Island paradise – Day 2
So, this is our final day in Colombia and we get to spend it on the beautiful Isla Grande which is perfection. We have had a strong love hate relationship with Colombia the entire duration of our travels. Some places have been magnificent, and others have left us feeling anxious, scared and on edge constantly. We, however are excited to have spent our last few days in tropical paradise before we fly to Costa Rica tomorrow.
BUT, let me tell you about our day first! Waking up in this little jungle gem is awesome, I enjoy that’s it’s an Eco hotel so it’s very environmentally friendly, but having so much open space and open air means so many bugs! We woke up to a MASSIVE spider on the wall along with moths the size of our hands as we slept. Thank Christ for bug nets, which last night I made sure to tuck it the full way under the bed, so I couldn’t even get out, meaning nothing was getting in.
So, after a 7 hour trip from Minca we arrived back in a very wet Cartagena. We used Marsol as our transfer service again as last time was excellent. However, this time even though we booked our transfer door to door, the driver refused to take us and dropped us about 2kms away from where we were meant to be. Totally fine, if it was a nice temperature, the roads were paved, it wasn’t rush hour and one of the worst storms hadn’t just passed, but for us – ALL OF THE ABOVE. A very sweaty, wet walk later we arrived at our hotel after carrying all our luggage there.
THEN …WE HAD A POWER-CUT – NO A/C, NO FAN, NO CHARGING ANY DEVICES.
Fast forward to the following morning as for our last 3days/2nights we are spending it is Isla Grande, the largest of the Rosario islands – AKA Colombian tropical paradise. Imagine, crystal clear waters, white sandy beach, NOT TOO MANY TOURISTS and lush jungle and Rosario islands would fit the bill. We are staying in Eco Hostal Playa Libre and paying $75NZD per night including breaky for an eco lodge cabin. Our lodge also offered to book our boat transfer for us which costs 63000COP pp as this includes the National park fee as well as the port fees.
MINCA – Chasing waterfalls
Day 97, 42,000 words into this travel diary and for the 4TH GODDAM TIME ON THIS TRIP, I have food poisoning. However, yesterday was incredible (until we got home last night and everything turned to porridge) so I won’t talk much about that, but instead will let you know about our day.
We went waterfall hunting! There are 2 different main waterfalls in Minca, Marinka falls and Pozo Azul. We chose Marika falls for today’s adventure and had planned Pozo Azul for the next day (but then I got sick so it never happened)
Marinka Falls are arguably the prettier of the two: taller and more majestic, equipped with freezing water and a couple of good pools to go for a dip. We decided to hike to this waterfall instead of getting an expensive moto taxi. It was advertised as a 1.5 hour trek but we managed it in 50 minutes so we were pretty stoked but exhausted by the time we got to the top. It costs 5000COP pp to enter as it’s private land and by the time we got there I was a drippy mess.
Minca – the paradise cloud forest
Leaving Palomino we were both quite sad as it had really restored our faith that Colombia is a worthwhile destination. However, being on a round the world trip means moving regularly so it was on to our next destination – Minca.
After 1 night in Santa Marta (where I treated us to a fabulous hotel, so we could get a good night’s sleep and revitalize after 5 nights camping) we hopped into a shared cab and 60 minutes later we arrived in Minca. The shared taxi was super easy, it costs 8000COP pp and the little bus departs when full, so you never have to wait more than 20mins.
Perched on top of a mountain in the Colombian Sierra Nevadas overlooking Santa Marta and the Caribbean Sea, with a population of 800, Minca feels a bit isolated but we had read so many cool things about it, we felt we had to add it to our itinerary.
Upon arrival we checked into our accomo ‘Chunuu Glamping and hostal’ which is AWESOME! We booked a double but managed to get a free upgrade to a 1 bed chalet overlooking the beautiful forest, costing us $60NZD a night with breaky.
We ate some amazing food during the day and explored the tiny town getting our bearings for the next few days of adventures visiting waterfalls, hiking to the largest hammock in the world and tasting amazing local produce of the region.
The following morning we woke up early to the sounds of howler monkeys, birds singing and the sun splitting the sky. It’s so peaceful here and the sounds of wildlife and the surrounding river really has brought back the sense of calm that Taganga and Cartagena destroyed at the start.
Palomino as a destination
After Taganga, we had lost all hope. The Colombian dream we had wished for with beautiful beaches and blue waters of the Caribbean sea were shattered. However, arriving in Palomino everything changed. We highly rate this destination and would 100% recommend adding this to your list.
It’s our last day here and it’s raining so I wanted to write up a bit about what we loved here and our last notes before making our way back to Santa Marta.
