It’s no secret that Jeremy and I love Minca, Colombia, a tiny town perched up in the Sierra Nevada mountains overlooking Santa Marta on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia.
We’ve been back to visit multiple times (Lia: 3x, Jeremy: 2x, and counting), each time discovering new things to love about this magical place – read our complete guide to Minca here. And every time we’ve returned to Minca’s little paradise, we’ve stayed in the same hostel: Casa Loma Minca.
There is something truly amazing about Casa Loma Minca. It’s the kind of hostel that turns travelers into backpackers. The kind of place where you make friends that last a lifetime. The kind of hostel that you’ll forever compare all other hostels to.
When someone from the USA asks you, incredulously, “wait, you stay in HOSTELS?!” as if it’s a dirty word, Casa Loma hostel in Minca is one of the first places that springs to mind to change their assumptions.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best hostel in Minca, Casa Loma.
Psst: Planning a trip to Colombia? We’ve got a ton of other resources for Colombia that will help plan your visit.
- The Complete Guide to Minca, Colombia’s Sleepy Hidden Gem
- What to Pack for Colombia
- The Best Hostels in Colombia
- Colombia Itinerary: Ultimate Guide to 1 Month of Backpacking Colombia
Casa Loma Minca
Although Casa Loma Minca has grown over the 5 years that we’ve been visiting, the magic surrounding it hasn’t changed.
On our most recent trip in February 2018, we were actually recognized by one of our readers who was staying at Casa Loma Minca after reading about it on Practical Wanderlust. He’d actually added Minca to his Colombia itinerary because of us!
We’ve never been more excited (or felt more like celebrities) in our lives (and I’m pretty sure we totally freaked him out with our extreme overreaction, whoops).
But still: every time we visit Minca, it seems, something freakin’ magical happens.
We’ve wanted to create a stand-alone post highlighting Casa Loma Minca for quite some time. We’ve written many things about it over the years, but this is the first time we’ve actually put them all together.
…Also, the first 2 times Lia visited, she was taking blurry pictures with an old cell phone, so we didn’t exactly have great footage. We were thrilled to visit again to capture this place in all of its beauty!
If you’re looking for the best Minca hostels, look no further!
How to Get to Casa Loma Minca
Sleepy little Minca is one of our favorite destinations in Colombia – read why here. The easiest way to get to Minca is from Santa Marta.
Getting to Minca from Cartagena
Santa Marta is easily accessible from Cartagena or most places near the coast as it’s a major tourist destination (especially if you’re looking for a party. Spoilers: it’s not really our scene).
To get to Santa Marta, you’ll want to hop on a bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta, about 5 hours away.
For more details, we’ve got a massive guide on how to get from Cartagena to Santa Marta!
Minca is about 45 minutes away from Santa Marta via taxi or moto-taxi. The budget-friendly option is to take a collectivo, a shared shuttle.
The Minca colectivo to Santa Marta is located at the corner of Carrera 9 and Calle 12, in the Mercado Publico in Centro.
To find it, we basically repeated this address to random people over and over until enough helpful Colombians had pointed us in the right direction and we finally found it!
The collectivo cost 8.000COP/$3 per person (as of February 2018, our most recent visit to Minca).
Getting to Casa Loma hostel in Minca
Once you arrive, locating Casa Loma hostel in Minca from tiny downtown Minca is a bit of an adventure.
The hostel is tucked up on top of a lush hill (“Loma” means hill in Spanish) above the town.
Here were the walking instructions we printed out from Casa Loma Minca on our 2nd visit:
- Find the church
- Find the pathway to the left of the church
- Climb the stairs
- Pass the school and basketball court
- Continue up the stairs
- Walk between two houses,
- Continue on the path for ten minutes.
Huh?? It felt like we were following a pirate’s treasure map.
But as long as you pay extremely close attention, follow the signs, avoid taking the wrong set of stairs, and generally have better luck than we do, it’s only a 5-7 minute “hike” to the top of the hill.
