A complete hiking guide to Minca, Colombia. Features 10 awesome Minca hikes and scenic trails to inspire your adventures in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
The sleepy town of Minca has long been a chilled-out backpacker hub. However, in recent years its popularity has reached international acclaim, especially amongst the adventurous crowd due to its rich biodiversity, beautiful waterfalls, and awesome hiking trails.
If you’re looking for a place on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia to do some hiking, then don’t look past Minca. This small town is a stepping stone into the Sierra Nevada mountains, with plenty of great trails, scenic viewpoints, and wildlife-spotting opportunities.
In this guide, I’ll give you a run-down of the top 10 best hikes in Minca! I’ve also written comprehensive guides to many of these, which you’ll find in the links throughout.
Best Experiences in Minca
Before I get into this guide, here’s a rundown of my favorite tours and experiences in Minca.
- Ciudad Perdida Trek – Perhaps the most fulfilling trekking experience in Colombia. Trek to “The Lost City” in the Sierra Nevada, an archeaological site built some 650 years before even Machu Picchu!
- Birdwatching Tour – Minca is world-famous for its wildlife, especially its birds. Let a local show you the best spots to photograph and spot beautiful tropical birds like toucans and hummingbirds.
- Minca Full Day Tour – The best-rated tour in town which covers all the highlights in one day. Includes waterfalls and cacao plantation tours.
10 Awesome Hikes in Minca
1. Lost City Trek (Ciudad Perdida)
In terms of the most unforgettable Minca trekking experience, the famous Lost City Trek (Ciudad Perdida hike) takes the cake.
This incredible 4-day hike leads adventurers deep into the jungles and foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, passing rural villages occupied by indigenous groups along the way. This trek covers some seriously scenic ground, with an opportunity to see beautiful streams, scenic vistas, and rare endemic species.
Of course, you’ll need a guide to hike to the Lost City, and there are only a handful of operators conducting licensed tours.
Below I’ve linked to the best one, which you can book directly with Get Your Guide (which means you’ll also get free cancellation).
Book: Lost City Trek (Ciudad Perdida) – 4 days of trekking
2. Pozo Azul Trail
Looking for a short walk with an awesome freshwater swimming pool at the end?
Pozo Azul offers just that, and is a very popular destination amongst international travelers and Colombian day-trippers.
You’ll discover Pozo Azul along the sealed, main road heading north to El Campano (a small village just outside of Minca). You can either walk this road from town (roughly 1-hour walk) or pay a motorbike taxi driver to take you to the start of the trail for 10,000 pesos.
From the trailhead (marked by a small cafe), expect a short, 15-20 minute hike to the base of the waterfalls. This trail is mostly shaded throughout and passes some small food vendor stalls and lush bamboo outcrops.
Pozo Azul features two waterfall tiers. In my opinion, the upper waterfall is much better since its less crowded and has a small cliff jump.
Related: 4 Awesome Waterfalls in Minca
3. Cerro Kennedy Hike
While the Ciudad Perdida trek (number 1), is an awesome hike, my personal favorite is the overnight trip to Cerro Kennedy. This is a viewpoint sitting at 3,100 meters and offers incredible views of Colombia’s highest mountains; Pico Cristòbal Colòn and Pico Simòn Bolívar.
Unfortunately, there’s a military base at the very top, meaning you can’t actually walk all the way to the summit. However, there is an epic viewpoint just a little further down which offers equally as amazing views.
To get to Cerro Kennedy, you have three options. I’ve gone into more detail on each of these in my guide linked above. However, if you’re planning to hike from Minca, then expect a 2-3 day adventure, passing El Dorado Nature Reserve and staying at Moncho’s Place near the viewpoint.
If you’re going to make it up to Cerro Kennedy viewpoint, I highly recommend getting up early the next day and hiking to the viewpoint in the early morning. This gives you the best chance of getting views of the surrounding mountains above the cloud forest.
