however, it can be difficult for inexperienced hikers. This viewpoint offers magnificent panoramas over the distant Caribbean coast, Santa Marta and the green mountains of the Sierra Nevada. It’s a 6 to 8 hour hike that starts at the Cascada de Marinka. Follow the wooden signs that point the way to Los Pinos. The last couple of hours present a steep climb, but it’s oh so worth it! Start this hike early in the morning to avoid heat and get a clear view of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
- Cerro Kennedy – A two-day challenging hike offering the most spectacular sunrise views over the snowy peaks of Los Nevados!! The best way to do this hike is by taking a moto-taxi to the Y intersection, then hiking up to the hostel El Ramo where you can spend the night. Wake up the next morning just before sunrise and hike the last 2 hours to reach the military base. Then, walk down to Minca.
If you are an experienced hiker you can do it alone, but otherwise, I recommend hiring a guide in town or booking an organized tour.
If you prefer to take a guided hike to Cerro Kennedy from Santa Marta consider booking it here.
And of course, if you are planning the ultimate adventure – you can book a 4 day Lost City trek!
Explore Minca Waterfalls
The best way to explore and enjoy Minca is to combine hiking with a visit to the refreshing waterfall.
- Marinka waterfall is in my opinion the most beautiful waterfall in Minca. It’s a double-tiered waterfall with a small swimming hole, perfect for a relaxing afternoon as it’s not as busy as other waterfalls found nearer the village. Located an hour and a half walk from Minca, it’s a perfect spot to relax and swim. If you want to see just one waterfall in Minca, make it to Marinka!
If you don’t fancy the walk, you can opt for a moto-taxi. The admission fee is 5,000 COP.
- Pozo Azul is one of Minca’s most popular natural attractions. It is a series of picturesque small waterfalls and swimming pools and one of the best places to cool down not far from town. It’s only around a 45-minute walk from the Minca centre but because of that, it can get pretty busy. Try to get there early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid day-trippers.
There are only 2 ways to go around Minca – on foot or by motor taxi. You can also rent a bike in Santa Marta and travel to Minca this way. Minca was actually a place where I was introduced to the moto-taxi experience and officially got rid of my fear of motorbikes.
Discover the town of Minca
Minca town is surprisingly interesting and offers some unexpected entertainment, yet in a quaint, relaxed environment. It’s a small village and at first sight, there is not much to it. But when you start exploring, you will stumble across a few surprises. Like a small whitewashed church located on Calle 5a, Museo de Minca, quirky and hippie coffee shops, locally owned souvenir shops, excellent restaurants and a couple of great bakeries!
Apart from restaurants serving traditional food (including fried chicken shops hahaha) there are a few international cuisine restaurants in Minca. A great middle-eastern restaurant Arabesca, Casa Aney serving Israeli food and Lazy Cat serving great burgers and cocktails too.
You will also find a couple of great bread/coffee shops in Minca which are becoming a destination of their own, especially if you are missing some ‘real’ bread.
Duni is an artisanal bread shop that serves delicious freshly baked treats made from locally sourced ingredients, much of which are grown by the local indigenous communities. La Miga Panadería is another famous cake and bread shop that makes some of the best fresh bread and pastries in all of Colombia!
The best way to support the local community is by buying goods that are produced locally, with all the revenue going back to the people who made them. There are few cute souvenir shops selling locally produced and handmade goods like soaps, oils, species, bags or jewellery. There is also a local brewery in Minca producing artisan craft beer.
It was in Minca that I bought natural insect repellents (those crazy sand flies!!) that actually served me long after I had left and worked better than the deet spray I bought beforehand!
For such a small town it’s really surprising how many needs Minca can cater for and truly, one could stay here for a while without needing to restock anything. And if you need some supplies – Santa Marta is just 45 minutes away. Hmmm, I’m the kind of convincing myself more and more that it could be a great place to stay longer, maybe a lot longer.
Go birdwatching with Jungle Joe / Minca travel guide
In Minca you can spot birds like steely-vented Hummingbird, Crimson Crested Woodpecker, Collared Araçaris, and even Toucans. In fact, Minca is one of the best bird-watching destinations in the world.
Jungle Joe is your man to book for a great birdwatching tour. Find his shop in town or check it out online. He knows the area inside out and will make sure you have the best experience. I have personally not taken this tour, but I have heard only great things about it, so I wholeheartedly recommend it. If you took one of Jungle Joe tours, please comment below and let me know if you enjoyed the experience.
Visit coffee or cacao farm, or both! / Minca travel guide
Finca La Victoria is one of the oldest coffee plantations in Colombia and has been using the same mechanical machinery since the 1890s. It’s a completely self-sustaining coffee farm that runs exclusively on hydropower from nearby mountain streams.
Located not far from Casas Viejas opens its doors to tourists without the need for a reservation. There you can learn about the process of making coffee, its history and taste some great coffee!
If you want to save the coffee farm tour for Eje Cafetero (Colombia Coffee Region) then you should visit the cacao farm – Finca La Candelaria. This family-run organic cocoa and coffee farm is where you can learn to make the best food in the world – chocolate!
And I’m talking about real chocolate. I must admit, after my travels in Latin America I have become a real chocolate snob and I have experienced what real cacao and chocolate taste like. If you want to see how cacao is farmed, chocolate produced and taste the real stuff – visit La Candelaria in Minca.
Where to stay in Minca, Colombia
Choose your hostel or hotel carefully depending on why you are visiting Minca. If you want to do treks, and some bird watching but are on an extreme budget – stay in town.
