Minca, Colombia Ecotourism

Ecotourism in Minca, Colombia

Santa Marta, Colombia has gained a reputation as one of the most popular places to travel in Colombia, but the town of Santa Marta itself is dingy, dirty and less than picturesque. In fact, Santa Marta acts as more of a hub for the extensive ecotourism opportunities that exist within surrounding Magdalena province.

Among these the settlement of Minca, perched in the Colombian Sierra Nevada mountains that rise above the sea, is especially rewarding. Take a day trip from Santa Marta to Minca to trek through rainforest, swim at the base of a raging waterfall and take a tour of an organic, hydroelectric coffee farm that’s been operating continuously for almost two centuries.

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Minca is relatively close to central Santa Marta; depending on where in Santa Marta you’re staying, the journey takes between 45-90 minutes. If you stay at the Dreamer Hostel (about 20 minutes from central Santa Marta in Mamatoco), take one of the hostel’s organized tours, which costs 25.000 COP and departs on select days of the week.

Most tours of Minca have three parts: A tour of La Victoria, a local coffee farm and packaging center; a trek through the rainforest followed by a swim in a waterfall at the end of the trek; and a panoramic view of the region from a local mirador. The tour almost always occurs in this order, but it’s by design: Heavy early afternoon rains in the Sahara Nevada make the indoor areas of La Victoria the only place you want to be.

Don’t let the word “tour” fool you: Your trip to La Victoria will be extremely enlightening. The coffee purveyors here have been in business since roughly 1850 and still use the same process (and, in fact, many of the same facilities) they have for a century and a half. The entire operation is not only organic, but hydroelectric; The stream water used to wash coffee beans and transport them through the refining process provides all the electricity La Victoria consumes. Your tour guide will explain the long journey a single coffee bean takes from the coffee plant to your cup, which you enjoy both before and after the tour.

Although the rain can be annoying if you’re wearing inappropriate clothing or carry expensive electronics with you like I do, seeing the forest kissed with moisture after the storm is among the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see. I’ve rarely seen lushness like this anywhere else in the world.


Once the rain has let up you begin your hike, which takes you about an hour down into the Sierra Nevada’s rainforest. Our guide, who is a local of the region, was nice enough to locate (and harvest) some mangoes for us as we made our way along the path. He also kept about two dozen for himself!

Although you are, at most, two hours from central Santa Marta, you will feel much further away as you hike into the Sierra Nevada. This becomes particularly clear if you look up, the sky framed like a picture by the surrounding canopy. The pace of the tour may be faster or slower, depending on how many people yours includes, but try to pause and enjoy your surroundings for at least a moment.

One of my favorite parts of the tour was walking over a rushing river on a rickety, wooden bridge. This was exhilarating enough in and of itself, but a Swiss traveler on a different tour took it another step: He was actually lying down on the bridge. I snapped this photo while I was waiting for him to move.

Unfortunately, the rushing river was a bad omen of sorts: The rainstorm had rendered the waterfall (and the river) unsafe for swimming. Actually “bad” is not the word — it was great to look at! Here’s to hoping you’re able to swim at the base of a waterfall when you take a tour of Minca, Colombia.

About The Author

is the author of 794 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Leigh May 22, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I’m just starting my trip planning for Colombia. I have 12 days starting in Bogota and am pleased to read about your generally favorable impressions. This trip sounds worth doing.

Arianwen July 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I’ve heard a lot of people rate Minca very highly. Your description and photos have just confirmed that I will have to make time to see it!

F. Friedrich Kling July 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm

As a frequent traveler to Colombia, I strongly recommend a visit to the ProAves wildlife reserve (stay at the incredible Jeniam EcoLodge where visitors fro England recently discovered a mammal species previously thought extinct) in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The 1,600 acre reserve is just 2 hours drive from the city of Santa Marta. The views are spectacular and this reserve contains one of the highest concentrations of endemic bird and amphibian species in the world. By visiting the reserve you will be aiding Colombia’s most vital wildlife conservation NGOs. ProAves, a not-for-profit, now operates 22 reserves encompassing 56,000 acres throughout Colombia. Contact EcoTurs.org for trip details. Thanks.

Robert Schrader July 11, 2012 at 2:09 am

Thanks for the recommendation!

Katie McCarthy September 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I am currently living on the Colombian coast as a Peace Corps Volunteer and love your blog…I will definitely have to check Minca out! Thanks!

Robert Schrader September 20, 2012 at 7:48 am

Whereabouts on the coast are you? I love that region of the world!

nauticalmom.wordpress.com October 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm

hey – thanks from a fellow nomad. In santa marta desperate for things to do, so your ideas help!

Robert Schrader October 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Thanks for the comment! I assume you have already spent a day or so actually in Santa Marta? You could also go to Taganga, or to Los Angeles Beach, which is past Tayrona but is supposed to be really nice.

Cynthia January 30, 2013 at 9:08 am

Hello from Dawson Creek, British Colombia, Canada where it is minus 25 celsius this morning. We are going to Colombia for a three week trip in March. Cannot wait! Thanks for your tips. We will be basing ourselves in Santa Marta and exploring the area from there. LOVE this blog! Cyn, Randy & Jessica

Robert Schrader January 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

Thanks kindly for your comment – glad I could be of assistance! I hope you have a lot of fun in Colombia!

Alejandra C. August 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

Dont forget to go Cartagena! and wile you are there you might whant to go to Playa Blanca, a white sand beach in the island of Barú. You pay like 25 USD for the ride in a speed boat and they give you a tipical lunch by the beach (fried fish and coconut rice). It´s like a 30 min ride. But beware of scams! and remember that you have to pay like 6 USD extra in the small port to the authorities.

samir saada October 24, 2013 at 4:46 am

city, price point, interests, and more.

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Mandrew @ Two Bein' Chili August 23, 2014 at 4:20 pm

We spent a whole week in Minca at the end of our last trip – great place to enjoy hiking & relaxing. =)

Robert Schrader August 25, 2014 at 6:30 am

Yes, I want to go back!

N Dovak September 7, 2015 at 9:44 pm

I was down there last year in June. Can’t say I loved it, but can’t say I hated it either. It’s weird to see the huge contrasts the city itself has; on one hand, you have pretty luxurious hotels like this http://www.hotelcasacarolina.com/, right next to little shacks where huge families cram themselves. It was a major cultural shock for me, to be honest.

Awesome blog, by the way, will keep checking it out.

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