Tip: Minca is an adventure playground! If you’re planning to rent motorbikes or go hiking, then make sure you have travel insurance for adventurers. The best option currently is WorldNomads, which cater to young adventure travelers.
4. Marinka Waterfall Hike
My personal favorite waterfall hike in Minca is the road track to Marinka Waterfalls.
This beautiful set of two waterfalls is arguably the most beautiful in the surrounding area. The lower falls at Las Cascadas de Marinka also feature a wide, deep basin that is great for swimming!
Furthermore, you’ll also find a giant hammock and a cafe/restaurant on-site.
However, the hike from Minca to Marinka Falls isn’t the most interesting hike as it follows a road for most of the way. It’s only the last section that climbs a small dirt road before arriving at the entrance to the falls. Similar to Pozo Azul, you can also get a motorbike taxi to the entrance.
If you’re looking to do some more hiking, you could continue on to Los Pinos (below), through the Reserva Natural Tierra Adentro, which is much more scenic.
5. Los Pinos Viewpoint
The Los Pinos viewpoint is a great place to head to, offering loads of different hiking trail options from Minca. The most popular way to get here is to head up through the Reserva Natural Tierra Adentro from Marinka Falls.
However, you can also form a long loop track from the center of town, passing most of the attractions like Pozo Azul, Minca Waterfalls, Ear of the World, and of course, Sierra Minca (the best hostel in Minca).
From the top, hikers will get awesome views of Minca all the way down to Santa Marta and the Caribbean Sea. Due to the high elevation, you can also get a good chance for bird watching. We managed to spot a pair of toucans flying high above the canopy below.
Tip: The Los Pinos hike used to be a popular side trip from Casa Elemento, but this hostel has now closed down.
6. Ear of the World Waterfall Trail
In terms of short Minca hiking trails, the walk to Ear of the World, or Oído del Mundo waterfall is a great choice.
This waterfall is located closer to Minca than the popular Pozo Azul or Marinka Falls. Furthermore, you often won’t find any other tourists here at all, since it’s very much still a hidden gem! Similar to the other spots on this list, the Ear of the World offers opportunities for swimming in its shallow freshwater pools.
To get here, hike to the end of Carrera 5a (the restaurant street) in Minca. If you continue on, keeping left at the only obvious fork, you’ll soon come to a small detour trail on your right. This is the start of the very short hiking trail to the Ear of the World Waterfall.
The track is very short-lived, and after less than 3 minutes you’ll find yourself at the base of the falls.
7. Las Piedras
Another very short hike in Minca is the walk down to Las Piedras, which translates to “the stones” and is an awesome freshwater swimming spot on the river near the town.
This spot is located on the Costeño River (one of the small mountain streams running through Minca). As a result, the walk here is very short, especially if you’re staying close to town.
To hike to Las Piedras, simply head down to “Carrera 1a” on Google Maps, and you’ll find access to the river. While I didn’t stay close to town, I’d say this hike would take less than 15 minutes from the center.
The exact GPS coordinates for Las Piedras is 11°08’26.5″N 74°07’22.4″W.
8. 360 Mirador
The 360 Mirador is another awesome viewpoint hike in Minca with epic views of the town and surrounding mountains. “360 Mirador” means 360 Viewpoint, and this one got its name because it not only offers views down to Santa Marta and the Caribbean Coast but also on the other side, deep into the Sierra Nevada mountains.
This trail begins at the back of Minca and climbs a rather steep dirt road before entering the forest and climbing the back of a steep mountain ridge.
This is one of the steepest Minca walking trails but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views at the top! If you’re chasing the best light, a good option is to head up here late in the afternoon to watch the sunset on the ocean.
9. Sunset Viewpoint HIke at Finca San Rafael
During a large chunk of our two weeks in Minca, we stayed at Finca San Rafael. This is a beautiful mountain lodge set on a massive coffee plantation and cacao farm. What’s unique about this particular finca is that its terraces were carved into the earth by indigenous populations over 300 years ago!
