New Year’s Eve in Taganga, Colombia

Taganga Sunset
 New Year’s Eve in Taganga, Colombia which is one of Colombia’s most notorious party towns. Taganga is in the coastal region of Colombia’s Santa Marta 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 

NEW YEAR’S EVE IN TAGANGA, COLOMBIA

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. 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.

 

GETTING TO TAGANGA FROM SANTA MARTA

To get to Taganga from Santa Marta grab a taxi from one of the main streets or bay in Santa Marta, the 15 minute journey will cost you between $10-$15 dollars depending on how nice our taxi driver is feeling. US Dollar isn’t the official currency for Colombia it’s actually Colombian Pesos. $15 = around 43,200 Colombian Pesos so to avoid confusion I’ll stick to dollars.

Taxis in Santa Marta and Taganga are relatively safe, when travelling Colombia always use a licensed driver and if you are unsure ask your hotel or hostel to book the taxi for you. Cabs are mostly clean, air conditioned and the drivers are professional and friendly.

Many people do the journey from Santa Marta to Taganga by taxi or bus and it is a relatively popular route so if you’re in Santa Marta as a solo traveller you’ll find others doing this journey that you can car share with.

TAGANGA, SANTA MARTA, COLOMBIA

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.

This loss of property is entirely our fault but its worth noting that if you are as careless as us, you’ll be kissing goodbye to your belongings forever.

HOSTELS IN TAGANGA

Backpackers and locals flock to the shores of Taganga from the surrounding areas of Colombia all looking to experience the notorious nightlife that spreads rumours across Central and South America. Being so popular among South American’s and other groups of inbound tourists there is a big need for accommodation in this small dusty village.

The majority of that accommodation comes in the form of backpacker hostels and dorm rooms. There are a wide range of Taganga hostels for you to choose from with all kinds of price range and level of comfort/luxury. As someone who regularly travels on a budget I’m always keen to find the best backpacker hostel for the right price.

Arriving on the 30th of December right before New Year’s Eve limited our options. As Taganga was always going to be lively and most Taganga Hostels would be full already considering the time of year. It took us a few attempts to find a dorm to fit out group of five prior to our arrival in Taganga, this would have been near impossible on our arrival.

I’d recommend booking ahead during peak times of the year so you don’t find yourself in the same predicament or knocking on doors asking if their is any room at the inn (Christmas joke).

La Masia Summer Hostel Review, Taganga

We stayed at La Masia Summer Hostel. A semi-lively hostel with nice spacious dorms, a bar, computers and even a big clean pool. We were shocked to find out that most of the guests here were actually Colombian nationals spending their holidays in Taganga.

La Masia Summer Hostel is clean and most importantly safe with a 24 hour reception and security. The complex reminds me of a motel in the USA centered around a pull and outdoor seating area.

A standard night in 6 or 4 bed dorm will cost roughly $10-$13 with a private double costing $40 per night.

TAGANGA HOSTELS

As mentioned there are wide range of budget accommodations available in Taganga as well as La Masia Summer Hostel. Other hostels and hotels in Taganga, Santa Marta worth checking out are;
Both of these popular Taganga hostels are backpacker favourites and also have swimming pools. They are great budget options for travellers spending a few nights in Taganga and Nirvana Hostel is famed for its fun backpacker and party hostel atmosphere. If you want to browse more Taganga  hostels than check out Hotel Benjamin and Divanga Hostel.
New Year's Eve in Taganga, Colombia
Group beach photo with Jamie’s mum and brother

 

New Year's Eve in Taganga, Colombia
Some of the spectacular views out across the bay of Taganga atsunset with the many fishing boats

 

TAGANGA, COLOMBIA NIGHTLIFE

As mentioned Taganga is a party town. There’s no denying it, there’s a large party scene and the nightlife in Taganga never seems to stop. Many backpackers who enjoy the party element of travelling find themselves staying in Taganga longer than expected.

Along with reggae themed beach bars and tiki-style surf shacks Taganga is home to Coombian salsa bars and booming nightclubs. Check out Casita del Mar a beach bar with chilled reaggae vibes and froix

TAGANGA SAFETY AND TAGANGA CRIME

Is Taganga safe?

