The beaches of Taganga are nicer than Santa Marta but mostly due to their gorgeous setting and of course, you don't have to see the port from where you're taking a dip. They are not exactly pristine on closer inspection and talk about crowded, that they are. Packed and packed only with backpackers. You could completely forget that you are in Colombia and even South America for that matter. There is however a much nicer beach called Playa Grande just around the headland. We had arrived in Taganga in the late afternoon primarily for a meal and after a nice scenic walk we just enjoyed the sunset from the main Taganga beach which was quite pretty if not exactly the most secluded romantic spot. Looking for a honeymoon destination? This is not it.
The small 20 minute hike to Play Grande from the main beaches of Taganga is not to be missed though we nearly did just that. I had neglected to read anything about the town aside from a review of its deservedly famous baguette sandwich shop on arrival and it was only by seeing the Hotel Bahia Taganga up on a hill that we were drawn in that direction. It looked like a great vantage point for pictures of the town's obviously perfect horseshoe-shaped bay, and with the way was going to set, would put us in perfect position for photos of it. So, we walked towards it in a leisurely fashion as we were full from our big meal and in no particular hurry. We were heading on the Ciudad Perdida trek the next morning so no need in wearing our legs out, right? The views got better and better but oddly enough all we saw were people coming from the other direction, all in bathing suits and obviously coming from the beach. We got as far on the headland as we could without losing site of Taganga and it was perfect timing for some amber glowing shots of town. We didn't go any further as the sun was going down pretty quickly and we wanted to descend while we could still see where we were going so went down to watch sunset from the beach below without realizing we were on a trail to an even nicer beach. Of course, going there for sunset might have been nice but hiking back without headlamps would have been a nightmare and probably possibly dangerous!
Turcol is the only company organising treks to Ciudad Perdida (but I have heard there might be other tour companies soon). The first morning in Taganga I went to Turcol’s office in Santa Marta to hear which days they would have a trek. I wanted to go in two days, but they just had a trek the day after or in four days. I decided to take the trek in four days. I went to an ATM to withdraw money and went back to Turcol to pay. For the six-day trek I paid 460 000 pesos (July 2007). In Taganga later that day I heard they now had a trek in two days (other people had signed up after I had been to the office), so I changed day as it suited my schedule better.
In Taganga you can also book the Ciudad Perdida trek through Magic Tours.
The trek to Ciudad Perdida is a six day trek, but many groups also do it in five days (I’m glad we didn’t). It takes three days to arrive to Ciudad Perdida and then there is one day for exploring Ciudad Perdida, and then two days for walking back. It is the forth day that many people skip. They see Ciudad Perdida in the afternoon they arrive and then leave early the morning after. But why rush when you have come all the way.
Playa Grande is a nicer beach than the one in Taganga I think. It is situated northwest of the village in a small bay and you can go there by taking the path in the end of the beach in Taganga. It will take about 15 minutes to walk to Playa Grande. If you don’t want to walk you can take one of the boats going between Taganga and Playa Grande. Both times I went to Playa Grande I arrived quite early and took a sun chair in the shade under a tree. The sun chairs can be rented for 3000 pesos for a whole day. More and more people will arrive during the day.
Behind the beach there are several restaurants where you can have fish (or chicken) for lunch.
Santa Marta is a quite big city with over 400 000 inhabitants situated on the Caribbean coast. It is popular among Colombian tourists who come here for the beaches. Many of them are staying at the resorts in Rodadero in the south of Santa Marta.
I didn’t stay in Santa but if you stay in Taganga some days you will probably at one point have something you must do in the nearby Santa Marta. I visited Santa Marta many times to arrange the Ciudad Perdida trek, to withdraw money from the ATM, shop at one of the big supermarkets and to see some of the city. Places of interest to see are the Gold Museum, the Cathedral, Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino (the hacienda were Simón Bolívar died) and an aquarium. There is a beach promenade by the sea where it can be nice to take a stroll.
The beach in Taganga is not very big. Half of it is full of fishing boats and on the other half there is a lot of tourists, both foreign backpackers and Colombian tourists. It can be a bit noisy as some of the restaurants along the beach are playing music very loud. People selling jewellery or ice-cream are walking up and down the beach.
If you are in Taganga or St. Marta, you should definately take a walk across the mountains to this nice beach. Actually it's not so much the beach that is worth visiting, but more the walk across the mountains. The beach is nice, with white sand and clear water, but it's a bit too inhabited and full of tourists who come there by boat from St. Marta. But the half-hour walk from Taganga ta Playa Grande offers you an amazing view on the coastline and the village, and the nature up there is breathtaking as well.
Sierra tours is very popular offering a lot of tours around Taganga or further away.
There is a tour to the Cuidad Perdida for 4 days 5 nights for 240$. It includes transport to Mamey, 3 days of ascent, 2 days in the Lost City and 3 days of descent and an expert guide.
