cerro kennedy

Minca and the surrounding area of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are becoming one of Colombia’s most popular places. Once you arrive, you will realize why. This is a magical place with endless opportunities for adventure. Without a doubt, my favorite activity I did was hiking up Cerro Kennedy.

Located right outside Minca, this mountain gives great views of the surrounding area. On top of this, you will be able to see the two tallest mountains in all of Colombia: Pico Simón Bolívar and Pico Cristóbal Colón.

To start the hike we first took a moto-taxi and then hiked around six hours to reach our accommodation.

When we arrived at our hostal, we were tired but rewarded with stunning views of Santa Marta and the mountains.

In this guide, I will explain all of the logistics involved in reaching the top of Cerro Kennedy and my reason why it should be immediately added to your bucket list.

cerro kennedy sunrise

What is Cerro Kennedy?

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is one of the most unique places in the world. Being the highest coastal range in the world makes this area a must-visit.

This is why people flock here year-round. This mountain gives 360-degree views of the whole region.

You will be looking one way towards Santa Marta and be able to see the Caribbean and then look the other way to see two 5700-meter peaks.

The funny thing is that nobody actually knows which of the two mountains is higher.

Perched on top of Cerro Kennedy is a military base. They use this area for their large cell towers.

Unfortunately because of this, you will not be able to get to the true peak of this mountain. That’s okay because there are still amazing views before this.

Pico Simón Bolívar

How to Get to Cerro Kennedy

Each person can arrive at Cerro Kennedy in many ways. My favorite way will always be to hike, but you can also take a moto-taxi. Below, I will lay out all of the details for getting here.

Santa Marta to Minca

The first thing you’ll have to do is get to Minca from Santa Marta.

Minca is located 45 minutes south of Santa Marta in a beautiful mountainous region. This is a very popular area amongst travelers and local Colombian tourists alike. It is suggested to book your accommodation ahead of time.

Here are a few ways of getting to Minca:

  • Colectivo: This costs only $9,000 COP and runs multiple times a day. Head to the Mercado Publico and ask for Minca.
  • Taxi: The going rate to get a ride to Minca is $60,000 COP. We were able to get it down to $55,000 COP but that was it.
  • Moto Taxi: This will be cheaper than a taxi but may be difficult with your luggage.

Minca to Cerro Kennedy

If you aren’t much of a hiker and want to catch a ride all the up to Cerro Kennedy then you’ll have to take a moto-taxi. You could also hike from town. Or the best of both worlds and what we did, bike and hike.

  • This will cost you around $70,000 pesos. I will say be prepared for a bumpy ride. Most of the way up will be on rocky roads. The ride is around 2 hours long.
  • The hike from Minca is 16 miles to the top. If you’re up for the challenge then go for it!
  • We took a moto-taxi from town to El Campano. From here hiked to the top. The moto-taxi cost us $20,000 COP. I will go over this in more detail later in the blog.

Cerro Kennedy Hike Details

  • Distance: This hike is a around 24-mile out & back trail. This depends on your starting location.
  • Duration: It will take around 5 hours to complete this hike. Once again this depends on if you make it an overnight trip and where you’re starting location is.
  • Difficulty: I’d rank this hike as moderate to difficult. You will be along a rocky road for most of the trek and there’s a lot of incline.
  • Incline: The elevation gain for this hike to the peak is 5000 feet or 1500 meters but could be shorter depending where you start and end.
  • Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public.

You can follow the trail from where you begin on Wikiloc.

My Experience Hiking Cerro Kennedy

Our experience started off a little bit shaky. We decided to take a moto-taxi to El Campano and hike from there. This cost us $20,000 COP. I read online that the trailhead should be close to here but we were a tad bit confused. I believe our driver dropped us off at the lowest possible place for El Campano.

The walk to the trailhead added an extra hour for us. It wasn’t a big deal but we were lost for an extra 30 minutes before this. If you want to skip this part then make sure you can get dropped off at Mirador de la Tagua la Y. There is a coffee shop here that has amazing views. This area is right across the street from the photo below, which is the trailhead.

cerro kennedy trailhead

El Campano to Cerro Kennedy Trailhead

Like I said previously we started off shaky but after a little bit, we found our way. If you decide to start the hike from where we did then the first hour will be on the road going straight up.

It really wasn’t that bad especially since we knew where we going now. On the map located above in the hike details section, location A is where we began our hike.

Hiking in the El Dorado Nature Reserve

This is where the actual hike begins. For the rest of the hike up to Cerro Kennedy, you will go through the El Dorado Nature Reserve. This is a rocky road the whole way. Along the way, you will pass many different accommodations, small cafes/restaurants, and homes.