When you finally reach Casa Loma Minca, the first thing you’ll notice is the view: from the hostel’s open-air lounge, you can see all the way to Santa Marta and the blue waters of the Caribbean!
See? The whole hill thing was worth it.
About Casa Loma Minca
Casa Loma Minca is a rustic eco-hostel located on a hill overlooking Minca and Santa Marta.
There is no WiFi on purpose, which leads to a feeling of relaxed, friendly isolation. It’s a place to escape, a place to sit back and relax in a hammock and read a book and play cards and make a new friend or 3.
We actually find the lack of WiFi incredibly refreshing each time we visit! Although if you do want WiFi, just head down the hill into town – there’s excellent WiFi (and delicious bread) at the artisanal bakery, Duni, right at the foot of the hill.
What makes Casa Loma the best hostel in Minca
Rather than being one large building, Casa Loma Minca is really a collection of tree-house like structures (dorms, hammock shelters, private bedrooms, thatched roof huts, etc).
The main hub is “La Casa,” an open-air lounge, with tables, couches, hammocks, fridge, the kitchen (staff only), games, a library, and reception. Music is always playing and people are always hanging out.
It truly feels like a giant treehouse, with the most incredible view in the world right on its front porch.
The food at Casa Loma Minca
The meals at Casa Loma Minca are not included, but the prices are super reasonable and the food is incredible.
Almost every meal is vegetarian, which we actually enjoyed – it’s more environmentally friendly, plus it’s the kind of filling, well-seasoned vegetarian food that doesn’t leave you missing meat at all!
Breakfast runs from 4.000-8.000 COP, lunch is 12.000 COP, and dinner (with included dessert) is 17.000 COP, which we found reasonable and relatively budget-friendly. (At least, it was when we were there – check the current prices.)
Dinner, served family style, is an event not to miss out on: it’s social and cozy, the kind of intimate hostel environment we found ourselves missing as soon as we left Minca.
Folks generally start to wander into the main lodge to catch the sunset, and then stay until dinner drinking, playing cards, reading, hanging out, and chatting.
It’s actually hard NOT to make friends if you hang out in the lodge around sunset and dinner – conversation strikes up naturally. Some of our best travel friendships were formed here!
The staff at Casa Loma Minca are super friendly, and are mostly volunteers – what a great spot to work and live!
The atmosphere at Casa Loma
But the highlight of Casa Loma hostel in Colombia by far is the incredible atmosphere and this makes it the best Minca hostel.
The lack of Wi-Fi allows for (forces? necessitates?) social interaction, and the type of people attracted to the isolated hill-top eco-hostel seem to coexist on the same wavelength.
In California speak, the vibe is super chill. There are board games, card games, books to read, hammocks to lounge in, music always playing, and ice-cold beer always available.
You see the same few people staying at little Casa Loma Minca over and over again during your stay, and you all sit together for meals at communal tables. Soon, you become friends.
By the end of your stay, you and your new Casa Loma friends have played 53 games of BS and Gin Rummy, performed a sing-along rendition of Sweet Child of Mine on the ukelele, hiked to a waterfall – and then all jumped off it together – and had several in-depth philosophical discussion in 8 different languages.
Why would you want to stay at any other hostel in Minca?!
A social hostel, but not a party hostel
One of our new friends summed it up well: Casa Loma Minca is a social hostel, but not a party hostel.
Everyone talks to each other, invites each other on day trips, plays cards, shares drinks, maybe sings a song or two together (not quite “kumbayah,” but close: there were actually guitars and we actually all sang together and it was magical) and enjoys each other’s company.
We met some fantastic people at Casa Loma Minca, who we ended up meeting again and again as we continued traveling through Colombia.
In fact, we made more friends while staying at Casa Loma Minca than we did at any other point during our trip.
Casa Loma Minca: The First Time
The first time I (Lia) came to Minca, I was visiting my closest friend, who was spending a year teaching English in nearby Barranquilla.
She’d heard from her local hosts and co-workers that Minca was an undiscovered gem away from the typical tourist hot-spots. We booked a room at a hostel in Minca based on a recommendation and headed off.
