What To Do in Santa Marta, Colombia: 40 FUN (Expat) Tips!

what to do in santa marta colombia
what to do in santa marta colombia

Looking for what to do in Santa Marta?

You’re in good hands. I never planned to live there…but I ended up laying down roots in the city for around 6 months. So I’ve put together an exhaustive list for you wherever you’re passing by for a few days or choosing to live here yourself. 

Perched on the far north coastline of Colombia, the port city of Santa Marta is one of the oldest surviving cities in all of South America, and is considered a sister city of the more well-known and hip Colombian city, Cartagena. 

I hope you enjoy this colossal list of what to do in Santa Marta, every item written from first-hand experience. 

Table of Contents

History of Santa Marta

Santa Marta was founded in 1525 by Spanish colonists, led by Rodrigo de Bastidas. The city was the first settlement by the Spanish in Colombia and as mentioned above, is one of the oldest surviving (inhabited) cities in all of South America

As a major port for the conquering Spanish, Santa Marta allowed the Spaniards to export the vast quantities of precious metals it came to extract from the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. 

The city was also the gateway base for exploring Colombia’s interior, leading to the settling of its now modern capital of Bogota.

As one of the top major ports in Spanish Colombia, Santa Marta was subjected to many pirate raids throughout its history, until its twin town Cartagena, took over the mantle, leaving Santa Marta in relative peace. 

Throughout the modern era, Santa Marta has built up its economy from tourism as well as trade in bananas, coffee, cocoa, and fishing.

Where is Santa Marta?

Santa Marta is located on the northern coast of Colombia on the ​​Santa Marta Bay, looking over the Caribbean sea. It’s actually one of the most northerly cities in this vast, diverse country and the entire South American continent. 

The city is surrounded by coastline on its northern and western sides, with the Sierra Nevada foothills and peaks rising to its eastern edges.

How To Get To Santa Marta

The quickest way to get to Santa Marta is to fly to its international airport, Simón Bolívar International Airport. Depending on where you’re coming from, you might need to hop on a connecting flight in the capital Bogotá before you arrive in Santa Marta.

If you are travelling around the country or living in the popular city of Medellin, there are usually two options for getting to Santa Marta. By far the quickest way is to take a domestic flight between the cities, which takes around an hour. 

If you’re trying to keep your air miles down, you can always take the bus from Medellin to Santa Marta, although I wouldn’t recommend it. It tends to cost the same as a flight (~USD$40-$50) but takes far longer – around 15 hours.

Is Santa Marta Safe?

Modern Colombia has faced massive change and reform after its tumultuous past; coming out of paramilitary violence and being a victim of cartel drug-trafficking violence. An easing of society and an influx of tourism has relatively increased safety in the country. 

All this being said, Colombia as a whole isn’t somewhere you take your safety for granted; petty crime can still be an issue. 

Santa Marta is generally safe for South American standards, but it’s not wise to give opportunistic thieves a hand – keep your belongings safe, don’t go waving your phone about and beware of pickpockets, especially on public transport. 

Many hotels and accommodation will have their own security and this will help you feel at ease. Generally speaking, as long as you keep your wits about you (especially at night time), there’s no reason why you shouldn’t feel safe in Santa Marta.

You’ll probably also want to avoid some of the poorer barrios, as these are generally home to some of the more violent gangs, and some taxis will even refuse to take you there. These include Pastrana, Tayrona, Corea, and Cerro de las Tres Cruces.

I survived an attempted mugging from two young men who were high as a kite, just outside the city centre. It was 8 pm and I had my laptop bag on my back, after living in Mexico City for a good few years I wouldn’t usually do this and it was an exception to the rule as opposed to the rule.

I also run pretty fast thanks to my upbringing in council estate England. 

Related post: Travel Safety Tips For Men and Women

What To Do in Santa Marta: For Beach Lovers (A Warning!)  

Sitting on the Caribbean coast, you might have images of turquoise waters, unblemished white sands and palm trees swaying in the wind. Unfortunately, when it comes to what to do in Santa Marta, postcard-perfect beaches aren’t top of the list, so best to manage those spotless-sands expectations.  

But, that’s not to say that there’s none. Here are a few of the good ones to check out if you’re looking for that Caribbean beach experience:

Bahia Concha

Often seen as one of the best beaches in the area, Bahia Concha is popular with both tourists and locals. Set between two rising foothills, Bahia Concha is a cove of beautiful sand surrounded by greenery. Located a half-hour drive north of the city, many choose to camp on Bahia Concha beach for 25,000 COP. 

Pozos Colorados

Pozos Colorados is located south of the city, a little north of the local airport. This beach is the perfect way to escape the crowds and the bustle of inner-city Colombia. With wide sandy shores, Pozos Colorados provides plenty of space, but you have to deal with the many skyscrapers rising over the skyline.

Playa Cinto

A secluded beach in the Tayrona National Park, you can only get here by taking a boat from the small fishing village of Taganga. Once here, you’re treated to isolated views of the green and blue cove, a little bit of untouched South America of your very own.

Cabo San Juan Beach

Cabo San Juan Beach is another of Tayrona National Parks and can be reached by either taking a boat from Taganaga or hiking through the park. This small coved beach is characterised by its many boulders and rock formations. 

Cabo San Juan Beach is arguably one of the most popular, so don’t be surprised if you’re not the only ones here. There are a few bungalows located on Cabo San Juan Beach, allowing you to spend the night amongst the lapping waves.

Taganga Beach

One of the more built-up beaches in the Santa Marta area, Taganga Beach lies just north of the city, along the coast of Tagana Village. Although quite easy to access, the beach can become extremely overcrowded, especially on the weekends.

Playa Cristal

Another of the Tayrona Park beaches, Playa Cristal is a small beach with crystal clear waters and lush vegetation. Probably the closest beach you’ll get to the ideal image of a Caribbean coastline beach. Playa Cristal is also the ideal place for a spot of snorkelling.

Rodadero Beach

The closest beach to the actual city, Rodadero Beach is ideal if you don’t want to travel too far. Though with the highrise city spilling out on the sands, Rodadero Beach can become quite crowded, complete with numerous vendors at every corner.

