Once a quiet fishing village, Taganga has experienced a tourism boom in recent years. Situated right next door to the beautiful Tayrona National Park, and only a few miles from the transport hub of Santa Marta, it is easy to see why many people choose to visit. Popular with foreign and Colombian tourists, the town is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Santa Marta. Mainly because of the diving, but also because of the laid back atmosphere and great sunsets, Taganga was one of my favorite destinations in Colombia. Whilst it is only a small town, there are still plenty of things to do in Taganga!
Watch the sunset
The stretch of beach here in Taganga is perfectly positioned to give you a great view of the sun as it sets over the Caribbean! Every evening locals and tourists flock to the beach or lounge on the walls nearby to watch the sun go down. There are some cute beach bars where you can get a cocktail and a comfy seat, or for those on a tighter budget, grab a beer from the supermarket and find a nice patch of sand! The fishing boats and rolling hills of Tayrona make for some great views and photographs!
Walk to Playa Grande
Around a half an hour walk from Taganga you can reach the lovely bay of Playa Grande. The walk there isn’t too strenuous, just head to the side of town closest to Taganga and ask a local to point you in the right direction. on the weekends you can just follow the crowds of Colombians who love to spend their days at Playa Grande. There are some stunning lookouts on the way to Playa Grande where you can take some photographs of the blue water and look back towards Taganga. If it is too hot for walking, you can take a boat. Head to the beach at Taganga and you will be asked very quickly by the boat men if you want a ride to Playa Grande! It should cost no more than 7000 cop. There are several small restaurants and shops at Playa Grande, but they are slightly more expensive. You can also rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards! Be aware that on weekends the beach can be very busy!
Learn to dive in Taganga!
One of the cheapest and best places to dive in the world in my opinion, Taganga is rapidly making a name for itself due to the underwater life. There are several dive shops in the town, all offering the chance to dive in Tayrona Park. I spent a lot of time at Ocean Lovers, who are number 1 on TripAdvisor and rightly so. I had some great trips and dives with the friendly staff, and the equipment and service was top notch! There is a lot of hard and soft corals, and they are in great condition. Also, as it is the Caribbean, there are so many colorful fish. Visibility varies, but there is always something to see. The main draw for many is the insanely low price. In Taganga, even at a quality shop like Ocean Lovers, you can do you Open Water certification for $275 USD.
Sample freshly caught fish
A traditional fishing village, there are plenty of places to try delicious freshly caught seafood. You will find many places offering “Menu del Dia” for around 15,000 cop. The locals are friendly and enjoy a good chat, so if you have some basic Spanish, ask them about the fish on offer and they will be happy to show you and tell you all about it! You can also get freshly caught lobster and some very good Ceviche. If you are into cooking, head to the seafront and ask at the restaurants with the straw huts. they will sell you fresh fish and gut it for you for only a couple of dollars!
Explore Tayrona Park
Whilst many people choose to head into Tayrona Park via a bus and then on foot, you can actually take a boat from Taganga. the boat is usually around 60,000 cop, and you can make it a day trip or go in and stay a few nights in the hammocks! This price should include the entrance price to the Park, so make sure to really get that clear before you get on the boat. I suggest asking in your hostel if anyone else wants to go and then speak to the boatmen to negotiate a price. If you plan on staying overnight during high season, try to arrive at your accommodation early to ensure a hammock. Tayrona is pretty pricey for food and accommodation, and there are not ATMs, so ensure you bring enough cash!
Swimming in Tayrona Park
On a serious note, you have to be careful in Tayrona Park. There are plenty of signs telling you not to swim, however many people ignore these. Just weeks ago as I write, 2 tourists died swimming in Tayrona. Rip currents here can be extremely strong, and even if the sea looks ok it can be very decieving.
Where to stay in Taganga
When I first arrived in Taganga, I was with my boyfriend. We took a double room in The Alchemist for a ridiculously low price (36,000 cop) over high season! The room itself was great, and in a completely separate apartment to the hostel. The hostel main buildinglooked kind of run down though, and I haven’t heard great things about it, so I can only really recommend the private rooms. I stayed for many weeks in Hostel Cielo and I really liked it. Set out of the main town and up the hill, the walk is a bit of a killer but the view makes it all worth it! The owner is so friendly, and there is a decent kitchen for cooking. If you want somewhere a bit more central with more of a social scene, you could try Garden House hostel. At the time of writing, Nirvana Hostel has a very bad bedbug problem.
Where to eat in Taganga
Whilst there are lots of cheap places to get fresh fish, there are several restaurants in Taganga that I also really recommend. My absolute favourite is Cafe Bonsai, a french owned cafe serving delicious healthy lunches. Go here if you are really sick of the sweet white Colombian bread and treat yourself to some thick, heavy brown bread! The coffee and salads are also delicious. Open Monday to Saturday, from early until around 3pm. For dinner, I highly recommend Pachamama. Service and ambience here is relaxed yet professional, and you get free popcorn while you wait for your meal! The vegetarian pasta is amazing, and I went here so many times whilst in Taganga. Another very popular restaurant is Babaganoush where you can get 3 courses of their set menu for 40,000 cop, all whilst enjoying an amazing view out across the bay. If you are craving a really nice pizza or some pasta, look for Pomodori, a tiny little restaurant just off the main street that runs along the beach. If you like to cook for yourself, you might be a bit disappointed in the lack of supermarkets. If there is something obscure or specific you want, you may have to go to the bigger market in Santa Marta.
Getting to Taganga
Due to how close Taganga is to Santa Marta, it is very easy to get here. From Santa Marta, you can catch any local blue bus that has Taganga written in the front window. Just flag it down, hop on and give the driver 1600 cop. The bus can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, this is Colombia and it all depends on which route the bus driver wants to take, how often he stops for a chat, and how many people he tries to cram on! If you have a lot of luggage then maybe a taxi would be better, as the busses can get crammed and the only place for your bag is on your knee or back! Taxi’s from Santa Marta should cost around 15,000 cop.
To get to Santa Marta from other parts of Colombia, you can either fly or take the bus. The airport is served by public buses which can take you into the main city, where you can swap onto another heading for Taganga. If you are coming from Barranquilla or Cartagena, I recommend Berlinas bus company.
Where to go next!
Taganga is a great gateway to many other places on the Caribbean coast. As mentioned above, you can take a boat into Tayrona Park. If you head back to Santa Marta, then you could take the shared jeep up to beautiful Minca, to experience some sunning hikes and waterfalls. Further East along the coast, stop at the infamous El Rio hostel to party, before chilling out at sleepy Costeno Beach. You can also continue to Palomino, a fun, bohemian beach town where you can rent a tube and float down the river with beer!
Is Taganga safe?
Whilst I was staying here, many people would ask me if I felt safe, or if I had seen anything bad. Thanks to some not too positive articles from the likes of Lonely Planet and Rough guide, the town seems to have a reputation for being unsafe. The truth is, when this was written there was some truth, and the locals have told me a few years ago there was a spike in crime. However, now it is a lot more safe, and you will see police wandering around. Like many places in South America, there are places you shouldn’t go, and I wouldn’t wander around late at night. Your best bet is to ask you hostel owner, as they will have up to date advice. right now, I know you shouldn’t go hiking up the back hills, and the locals tell me even they do’t go up there. The general feeling in town is that the locals really want to shed this image, and most welcome visitors and want to avoid all negative experiences!
So there you have it! Your guide to things to do in Taganga! Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments!