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How to Get to Minca from Santa Marta or Cartagena

How to Get to Minca from Santa Marta or Cartagena

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

The best way to get to Minca is via a shuttle bus or private transfer from Santa Marta, located in the Magdalena region of Northern Colombia.

Are you looking for a serene mountain escape from the bustling Caribbean coast of Colombia? Minca, a small town nestled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, offers the perfect retreat with its cool climate, lush landscapes, and vibrant eco-tourism opportunities.

I spent two weeks exploring the hiking trails and waterfalls and hanging out at the coffee plantations and unique Fincas. Here’s everything you need to know about getting to Minca, with costs, routes, and my recommendations.

A map showing the location of minca from santa marta and cartagena, colombia
Distance from Cartagena & Santa Marta to Minca Town


Below is a detailed transport guide but before we dive in, here's what you should know.

  • Minca is located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world's highest coastal mountain range, approximately 600-650 meters (1,970-2,132 feet) higher than sea level.
  • There is only one road leading to Minca, called "Santa Marta a Minca". This is sealed, easy to navigate, and winds up the forested mountain slopes directly to town.
  • Getting to Minca takes roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour from Santa Marta, which will be the main connecting point whether you're coming from Cartagena, Palomino, or Tayrona National Park.
  • Minca enjoys a cooler climate than the Caribbean coast, making it ideal for hiking, bird watching, and exploring waterfalls.
  • The easiest way to get to Minca is to book a direct transfer on Viator for about $45 USD.
  • Alternatively, you can take public transport routes (details below), or visit on a day tour from Santa Marta.

I recommend planning to spend at least 2-3 days in Minca. There are so many great and unique places to stay, I recommend staying in an affordable finca if you have the time.

Hotel net hammock in minca, colombia

Where is Minca?

Minca is a small mountain town situated in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the Magdalena region of Northern Colombia. It is the highest coastal mountain range in the world, offering stunning views and a refreshing climate.

The town center is approximately 21 kilometers (13 miles) from Santa Marta or 230 kilometers (143 miles) from Cartagena.

DepartureDistanceTravel Time
Santa MartaApproximately 21 kilometers (13 miles)Around 45 minutes by car or colectivo
CartagenaApproximately 230 kilometers (143 miles)About 5 hours by coach bus to Santa Marta, followed by a 45-minute drive to Minca
Tayrona National ParkApproximately 34 kilometers (21 miles) to Santa Marta, and then an additional 21 kilometers (13 miles) to MincaAbout 1.5 hours combined (45 minutes from Tayrona to Santa Marta, and another 45 minutes to Minca)
PalominoApproximately 70 kilometers (43 miles) to Santa Marta, and then an additional 21 kilometers (13 miles) to MincaRoughly 2.5 hours combined (1.5 hours from Palomino to Santa Marta, and 45 minutes to Minca)
BarranquillaApproximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) to Santa Marta, and then an additional 21 kilometers (13 miles) to MincaAbout 3 hours combined (2 hours from Barranquilla to Santa Marta, and 45 minutes to Minca)

Note: The winding Santa Marta - Minca road through the La Fortuna Nature Reserve is sealed and easy to navigate. However, many of the hotels in Minca are far into the mountains off unsealed, dirt tracks. You may need to pay a moto taxi or arrange a 4WD to take you to your hotel from the town.

Mountains minca colombia 1

How to Get to Minca from Santa Marta

Book a Private Transfer

For the most convenient and hassle-free journey, I recommend booking a private transfer from Santa Marta to Minca in advance.

This is available on Viator and usually takes just under 1 hour depending on the traffic. This option ensures a comfortable ride and can be easily arranged online through platforms like Viator.

This transfer is with an airconditioned van or hatchback sedan and is a private transfer (meaning you won't have to share the car with other travelers). The drop-off point is at Minca's church, which is in the middle of the town. If you need to get to your hotel, you should tell them before departure and they can arrange a 4WD or motorbike to accommodate.

White church in minca, colombia
Minca's Church is the main drop off point for most private drivers.
White private car to minca
Typical private transfer vehicle

Colectivo (Shared Bus from Mercado Publico)

The cheapest way to get to Minca from Santa Marta is to take a colectivo. These are essentially shared van taxis running on a schedule. This is the option that we took to save money since we had small backpacks.