The good news is it is almost impossible to get lost here. I would still suggest downloading maps.me just in case. There will also be a few sections with some great overlooks. We were unlucky in this regard because of the constant cloud cover.

You will be under the cover of the forest while walking so you won’t bake in the sun. The weather was great for us until around 1 mile to Donde Moncho hostal. This was fine because we were very sweaty and exhausted at this point.

You’ll know you’ve arrived at the hostal as the campsite will be on your right and the sign of Donde Moncho hostal on your left.

el dorado nature reserve
cerro kennedy trail
cerro kennedy trail

Cerro Kennedy for Sunrise

Because of our mishap at the beginning of the hike, we didn’t make it to Hostal Donde Moncho until 4 PM. The clouds were covering any view we would have liked to see. We decided to hang out a bit, and it was great. They gave us coffee when we arrived and prepared an amazing dinner for only $20,000 COP. We saved our energy for the sunrise hike.

After spending a couple of hours around the fire, we woke up at 4:30 AM to begin our hike a few minutes later. We didn’t go to the peak because we were told there was a better 360 view than that. They weren’t wrong. It was one of the best sunrises I have seen.

It would have been hard to find our way to this trail without Moncho’s son taking us in the morning. This family was amazing and I would love to stay here again.

hostal donde moncho
hostal donde moncho
santa marta sunset
cerro kennedy sunrise
cerro kennedy
cerro kennedy

Reaching the Peak

From the viewpoint of the sunrise location, you can see the large communication towers, which are where the military base is located.

If you want, you can keep walking along the main path that took you to get here until you reach your preferred lookout point.

Make sure you don’t try to pass or the guards will get angry. You don’t want to mess with someone who has a gun.

After our sunrise hike, we returned to get some much-needed fuel for our hike. If you want, the hostal can call you a moto-taxi to have them there in 2 hours waiting for you.

We decided to try our luck finding a ride because we weren’t sure how long it would take us. The coffee shop was closed, and we had no service.

We easily hitchhiked our way back down, and it saved us upwards of $25,000 COP.

hostal donde moncho

Things to Know

Combining Other Hikes with Cerro Kennedy

The beauty of this hike and region is that it is very possible to combine it with many others. For example, if you want to stay the night at the famous Sierra Minca hostel beforehand, then this could be combined with a few other hikes.

Starting in the center of Minca you can make your way toward the Marinka waterfalls. This is a popular set of waterfalls that only cost $10,000 COP to enter with far fewer people than the Pozo Azul waterfalls. Along this trail, you can also stop at Cascada Oido del Mundo.

You can then keep hiking towards a great overview at Los Pinos before staying the night at Sierra Minca. It is very possible to do both Los Pinos and Cerro Kennedy in one go. You can follow the trail from Los Pinos to the road here on Alltrails.

marinka waterfalls

Accommodations for Cerro Kennedy

Minca and the surrounding area have become quite popular in recent years, and for good reason! This area is stunning and still feels untouched by society.

If you’re like me, staying somewhere that’s cheap and near the peak with the best views is a top priority.

There is no other option other accommodation that fits those constraints besides Hostal Donde Moncho.

They don’t have a website, so I linked their Instagram page. I’d suggest contacting them through Whatsapp for availability. Their number is linked in their bio.

Donde Moncho has bunks in tents but if you’re looking for something a bit nicer, then I have a few options for you.

  • Sierra Alta Finca Boutique: This amazing hotel is located at the bottom of the main road that leads up to Cerro Kennedy. It’s one of the highest-rated hotels in the area for a reason!
  • Hostal Sierra Minca: This is the perfect mix of views, high quality, and price. Sierra Minca is a shorts hike away from Kennedy peak and has wonderful amenities.

Where to Stay in Minca

  • Casa Loma Minca: This hostel is located up a hill just through the downtown area. It has a patio that offers spectacular views of Minca below.
  • Rio Elemento Ecolodge: A little pricier hostel compared to most in Colombia but it makes up for this with its great amenities.
  • Finca Carpe Diem: Farther away from the town than other hostels but that is what makes this place so magical.
ear of the world minca

Final Thoughts on the Cerro Kennedy Hike Near Minca

This was easily my favorite activity we did in Minca, if not our entire time in Colombia. Everyone we met along the way was extremely nice and accommodating. The distance and elevation might scare you off from doing this, but it is totally worth it. After completing the hike and seeing the terrain, I’m glad we didn’t do the two-hour ride on the moto-taxi. That would have been pretty uncomfortable.

Other Activities to do in Colombia