Honestly, I was just happy to not have to do any research and just follow along. After all, it was my first ever visit to Colombia – and to South America!
Finding our way to Casa Loma
I had no clue how Colombian transportation worked and my grasp of Spanish was nowhere near as good as my friend’s. So I tagged along behind her as we hopped from collectivo to bus to another bus to moto-taxi.
My friend isn’t exactly the most meticulous planner, but when I asked her how she’d known to get to this seemingly complicated place, she shrugged. “You just ask someone,” she said, vaguely.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to navigate Colombia on my own.
But as our moto-taxis began the 45-minute climb away from the heat of coastal Santa Marta and up into the Sierra Nevada mountains, I didn’t care.
I was riding a motorcycle through Colombia like freakin’ Che Guavara or something, and I was having the time of my life.
I fell in love with Casa Loma
We spent most of our week at Casa Loma Minca, relaxing and laughing together and sitting quietly on hammocks reading and having long, late-night discussions with other travelers in multiple languages.
Although we shared a bed in one of the few private rooms (at the time – there are now many more), I’d wake up to find that my friend had gone off in search of early-morning adventure, hiking to waterfalls and swimming holes and back again before I even managed to lift my drool-covered face off the pillow at 9am.
Casa Loma Colombia was the perfect place to balance our 2 very different travel styles.
Exploring Minca for the first time
We explored Minca on foot and by moto-taxi, eating sweet, sticky mangos we picked up on the side of the road as we took long walks through the jungle together, discussing everything and nothing.
In those days, only one place in town had WiFi, so we ordered coffee and sat trying to get a signal on our cell phones to contact our boyfriends back home, watching hummingbirds as we waited for deep, heartfelt messages like “lol i miss u 2 ;)” to send.
Ah, 2013. So innocent.
It was an incredible trip, and as soon as I left Colombia, I wanted to return.
Fast forward 3 years. I married that boyfriend, put all of our belongings in storage, and hopped on a plane to start our year-long honeymoon in Cartagena, Colombia.
Our 2nd stop? Minca, of course.
Casa Loma Minca: Again & Again
The second time I visited Minca, it was my job to navigate, which is never a good idea because I’m terrible at navigation.
But by some miracle, I managed to navigate from Cartagena to Santa Marta (here’s how) and then get us into a collectivo headed to Minca without fluent Spanish.
I remembered my friend’s advice and stopped to ask for directions each step of the way.
In Santa Marta, that meant stopping every 10 steps in 100 degree heat with our giant backpacks to repeat “Minca? Minca?” until we eventually found the right stop, at Carrera 9 and Calle 12.
Our trip to Casa Loma: The second time
As our packed little car wound up through the mountains away from sunny, seaside Santa Marta, it started to rain.
It was light at first… and then, suddenly, it was very heavy. So heavy, in fact, that as we wound up the road into the mountains, we glimpsed the painful aftermath of a bad motorcycle accident (note: maybe don’t take a mototaxi in the rain).
Our taxi driver called the authorities to help the injured driver, and drove carefully the rest of the way – bless him, he’s probably the only Colombian who knows the meaning of careful driving (that’s one of those things no one tells you about Colombia).
Rain in Minca
I was nervous. I’d really hyped Minca up to Jeremy, and I didn’t remember this much rain on my first trip to Casa Loma Minca.
I would later find out that July, when we were visiting, was part of the summer rainy season – April, when I took my first visit, was not.
Luckily, we had channeled the Boy Scouts when we packed for Colombia and were prepared: we had our rain gear.
Except it wasn’t on us. It was in our bags.
After our collectivo dropped off in the pouring rain, at the only major intersection – it’s a TINY town, y’all – we grabbed our backpacks, said goodbye to the Americans we’d shared the taxi with, and made a run for the nearest awning.
We didn’t let the rain stop us
I wrangled a makeshift rain cover for my bag out of a trash bag I had literally packed for this exact reason. Turns out, the ease of mind is worth the expense, because nobody wants to struggle with a trash bag in the pouring rain.