What To Do in Santa Marta: Top 9 For Day-Trippers

Boasting pleasent local fishing villages, breath-taking wildlife and bustling local markets, the area around Santa Marta is the perfect place to experience a cross-section of coastal Colombian life and culture.

After you’ve exhausted your list of what to do in Santa Marta (below this section), here are a couple of day trips and weekend breaks you can enjoy, as the city is an unsung hero of Colombian bases to explore other cities within the country. 

1. Visit Taganga Town

Just north of Santa Marta city is the time-honoured town of Taganga. Once a traditional quaint fishing town, Taganga Town has grown into a hotspot for backpackers in modern times but still retains its laid-back feel. 

The streets of Taganan are adorned with numerous murals and unpaved streets, providing a colourful and rich landscape to explore. 

During the evening, Taganga Town becomes a mecca for sunset seekers, with the coastline offering a perfect vantage point for watching the sun go down. 

The shores just off Taganga Town also provide prime conditions for scuba diving. It’s both one of the best and cheapest places to dive on the globe, whether you’re an experienced diver or looking for your first dip into the world of oxygen tanks. 

With clear waters and a myriad of marine life, you can explore this underwater world only a short distance from the Taganga shoreline. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Taganga sits just three miles north of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – COP$1,800 for the bus fare each way.
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – Give yourself a day to truly enjoy this seaside town.
  • Getting there – A number of buses leave regularly from Santa Marta including the Blue City Bus which you can catch from the market, or jump in a minibus (look for signs in the window that say Tatanga)  from the main bus terminal. Both options will set you back COP$1,800 each way.

2. Taganga Viewpoint

Nestled within a cove and surrounded by rising hills on all sides, Taganga naturally provides the perfect topography for breathtaking views. One of the best spots to bask in this awe-inspiring view of the Caribbean coast is the Taganga Viewpoint. 

Standing on hills between Santa Marta and Taganga, you can either take a taxi between the two and ask your driver to pull over or hike from Taganga Town to the viewpoint. The landscape itself is a delight of rocky outcrops, lapping blue waves and lush South American vegetation – the ideal spot for a panoramic view of the region.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Just outside of Taganga Town. 
  • Cost – N/A
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – Just an hour or so to take in the panoramic views.
  • Getting there – Buses don’t really stop near the viewpoint, so you’ll need to jump in a taxi or make your way there on foot.

3. Ruta del Grafiti (Self-Guided Street Art Tour)

Similar to other Colombian towns and cities, Santa Marta is adorned with street after street of stimulating and provocative graffiti. Forget your opportunistic graffiti tagger, these are stunning works of art all in their own right. 

Combining sombre murals and absurd psychedelic art, the patchwork of line and colour brings the neighbourhoods to life. Even better, it’s easy to carry out a self-guided tour of these artworks, all by yourself. 

The Ruta del Grafiti, or graffiti route, runs through, what would be, quite drab and forlorn buildings that are now bursting with colour. 

Many of the murals are by Colombian artist Michelle Gouache, who weaves the faces and icons of indigenous South American culture into his art. Keep an eye out for the stunning murals of Muisca leaders adorned with gold and pre-colonial majesty. 

Although many of the murals can be found along with this famous Ruta del Graffiti there are seemingly endless pieces of art all over the city, which you’ll notice as you wander around. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta city centre
  • Cost – Between USD$20-25 per person if you join an organised tour. Free if not!
  • Opening hours – 9am to 5pm
  • Time needed – Most tours last around three hours.
  • Getting there – Most tours include hotel pick up and drop off so you shouldn’t need to worry about getting there. If you’re doing it yourself, you should be able to walk to the start of the route from most central hotels. 

4. Day Trip To Riohacha

One of the most north-easterly cities in Colombia, the city of Riohacha is an ideal place to explore the outer regions of the country. Dominated by local indigenous populations, Riohacha is a landscape of sandy shoreline dominated by palm trees and an imposing pier.

The nearby flamingo sanctuary offers a slice of nature (I’ll go into detail on how to visit this later on in the guide), while the beach and historical pier give you a chance to lay back and soak up some Caribbean sun. Less imposing and busy compared to Santa Marta, visiting this city can be a great way to experience a more laid back side of the ​​Magdalena region.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Around 100 miles north of Santa Marta, along the coast.
  • Cost – Between COP$12,000 and COP$20,000 one-way
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – Give yourself a day to experience everything Riohaca has to offer.
  • Getting there –  Head to the Bus terminal in Santa Marta and catch a bus labelled with Riohaca. It will take between 3-4 hours to reach the city. 

5. Palafito Villages of the Cienaga Grande del Magdalena (Floating Village of Santa Marta)

Sitting just southwest of Santa Marta is one of the largest wetlands in all of Colombia, known as the Cienaga Grande del Magdalena. Designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, these wetlands are not only some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the area but are also home to some pretty unique floating villages. 

Designated a South American Venice, yet more like Inle Lake of Myanmar in appearance, these vast villages stand supported by stilted houses, schools, workplaces and religious buildings.

This region of northern Colombia is seemingly unchanged for centuries, where people and the water are one. Taking a boat from the nearby port of Ciénaga, you can travel through the swamp wetlands and tour the villages of Nueva Venecia, Trojas de Cataca and Buenavista. 

The mix of indigenous and Mestizo Colombians who live in this unique village lead a simple and slow life, with fishing and tourism being their main staples.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Cienaga Grande del Magdalena is located about an hour southwest of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – Your bus to Cienaga will set you back around COP$2,000.
  • Opening hours – Most boats run from the early hours of the morning into the afternoon.
  • Time needed – It’s best to set aside a whole day for travelling to and exploring ​​the villages.
  • Getting there – First, you’ll need to make your way down to the town of Ciénaga by jumping on a bus at Santa Marta’s main bus terminal, before bartering with the locals to join an hour-long boat ride to the water villages westward. If you’re looking for the easier option, most tour guides will pick you up from the centre of Santa Marta and organize the boat for you. 

