Colombia – Santa Marta, Minca & El Rio Hostel

Santa Marta

We got the bus to Santa Marta which cost us 45k – It wasn’t a great journey but that was our fault, we were the last ones on the bus so got stuck with the bad seats. Luckily it only took around 5 hours and our hostel, La Brisa Loca, was only a 10 min walk from where they dropped us off.

We loved this hostel. Our room was huge with a mezzanine level with another double bed. They also had a club on the roof with great parties Thursday – Saturday. After reviews from friends, we didn’t have high hopes for Santa Marta, but were pleasantly surprised. The main area of bars and restaurants on Calle 3 near la Parque de Novio has loads of nice places and we had a fab Mexican there. The best club at the weekend is apparently our hostel, you could hear the music for miles and that’s where we spent the rest of the night.


The next morning, after breakfast in the hostel, we checked out and got the bus to Mica. The bus is only 8k COP and leaves every 20 minutes, it was a really easy journey. The good thing about Colombia is the people are so lovely. If you are foreign and look confused, they will do their best to help you. It may feel like you’re being hurried onto a random bus, but I promise it will be the right bus!

Once we got to Minca, to get to Casa Elemento where we were staying, you either had to hike uphill for two hours, go on a motorbike taxi or get a very expensive jeep. The moto-taxis are 20k and the jeep’s 120k so if you have 6 people, get the jeep! If not ask for a helmet and get on a motorbike. I was a bit scared at first, especially with my huge backpack, but after the first minute I was fine, they do this run a million times a day and it was actually pretty fun! As soon as you get off the shuttle in Minca people will be asking if you need a ride up to Casa Elemento.


The hostel is famous for its huge hammocks and great views, but apart from that isn’t special. We just chilled, drank, played cards & pool and got some good insta shots. The sunset was amazing, the sky was on fire. If you have longer in Minca than us there are lots of hikes, waterfalls, motorbiking and other outdoor activities to do during the day.

Getting to our next stop (El Rio Hostel) was a bit of a hassle, we had to get back down to Mica, then back to Santa Marta and then a bus to Palomino. Finding the bus was easy but it was just a hot a sweaty journey on a public bus.

El Rio

El Rio is a hostel on the Buritaca River about 20 mins outside Palomino. There’s a sign on the side of the road and you just need to ask the bus driver to let you out there. It’s then a 10-15 min walk down a dirt track till you get to the hostel. El Rio was started by two English guys and it just packed with travellers. It’s almost like a super-budget resort with a bar, table tennis, volleyball, yoga classes and the river is so lovely to swim in.

That night we partied hard! It was the first time we’d be surrounded by so many other travellers and everyone was on great form. We arrived on a Saturday because that’s when we heard the biggest parties were and we were very thankful for this advice! Our other two nights weren’t nearly as fun.

As expected, we were a bit hungover the next morning but we all went tubing. You can take a cooler with beers in it with you which would have been great if I could stomach it – it didn’t seem to bother Lewis, however! It’s about a 40 min walk to the start of the tubing and then it takes around 2 hours to get back to the hostel. It was a really fun day and a great way to meet people. We chilled by the river for the rest of the day and had a chilled evening. The next day was much of the same. We chilled by the river and had a few beers in the evening, two nights would probably have been enough unless you’re in a big group.

The next morning we checked out and got the bus back to Santa Marta which sadly meant the trip back home had begun. We stayed at Rua hostel, it had a nice room with good AC and location but we definitely preferred La Brisa Loca. We were pretty tired so just went for dinner and then headed home. We ended up at Radio Burger on Parques de Novio which had fantastic, juicy burgers and great milkshakes.

We got a very good sleep that night and woke up ready for the journey home. After lunch, we headed to the airport (30k in taxi or 2k on a local bus). Thankfully the flight to Bogota was on time and easy, we had a Colombian version of Five Guys for dinner in the airport called El Corral. It was pretty good!

After dinner, we got a 10min taxi to our hostel, Bababuy. It is very close to the airport, which is why we chose it, it was OK at best. Their doorbell was in the tune of ‘jingle bells’ and continuously went off during the night as people came and went. It definitely wasn’t one of my best night of sleep but I put in my earplugs and eye-mask and hoped for the best.

The journey home

When the day came to leave, I really couldn’t believe it. I was definitely done with sweating the entire time but was not done with being away, or with Colombia. The tan was only just starting to form! Our flight was only delayed by an hour which I guess is good by our standards. We managed to get into the United Lounge during our layover in Newark, which was a nice ending to our journey home, we even landed early in Edinburgh.

Final thoughts on Colombia

We loved Colombia and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about travelling there. We didn’t find safety an issue, it’s the same as anywhere – keep your wits about you, listen to advice on where to go and be smart! The people are lovely and although some will try to scam you, most are trying to help.

Try and learn some Spanish before jetting off! We only did duo-lingo but even that small amount helped a great deal. Also, people are a lot more receptive and patient if you try! Google translate will be your best friend.

Travelling in Colombia is very easy. We didn’t book any buses in advance and although some were a bit uncomfy, if you book the longer journey’s 48 hours before wanting to travel, you’ll be golden. Also, if you’re getting money out while your there, use BBVA Colombia – it doesn’t charge you although you can only withdraw 300k COP (roughly £75) per transaction.

We only had three weeks but got to see a lot of the country, but you could definitely stay longer. There are treks such as the Lost City Trek that takes around four days based in Tayrona National Park, more islands and more towns to visit. For example, we didn’t spend any time in Palomino, San Agustin, Jardin, Mocoa or travel to the Amazon basin.

Do some research and see what suits you best! But 100% go. I’m not sure where I’ll travel to next but this will not be our last trip to South America, that’s for sure.

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