I spent New Year’s Eve in Taganga, Colombia one of Colombia’s most notorious party towns. Taganga, Santa Marta, Colombia which is situated just outside the popular and stunning Tayrona National Park. Many backpackers use the infamous Taganga as a starting or end point for visiting the pristine and tropical Caribbean beaches of Tayrona National Park. Taganga is a small fishing village turned wild late-night party and crime hideaway in the Santa Marta municipal of Colombia. If you’re keen to visit the Tayrona National Park, get your PADI and drink yourself into oblivion then add Taganga to your must see Colombia bucket list.
NEW YEARS EVE IN TAGANGA, COLOMBIA
ARRIVING IN TAGANGA, COLOMBIA FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE
After spending Christmas in Cartagena
and the edgy backpacker streets of Getsemani. Then heading directly to Santa Marta on Boxing Day (26th December) to do The Lost City Trek
and experience the toughest and most grueling 4 days of my life we arrived back in Santa Marta with one destination in mind. The backpacker favourite of Taganga, Santa Marta. This is where we had chosen to spend New Year’s Eve and enjoy the infamous party that is Taganga.
We did wonder if visiting Taganga was a good call after repeatedly asking ourselves is Taganga safe? We already knew from the opinions of other travellers in Central America that we were in for a ride in Taganga. We’d either love it or hate it, that’s what pretty much everyone told us about Taganga, Colombia. There was a large chance we’d arrive and want to leave instantly, but there was also a chance we’d arrive and like many other backpackers we’d never ever want to leave.
To get to Taganga we jumped in a taxi from Santa Marta, the 15 minute journey would cost us between $10-$15 dollars depending on how nice our taxi driver was feeling. Taganga, to be honest is nothing more than a few rows of unpaved streets littered with bars, restaurants and dive shops all located in a large crescent bay. It certainly lives up to it’s reputation of a ‘small fishing village’ at first glance. The waters of the beach in Taganga are murky and mostly harbour for the boats as despite the large backpacker and party goer presence here life for the local fishermen in Taganga goes on as usual.
I should probably mention at this point that this was the moment Jamie left his rucksack in the back of a cab. Fortunately, I had his passport and was carrying all our money. We lost yet another towel (probably 10th or 11th at this point) and a few other less easily replaced items. We tried to call round a few taxi firms but with little luck at tracking down our belongings.
|A Taganga beach sunset
HOTELS IN TAGANGA – LA MASIA SUMMER HOSTEL IN TAGANGA, COLOMBIA
This once fishing town now party hub is wild. I learnt this about Taganga very quickly, it seems the party here never stops. Backpackers and locals alike flock to the shores of Taganga from the surrounding areas of Colombia all looking to experience the notorious nightlife that sends rumours across Central and South America.
For us, arriving on the 30th of December was always going to be lively considering the time of year. Many people had also chosen to spend New Year’s Eve in the town of Taganga and that was apparent from the sheer lack of rooms available in many of the hotels in Taganga. Beds go quickly, but luckily for us we had reserved a room in a hostel prior to leaving for our Lost City Trek. As a group of 5 people we booked a 5 bed dorm in La Masia Summer Hostel which, like many of the hostels in Taganga has a swimming pool. La Masia Summer Hostel is a clean hostel set back from the main ‘strip’ with a friendly reception and nice bar.
Other hostels and hotels in Taganga, Santa Marta worth checking out are La Tortuga Hostel and Nirvana Hostel both of which are backpacker favourites and also have swimming pools. We booked La Masia Summer Hostel as it was described as more chilled than the other hostels in Taganga and at this point in our trip Jamie’s mum and brother were still wit us. They spent 2 weeks with us in Colombia during our 6 month stint in Central and South America.
Many travelling and holidaying South American’s were in Taganga for the holidays along with Americans, Aussies, Israelis and your typical group of Europeans. Despite it’s party town reputation I was surprised to see many Colombian families had also chosen to spend the holidays in Taganga and this probably has some correlation with the lack of available hotel rooms during the Christmas period.
|Group beach photo with Jamie’s mum and brother
|Some of the spectacular views out across the bay of Taganga atsunset with the many fishing boats
CRIME IN TAGANGA AND SANTA MARTA – IS TAGANGA SAFE FOR BACKPACKERS?
Is Taganga safe? This is a question we found ourselves pondering and had wondered endlessly before arriving. We had heard stories about violent muggings, drug lords and prostitutes luring tourists down dark alleys late at night and although there is an undoubted dodgy vibe in Taganga there is a large police presence in the town. This police presence is especially noticeable during the festive period when it gets busy, New Year’s Eve in Taganga, Santa Marta was safe from our experience.
