Mendihuaca is a true hidden paradise on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. With not many backpackers stopping by and Costeno beach being only 20 minute walk by the beach away – Mendihuaca is a true gem, and you should visit before the world hears about it. Because inevitably – it will!
Where the river Mendihuaca enters the Caribbean Sea, you will find a hidden piece of paradise not many tourists know about. Moderately popular among Colombians, Mendihuaca is hardly on the itinerary of your usual Colombia backpacker.
Suppose you happen to stumble across this piece of paradise on a weekday. In that case, you will find yourself lodged in a treehouse-like eco-hostel, put to sleep and woken up by the sound of the waves and spending days surfing, lazying by the river and admiring some of the most spectacular sunsets.
What’s not to love about this!
So let me tell you about this treasure I found only by chance – Mendihuaca, a hidden gem on the Colombia Caribbean coast.
Mendihaca is the name of the river starting at the Sierra Nevada and entering the Caribbean sea roughly halfway between Tayrona National Park and Palomino.
In this area, you will find mostly eco hostels where electricity is limited to few hours per day and wifi is unavailable. The sea can get pretty violent thus it is a very popular surfing spot, and the river at its mouth created a very pleasant pool which became a bathing and watersports spot.
Mendihuaca is also an excellent base for your Tayrona park trip.
Mendihuaca wasn’t on my Colombian coast itinerary given me, as well as many other travellers, have never heard about it.
Initially, I was trying to book a stay at the Costeno beach, which proved unsuccessful.
Costeno Beach became very popular in recent years, and the area offers only a handful of hostels. So when I tried to book my stay pretty last minute, I found out that all the hostels were fully booked well in advance. But I was determined to visit, so instead, I found an available hostel near Mendihuaca river.
The funny part is that I actually cancelled and rebooked this hostel three times. The moment I realised that there is no internet available in the area and the electricity is provided only for a couple of hours in the morning and then in the evening – I panicked.
Then I rebooked as I really didn’t want to miss this destination. So I decided to suck it up. In the end, I like going outside of my comfort zone. I knew I would not get any work done over there, but I decided to give it a go anyway. And this was the best decision.
At many, if not all, places along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, you will find life much slower and simpler. The further north-east you will go, the more often you will encounter electricity or internet connection issues. But, in return, you will get paradise-like surroundings, kind and helpful people, and never-ending hot weather.
Mendihuaca is no different.
Mendihuaca beach is stunning, and all the hostels and eco-lodges are located right at the beach, with the lush vegetation spreading behind. There is a very rustic and jungle-like style to those hostels, yet there is something hip about this location. That could be due to the prominent surfing culture around there.
It is absolutely normal for everyone to go surfing first thing in the morning and then again just before the sunset. The few restaurants on the beach offer delicious traditional food and some exotic juices and cocktails. In addition, the river’s mouth provides a great swimming and sunbathing spot. Mendihuaca is a paradise on earth.
So if you are convinced and decided to stay for few days at Mendihuaca beach, here are all the things you can do in the area.
Things to do in and around Mendihuaca Colombia
Surf at Mendihuaca Beach
I have seen people walk all the way from Costeno just to surf at Mendihuaca. A surf school called ‘Surf Mendihuaca’ is located right on the beach, offering both surfing lessons and equipment rental. The sea around the area gets pretty violent as well. Those were some of the biggest waves I have seen around the Colombian coast. Mendihuaca is surfers’ paradise.
Laze by the Mendihuaca River
If surfing isn’t your thing, don’t despair.
Beaches along the Colombian Caribbean coast can be pretty spectacular, yet very often, it is impossible to swim in the sea. This is the reason why many tourists and backpackers opt for hostels with swimming pools. You won’t find any of them at the front of the Mendihuaca beach, though.
But Mendihuaca offers another option. The river. As the river enters the sea, it shaped into a great lake like area where you can swim and chill. You can rent a sun tent and spend few hours relaxing in the perfect Colombian paradise.
Go Kayaking along Mendihuaca river
At the mouth of Mendihuaca river, you will find plenty of kayaks for rent with prices starting from 25.000 COP (€5.5/$6.6) per hour. The price goes up the further up the river you will decide to explore, but nevertheless, it’s great fun at a very affordable price.
Visit Costeno Beach
It takes around 20 minutes of walk by the beach to get to Costeno beach from Mendihuaca.
The prices of the hostels at Costeno can be pretty steep so staying in Mendihuaca instead is a great and more affordable option.
If you need to use the internet or work for a bit – visit Costeno Hostel. I spent a whole day there. The food is delicious (they even have a Poke Bar!), and as long as you order something, it is fine to stay and use their pretty good wifi.