Another interesting tour is going to Don Diego/Sierra Nevada/Nabusimake
In Nabusimake you have the unique chance to live and get very close to the indigenous people on the Sierra Nevada. For a trip of 4 nights 5 days you will pay 400$ including the guides, transportation, food and drinks, and accommodation in the village.
To Playa Crystal a truly beautiful beach with crystal clear sea 30$+15$ for the entry in the Tayrona Park. This I think is overpriced...
To Cabo de la Vela for 1 night 2 days including meals and a visit to indigenous villages for 120$. Cabo de la Vela is a seaside fishing village in Peninsula Guajira.
There are several more tours, as to El Congo/Sierra Nevada, to Park Tayrona and more..
If you are a group of more per prices are negotiable. Get in their site for more details.
Taganga [Calle 17 No1-18 Taganga—22 No 16-61
Santa Marta tel (57 5 ) 4219401—4203414 cel 3174171797
Another one is OverAlestur that is based in Rodadero and Santa Marta but also has an office in Taganga : [tel 4219122. --- www.overalestur.com.co.]
In Santa Marta : [ Calle 14 No. 3-04 Local 2 Ed Banco Santander Centro historico
tel: 315-7337390. ]
Finally almost every hotel can arrange for buses to take you wherever you like.
Next to Taganga is a fine beach with white sand and very clear water. A pleasant road with beautiful views leads there which can be walked in about 45 minutes. The beach has some restaurants offering free chairs and umbrellas on the condition that you eat there. Their food is typically local and quite tasty. Fresh fruit, simple salads and fish or meat dishes are served at good prices.
There are several people on the beach that give good massages although a little pricey. (7,5$ for half an hour).
If you feel lazy you can get into a boat going there for about 2.5$.
On weekends the beach gets very busy.
I have read many controversial things about the beach and generally about Taganga. Well, I think everybody is right to have their opinion and they differ because some have a good time and some not. As for the beach I think it's not one of the best on the Caribbean. It is not the usual palm-fridged white sand beach we expect to see. But the water looks clean and both locals and tourists swimming in it seem to be enjoying it. Many spend a lot of time sunbathing, or meeting with their friends for a morning coffee. Children are playing in or out of the water and generally it usually presents a happy picture, at least. If , however, you don't want to waste your days on such a beach, go to the next ones or move to Tayrona Park for a few days. I am sure even the most demanding of you will have no complaints!
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They say prices used to be quite good in Taganga but I find them just normal nowadays.
I'll just quote a few to give you a general idea but you will have to negotiate, especially if you are a large group of people.
So in Oceano Scuba Dive Center it's about 225$ for PADI courses, 60$two dives, and 20$ for snorkeling, all including lunch. Check the equipment before the boat leaves.
[ Carrera 2 No 17-46 Corner Tel: (57 5) 421 9004]
Another one is Centro de Buceo Poseidon which is recommended by some people. It has a swimming pool and good equipment. I don't have a personal opinion. Its prices are 260$ for PADI open water, 225$ for PADI advanced, and two dives 70$ . There are more diving centers with the same prices more or less. Shop around.!!!!!!
[Calle 18 No 1-69 Tel: (57 5) 421 9224]
The Ser Buzo dive shop here in Taganga offers Open Water to Dive Master courses from just 300,000 pesos (USD1.00 = 2,800 Pesos) . This includes free accomodation in their hostal, lunches when diving and a great atmosphere.
Fun dives are 60,000 pesos for 2 dives.
The village beach in Taganga seems like a very nice beach... calm and transparent waters that beg to be dipped in. Considering the rubbish around the village it is quite surprising that the sea looks clean. Take a swim there... but don't forget your coral shoes, not because there are corals but to avoid walking barefoot on the beach, literally covered in dog pee and poo.
The same precautions should apply to laying your beach towels on the golden sand... my suggestion is to leave your beach towel at home. Some people think that they can leave it on the chairs of the Ballena Azul hotel: don't bother... dogs sleep, poo and pea on those chairs, too - as well as on their massage-tables. Just take a look/sniff of the sheets and guess how many months it is since they last were washed.
Boats charge a couple dollars to each passenger to ferry people from Taganga's harbour the 15 minutes into Playa Grande. Save your money! A 15 minute hike up and around the desert rock that separates Taganga from Playa Grande is scenic and quick though requires a bit of up and down. Not too brisk and I did it just fine in flip-flops. Fantastic views of the town, ocean and beach!
We met Capi on Playa Grande one day and after he told us he was a fisherman (hence the CAPItan), he asked him about the possibility to hire us a boat ride for some early morning oceanic fishing. He agreed and set us a price of 30,000 pesos per hour for the whole boat, not matter the number of people. He charged us for 2 hours of fishing but he didn't include the transportation time in this so we ended up being gone from 7 am- 10 am. We really enjoyed it. Its an early morning but you are out on the sea as the sun rises and gets stronger. We caught tuna fish and snapper! And took it all home and cooked it up at the Casa Divanga annex with a kitchen. If you are interested, head down to the Taganga beach during the day and ask for Capi!