Why Minca Should Be on Your Colombia Itinerary in 2023

Why Minca Should Be on Your Colombia Itinerary in 2023

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Minca is magical – set in the Sierra Nevada mountains with views of the Caribbean and the city of Santa Marta; the sunsets are incredible. The Caribbean coast is notoriously hot and humid and Minca’s higher elevation is a welcome response from the heat. In Minca you will find lush green jungle, tropical flowers, mystical waterfalls and swimming holes, incredible birds and wildlife and of course – those sunsets!

When researching our Colombia trip, we found a lot of outdated pre-pandemic information. Our Minca guide is based on our 2023 trip.

Minca is the perfect place to slow down and relax, especially after visiting Tayrona or the Lost City. Minca’s infrastructure hasn’t quite caught up to its popularity. Beyond the town, the roads are rough dirt roads that require a 4×4 or moto-taxi. There are no ATMs in town, so make sure you bring plenty of cash. There are a couple of tiendas selling produce, basic cooking supplies and drinks, but we recommend eating out or bringing self catering supplies from Santa Marta.

Due to Minca’s wet climate, there are mosquitoes, so make sure you carry and use bug spray. There are also these tiny other biting bugs (no-seums maybe?) – they are vicious and leave big red welts for days.

Where is Minca?

Minca is a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains 30 minutes from Santa Marta, that has gained popularity with visitors over the past decade. Santa Marta is a city on the Caribbean coast, east of Cartagena and Baranquilla. Santa Marta is the access point to visit the popular Tayrona National Park

Where to Stay in Minca

The town of Minca is small and while it does have some good restaurants, the magic of Minca is in the countryside above the town. We recommend staying in one of the fantastic hotels in the mountains. You will have to spend some money on transport (moto-taxis or 4x4s) or be prepared for some uphill walks, but the views are what make Minca so magical.

We think the best place to stay in Minca is Mundo Nuevo Eco-Lodge – an eco-hotel committed to sustainability and self-sufficiency. We loved the infinity pool with the most incredible views where everyone gathers each evening to watch the sunset. We loved the delicious family style vegetarian meals. We loved the kind staff and the great activities they offer. They have private rooms and dorms. It is located a 12 min moto-taxi/4×4 from Minca. For these reasons, we think this is the best Minca hotel and Minca hostel to stay at. Click here to check the latest prices.

They also own a gorgeous casita offered on Airbnb that we stayed at for a few days. This house has the same gorgeous views, 2 bedrooms, an incredible outdoor kitchen and living space, stunning decor and even a shower looking out over the mountains! If you are traveling as a family or group, this is a wonderful place to stay. It is located halfway between Minca and Mundo Nuevo, but you have full access to the pool and grounds at Mundo Nuevo.

Mundo Nuevo Casita

Things to do in Minca

Minca isn’t a destination where you have a big list of items to visit and check off your list. The magic of Minca is the views so make sure you plan plenty of time to relax and enjoy the gorgeous views. In fact, this might be one of the shortest “things to do in…” sections we have ever written.

Marinka Waterfall

Minca has two famous waterfalls that both have swimming holes. We enjoyed them both, but Marinka was our favorite of the Minca waterfalls. Marinka is on private land, so you do have to pay a very reasonable 10,000 COP entry, but the owner has put a lot of effort into the grounds, so it’s completely worth it. You can walk there from town – a 1 hour picturesque walk along a dirt road or you can take a moto-taxis.

There are two Marinka waterfalls and swimming holes, huge hammock lounging areas, a restaurant, bathrooms and changing areas. Make sure you visit both of the swimming holes – each one is unique. The water is cool, but really refreshing. Plan to spend a few hours there swimming, relaxing on the big hammocks and enjoying the gorgeous gardens.

Pozol Azul Waterfall

Pozol Azul is the OG Minca waterfall and is very popular with Colombians, especially on weekends. Pozol Azul has two waterfalls and swimming holes for you to enjoy. Don’t expect to have Pozol Azul to yourself, but it’s still a really enjoyable place to visit. You can walk there from Minca in 45 minutes – 30 minutes along the road and 15 minutes along a dirt path. You can also take a moto-taxi – the walk is not as pretty as the walk to La Marinka. There are lots of vendors selling various food and drinks along the way.