I was too frugal to spend $30 when “a trash bag is just as good”. I regret this decision. Note to self: just buy a backpack cover next time.
By the time I had managed to cover up my bag, the rain was officially torrential. At this point, frustrated with the trash bag situation, I suggested we find a restaurant, eat lunch, and wait out the rain.
Jeremy refused, saying that it would take too long and we should just power through it.
Well, let the record stand: Jeremy was wrong.
Armed with a wet copy of the pirate treasure map-esque instructions to locate Casa Loma Minca, we trudged up and out of town as the rain soaked through our bags, clothes, and shoes.
And then we got lost
We seemed to be making progress …until I lost the trail. Typical.
We slipped and slid our way back down to town and asked some friendly locals where to find Casa Loma Minca.
Turns out we had to go back to the church, duck behind it,
dig up a chest of treasure, and follow the road up to a slightly different set of stairs that I swear did not exist 5 minutes earlier. Did I mention it was raining like crazy?
For those of you not up on your Spanish, “Loma” means hill – Casa Loma Minca is Minca’s House on the Hill. And man, that hill is rough.
There is nothing more truly awful than lugging 35 pounds of misery on your back in the pouring rain as you slip and slide up a hill that defies the laws of friction. It felt like we were climbing for hours. Sans bags and rain, the hill takes only about 5-8 minutes to climb.
By the time we huffed and puffed ourselves to the top of the hill and finally reached Casa Loma Minca – 14 switchbacks later, I counted – it felt like the gates of heaven themselves had opened up.
Finally arriving and enjoying Casa Loma Minca
We’ve never been more grateful for a dry hammock to lay on in our lives!
We had learned the lesson of Minca, Colombia in the summer: it rains like clockwork every afternoon for an hour or so, and then stops. Duly noted.
The rest of our stay was as blissfully idyllic as I remembered from my first visit.
We spent our days exploring Minca and our evenings relaxing in the hostel, making new friends, learning new card games (and drinking games … and card/drinking games), watching the sun set over the Sierra Nevadas, and gobbling up delicious vegetarian food.
After my second visit, I had no doubt that Casa Loma was the best hostel in Minca.
Casa Loma Minca: The Third Visit
On our third and most recent trip to Casa Loma Minca in February 2018, I brought my husband and my best friend – the one with whom I’d visited Minca for the first time ever – back with me.
It was the perfect meshing of the first and second times I’d visited Minca, with one key difference: instead of sharing a tiny private room with my friend, or a dorm with 18 other people, we stayed in one of Casa Loma’s newest additions: stunning thatched roof huts, each one built by hand and looking out over the beautiful jungle, with its stunning sunset.
It was perfect, and we can’t wait to come back again… and again … and again!
Casa Loma Minca is a truly special and memorable hostel and we cannot recommend it enough. It’s the only place we’ve EVER visited 3 times, and we love it to bits.
Be sure to reserve early – the hostel is small and popular, and fills up quickly. Check current prices or click on the big button below to snap up a spot:
If you are looking for more tour tips during your visit to Colombia the amazing guys over at ViaHero will connect you with a local person who will share all their juicy knowledge and help you plan your perfect itinerary. Check it out here.
Have you ever stayed somewhere multiple times? What brought you back again and again? Leave us a comment below!
Psst: We’ve got a ton of other resources for Colombia that you’ll want to look at before your trip! And don’t forget to subscribe to get a printable Colombia packing guide and our favorite tips for visiting Colombia delivered straight to your inbox.
- The Complete Guide to Minca, Colombia’s Sleepy Hidden Gem
- 30 Things Nobody Tells You About Backpacking in Colombia
- The Best Colombian Food: What to Eat in Colombia
- Travel Guide to Playa Blanca & Isla Baru: Cartagena, Colombia’s Island Paradise
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Disclaimer: We were graciously hosted by Casa Loma during our most recent visit to Minca, which honestly fulfilled a dream of mine that I’d been holding on to since starting our blog. Our first 2 visits were in no way sponsored, and all opinions are our own.