6. Visit Simon Bolivar’s Deathbed at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

If one name is held above all others across the continent of South America, it is Simon Bolivar. Credited as being the driving force behind the independence movements of many modern South American nations (so much so that the country of Bolivia bears his name) Simon Bolivar is the hero of many. 

Although born in Venezuela and the leader of the nation of Peru, his final moments and death actually happened in the city of Santa Marta. 

Today, you can visit Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the Hacienda home where Simon Bolivar took his last breath, after a life of being one of the greatest liberators known to man. 

The home is adorned with many features, including the stunning Altar de la Patria, an altar to the fatherland, and a white marble structure depicting the leader and revolutionary. 

There’s also a small museum where you can learn about Bolivar’s life and legacy. The grounds of the Hacienda are also worth an exploration, home to an exquisite botanical garden and rows of stunning trees.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is located in the Santa Marta suburb of Mamatoco, two and a half miles from the city centre.
  • Cost – 21,000 COP entry fee.
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 4:30 pm.
  • Time needed – Two hours will be enough. 
  • Getting there –  The easiest way to get there is via private taxi. If you’re on a budget, make your way to the bus terminal and jump on a bus heading to Mamatoco and let the bus driver know where you’d like to get off.

7. Pay Homage To a Statue of 90’s Football Icon Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama 

Much like most of Europe, South America’s premier sport is football or “soccer” to those reading in the north of the Americas. When it comes to footballing heroes in Colombia, the name Carlos Valderrama is held in high regard as one of Colombia’s greatest of all time, especially up in this neck of the woods.

With a devilishly distinctive hairstyle and silky skills on the ball, “El Pibe,” as he is affectionately known, was one of the most recognisable players during the 1980s and early 1990s. 

Born in Santa Marta, the people of the city are proud of their fellow successful citizens, so much so that they erected a statue paying homage to Carlos”‘El Pibe” Valderrama. 

A travelling football fan like myself should put this right at the top of the what to do in the Santa Marta checklist, anything above it would surely be heresy – especially considering the fact I’m a 90s kid and he was such an icon back then.

Whether a football fan or not, a visit to the monument of El Pibe is definitely worth a visit if only to wonder at how such a skilled sculpture could replicate those curly locks so accurately!

Know before you go:

  • Location – The statue is at the crossroads of Carrera 18, Y Calle 16 just outside of the city centre. 
  • Cost – Free! 
  • Opening hours – 24 hours
  • Time needed – Just enough time for a quick photo snap.
  • Getting there – Take the 03A or 03G bus from the centre of town or jump in a taxi.

8. Santa Marta Public Market

No trip to any major Colombian city would be complete without visiting the local market and Santa Marta is no different. This large traditional market is the epicentre of Santa Marta and a buzzing hive of activity and local exchanges. 

With over five hundred vendors and stalls selling everything from hot food, fresh fruit, vegetables and a range of wears, the sensory overload of sight and smells is a thing to behold. 

From grabbing something tasty to eat, securing yourself a traditional souvenir or simply soaking up the palpable atmosphere of a north Colombian market, this market is something that should sit proudly at the top of your list of what to do in Santa Marta.

Know before you go:

  • Location – You’ll find the market smack bang in the middle of Carrera. 9, Santa Marta.
  • Cost – N/A
  • Opening hours – 2am – 7pm
  • Time needed – Give yourself a couple of hours to grab something to eat and buy a few bits and bobs.
  • Getting there – If you’re staying centrally, you’ll be able to reach the market on foot. 

9. Take a Canoe To See 100s of Flamencos!

Found near the eastern Guajira Peninsula, is one of the region’s most unique and amazing sights, the Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. Made up of marshes, lagoons, and tropical dry forests, the sanctuary is a place of extreme natural beauty. 

As the name suggests, the sanctuary is home to a huge population of American flamingos, a must-see sight for nature lovers. 

One of the best ways to see these birds and to experience the Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary as a whole is to hire a canoe and set out on the water. Complete with a guide who knows the area and where the birds will be, you can catch sight of thousands of flamingos, especially during the wet season.

Know before you go:

  • Location – 90 miles east of Santa Marta
  • Cost – Entrance is free, but, say on Wayuu land, most visitors make a small contribution to the indigenous people who live here. Canoe trips will cost 30,000 COP per person.
  • Opening hours – 7 am to 5.30 pm
  • Time needed – Take a whole day to explore the sanctuary.
  • Getting there – Getting to Los Flamencos Fauna and Flora Sanctuary isn’t as easy as just hopping on a bus. You’ll need to head to the main bus terminal and find a bus that’s heading to Camarones which takes around 2.5 hours. If you can find a taxi (they’re few and far between here) you can hitch a lift to the sanctuary, but more likely, you’ll need to make the 3km journey to the sanctuary on foot. 

What To Do in Santa Marta: 11 Activities For Adventure Travellers

If you’re what to do in Santa Marta that gets the blood pumping a bit more, you won’t be disappointed. For a relatively small city, there is an array of activities for those figuring out what to do in Santa Marta that’s going to offer up a little more thrill and adventure. 

1. Hiking in The Lost City (4-5 days)

The South American Peruvian ruins of Machu Picchu are extremely well known, yet when it comes to the Lost City of northern Colombia, its fame is left wanting. 

Amazingly, this ruined, lost city in the heart of the north Colombian jungle predates Peru’s most famous landmark by 650 years. Constructed around the year 800, the Lost City of Ciudad Perdida, as it is known locally, is made up of 169 terraces cut into the hillside and is a fantastic example of indigenous construction. 

The site remained hidden from knowledge for over a thousand years until its discovery in the 1970s.

Visiting The Lost City is no easy feat; it takes around five days to trek the 25-miles to the site through jungle tracks and winding paths. You can’t do the trek alone either (as you are paying a visit to a sacred land to the indigenous peoples), so you’ll need to join a tour with one of the local guides in Santa Marta.

Here’s a little taster of what to expect on your five-day adventure through the Lost City:

Day One: Begin the first stage of hiking to camp one, which takes you three hours deep into the jungle.