Once again, make sure you visit both swimming holes at Pozol Azul – each one is unique. The first one is larger and busier. The second one is smaller, quieter, and you can do some cliff jumping. There isn’t anywhere to change, so come in your bathing suit. There is no fee to visit the Pozol Azul waterfall.

Sunset Watching

Minca sunsets are some of the best I have ever seen, all over the world. If you are staying in a mountainside hotel (and we think you should), enjoy some sundowners, make some new friends, and enjoy the show the sky puts on each evening.

Bird Watching

Colombia has the second highest biodiversity in the world and the Minca Valley is one of the richest in terms of birds and insects, many of which are endemic. Meanwhile, the toucan is the most recognizable bird in the area, there are hundreds of colorful birds to spot. Wake up early, join a bird watching tour and see these amazing birds. Mundo Nuevo organizes bird watching tours each morning and while we didn’t see a toucan, it was a great tour (50,000 COP). Minca Birding and Jungle Joe’s also offer birding trips.

Visit a Coffee Farm

If you are not headed to the Coffee Triangle in Colombia (Salento area), then you should definitely visit a coffee farm in Minca. La Victoria is one of the best known ones to visit in Minca – you can book a tour, walk up, or taxi a 4×4 or moto-taxi (25,000 for the farm + transportation). Another option is La Candelaria (30,000 COP), where you can learn about coffee and cocoa at the same time and even get a chocolate face mask. Contact them via What’s App at (57) 315 2554186.

How Long in Minca

Give yourself a minimum of 3 nights in Minca because it does take some effort to get there. We would recommend skipping Santa Marta entirely and making your way directly to Minca, or saving Minca for a visit after the Lost City Trek or after visiting Tayrona National Park. However, if you have more time, Minca is an easy place to spend time.

Where to Eat in Minca

If you are staying in the mountains, you will likely eat breakfast and dinner at your hotel. There are a good variety of restaurants to check out in town for lunch. Most travelers head right for LazyCatwhich does offer good Western fare, but there are lots of other great restaurants in Minca.

La Miga Bakery has a big reputation, which is completely deserved. We love their chocolate bread!

World Cafe is a great choice for vegetarians, but also for meat eaters. They also have delicious deserts.

Sailor Will – we ended up here one day when Lazy Cat was closed and it was surprisingly good – our kids said the burgers were the best they’ve ever had!

We also enjoyed the food at Mundo Nuevo Eco-Hotel, but since it is out of town, you would only eat there if you were staying there. We also ate a dinner at Gramping trekkers which was really good and in a gorgeous setting, but it is also out of town.

Getting to Minca

Santa Marta to Minca – you can take a collectivo (shared taxi) from the Santa Marta market for 8,000 COP. Alternatively, if you have some friends, you can take a taxi for 75,000 COP. The drive is 30-40 minutes.

Cartagena to Minca – the best way to get between Cartagena and Santa Marta is on the Berlinas bus (which is really a large van). They are very comfortable, professional and cost 60,000 COP and take 4-5 hours. They will drop you off before the Santa Marta market, so you will need to take a taxi there if you want to take the collectivo to Minca.

Tayrona to Minca – the easiest way is by taxi, however, you can also take the bus from Tayrona to Santa Marta and then the collectivo to Minca. The Santa Marta market is at the far end of Santa Marta, so you will have to go all the way to Santa Marta and then back out, before heading to Minca.

Palomino to Minca – take the bus from Palomino to Santa Marta and then the collectivo (or taxi) to Minca.

ATM in Minca

There is no ATMs in Minca, despite what Google Maps might show. Make sure you bring plenty of cash, as most restaurants and tours will only accept cash. There are a couple of places that will do a credit card cash advance for you (these are the ATMs shown on Google Maps). However, credit card cash advances are very expensive – they will charge you 10% in Minca, plus you will be paying interest on the amount on your credit card. We would only suggest using these if you really need to. Also note that there are no ATMs in Palomino or Tayrona, so if you are headed for either of those, make sure you have adequate cash.

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