What we loved:
What we didn’t love:
Overall, we give Palomino 10/10 as a destination and highly recommend it. It’s amazing! Please contact us if you need any extra tips 😊
Tayrona National Park
If you are travelling up the coast of Colombia then you will have heard of Tayrona National park as it is notably the most famous destination here. Firstly, It is a large protected area covering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as they meet the Caribbean coast therefore making it a haven of treks and beauty. It’s known for its palm-shaded coves, coastal lagoons, rainforest and rich biodiversity but gets PACKED throughout the year with tourists both international and domestic alike.
Well, today we made the leap and went for a visit! Leaving Palomino, we hopped aboard another of our favourite public busses heading South for Santa Marta. The journey takes an hour and costs 7000COP each ($3.50NZD) – you can also get a taxi costing around 50000COP.
Waking up pretty early (as the second the sun rises the tent reaches about 50 degrees) we sat down to our first breakfast at Due Amici, which was small but tasty. I had the ‘healthier’ option of granola and fruit with an unhealthy amount of coffee’s whereas, Leo has eggs and bread.
So, I should mention that in Palomino there is not much to do. It is a brilliant gateway to the Tayrona National park, which is on our list but apart from that it’s next best activity is tubing down the river. It hasn’t rained here in ages, so tubing was out the question. Its expensive, takes up to 4 hours and we used to do it for free in Taupo so we will give it a miss.
However, this is the perfect place to unwind, get our daily steps in, soak up the vitamin ‘sea’ and D and just relax. I have mentioned it before but constantly moving around is bloody exhausting, so we are highly grateful for any down time. BUT, I have high functioning anxiety so after breakfast I really wanted to go for a big walk along the beach and explore the area, of course Leo came with me with the promise of more chill than walk and a great lunch at the end.
Where to begin? if you have been keeping up to date with this diary you will know that we hated Taganga and could not wait to leave. We had heard good things about Palomino so were justifiably excited to get ourselves another 2 hours up the coast to this hippy-vibe town. Spoiler alert…it is amazing and we love it!
As we are trying to save on $$ we opted for the public bus option to get there, so from checking out of our hostel in Taganga we hopped aboard the blue public bus to Santa Marta costing us each 1800COP (90c NZD). From there we walked about 1 block to the bus stop at the central market and to our surprise the second we got there, a man hopped out the bus grabbed our luggage loaded it on the bus and told us to hop on. Now being a public bus , it is packed but goes to Palomino and only costs 9000COP pp ($4.50NZD). If you get a taxi, expect to pay 160,000COP, and being on a budget, the bus was our only option.
It was actually fine, once I had stopped stressing and sweating as everything happened so quickly, I sat back tuned into a podcast and before we knew it we had arrived. We are staying in Due Amici Glamping village. It’s awesome. It is a luxury glamping tent costing us $50NZD per night and has a private Jacuzzi and full hang out area just for us. It’s hot – LIKE EVERYWHERE IN COLOMBIA, but worth it.
So, Leo is now day 2 into his PADI course and loving it, so at least we can say that Taganga wasn’t a complete failure. I spent yesterday eating, working and napping while Leo has a full-on day of learning. I really enjoyed my day especially going to Hestia for lunch – check it out, it’s yummy and pretty well priced…and most importantly they do good coffee AND smoothie bowls! The owners actually work there which is also lovely so you can tell they take a lot of pride in what they serve, I really loved mine. Leo got an Arepa which was too small for him but then banana bread afterwards and that made it a solid 8/10.
We even managed a pretty sweet sunset in the afternoon and an incredible cake from a little bakery near our hostel. That was all I can report about the day though as I just ate for the full day, which is never bad, I guess?
Today on the other hand, different ball game. I hate this bed, it swings far too much and as weird as it sounds when I’m reading or typing I get motion sickness. It truly sucks. However, Leo came home from lunch today and we checked out Café Bonsai. It’s really nice and it does great coffee and has A/C so is already my fav place in this town.
We left the bustling, noisy, overcrowded city of Cartagena to make our way 5 hours North up the coast to the small fishing village of Taganga. As we really have no plans in Colombia at all, we are staying here for 5 nights due to the fact it is the cheapest place to get your PADI diving certification in South America and as Leo is an avid diver, so this would be the perfect opportunity.
However, much like everywhere in Colombia so far - Taganga today has been hit with the over-development that a lot of Colombian towns have and we have found after reading and speaking to locals that in the past few years the village has gone from a near-obligatory backpacker stop to a rather depressing place where poverty is rife and much of what originally attracted visitors has disappeared. SUPERB...I cant wait to spend the next 5 days here. I really want to enjoy Colombia, but so far, I am just not feeling it.
Hey! I'm Ally. I left the UK in 2011 to move overseas and ended up in New Zealand - my new home. This year we are taking a gap year to loop the world stopping in some AMAZING destinations - and I'm passionate about sharing these adventures with you!