Taganga is a small village located just 15 minutes from Santa Marta. As the title suggests, it’s a backpacker’s paradise with lots of hostels and a relaxed atmosphere – a far cry from the wealthy beach suburb of El Rodadero to the south. This small village is set dramatically beneath tall green mountains surrounding a small bay.
The main scene in Taganga is tiny. It’s basically just a few blocks along the beach front with a few hostels and hotels scattered within a couple blocks inland. The beach itself is nothing spectacular. In fact, it’s crowded and dirty. There was a lot of small pieces of garbage strewn along the shore and I can’t imagine the water was too clean with all the boats nearby.
The main street along the beach has lots of small restaurants and bars, shops selling souvenirs and beachwear, and tour offices. People are selling handmade crafts along the street. Men will hassle you to sell you tickets for a boat ride to nearby Playa Grande or scuba diving excursions.
On the beach, there are a few restaurants with places to sit outside. One restaurant recommended to me by the hotel owner in Santa Marta was El Muelle. He told me to try the fish soup, and it was a great suggestion.
Taganga is also a great place for beautiful sunsets. Stick around and enjoy it!
If you decide to go to Playa Grande, as I mentioned, several men will be pestering you to buy tickets. I was able to get mine for COP$7,000 round trip. The boat ride is about 10 minutes long and goes past some very interesting houses built right on the face of a cliff.
Once at the beach, you will be persuaded to go to a place where you can rent a chair and eat lunch, either owned by or partners with the man who takes you in the boat. This is totally optional and you can choose anywhere you’d like. There are several places to choose from.
The beach isn’t much cleaner than in Taganga, but it’s a slight step up. Unfortunately, it’s also crowded making it difficult to relax.
In my opinion, I would go back for the atmosphere and not the beach. It’s a great place to hang out and pass the time away in the sun and for the supposed nightlife (didn’t have a chance to experience it), but not so much for swimming.
Getting to Taganga is easy. You can take a bus, or the quicker way is with a taxi from Santa Marta for COP$10,000 (as of October 2014). Ask the taxi driver to stop at the viewpoint above the village for a great photo. It’ll be better than mine below.