Situated around the headland to the east of Santa Marta, Taganga has risen to become the caribbean coast's backpacker capital.
As recently as the 1990s this was a quiet fishing village like many others in the region. This laidback ambience, along with its proximity to Santa Marta and pretty setting, has seen its popularity soar, particularly among budget travellers.
The place now has literally dozens of hostels and the locals have become accustomed to the large groups of young backpackers who flock here in increasing numbers.
Taganga as seen from the road connecting it to Santa Marta
As such the town is now a peculiar blend of the traditional and the modern: small local restaurants line up next to shiny dive shops, an increasing number of which are foreign-owned.
The seafront has had a recent makeover, with the old pot-holed and dirt streets being attractively paved over.
The town's main beachfront street
Along the short seafront are numerous eateries (also recently renovated) offering freshly caught fish with cocunut rice, and still at reasonably prices.
You can also buy a variety of delicious fresh fruit juices served in very generous quantities.
The beach is nice for a stroll, but doesn't benefit from the golden sands present at most other places in the region. That said, the hot weather tempts many to strip down and take a dip in the calm warm water.
A large part of the beach is used by fishing boats and diving craft so most people congregate at the Santa Marta end of the beach near the Casa Blanca Hostel.
The beach lined with fishing boats
About a 15-minute walk north over and around the headland lies Playa Grande, a much smaller fishing village.
There is no road access to Playa Grande you can either walk along the path which gives you fantastic views of both Taganga and Playa Grande, or take a small motor boat taxi (about 3000 pesos per person).
If you choose to walk, look for the many colourful lizards which crawl around on the rocky headland.
The beach itself is a bit nicer than its neighbour's, but also gets pretty crowded. There are plenty of restaurants at the back of the beach offering decent fresh fish dishes.
Playa Grande, a 15-minute walk over the headland to the north
There are now many dive shops offering day trips and longer excursions. Most of the dive shops are located in Taganga, but there are also a few reputable shops in Santa Marta. Prices are pretty reasoanly compared to other countries.
Pretty much all tours take you into Parque Tayrona, situated just along the shore to the east.
Poseidon Dive Center (Calle 18 No. 1-69) is the best in town. The equipment they use is frequently checked and replaced regularly. The wet suits they use are 3-5mm which is necessary - even though you're diving in the Caribbean, the water can still get quite cold once you're below the surface.
You can take diving courses through Poseidon as well - naything from PADI Open Water up to Divemaster.
A great place to stay is Hotel Ki'Kuxtah. It's located about 10 minutes from the beach up on the slopes behind the town. This means it provides great views down into the bay which can be enjoyed from the hot tub on the terrace.
In addition to a good restaurant, the rooms are also fitted with small kitchens so you also have the option of going self-catering.
For travellers looking for a bit of comfort and quality, but also a hostel feel where you can easily meet others, try Divanga B&B. The place has a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and pool tables.
It has a great outdoor common area around the bar and pool and there's a great atmosphere in the evenings. That said, this is definitely not a party hostel.
The best hostel in Taganga is definitely La Casa de Felipe. Located about a 10-minute walk from the town, it features comfortable, clean dorm rooms and has a reasonable restaurant. The hostel is a great source of information for planning trips in the region and is a good place to meet other travellers.
Taganga is located just a 7 or 8 minute ride from Santa Marta. Taxis charge about 7000 pesos.
Mini buses run regularly to and from Santa Marta and can be caught from Carrera 1 in Santa Marta and at the entrance point to the village of Taganga.
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