Day Two: On the second day of jungle hiking, you’ll head to the riverside camp of Mumake. This takes around four hours. 

Day Three: Includes a five-hour hike to the ​​El Paraiso camp, only half a mile from the Lost City. This includes over 1,200 slippery steps up the ruins themselves.

Day Four: The morning of day four will be spent exploring The Lost City before lunch and a six-mile hike back to the Mumake camp.

Day Five: The longest hiking day, you’ll need to traverse nine miles back to your starting point. While this seems a lot, it’s actually all downhill so won’t be as tough as your hike on the first few days. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – The Lost City is set deep within the jungles of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – You can only do the trek with a certified tour company, so be prepared to pay between $350/400 for the honour.
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – Choose between the four or five-day route. 
  • Getting there – As the main jumping-off point to the Lost City, your tour agency will organise transport to and from Santa Marta. 

2. Visit Tayrona Park (On a Multi-Day Trek) 

Just northeast of Santa Marta and only an hour away is one of northern Colombia’s most beautiful and picturesque places, Tayrona Park. A combination of stunning beaches, lush forest, rolling foothills and mountains, this protected area is one of the most visited national parks in the country and I’d go as far as to say it’s worth the hassle getting here even if you’re not even in the area!

While you can pull off a one day trip here, the travelling to and from and your time there will all feel a little too rushed to appreciate something of this magnitude. I’d suggest a multi-day trek through the national park, and with campsites peppered throughout the park, staying over is an experience in itself.

First of all, the beaches of northern Tayrona Park are some of the best in the area and, alone, make visiting the park worth it. If you visit just one, make it Playa Cristal beach with its crystal clear waters and fantastic snorkelling opportunities.

Aside from relaxing along the beaches, Tayrona Park is a perfect place to seek out some of Colombia’s rarest wildlife; it’s one of the only places in the world you can see the Cotton-top tamarin in the wild, a pretty funky looking mammal. 

A combination of lush jungle hikes and pristine Caribbean beaches, a few days spent trekking and exploring Tayrona Park is a must when you’re looking for what to do in Santa Marta.

Know before you go:

  • Location – East of Santa Marta, around an hour’s drive away.
  • Cost – Around 54,000 COP entrance fee.
  • Time needed – You can do the trek in one day, but it’s not really enough to see and do everything. Plus, who wants to rush their way through this place?
  • Getting there – You can catch a speedboat from Taganga or get a bus heading towards Palomino from the centre of Santa Marta. Just let the bus driver know where you’d like to stop off.

3. Day Trip To La Guajira (The Caribbean Desert!) 

To the east of Santa Marta is the most northerly area of the whole South American continent and a desert peninsula known as La Guajira. 

This is more like a couple of days’ adventure as opposed to a day trip, in all honesty, and well worth putting in the effort to experience it.

Home to huge sand dunes, vast swathes of desert landscapes and the lapping shores of the Caribbean sea, there is nothing quite like La Guajira. This region is dominated by the indigenous Wayuu people who make a living from fishing along the coast.

Once you have visited the desert peninsula, you can head a little further north to the official most northern spot on the continent; not a bad thing to tick off your ‘things I’ve done list’. 

This unusual landscape, only a few miles from the lush Colombian jungle, is desert-like no other and is well worth taking a few days of your time to see. 

Related Post: Bolivia Salt Flats: Salar De Uyuni (Getting There + FAQs!)

Know before you go:

  • Location – Around 115 miles east of Santa Marta, but a 215-mile journey by road. 
  • Cost – Once you’re in Cabo, your tour will cost around USD$40 for three hours of exploration.
  • Time needed –  At least a couple of days including travel (with an early start!).
  • Getting there – To get to La Guajira, you’ll need to get to Riochaca first – the largest and closest city to the desert. Head to the Bus terminal in Santa Marta and catch a bus labelled with Riohaca which will take between 3-4 hours. From Riohaca, it’s another public bus (or shared taxi) to Uribia, which takes around an hour. In Uribia, you’ll find 4×4 jeeps heading to Cabo, all of which leave before midday. Once you’re in Cabo, you can finally organise a tour around the desert, motorbikes are an option for those who fancy it. 

4. Scuba/Snorkelling in Taganga

The aforementioned town of Taganga has developed into a perfect site for scuba diving and snorkelling over the past few years. The waters surrounding the shoreline of Taganga are home to marine life (giant turtles and whale sharks etc), and with numerous diving shops and instructors calling the town home, Taganga is a viable option for hardcore scuba divers and casual snorkellers alike. 

If the idea of scuba diving doesn’t appeal, the coastal shore around the town can also be simply explored with a snorkel, owing to the colourful coral reef.

The price compared to other spots around the globe also make Taganaga an attractive place to scuba dive or even get your PADI license. If you time your visit right, you can sign up for a three-day PADI course for around $200 USD. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Taganga sits just three miles north of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – COP$1,800 for the bus fare each way, and around USD $200 for a three-day PADI course.
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – You’ll only need half a day. 
  • Getting there – A number of buses leave regularly from Santa Marta including the Blue City Bus which you can catch from the market, or jump in a minibus (look for signs in the window that say Tatanga)  from the main bus terminal. Both options will set you back COP$1,800 each way.

5. Go Sailing

With such beautiful waters surrounding Santa Marta and the Caribbean coast, it’s sometimes more enjoyable to sit back and enjoy a day out on the deck of a boat. 

The majority of boat trips will take you north to Tayrona Park, but there are a few companies that offer leisurely days at sea a little closer to home. Setting sail from the marina in the centre of Santa Marta, you can head out through the bay of Taganga and Granate for a day’s sailing around the coastal waters. 

Similar to trips you can experience in the Caribbean, take your time sailing around the turquoise waters and even dabbling in a little snorkelling close to the boat. Taking a day out to boat around Santa Marta is a perfectly chilled experience, a few hours excursion where you just simply relax and let the water pass you by and take in the beauty of the Caribbean.

Related Post: San Blas Islands: A Guide To Panama’s Autonomous Paradise!

