Located less than an hour away from Santa Marta, Minca is a little paradise. Up here in the mountains, a fresh breeze offers relief from the heat. You can hike through bamboo groves and swim in rivers and waterfalls. And at the end of the day, hammocks invite you to relax.
Not too long ago, this tiny village used to be a refuge for extremists who used to hide in the mountains. These days, instead of soldiers with machine guns, backpackers stroll through the streets.
And while Minca can be seen as a day trip from Santa Marta, you should consider staying the night. Let me show you why:
#1 Swim in the Marinka waterfalls
The Cascada Marinka is a beautiful waterfall south of Minca. It can be reached on foot by following the road that goes southwards. Eventually, when reaching a couple of houses, you need to turn left. From there on, the road goes uphill. It can be an exhausting walk in the heat, but as a reward, you get to swim in a waterfall.
There is a small entrance fee but in return, you have access to all facilities. Two platforms allow you to view the waterfall and if you get thirsty or hungry, you can also find a restaurant here. Plus, next to one of the platforms, you can see large nets which are perfect for lying down, drying off and relaxing after having swum in the cold water.
We left Minca early in the morning (we had breakfast at eight and left afterwards) and when we arrived here, there was only one other person. He got out of the water and we had the whole place to ourselves, which was very nice. If you have the option, try to arrive here as early as possible.
From the Marinka waterfalls, you have the choice between going back to Minca or following the path uphill to the Los Pinos viewpoint.
#2 Enjoy the view from Los Pinos
There are two paths leading up to Los Pinos. One is the one I just mentioned, which takes you past the Marinka waterfall and then on a steep uphill through coffee plantations. The other one is the main road leading southwards from Minca. It is longer but nowhere near as steep. I took the steep path up and the longer road down, which I think is ideal because I wouldn’t want to scramble down the hill in between the coffee bushes.
On clear days, you can see Santa Marta and the sea from Los Pinos. When I went, unfortunately, it was hazy in between the mountains and I could not really make out the coast in the distance. It is still a beautiful viewpoint and a very rewarding day hike.
If you prefer not to walk, you can hire a motor taxi in Minca to take you up and back down again. Whatever you do, make sure to take enough water. I was surprised by how difficult it was to buy drinks along the way. Also, you absolutely have to put insect repellent on your skin. I got bitten by more than a hundred sandflies up there. They are horrible but can be scared away easily with DEET.
#3 Enjoy Minca by relaxing in a hammock
While there are a lot of hiking opportunities around Minca, it is also the perfect place to relax and do nothing for a while. Bring a book, lie down in a hammock and enjoy the beautiful nature around you. Just make sure to shower in DEET first, as those mosquitoes (and sandflies) are merciless.
My hostel had hammocks on the terrace, so I could just lie down in one of them. If yours doesn’t, you could always take a motorbike taxi up to Casa Elemento. While I have heard mixed things about this hostels when it comes to their rooms and service, they do have what they say is the largest hammock in the world. And while you’re up here, you could get a fresh juice or milkshake.
however long you like
#4 Swim in Pozo Azul
The waterfall Pozo Azul is located closer to Minca and can be reached a little faster than Marinka Falls. Motorbikes will offer to take you here, but since it is just about an hour to walk, it is easy enough to get here on foot.
While the Marinka waterfalls are high and narrow, Pozo Azul is low and wide. The shallow pool in front of the fall is perfect for a swim, even though the water is freezing cold. Unfortunately, hundreds of other tourists seemed to have the same idea when we came here, and the area around the falls was packed.
On both sides of the stream, a path leads further up. If you want to escape the crowds, this is perfect for finding your own private spot to sit and enjoy nature. As always, make sure to bring plenty of DEET because the sandflies are merciless.
#5 Eat at the Lazy Cat Cafe
Pretty much every traveller I met in Minca had been to the Lazy Cat Cafe or was planning on going there. Maybe it is the location, with those terraces overlooking the river. Or it is the amazingly tasty burgers. We enjoyed the Lazy Cat Cafe that we went here twice in three days.
While the burgers are amazing, I can also highly recommend the noddle bowls. And if you get tired of the Lazy Cat Cafe, there are a couple more nice restaurants worth checking out. Cafe Duni makes an excellent vegetarian lasagna, for example.
1 – 2h
A good word of advice: I know I have mentioned the sandflies about a hundred times in this article, but they are really horrible. Within less than an hour, they’re going to make your skin look like you contracted a contagious disease and should be locked away in a hospital. And it’s not just about looks. Those bites are extremely itchy. So make sure to take enough insect repellent.
But besides that, Minca is a wonderful place and you can have lots of fun here. It has its own special atmosphere and I am sure you’re going to love it!
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