Minca and the surrounding area of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are becoming one of the most popular places to visit in Colombia. 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. We may have been lucky with the weather in the morning because it can become extremely cloudy in this region. When we arrived at our hostal, it was complete cloud cover except exactly when the sun was setting.
In this guide, I will explain all of the logistics involved in reaching the top of Cerro Kennedy. I’m sure Cerro Kennedy will immediately be added to your bucket list.
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.
How to Get to Cerro Kennedy
There are many ways to arrive at Cerro Kennedy for each individual person. My favorite way will always be to hike but you can also get a moto-taxi up. 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 of Cerro Kennedy. 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.
My Suggested Hiking Gear
Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.
- KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
- Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.
Popular Activities to do in Minca
Minca is a special place. Easily one of my favorites in Colombia. There are more things you can do here besides seeing some amazing waterfalls. The region has amazing coffee as well as one of the most famous hikes in all of Colombia, The Lost City Trek.
Cerro Kennedy Hike Details
- Distance: This hike is a around 24-mile out & back trail. This depends on your starting location. We got dropped off at El Campano but some moto-taxi drivers will drop you up further. It is suggested to make this an overnight trip and stay at Donde Moncho Hostal.
- Duration: It will take around 5 hours to get to Cerro Kennedy. 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. There is a lot of incline as well which makes it more difficult.
- Incline: The elevation gain for this hike to the peak is 5000 feet or 1500 meters. If you stop at Donde Moncho Hostal then it will be about 1200 meters of incline to that point.
- 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.
Combining Other Hikes with Cerro Kennedy
The beauty of this hike and region is that it is very possible to combine this hike with many others. If you are wanting 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.
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.
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 real hike begins. For the entire rest of the hike up to Cerro Kennedy, you will be going 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.
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 like 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 if it wasn’t for Moncho’s son taking us in the morning. This family was absolutely amazing and I would love to come to stay here again.
Reaching the Peak
From the viewpoint of the sunrise location, you can see the large communication towers. This is 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 headed back to get some much-needed fuel for our hike back down. 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 going down and 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.
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 so totally worth doing. After completing the hike and seeing the terrain, I’m glad we didn’t do the 2-hour ride on the moto-taxi. That would have been pretty uncomfortable.
Thank you for reading my guide on the Cerro Kennedy Hike. I hope this guide has helped you when making your way to the best spot in Minca.