If you stay here, (highly recommend), make sure to hike up these ancient steps through the plantation all the way up to the top of the ridge. This steep walk takes less than 40 minutes but was actually one of my favorite sunset hikes in Minca!
Tip: Finca San Rafael offers private rooms and shared dorm options. While not always recommended on blogs, I consider it one of the best hostels in the region, especially if you’re looking to relax.
10. Trail to La Victoria Coffee Farm
The farm at Finca La Victoria offers the most famous coffee tour in town. And, for hikers, the best part is that you can take a scenic trail to get here!
If you’re going to walk all the way from the village, expect a long push that involves mostly road walking. This is the same road leading off to Pozo Azul. Alternatively, get a motorbike taxi to Pozo Azul first, then walk the rest of the distance.
The trail begins on the left side of the road, just after “Colores de la Sierra”. From here, it’s just a 30-40 minute walk through the forest to reach the plantation. I highly recommend taking a coffee tour from here, and you can even organic coffee beans at reasonable prices.
Book: Coffee tour of La Victoria Coffee Farm (from Minca)
Where to Stay in Minca
The main town of Minca is quite small, and you’ll discover that some of the best places to stay are on the jungle foothills of the surrounding mountains.
While everybody knows about the famous Sierra Minca, there are several other great places to consider as well. Minca has some of the best hostels in South America, and the unmissable ones sell out frequently, so it’s best to book in advance!
- Stay at an Organic Cacao & Coffee Farm: Finca San Rafael – This is where I stayed, and it was one of my favorite lodges in all of Colombia. Set in the jungle just outside of town, this beautiful oasis offers a pool with mountain views, private or shared rooms, and offers plantation tours to learn about the cultivation process of cacao and coffee.
- Finca Carpe Diem Ecolodge – 9.6/10 rating on HostelWorld with over 800 reviews! This is an absolute backpacker heaven with 3 swimming pools, amazing jungle views and is well-located close to amazing hikes.
- Casas Viejas – Winner of the best hostel award in South America! Unfortunately this place was booked out when we visited but many claim that this is one of the best hostels in the world!
- Reserva Natural Tierra Adentro – The best place to stay near Minca for couples and those wanting absolute serenity. Offers amazing private rooms with a river view in the jungle, an incredible breakfast and is actually very affordable for what you get!
Packing List for Hiking in Minca
Here’s a quick Minca packing list for adventure travelers who plan to be hitting the hiking trails!
- Bug repellent – seriously, this is crucial, the sand flies are ruthless in Minca. I’ve stopped using deet and now swear by the natural alternative from Sallye Ander
- Bug cream – something to treat the inevitable bites. Again, the Sallye Ander cream helps reduce itching.
- Hat and sunscreen – many of the hiking trails are shaded, but you will be exposed to the sun a lot in Minca. I’m Aussie so I might be biased, but Blue Lizard makes the best natural sunscreen on earth.
- Grayl water purifier – I swear by this water purifying bottle. I’ve used it all over the world (including tap water in India), and saved thousands of plastic bottles from landfill in the process.
- Hiking shoes and clothes – make sure to pack the outdoor clothes!
- A lightweight rain jacket – while the coast around Santa Marta is dry, the Sierra Nevada mountains around Minca get a lot of rain.
- Camera or GoPro – this mountain village is beautiful and totally safe to have your camera out! Read my guide to camera gear for travel for suggestions.
- Warm clothes – the cooler climate in Minca can result in some chilly nights, especially if you head further into the mountains to Cerro Kennedy.
- Travel quick-dry towel – a must have travel essential
- Imodium – trust me, you might want to bring some
- Head lamp or flashlight –
More Colombia Travel & Adventure Inspiration
That’s a wrap for this guide to the 10 best hikes in Minca, Colombia!
While you’re here, make sure to check out some of my other blog posts for more travel guides and inspiration for travel in South America.