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta Marina
  • Cost – Around 150,000 COP to rent a boat for a few hours. 
  • Opening hours – Get a rental from around 9 am.
  • Time needed – Give yourself at least a morning to enjoy some time on the water. 
  • Getting there – If you’re staying centrally, you’ll be able to walk to the marina from town.

6. Hike to Quebrada Valencia

The waterfalls of Quebrada Valencia offer up one of the most rewarding destinations for hikers and nature lovers. The winding track is just over two miles and leads you through a jungle route to a cascading waterfall and wild swimming spot. 

This hike is okay for a range of skill levels and shouldn’t be too demanding – just make sure you head there early in the day before it gets too warm. With the winding jungle tracks and numerous rock formations, hiking to Quebrada Valencia during the rainy season can be a little treacherous. 

Avoid making for Quebrada Valencia during the rainy season between May and November as the weather can really become a hindrance here.

The waterfalls and swimming spots are enjoyed by both tourists and locals alike and can be a real delight when cooling off from the day’s heat. But that means it gets pretty busy at the weekend, so aim for a weekday visit if you can. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Quebrada Valencia is 30 miles east of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – 3,000 COP entry fee 
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 5 pm.
  • Time needed –  Around 4 hours to complete the hike and enjoy a dip.
  • Getting there – Jump on the bus from the Santa Marta’s market that heads towards Palomino and ask the driver to stop off in Quebrada Valencia. 

7. Paddle Boarding in Don Diego

Don Diego is a small settlement along the Don Diego River, just east of Santa Marta. The river runs from the Sierra Nevada mountains in the centre to the northern coast. As a true adventure traveller looking for what to do in Santa Marta, travelling through Don Diego is one of the most rewarding activities you can experience in the area. 

Paddleboarding along the river down to the coast means you can truly immerse yourself within the environment of Northern Colombia, surrounded by the flora and fauna of the forest until the water opens up into the sea.

Know before you go:

  • Location – An hour’s drive east of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – Can’t remember…sorry!
  • Time needed – Give yourself the whole day
  • Getting there – You’ll generally need to book a tour to do this and they’ll arrange transport for you. 

8. Marinka Waterfalls

You’ll find the Marinka Waterfalls just south of the town of Minca, an hour’s drive from Santa Marta. Another example of the beauty of nature surrounding this area, the waterfalls of Marinka are a collection of wild swimming holes surrounded by a lush jungle setting. 

Close by to Marinka Waterfalls are also some of the oldest coffee farmlands in the country. With a few built-up areas, including Mica, the waterfalls aren’t as isolated as many other natural beauty spots around Santa Marta, and you can head back for some local lunch once you’ve enjoyed everything the waterfalls have to offer. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – The Marinka Waterfalls are located 15 miles south of the town of Minca, around an hour’s drive away.
  • Cost – $5,000 COP entry fee. 
  • Opening hours – 9 am – 5 pm.
  • Time needed – A good five or six hours. 
  • Getting there – You can get a bus from the main bus terminal which will cost around 10,000 per person. From Minca, you can walk to the falls in 40-minutes or grab a moto-taxi (there’s usually plenty waiting outside the bus terminal). 

9. Learn About The 4 Indigenous Peoples of Santa Marta

Santa Marta and the wider North Colombia regions are the historical homes of four indigenous peoples who still call the land home. These peoples include the Kogi, Arhuaco, Wiwa, and Kankuamo, many of which are part of the border Tairona peoples of northern Colombia. 

The Kankuamo people differ from the others in being the least contacted by the outside world and have developed ways of avoiding integration with the majority of the population. You can visit some of the other communities on a day trip from Santa Marta, heading into the ancient homes and regions of the indigenous communities. 

After centuries of complexities and exclusion, many of the indigenous communities have developed negative feelings towards outsiders, so your visit should be carried out with the utmost care and sensitivity. 

This being said, positive and responsible tourism has been welcomed by the communities. When visiting these indigenous peoples, it is important to have a strong level of respect for the communities, such as asking permission before taking photographs and making financial contributions before you leave. 

Know before you go:

  • This is one of those “who you know” situations. If you opt for a tour on any of the items suggested in this article, the guides will have a contact where they can set up an invitation for you (that’s what I did).

10. Rent a Bicycle and Get Lost (But Not Too Lost!)

While much of Santa Marta can be travelled around on foot, there’s no beating speeding around a new city on two wheels. Renting a bicycle gives you the freedom to explore the area under your own steam and get a little lost in your new surroundings. There are a number of bicycle rental shops all over Santa Marta, offering the chance to rent bikes for a few hours or for the whole day.

Those looking for a little more speed with a little less effort can also opt for an e-bike. These electrically assisted bikes allow you to get to higher speeds and are also far better for the environment than a moped or scooter. 

With winding streets, country roads and paths, cycling through Santa Marta and its surroundings on a bike or e-bike is simply a great way to spend a day.

Know before you go:

  • Location – One of the most popular places to get a bike is Rent Bike Santa Marta. It’s right in the centre of town, on Carrera 3.
  • Cost – Cost differs between providers but COP$ 10,000 per hour or COP$ 60,000 per day seems to be the average.
  • Opening hours – 9 am to 6 pm 
  • Time needed – To get the best bang for your buck, rent a bike for the whole day and enjoy the city at your own speed. 
  • Getting there – Take a walk around the city centre, and you’ll find a bike rental shop with no problem.

11. Climb Colombia’s Tallest Mountain (No One Knows Which One it Is!)

Enveloped by the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, true adventure travellers will no doubt have their eye on climbing the tallest mountain in the area. 

There are, however, a few problems with carrying out this feat. First of all, no one is too sure which mountain is actually the tallest. Both the Pico Cristóbal Colón and the Pico Simón Bolívar mountains rise up to more or less the same height – making them both contenders for the tallest mountain in Colombia.

Both mountains in the ​​Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range have, unfortunately, been no go areas for decades. The favourite outposts for paramilitary groups such as FARC and numerous drug-dealing cartels, it’s simply too unsafe to risk a climb. 

