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Taganga Travel Tips

3.0 stars

Insider advice for your Taganga vacation


LucyHB
I should coco 4 stars
If you're staying more than a day or so in Taganga, you'll quickly become aquainted with some of the village's more 'colourful' characters. Among these is a small, youngish chap who unfortunately seems to have a memory span of roughly five minutes. He'll ask you for money for 'water', shuffle off, and then ask you the same thing again just minutes later. What he lacks in memory skills, however, he makes up for in tree-climbing ability. Ask him for 'coco', and this guy will happily scale up the nearest palm tree, stuffing coconuts into his shirt and returning to drop them at your feet. What he charges tends to vary from day to day, but the going rate during my visit was around 500 pesos per coco, less if you buy in 'bulk'! You can even specify if you want a young coconut for drinking, or a mature one with flesh for eating. You might want to open it yourself though - his method of smashing it on the ground often means you lose half the water before you get to drink a sip!

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LucyHB
The bread man cometh 3 stars
Not impressed with the sweet, preservative-stuffed bread on offer at the local 'tiendas' in Taganga? Keep an eye (and ear) out for the 'bread man' (as I imaginatively dubbed him) who makes his way around the town each and every afternoon, peddling fresh bread and cakes to the villagers from his hand-pushed cart. You'll know when the bread man is on his way by the sound of a great big stick being whacked against the side of the cart - an aural sign for villagers to grab their purses and rush outside to make their purchases. If you want bread that isn't filled with sugar, ask for 'pan Frances' or 'Pan de Sal', and you'll get warm, fresh rolls that actually taste like bread rather than some feeble form of cake. There's nothing wholemeal on offer, but you can't have everything!

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LucyHB
When the Kogis toured Taganga 4 stars
Kogi Indians - the forest-dwelling tribes living in the Sierra Nevada da Santa Marta, are a source of fascination not only for tourists, but for residents of Taganga and Santa Marta as well. In Taganga, where the walls of many of the fish restaurants are painted with images of the white robe-clad Indians, these reclusive neighbours are viewed with a great deal of curiosity. So, when a family of Kogis decided to take a tour of the village, they met with quite a reception. It was certainly an odd sight to see - an old, patriachal figure and two younger men, all with the Kogis' trademark long hair, white robes and gourds around the neck (these holds the limestone that the Kogis chew tioactivate the calming properties of coca leaves) with a horde of curious locals in tow. The Kogis were quite the guests of honour - what brought them to Taganga in the first place I will never know, but they seemed quite taken with the place!

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LucyHB
Fish - and jelly fish! 3 stars
Splashing around in the clear blue waters of Playa Grande, it was beautiful to watch the brightly-coloured fish swim beneath and between my feet as I kept cool from the beating sun. It was less beautiful, minutes later, to feel a searing pain up my arm and realise I had been stung by a jellyfish. To my knowledge there are no particularly dangerous breeds of jellyfish in these waters, so I wouldn't want to alarm anybody, but it did hurt a heck of a lot for a few minutes. After yelping around and cursing for a while the pain was gone, but it did make me a little cautious about venturing back into the water - not least because, as I had never seen my attacker, I could only assume it was one of those transparent blighters that are near impossible to spot in the water.

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LucyHB
Christmas comes early in Taganga! 3 stars
Unless you're a fisherman or a local shopkeeper, there's not a great deal for local people to do in Taganga. This not only explains their enthusiasm for throwing 'fiestas' at the least excuse, but could also be the reason that locals like to get ready for Christmas almost two months in advance! While I was here, the friendly family that lived opposite me had their decorations up and their Christmas lights switched on by the end of October, and were far unique in this! It was a little odd to be in 40 degree heat, not even past Halloween, with fairy lights lit in all the windows of the local houses. But for the local children - especially those who haven't yet reached school age - it's a welcome distraction from the daily routine of sitting on the stoop, and playing with the most basic of toys.

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LucyHB
Theft from the beach 1 stars
The beaches of Taganga may look pretty, but you'd be wise not to lose sight of the fact that you're still in Colombia. Take a dip in the sea, by all means (you'll need to in this heat), but make sure somebody's keeping an eye on your belongings. If necessary, buy a drink from a beachside cafe and ask staff to stash your things until you come out of the water. There's one character in this village with a reputation for stealing clothes and flip flops, so don't imagine it's just cameras and money people are after. I even had the lightbulb from my porch stolen while I was staying in this village! It's a relatively safe place, by Colombian standards, but remember that many local people are poor and may have drug problems, hence a problem in the village with petty theft.

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LucyHB
No cashpoints in the village! 2 stars
Arriving at Santa Marta bus station from Cartagena, I decided to give the hot town a miss and head straight for the little village of Taganga. I hopped on a combi bus heading there, and the driver was kind enough to drive around the side streets of the village until he found the hostel I was looking for. I secured a room, but then realised I had no money on me. Of course, this being a teeny tiny fishing village, there's no cashpoint. So it was back down to the bus stop to head straight back into Santa Marta in search of somewhere to draw cash.
Although some places in the village accept cash, these are few and far between, so you'd be advised to make sure you have enough on you to last at least a day - it's a quick, combi ride into Santa Marta, but never underestimate how lazy the heat here can make you feel.