You can also visit Los Hermanos or La Brisa Tranquila Hostel, where you will be able to have a nice meal and cocktail.
Visit Tayrona National park
Mendihuaca is also an excellent base for the Tayrona National Park trip. Although you will find hostels and nice locations much closer to the Zaino entrance, Mendihuaca is definitely one of the most spectacular.
It only takes 10 minutes for the bus to get from Mendihuaca to the entrance of Tayrona Park, and the one-way ride will cost you 2.000 COP (€0.45/$0.50).
Chill, Eat and Drink (including Homemade Cake)
For such a remote location, I was very nicely surprised by the restaurants and bars. There is not many, but those that are there are excellent. The food is lovely, and all the restaurants located right on the beach. You can have breakfast for 6000 to 15000 COP and great fried fish for 25000.
A true gem is Belaonda, a little cafe/bar run by Isabela. It is a super cute little place with swings and comfy cushioned chairs. There is a happy hour on Cuba Libre and Caipirinha. Isabela also bakes a cake daily and served a great cappuccino (which is a real treat around the coast)! I also had breakfast there, and it was delicious!
Right next to the river you will find a nice restaurant where I had fantastic fish with coconut rice. The owners of this restaurant also run a kayaking and sun tents business and are all very lovely!
Watch the Sunset
Colombia has some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever experienced, and I have experienced many.
Mendihuaca is no different. There is nothing better than chilling at the beach bar and watching the sun going down and painting the sky in all shades of orange and purple. I could never get bored of it!
It is very worth going out of the beaten path and let the chance lead your way from time to time. What I found at Mendihuaca was a true paradise on the Colombian coast.
You don’t read much about Mendihuaca in backpackers guides. But I have a feeling this will change soon. So if you fancy few relaxing days, being cut out from the internet and media noise, surrounded by incredible nature, with great surfing, kayaking opportunities and spectacular sunsets – head to Mendihuaca and enjoy this piece of paradise while it lasts.
Where to stay in Mendihuaca
There are few options as to where to stay around Mendihuaca.
Right on the beachfront, you will find a number of eco hostels and lodges. Some are very beautiful, overlooking the sea – all built-in traditional style and often without the actual walls. I stayed in Eco Hostal Paraiso and really enjoyed it!
There is also a campsite located at the entrance to Mendihuaca with pretty basic facilities. I have seen a couple of tents parked there as well as a simple shower and toilet facilities.
If you fancy a little bit of luxury you can also stay at the Mendihuaca Hotel. It is a 3-star, resort-style hotel offering swimming pools, restaurants and wifi.
I have also written a complete guide to all the most legendary hostels in Colombia!
How to get to Mendihuaca Beach from Santa Marta.
The best way to get from Santa Marta to Mendihuaca is by taking a bus from in front of Santa Marta Market. This is the same bus that goes to Palomino and stops along Tayrona National Park. The ticket will cost you 7000 COP.
Ask the driver to drop you at the entrance to Costeno beach by the moto-taxi stop.
From there it is 10 minutes walk by the dirt road, but you can also take a moto-taxi.
Things to keep in mind before visiting Mendihuaca / What to pack
- Make sure you have some kind of torch available – once the lights go off, you will need to navigate around or simply use the toilet at night. I take my head torch everywhere with me. Once the battery is charged, it lasts forever, and it is also a great reading light.
- Power Bank – In case you stay in a hostel with limited electricity
- Make sure you purchase the correct sim card. Tigo will not work in this area. The best choice is Claro, but apparently, Movistar works as well (i cannot personally confirm that, but my Claro worked just fine).
- Sunscreen and mosquito repellant. Mosquitos at night are vicious. You want to avoid being under attack. I am telling you this from experience.
- Keep in mind that you will likely have no fan or air conditioning in the room unless you stay in more luxury accommodation like Mendihuaca Hotel. It is not unbearable, but you need to be prepared. Travelling with a mini fan can be a good idea in this area of the world.
- Take plenty of cash. Some hostels accept card payment, so do double check prior to your arrival. Yet, the restaurants and bars will only accept cash payments. You can pay by card at Costeno Hostel, yet the minimum amount is 30000COP.
- Enjoy! And let me know if you went! I will be looking forward to your comments!
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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.
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.
123Go — Great for tickets for trains, buses, ferries and charters in Southeast Asia! The best way to buy your ticket for the 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!
- For staying safe online and accessing streaming services like Netflix no matter the country I use a Surfshark VPN. Another great and high-quality VPN provider is Express VPN.
- 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!