I recommend staying a while but this can definitely be a day trip. It depends on what you are looking for. There isn't much to do in Minca but take long hikes, bathe in a river, watch birds and butterflies and enjoy new scenery, and peace and quiet (ok, like everywhere else you can hear music playing at times by a river or corner store, but most of the time it was peaceful). Stayed two nights and took long walks to Pozo Azul and in the other direction cascadas/waterfall that cost $3000 to get to (private property) but I think there was another waterfall that we missed that didn't charge. It was fun to watch the birds, the butterflies, listen to the river, breath fresh air, be accompanied on one of our walks by a healthy, friendly dog and on another walk meet up with three young children (age 4, 6 and 7) play and laugh contagiously (also accompanied by a dog). It looked like a very safe place. At the Pozo Azul we met a man who watches over the location and makes sure people are safe. There is a small, precarious path along both sides of the pozo to get to another pozo.
How to get there: You can catch a carro publico for about $5000 pesos from carrera 10 and calle 11 in the market area. When you get there and are planning on coming back the same way you came, make sure you know when the last carro will be going back to Santa Marta. I was told around 5 - 5:30 pm. You can also take a taxi, which will cost more. It takes about 45 minutes to get there.
I've been living in Santa Marta for the past six months so it was wonderful to get out of the city especially now when it has gotten so hot. The road to Minca is a little bumpy but my driver was cautious and slowed down when he needed to. It was a little cooler but it also was more humid as it hadn't rained in Santa Marta for the past three months, so it probably felt about the same when hiking around. Minca is a small town and is known for coffee growing. The coffee price just went up for Semana Santa. The Tienda Cafe de Minca/coffee shop near the Police station sold well-packaged coffee for 13,000 COP per kilo but we found it sold for $10,000 COP ground out of someone's home. You'll see a sign painted to a post leading you to this house. No fancy packaging. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find the local organic coffee that is grown here in Santa Marta. The best Colombian coffee is exported.
If you are a bird watcher, San Lorenzo, which is about an hour further is known a a bird watching location but I saw some birds and butterflies that I haven't seen in Santa Marta.
Where to stay: There were five of us and we stayed in a cabin by the river. it's called Los Paisas somos Asi. It is in town. Tel: 421-9904, Cel:316-870-3060. There were five of us, $30,000 COP each per night. We brought food with us and cooked. There are places to eat in town but it looks like at least one opened during meal times and then closed part of the day. We stayed during Semana Santa so the price may have ben higher. There are cheaper options as well. The web site below will provide some of those options. The web site doesn't list all of the options in Minca however.
Tips - bring plenty of bug spray, the zancudos will get you and you won't even see them, or consider covering up well. Also, if you are staying, bring some snacks with you since there aren't a lot of stores there.
https://www.facebook.com/hotelminca , http://www.hotelminca.com/
About bird watching:
The web site listed has a useful map to at least take a look at before going. You may also find a map at the store across from the Police station at the entrance of the town.
Since I am interested in lighthouses, I always look for them. I took pictures of this one. When I looked at the photos there appeared to be a path to the top of the lighthouse, and the lighthouse looked like it had lights in it.
Then I asked at the information desk what the name of the lighthouse was. I would have been better off to go to the
Lighthouse Directory page which says under
Barranquilla Area Lighthouses
"Morro Grande (Santa Marta) (2)
1971 (station established 1870). Active; focal plane 82 m (269 ft); three white flashes every 15 s. Approx. 24 m (80 ft) hexagonal tower on a 2-story square base; the lighthouse is built of cement blocks with a frame of reinforced concrete. Lighthouse painted gray with white trim; the lantern has red and white vertical striping
Located on a steep-sided island in the entrance to the harbor of Santa Marta. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower presumably closed.
I went on a trek that was initiated in Santa Marta, Colombia for 6 days to the Lost City
(la cuidad perdida) remnants of a city dating 500 B.C. of the Tryrona Indians discovered only in 1976. I have to say it was harder than I expected! It is three days up, and three days down. The first day I fought so hard to make it through the day! The next day, I found when it was really hard on me, I would stop, breath deep, and ask those beautiful mountains and jungles for her energy, and it worked! I kept a better pace and felt great. But alas, after I reached the city, I was pooped! Then a torrential rain came and I prayed to get off that mountain in one piece. I had a feeling I'd slip, fall and break something... Now if I was an animal, I would be a Hawk. The morning of day 4, I saw a beautiful helicopter land on the largest terrace, (built as the foundation of the largest home in the lost city). The guide knew I was going to have a rough time of it going down, so he secured me a spot on that copter (a Huey, probably purchased from good ol’ U.S. of A.) Thank you Great Spirit! I waved good bye to 22 other trekkers! (I did miss them and made great friends from all over the world!!) But it would have been very hard for me to make it down...
Now, here is my TIP--
I purchased my trip through Alestur Tours in the Rodadero, and I was the only trekker to pay 600,000 pesos. But every one who went direct to Turcol, the planners, payed only 440,000 pesos. Also, the whole country is required to take a yellow fever vaccine because of a recent epidemic. But we as tourist (though I’m Colombian who’s lived in the U.S. all my life) are not required. I didn't. But had I known, I would have taken it. It’s 10 days after the shot is administered for effectiveness.
Have fun in Santa Marta, the oldest European city in South America, and home to the highest coastal mountain range in the world.
The Colombian Caribbean coast is a region where coexist a wide variety of cultures, every one with their own customs and histories that surprise every tourist and it's not enough to visit great cities like Santa Marta, Barranquilla or Cartagena in order to understand this magic land. Therefore, if you are searching something more tah a sample glance, you must to move away a bit, you must to be off the beaten track, according to your particular purpose: to visit historic places, to see inusual customs or to visit places with a beatiful lanscape suitable for ecotourism.
Near from Santa Marta lies Taganga, a peaceful and safe place. Taganga is a good option to stay a complete day, because is near from the city (just 10 minutes in a colectivo ride). It´s a small town of fishermen, situated in a beatiful bay of the same name. Normally very quiet, it´s crowded with people all around Colombia in the high season; lots of music (mainly Vallenatos) and happy people. Now, Taganga is a popular diving site and one of the cheapest places in Colombia.
If you are already in St. Marta you definately don't want to miss out on seeing a truly amazing small fishing village of Taganga. The number one place to go for diving - there are several PADI dive-shops offering diving courses and just diving trips for a relatively low price. The general atmosphare or an authentic Caribbean fishing village is also worth seeing. It is so amazingly beautiful and relaxing and calm there. And it's just a 10-minute bus-ride away from St. Marta (catch a regular collectivo from the main street, for less than 1 US $).
The Lost City is an archeological sight situated deep in the mountains near Sta Marta. The trek is one of the best in South America. You get to live so many childhood fantasies it's unreal. Read about this amazing trek in my Ciudad Perdida page. If you have time for one trek in Colombia, this is it!
Parque Tayrona is an amazing park situated in the Coastal Area of Colombia. It's really easy to get there from Sta Marta.
The park offers a quick alternative for those without the time to do the much longer Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) Trek. Even better, if you have the time do both! Check out my Parque Tayrona page for the details.
This village was orginally founded by three families, and they are still thre after four generations. Nice location nearby to the city.