In December 2015, Scottish mountaineer John Biggar was the first to ascend Pico Cristóbal Colón in over twenty years – a feat that hasn’t been repeated since. Being so dangerous, making regular trips to Colombia’s highest peak is something that can be made safer in the future, but for now, it’s simply not worth it.

What To Do in Santa Marta: 5 Spots For Sunrise/Sunset Lovers

If you’re someone that’s made a good few trips across the globe, you’ll know that there’s one unbeatable way to start or end the day; that’s finding the perfect spot for a sunset or sunrise. The sun-soaked city of Santa Marta is blessed with a number of great spots for watching the sunrise or sunset, each with its own unique attributes. 

If you’re looking for what to do in Santa Marta at dawn or dusk, these five spots are where to be.

1. Watch the Sunrise from Cerro Kennedy

The mountain summit of Cerro Kennedy offers one of the best natural viewing spots for a sunrise over the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The hillside is awash with cloud forests, making the view from the mountain a picturesque and jaw-dropping one. 

Reaching Cerro Kennedy peak isn’t a walk in the park; the climb to the top can be a little bit of a trek, yet with such jaw-dropping views of the surrounding mountain range, the effort is most certainly worth it.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Cerro Kennedy is located 25 miles southeast of Santa Marta
  • Cost – N/A
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed –  It’s best to give yourself a good few hours to get up the mountain.
  • Getting there – Cerro Kennedy isn’t too far from Santa Monica, but it’s not the easiest to get to. First, you’ll need to find a bus in the city’s main terminal heading towards Cootrasminca and get off in the township of Minca. From there, you can hail a moto-taxi or rent a scooter that will get you to Cerro Kennedy is around two hours. 

2. Sunset Stroll on the Bastidas Boardwalk

If you don’t fancy travelling too far to enjoy a memorable sunset or sunrise, Santa Marta’s Bastidas Boardwalk offers up a picturesque spot within the city to watch the sun disappear. 

The Bastidas Boardwalk covers a strip of the road right next to the bay, providing stunning views of the shoreline and the city’s marina. Here you can wander down to the coast and the Bastidas Boardwalk just as your day ends in the city, gathering with a drink in hand to watch the sunset over the bay.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta Marina
  • Cost – Free
  • Opening hours – This place never closes! 
  • Time needed – Enjoy a chilled out evening with a few beers while watching the sun go down. 
  • Getting there – It’s easy enough to walk here from most hotels in central Santa Marta. 

3. Sunset View at Bahia de Santa Marta

Stumbling distance away from the boardwalk is the Bahía de Santa Marta, a popular spot to watch the rising and setting of the sun over the city. 

This open bay provides onlookers with the perfect scope of view, right across the horizon. Alongside the great views, the collection of boats moored in the bay only adds to the picturesque nature of the sunset here.

Much like the Bastidas Boardwalk, Bahía de Santa Marta is one of the epicentres of both locals and visitors to Santa Marta, as its location is so easy to get to. This, of course, has its own drawbacks, as large crowds gather here each night. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta Marina
  • Cost – Free
  • Opening hours – 24 hours! 
  • Time needed – A few minutes for a quick snap and then head to a nearby bar for something to drink.
  • Getting there – Walkable from most accommodation in the city. 

4. Sunset at…Sunset Bar!

With a little clue in the same, you’re guaranteed to have great sunset views at the Sunset Bar. Also found in the bay area of the city, the advantage of watching the sunset here is the fact you don’t have to tussle with crowds as you might have to outside on the boardwalk.

At Sunset Bar, you have your own balcony table and chairs, ideal for sipping on something sweet as you relax watching the sun go down. Elevated two stories high also means you’ll have panoramic views of the bay and the ideal perch to capture the perfect sunset picture.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta Marina
  • Cost – Drinks start from COP$10,000.
  • Opening hours – Midday to 11pm.
  • Time needed – As long as you’d like! 
  • Getting there – Get here on foot from most hostels and hotels or jump in a quick taxi.

5. Enjoy a Sunset At Taganga Viewpoint  

It’s that place again! So fun to say, it rolls right off the tongue. Go on, have a crack; Ta-gan-ga.

Taganga Viewpoint, mentioned above in the day-trip category, is perfectly situated to be one of the best sunset or sunrise spots in the area. High up on the hillside road that runs from Santa Marta to Taganga, there is a little inlet where you or your driver can pull over to snap the perfect pic. 

From here, the views expand from the bay and city to your left to the wide-open hillsides to your right. A combination of rocky outcrops and rolling green foliage only adds to the beauty of the sunset. High up at the viewpoint, your range of view can be as far as the ocean horizon – ideal for getting the most out of the falling sun.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Just outside of Taganga Town. 
  • Cost – N/A
  • Opening hours – Open around the clock! 
  • Time needed – Just an hour or so to take in the sunset views. 
  • Getting there – Buses don’t really stop near the viewpoint, so you’ll need to jump in a taxi or make your way there on foot.

What To Do in Santa Marta: 9 Treats For Food & Drink 

When it comes to working out what to do in Santa Marta and the surrounding area, it isn’t all about the best sunset spots or historical sites – as much as we love them. 

What really elevates your experience of Santa Marta and the whole of South America is the wide range of culinary delights on offer. Every nation and region has its own dishes, with Colombia and Santa Marta having quite an interesting concoction of Spanish and native cultures. 

So, if finding your next favourite dish or quenching your thirst in that menacing Caribbean sun is a must-do, take a look at these nine treats for food and drink in Santa Marta.

1. Coffee Tour in Minca 

If there’s one beverage that really stands out when we think of Colombia, it would of course be coffee. After Brazil and Vietnam, Colombia is the largest grower and exporter of coffee in the world and the nearby town of Minca is one of the oldest coffee-growing regions in the entire country.

To really get a sense of the entire coffee growing process and production, it’s worth joining a coffee tour of the region. La Victoria Farm, just outside of Minca, is the perfect place to see the coffee growing process in all its glory. 

Named after British Queen Victoria, for the fact that most of the machinery here was made during her reign, La Victoria is one of the oldest coffee farms in the country.