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LucyHB
Boat rides 3 stars
Taganga is a town built around fishing and tourism, and as a result, there's an abundance of people with small fishing boats, trying to lure tourists aboard for boat trips to nearby beaches or to the Tayrona National Park.
If you're feeling lazy, then jumping aboard to be whizzed round to Playa Grande or the quieter beaches nearby is a nice option when the beating sun just makes walking impossible, but paying to be shipped over to the national park is not really advisable. I was repeatedly told by boat-owners that it would work out cheaper as I wouldn't have to pay entrance to the park on arrival, but it should be noted that, when you pay to enter the park you are given a wristband, and wardens in the park keep an eye out for anyone not wearing one of these. It might be more scenic to arrive by boat, but it's cheaper to head into Santa Marta and take the bus to the official park entrance.


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LucyHB
Prepare for power cuts! 2 stars
What with the rain, the storms, and the relatively isolated location, it's no wonder that there are frequently power cuts in Taganga. For some reason, these only ever seem to happen at night, when the town is plunged into pitch blackness and you'll find yourself unable to see an inch in front of your face. For this reason, you should always have a supply of candles/matches in an easily accessible place (maybe even in a couple of places to improve your chances of finding them!). A couple of shops in the town have generators that allow them to keep their electrics running, so your best bet is to head for these - they'll shed some vital light, and you'll find most of the townspeople gathered here, drinking and chatting until they're able to pick their way back home. Just be careful when making your way to the shops - those dirt tracks with their loose stones can be cause a lot of damage to flip-flop clad feet in the dark!

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LucyHB
Fiesta time! 3 stars
There's not a great deal for the locals to do in Taganga, except fish, cook and eat. Perhaps this is the reason that they're so keen on throwing fiestas at any opportunity. There was a weekend-long fiesta held during the time I was there, which basically involved the locals drinking even more rum than usual, and doing so all night long. There was also some dancing in traditional costumes during the afternoon, and a little bit of live music, but after about 9pm things just descended into the usual Taganga Saturday night madness. The fact that it was teeming with rain on the opening night of the fiesta threatened to spoil the fun somewhat, but a bit of rain never stopped a coastal Colombian from drinking rum, and the party continued despite the onslaught of rain!

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LucyHB
Rainy season 3 stars
I'd been in Taganga about a fortnight when it first rained, and I couldn't have been happier. In that blistering, sticky heat, the sudden claps of thunder and downpour of water was more than welcome. Unconcerned about the soaking I was getting, I stood out in the rain just delighted to get a chance to cool down (bear in mind I had no running water in my house!). However, once the rainy weather broke, it broke. Every day after about 4pm the storm clouds would gather, and the skies would open. This meant hours sheltering under shop fronts, as well as battling to open our wooden doors and windows that would swell up as they absorbed the water. The concrete walls of our house would also soak through, and I constantly worried about the safety of the overhead electrics. This happened for two weeks in October until early November, when everything dried up again and we were back to hot, balmy evenings.


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LucyHB
Halloween in Taganga 3 stars
Children are running around dressed as ghosts, princesses, superheroes, military officers...yes this is Halloween, Colombian-style. In Taganga, you'd better have some sweets on hand - the children run around with little pots into which the adults are expected to put edible treats or small change. All the while, their parents sit outside tiendas enjoying a cold beer or rum and just shooting the breeze while their kids compare costumes. Some of the little girls' outfits - involving a whole lot of makeup at times, would raise a few eyebrows in the Western world, but try not to look too disapproving, it's all done in innocence.

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LucyHB
Keeping cool in Taganga 3 stars
My goodness, is it ever hot in Santa Marta. Even though I'd lived in Rio de Janeiro for six months before arriving here, I was still unprepared for the constant heat of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The key to getting anything done in this insane heat is to get up early. If you want to go to the beach, you'll want to set off before 8am - leave it any later and you'll be suffering as you make the climb around the mountain trail to Playa Grande. If you do leave it later, you could always to take a boat round there and save a few gallons of sweat! Be aware that very few places in Taganga have air con - even the internet cafe/cocktail bar only has ceiling fans, which do little more than move hot air around the room. Expect to spend a lot of time in the water here - I found it was actually too hot to sunbathe much of the time, I just had to get off the sand and into the sea.

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LucyHB
Scuba schools 4 stars
The Carribbean coast of Colombia is said to be one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to sign up for classes in the little fishing village of Taganga.
For just over US$100 you can enroll on a five-day course, including all equipment hire, instruction (in English and Spanish), and the chance to see all sorts of exotic sealife at close quarters. There's a nightdive too, so you can get a glimpse into the underwarter nightlife of the fishy kingdom!
You won't need to arrange classes before you arrive here - just turn up, and take a wander down by the beachfront. There are several places offering classes, so just ask in a couple until you find the best deal for you.


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