If you want to forget the world, experience magical sunsets and pamper yourself with delish food for a couple of days – choose one of the mountain hostels. Keep in mind that the only way to get to the hostels located up the mountain is through a moto-taxi, which is an experience of its own and costs 20 000COP one way.
I stayed in Casas Viejas. It was recommended to me by numerous travellers and I just had to give it a go. And it was the best choice. This hostel is beautiful, the staff is super friendly, the food is absolutely delicious and the views are spectacular. I stayed in the jungle dormitory (no bunk beds yay!) which was pretty cheap for such a beautiful hostel.
You can get all your meals in-house. There are few options to choose from and change daily. Mind you, it is not the cheapest option, but the food quality was exquisite.
The highlight of Casas Viejas is their pool. And the views, of course!
It was slightly out of my budget and I spent more than I was planning to, but every penny was well spent.
The second best option is to stay at Casa Loma. Located just on the outskirts of Minca centre, it is an equally beautiful hostel. You’ll have to walk uphill for around 10 minutes, but it’s definitely worth it. I have only seen it from the outside, but on my return to Minca, I will definitely stay there. I prefer more freedom and have a choice of eating either in the hostel or in the town. This hostel has great reviews and I have heard many great opinions from other travellers.
If you want to visit Minca on a budget, I recommend staying in the hostel in town. You will save money on food and drink (as you won’t be limited to what the hostel has on offer) and you will not need to get a moto-taxi to get to your accommodation.. The majority of mountain hill hostels don’t have shared kitchens and you will be stuck eating and drinking from their bar. Although the prices are not extreme, it will all add up, trust me!
But if you are looking for a special experience and want to stay close to nature and enjoy incredible views, by all means, go up the hills! It’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg and you will remember your stay forever!
I totally don’t regret staying at Casas Viejas and I would stay there again without a doubt!
How to get to Minca
There is the only road going to Minca and it starts in Santa Marta. The best way to get to Minca is to jump on a so-called colectivo (shared minibus) departing from Carrera 9 right by the central market of Santa Marta. You want to look for the office called Cootrasminca. In case you struggle to find it ask at the ticket shop selling bus tickets to Palomino; this one is much easier to find as there is always a Palomino bus standing there.
The ticket costs 8,000COP and the journey takes about 50 minutes. It leaves when full, and I really mean it! But you won’t have to wait long.
If your hostel is located up the mountains, on your arrival in Minca you will find a moto-taxi office by the road next to the colectivo stop.
Important tips for your trip to Minca
- If you are travelling from Santa Marta and staying there for a few days, consider leaving your main luggage in the hostel and travelling to Minca with your hand luggage only. That’s exactly what I did.
Most hostels will have no problem with that. I stayed at the District Hostel at the time and they kindly kept my main backpack in their storage. I went to Minca just with my day bag (enough just for a couple of days). On my return, I stayed in Santa Marta for a little longer (one of my favourite cities in Colombia) but I’m sure if you spend at least 2-nights in a decent hostel they will happily keep your luggage.
It’s not an unusual practice in Colombia. The same applies to Tayrona Park, for example. The majority of hostels around the park will keep your backpack in storage so you can travel light through the jungle. Same in Riohacha for your Cabo de la Vela trip – in those towns, it’s a normal practice for travellers to leave their main luggage in the hostel for the 2 or 3-day trips and pick it up on their return.
- According to my personal knowledge, there is no ATM in MInca. The majority of hostels will accept credit cards and often you just pay for everything at checkout. You will, however, need cash for your moto-taxis, entrance to some waterfalls, and general spendings like food, drinks and souvenirs.
- Get an insect repellent. And make a good one!
- Avoid going on the weekend and on public holidays. It gets crowded with locals escaping the heat of Santa Marta and Cartagena.
- Bring a flashlight. The majority of hostels in Minca will have outdoor bathrooms.
Thats it my friends! I hope you found this Minca guide helpful. I am really looking forward to hearing your opinions and Minca trip stories!
Leave your comments below!
Until then, stay free and happy travels!
If you are still drafting your Colombia itinerary read my Colombia planning post!
Planning to see all the gorgeous beaches of the Colombian Caribbean coast? Here is the guide to all beach towns in Colombia!
And if you are planning your first solo trip, visit this post where I provide all the tips and hacks for solo travellers and backpackers.
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My favourite Travel Resources
- For most of my accommodation management, I use Bookings.com and Hostel World. With both booking platforms, you will often get free cancellation and access to tones of reviews. Read them! You will also get the most extensive selection of all types of accommodation. I hardly ever look elsewhere. If you are travelling in Asia – Agoda is definitely worth checking out!
- Make sure you download Google Maps and, on the first day, download an offline map of your location. This way, even without the internet or Wi-Fi, you will be able to get to your destination.
Moovit is also an excellent and very underrated travel and journey planning app. It works great in many countries and will show you all possible routes by public transport, including the timetables.
12Go — Great for tickets for trains, buses, ferries and charters in Southeast Asia! The best way to buy your ticket for overnight Bangkok train! Rome2rio – Another great journey planning app. If your way of travel is mainly public transport – you will use this app for sure!
- I carry two debit cards with me. Given I don’t have a permanent country of residence, Revolut and TransferWise work fantastic. In case one gets frozen, stolen or simply lost, I have a backup. The great thing about both cards is that you can freeze them straight from your phone and transfer money between them in case you need to. You will also get a great exchange rate and create separate foreign currency accounts.
- I booked most my tours via either Get Your Guide or Viator. I also use TripAdvisor when I spot a good deal. You can also book locally, but I advise you to ask around and follow the local recommendations. For cooking classes and workshops, consider checking out Eatwith.
For more travel tips and recourses, visit Pati’s Travel Tips page!