A visit to the La Victoria coffee farm gives you an insight into the process of the coffee beans once they’re harvested but its beautiful surroundings only add to the experience too.

Know before you go:

  • Location – La Victoria Farm sits just outside of the city of Minca. 
  • Cost – Tours cost around COP$10,000 per person and last 45 minutes. 
  • Opening hours – 9 am to 5 pm.
  • Time needed – You’ll need to allow at least half a day to travel to Minca and complete the tour.
  • Getting there – You can get a bus from the main bus terminal to Minca which will cost around 10,000 per person each way. From Minca, you can choose to climb the steep hill (around a two-hour walk) or grab a moto-taxi from the middle of town. 

2. Party at Rodadero 

Aside from downtown Santa Marta, you can count on Rodadero Beach to have a memorable night out in the city. One of the most popular beaches along the Colombian Caribbean during the daytime hours, the whole area really comes to life once the sun goes down. 

Much like the lively Lapa neighbourhood of Rio, a festival-like atmosphere breaks out in the Rodadero area, with a selection of live music and artists performing along the sand, performing accordion-based Vallenato music and many others.

Many of the bars and restaurants in Rodadero stay open well into the late hours, providing a fantastic party atmosphere throughout the night. With sea, sand, and the rhythms of Colombian music to keep you going, partying at Rodadero is a great way to mix with locals and travellers. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta city centre 
  • Cost – Bar entry is usually free with drinks starting from COP$10,000.
  • Opening hours – 12 pm till late.
  • Time needed – This one’s up to you! 
  • Getting there – Grab a taxi from your hotel or walk it from anywhere in the centre of town in about ten minutes. 

3. Rehydrate With Limonada de Coco!

One of the most notable and refreshing drinks to be found in the area, and Colombia as a whole, is Limonada de Coco. This cooling drink literally translates as lemonade, but it’s much more than that. 

An unbelievably moreish combination of unsweetened coconut milk, freshly squeezed lime, sugar and ice, one hit of this and you’ll be craving many more on those hot summer days in Colombia. It’s a favourite amongst Colombians and you’ll find it on most menus across Santa Marta. 

4. Unwind at Ikaro Cafe

If you’re searching for the ideal place to kick back and relax in the city, Ikaro Cafe is the place to be. Located in the heart of the historic centre, Ikaro Cafe boasts its own homegrown coffee roastery and vegetarian and vegan cuisine, all organic and locally grown in the area.

Ikaro Cafe is a haven for those who want delicious healthy food and great coffee, all in one place. With world-beating coffee, an eclectic menu of choice and super-fast Wi-Fi, Ikaro Cafe is the perfect place to unwind after a day of sightseeing or simply somewhere to chill out and do a little life admin.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Ikaro Cafe is located in the heart of the historic centre of Santa Marta
  • Cost – Prices start from COP$15,000.
  • Opening hours – 8 am to 10 pm
  • Time needed – As long as you’d like! 
  • Getting there – This place is easily walkable from anywhere in Santa Marta. 

5. Romantic Night (Or Treat Yourself) At Ouzo

If you’re looking to escape the humble street food diet and add a touch more refinement to your evening meal, then the Ouzo restaurant in the city is the place to go. 

Serving up a range of Mediterranean cuisine from Spain, Italy and Greece, to name a few, Ouzo is a great place to enjoy a romantic night out or simply to enjoy a solo date with me, myself, and I. 

A little more upmarket than many of the restaurants in Santa Marta, Ouzo is where you can dine on wood-fired pizzas, refined seafood dishes and a range of vegetarian delights. Run by American chef Michael McMurdo, who has had experience working in Michelin star restaurants, you are sure to be served up an excellent plate of posh grub here, should the budget fit the occasion. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Just a few minutes from Santa Marta Marina
  • Cost – Mains start from around COP$25,000
  • Opening hours – 12pm to 10pm
  • Time needed – Around two or three hours to enjoy your meal.
  • Getting there – Either walk from your hotel or grab a quick moto-taxi.

6. Cacao Tour in Buritaca

Aside from coffee, South America, and Colombia especially, is renowned for growing cacao, the main ingredient in all things chocolate. Taking a tour from the coastal town of Buritaca, you can dive starlight into the world of cacao growing, cultivating and production. 

When you leave Buritaca, your tour will take you along an ecological trail to the cocoa farm. Hiking through the cacao plantation, you will learn all about the farmlands, the growing processes, the fermentation process and the drying of the cocoa beans.

Look on as you learn about the roasting and grinding of the cacao beans, a world away from the indulgent chocolate bars we are all so used to. Along with pulling the curtain back on this ancient tradition of cacao growing, it also gives you the chance to enjoy the beauty of the countryside and mountain villages. 

Know before you go:

  • Location – Buritaca is around 90-minutes north of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – Tours cost COP$250,000 per person and include the cacao tour, lunch in Buritaca and tubing.
  • Opening hours – From 9 am.
  • Time needed – You’ll need to allow a whole day for most tours. 
  • Getting there – To get to Buritaca from Santa Marta, go to the intersection of Calle 11 with Carrera 11. At this intersection, you’ll find buses to Buritaca for $6,000 COP each way. Most tours will actually pick you up from Santa Marta, so you won’t need to worry about transport too much. 

7. Search For The Best Arepa 

One of the most defining dishes of northern South American cuisine is the arepa, a patty made from ground maize and filled with black beans, plantain and a variety of other ingredients, depending on the cook. 

These can be found all over Santa Marta and the nation of Colombia, in street food stalls and restaurants. Finding the best one might be a trip-long quest as they can come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of ingredients.

Be careful mentioning this delicacy in front of the listening ears of local Venezuelan immigrants… Colombians and Venezuelans have been fighting for aeons over who invented this tasty little snack…best to stay out of that Latin crossfire. 

One of the best places to dine on this famous pre-Colombian dish is at the Lulo Cafe Bar. renowned for searching up delicious arepa. This being said, the ‘best’ arepa all comes from personal taste and preference – you’ll have to search around to find the one that best suits you.  