Whether Taganga is safe or not for backpackers and tourists, I really cannot say. We didn’t experience any crime directly but there were a couple of late evenings down by the beach where a local drunkard would shout abuse at passing tourists and sling the odd glass bottle in their direction. Like most places famed for their party scene you can expect to see your regular drunks, druggies and dealers. That is a fact of the matter in Taganga. If this kind of behavior makes you feel uncomfortable I would suggest avoiding Taganga at night.
|Sky on fire – More sunsets from New Year’s Eve in Taganga, Colombia
IS TAGANGA SAFE? – SAFETY IN TAGANGA, COLOMBIA AND SOUTH AMERICA
There is crime in Taganga though, just like any tourist filled destination so please note. Just because we had a positive experience here doesn’t mean the horror stories and ghost tales about Taganga aren’t true and they should serve as a warning to all visiting this area.
Like any location in South America and something I have said repeatedly, if you don’t go looking for trouble you are unlikely to find it. Stick to the main busy lit streets. This is important because not a lot of the streets are well lit at night, travel in groups and never as a solo female traveller especially wander off on your own (drunk or not). Be wary of the drunks that lurk outside the bars and also be cautious of the wild dogs in the town, we noticed them to be particularly vicious here.
|The dry beach of Taganga in early evening, just before sunset
Is Taganga safe? – Tips for staying safe in Taganga, Santa Marta, Colombia
Avoid drug dealers, prostitutes and other illegal activities – Prostitution is legal in Colombia but only in designated areas
Avoid walking alone at night
Avoid being too drunk to know or understand your situation/surroundings
Don’t carry large amounts of money or expensive electronics with you
|The beach in Taganga by day – Colombian’s and tourists enjoying the weather
NEW YEAR’S EVE IN TAGANGA, COLOMBIA
New Year’s Eve in Taganga, Santa Marta for us would first consist of a late dinner on the beach. I was surprised to see that most restaurants were completely full and without booking in advance it was very difficult to get a table for most couples let alone a larger group. After spending a decent amount of time dedicated to finding anywhere at all that could accommodate our group we ended up at a seafood restaurant on the beach that served nice wine and italian inspired dishes. The service was hectic, due to the level of demand required by each table. Many people had purposely selected to eat late to avoid the crowds only creating a much busier second sitting than I would’ve previously imagined. By 10:00pm/10:30pm we had finally eaten and left the beachside restaurant. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it wasn’t our first or even our second choice.
Leaving the restaurant we decided to visit Casita del Mar, Taganga a reggae beach bar that we had watched the sunset at that day. The mojitos are great, the music is loud and the atmosphere is tiki and chilled. Casita del Mar is where we chose to see in the New Year and were able to watch fireworks from our bar stools which were being set off from the water or across the bay, it was hard to see in the darkness. New Year’s Eve in Taganga is busy, possibly one of the busiest nights of the year this village experiences. If you plan to celebrate the New Year and New Year’s Eve in Taganga bare this in mind and prepare to spend New Year’s Eve with many others on the beach of Taganga.
TAGANGA, COLOMBIA – SURVIVAL GUIDE
ATM’s in Taganga
There is only one ATM in Taganga but many bars and restaurants do accept Visa and MasterCard. If you only plan on staying a few days in Taganga, Santa Marta it is worth bringing all the cash you need with you as ATM’s in Latin America are famed for their unreliability.
Taxis in Taganga, Santa Marta, Colombia
Try to use taxis in Taganga and in Colombia in general with a meter or agree a price before your journey to avoid disappointment and robbery. The majority of taxi drivers in Santa Marta or Taganga are unlikely to rip you off but there’s always one or two opportunists about. Try not to leave your small rucksack in the back of a cab like we did, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see your belongings again.
Things to avoid and safety in Taganga
Drugs and prostitution top the list of things to avoid in Taganga. Like always whilst in Latin America it makes sense to stay clear of drugs for both safety, sustainability and ethical reasons. Remember the impact the production and sale of cocaine has on peoples lives.
Accommodation during the Holidays
Hotels in Taganga and hostel dorms in Taganga fill up quickly on most weekends and especially during the festive season around Christmas and New Year. Book in advance to avoid disappointment or staying in a less desirable hostel.
Eating in Taganga, Colombia
There are plenty of food options in Taganga especially for veggies, with an abundance of fusion Mexican and American style restaurants and also your typical array of Italian options Taganga is a bit of a melting pot of cuisine. Being on the coast you can also eat great fresh seafood in Taganga. Vegan’s may struggle a little more but options are available.