This is a question we found ourselves thinking about a lot and had wondered endlessly about our safety in Taganga before arriving. We had heard stories about violent muggings, drug lords and prostitutes luring tourists down dark alleys late at night to rob them, but didn’t directly witness any of this in Taganga.

Although there is an undoubted dodgy vibe in Taganga it is worth mentioning that there is always a large police presence in the town. This police presence is especially noticeable during the festive period when it gets busy and at night when some of the local no-goods come out to drink and take drugs by the beach. This are is to be avoided if you are cautious of your personal safety in Taganga.

From my experience New Year’s Eve in Taganga, Santa Marta was safe enough and therefore I didn’t really question my safety in Taganga although I was always aware of the towns reputation.

Its worth noting that there are many stories online of muggings and assault in Taganga and I can very much confirm that I suspect this kind of thing happens in Taganga frequently. If you are a solo traveller or solo female traveller and feel conscious of your safety I would perhaps suggest that due to the rumours and not my personal experience that Taganga may be a town you want to consider skipping.

Taganga Safety Tips

Taganga safety and whether Taganga is safe or not for backpackers and tourists is not something I can say. During my visit we didn’t experience any crime directly but there were a couple of late evenings down by the beach where locals and drunks got into altercations and a few glass bottles went flying.

Like most places famed for their party scene you can expect to see your regular drunks, druggies and dealers on the streets after dark. If you plan to visit Taganga but have concerns over the reputation you’ll want to read the below Taganga safety tips;

  1. Never arrive alone late at night. Time your arrival to ensure you arrive in a large group through the day.
  2. Never brag about money or valuables. Be modest and keep your valuables locked away in your hostel.
  3. Female solo travellers shouldn’t spend time alone at night by the beach or exploring the streets of Taganga.
  4. Avoid drugs, prostitution and getting into any kind of fight whilst you are staying in Tagnaga.
  5. Be cautious and aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid getting totally out of it when you’re out partying as it makes you too vulnerable in a town like Taganga.

SAFETY IN COLOMBIA AND SOUTH AMERICA

There is crime in Taganga , just like any tourist filled destination. This is the same for all of Colombia and South America and just because a destination may feel welcoming and touristy on the outside doesn’t mean it is dafe. 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.

Drugs in Taganga and Colombia
Like any location in South America if you don’t go looking for trouble you are unlikely to find it this goes for drugs. Drugs and cocaine especially is very accessible in South America and in Colombia.
It is important to mention that drugs are a large part of South American culture and not at all in a positive way. Many communities and peoples lives have been destroyed or heavily impacted by cocaine production and the rise and fall of drug cartels in the country over the last 30 years.

 

Of course, drugs are widely available to tourists in Colombia and Taganga but I always advise any ethical tourist to understand the consequences of fueling this economy whilst travelling.
New Year's Eve in Taganga, Colombia
The dry beach of Taganga in early evening, just before sunset
New Year's Eve in Taganga, Colombia
The beach in Taganga by day – Colombian’s and tourists enjoying the weather

TAGANGA DIVING AND TAGANGA DIVE CENTRE

Other than the party scene and Taganga nightlife that lure backpackers to this coastal Colombian town Taganga is also home to a big dive scene. Many people take the trip from Santa Marta to Taganga to either learn to dive or enjoy some dives just outside the Tayrona National Park.

Heaps of backpackers head to Taganga and this region of Colombia annually to get their PADI Open Water Dive certification or those who already have one of their PADI certifications choose to exploit the great possibilities to dive the reefs in and outside of the gorgeous waters of the Tayrona National Park.

The streets of Taganga are filled with dive promotions and dive centre’s making Taganga diving a very popular pastime. As Taganga diving is very popular there are multiple worthy dive centres for you to check out in Taganga;

  • Oceano Scuba Dive Centre
  • Nautilius Dive Centre
  • Calipso Dive Centre
  • Under Pressure Dive Centre

Read more about where I got my PADI in Utila, Honduras.

NEW YEAR’S EVE INTENERARY 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 the reggae beach bar that I mentioned early. We had watched the sunset here earlier that day and already preempted our second visit. 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 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.

 

New Year's Eve in Taganga, Colombia

 

Bryony Clapperton

A 20-something travel blogger based in Liverpool. Covering all things from Latin America to Liverpool local guides and everything in between.

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