To catch a colectivo to Minca, head to the main square in Santa Marta, specifically Mercado Publico located at the corner of Carrera 9 and Calle 11.

The cost for a ride is between 9,000-10,000 COP per person, and the journey takes approximately 45 minutes to one hour. Finding the vans are easy, just look for the small white public bus with the name "Minca" inscribed on the windshield.

The Colectivo drops passengers at the center of town, making it easy to get to your accommodation.

It’s important to note that the last shuttle departs at 5:00 pm, so plan accordingly to ensure you don't miss the final bus. The vans also leave when they are full, so depending on demand, you may need to wait a while.

Minca colectivo to santa marta

Taxi Option

Another option is to simply pay a taxi driver to take you up to Minca. Note this is not the best option since they'll often overcharge you (since it's a one-hour return for the driver).

To get a taxi from Santa Marta to Minca, you can expect to pay around 60,000 COP, though the fare is often negotiable to 40,000-50,000 COP.

The journey typically takes about 45 minutes. It's best to arrange a taxi through your hotel or directly at a reliable taxi stand in Santa Marta to ensure a fair price. Always remember to agree on a price before you go.

Minca main street
The main street of minca town

How to Get to Minca from Cartagena

Coach Bus to Santa Marta

To reach Minca from Cartagena, I recommend taking a comfortable coach bus to the Santa Marta bus station (Terminal de Transportes de Santa Marta). Several reputable companies, such as Berlinas del Fonce and Expreso Brasilia, operate this route.

I highly recommend booking your bus tickets in advance using BusBud to avoid getting the gringo price at the bus terminal.

The distance from Cartagena to Santa Marta is approximately 230 kilometers (143 miles), and the bus journey typically takes around 4 to 5 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Buses are usually air-conditioned and offer comfortable seating, making for a pleasant trip.

Once you arrive in Santa Marta, you can either take a taxi or a colectivo to Minca using the information above.

Long distance bus in colombia

Practical Transport Tips

These transport routes to Minca should have you covered! If you're planning to visit from Medellín or Bogatá, then you can fly to Santa Marta Airport (Simón Bolívar International Airport) or take a long-distance bus. Below are some useful tips to help you plan your trip!

  • Book in advance: Use BusBud to grab your coach bus tickets from Cartagena to Santa Marta a few days ahead of time. This ensures you get the best seats and your preferred travel times.
  • Choose the right bus: Berlinas del Fonce and Expreso Brasilia are solid options, I've taken both of these long-distance buses and highly recommend.
  • Arrive during the day: Plan to get to Santa Marta in daylight so you have plenty of time to catch your ride to Minca. Trust me, it’s less stressful. Overall, Minca feels a lot safer than Santa Marta though.
  • Be patient: If you're taking a colectivo, be prepared to wait until it fills up. It's all part of the adventure. If you're short on time, book a private transfer in advance.
  • Need a lift in Minca?: Once you reach Minca, you might need a moto-taxi to get to your accommodation, especially if it’s up in the mountains. These are readily available near where the colectivos and taxis drop you off, the company is called MotoMink– and its usually just a bunch of young guys on dirt bikes.
  • Cash is king: The ATMs in Minca are temperamental. I highly recommend taking out cash in Santa Marta or Cartagena and carrying small bills in Colombian pesos for colectivos and moto-taxis. Sometimes, hotels and fincas (coffee & cacao plantations) in Minca will also not accept card payments.
Streets of minca

And, that's all you need to know to get to Minca! While you're here, check out some of my other useful guides to get you prepared for your trip to Colombia!

  • Medellín Travel Guide: Discover fun activities and top highlights in Medellín
  • San Andrés Island: Guide to Colombia's best Caribbean Island
  • Minca Travel Guide: Discover incredible hikes, beautiful fincas, epic jungle waterfalls, and all-around relaxing vibes.
  • Things to do in Guatapé: Travel to Colombia's most scenic Antioquian town, known for its vibrant streets, traditional street art, and the famous Piedra del Peñol.
Girl and sunset at coffee plantation in minca

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Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

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