Know before you go:

  • Location – Lulo Cafe Bar, Santa Marta 
  • Cost – Arepas start from COP$20,000
  • Opening hours – 8 am to 10 pm
  • Time needed – An hour or so.
  • Getting there – You should be able to walk here from the most centrally-located hotels and hostels in Santa Marta.

8. Have a Cup of “Tinto” At Daft O’Clock

The word “Tinto” starts to be a little confusing for a learner of Spanish, the further north you venture in Colombia. In most Spanish countries it refers to red wine, but the costeños of Santa Marta use it as slang for a small sugary coffee that is sure to give you that burst of energy first thing in the morning. 

In true Colombian style, these small coffees are sold via a vendor walking in the streets and calling ‘Tinto!’ A walking street food delight, these coffees are super cheap and powerful and are the perfect pick me up for those awake before the sun starts to make an appearance.  

Know before you go:

  • Location – Throughout the streets of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – 500 Colombian Pesos for one cup.
  • Opening hours – These guys start early – you’ll find someone selling something from 5/6 am. 
  • Time needed – Just long enough to get that caffeine fix well underway.
  • Getting there – Slumber around town at sunrise. You won’t need to find him…he’ll always find you!

What To Do in Santa Marta: 6 Ways To Relax & Unwind!

Once you’re done exploring Santa Marta far and wide, you might want to indulge in something a little more relaxing. 

While this Colombian city is renowned for its lively atmosphere, South American fire and passion, there’s also much that has a far more relaxed and chilled out feel. 

Let’s take a look at what to do in Santa Marta when you’ve simply had enough of crazy adventures and all you want to do is relax, unwind and just…be. 

1. Placita Vieja Hotel Boutique Spa

For the ultimate chillout and relaxing experience, why not check yourself into the Placita Vieja Hotel Boutique Spa. The Placita Vieja Hotel Boutique Spa stands in the centre of the city’s historic district and is a haven for spa treatments and relaxation. 

Here you can enjoy all the trappings of spa treatments. Whether it’s getting a relaxing massage, cleansing in the Turkish baths, or dipping in the jacuzzi.

Choose from a range of plans, each one perfectly curated to offer the best experience. These include romantic plans, chocolate therapy plans and a myriad of others. 

The day of being unapologetically pampered can include glasses of wine or healthy drinks, all of which are aimed at leaving you in a state of complete bliss when you walk out the door.

Know before you go:

  • Location –  Located in the historic centre of Santa Marta
  • Cost – Treatments start from around COP$145,000.
  • Opening hours – 9 am to 6 pm.
  • Time needed – Half a day to really relax.
  • Getting there – Head out on foot, and you’ll reach it within 15-minutes from anywhere in town.

2. Parque de Los Novios 

Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Santa Marta for so long means you might crave some of those quieter and relaxing places in the city from time to time. Parque de Los Novios is one such place; a green park in the heart of the city in which you can escape the noise and traffic of the streets.

The park is a collection of open green spaces and a number of significant monuments, as well as a meeting place for many of the city’s couples, adding a romantic air to the experience. 

When the sun goes down, the park becomes a little more boisterous, with music and rumba rhythms blending perfectly with the quaint surroundings – a great way to spend a few hours when thinking about what to do next in Santa Marta.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta city centre. 
  • Cost – Free! 
  • Opening hours – Open around the clock.
  • Time needed – Depends on how much you enjoy people watching! I’d give it an hour or so.
  • Getting there – Another easy spot to reach on foot from the centre of Santa Marta. 

3. Wander Around Santa Marta Historical Center

The very heart of Santa Marta is its historical centre, located in the centre of the city, just back from the shoreline; the Santa Marta Historical Centre is a must-see district of the city. 

The district is home to a number of preserved colonial buildings, whose architecture only adds to the overall feel of the centre. These include the Santa Marta Cathedral, thought to be the oldest church in all of Colombia.

Alongside its buildings, the historical centre is the beating heart of the city; a mixture of bars, restaurants, and accommodation means that the Santa Marta Historical Centre is a buzz of activity both night and day.

Relax in the central square during the high heat of the day, a great place for people watching and observe the natural rhythm of the city go by.  

Know before you go:

  • Location – Santa Marta city centre. 
  • Cost – Free! 
  • Opening hours – 24 hours.
  • Time needed – You could spend hours getting lost in the historical centre, but one will do if you’re in a rush.
  • Getting there –  On your own two feet! 

4. Quiet Contemplation in the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta

To get true peace and quiet in the city, there is no better place than the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta. Considered to be the mother church of all of Colombia, the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta is one of the oldest churches in all of South America. 

Its outline can be seen across the city and has become one of the defining images of Santa Marta. 

The church’s foundations were constructed in the 1530s, with restoration and improvements being carried out for centuries. Escape the heat of the day and spend some time quiet reflecting in the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta’s high arched nave – the ideal place for a little mental unwinding

Know before you go:

  • Location – In the historical centre of Santa Marta, Carrera 4.
  • Cost – Free to enter. 
  • Opening hours – Open from 8 am.
  • Time needed –  An hour or so will suffice. 
  • Getting there – An easy one to walk to from any central accommodation in Santa Marta.  

5. Stay at Hotel Beyonda

Way out in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains, is Hotel Beyonda. Miles away from the city, staying at this hotel allows you to immerse yourself in the rolling green landscape, breathing in the fresh mountain air. 

This mountain country house has been converted into a luxurious hotel, complete with five beautifully renovated executive bedrooms.

The hotel boasts stunning views over the landscape, comfy rooms and an outdoor pool for relaxing your days away. If you want to escape the busy city-based hotels for a day or two, heading to Hotel Beyond is the perfect cure for travel fatigue.

Know before you go:

  • Location – Ten miles east of Santa Marta.
  • Cost – Room rates start from COP$150,000.
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – N/A
  • Getting there – The 03D bus leaves the Santa Marta bus terminal regularly and stops in Bonda. Alternatively, grab a moto taxi for a quick and easy ride. 

6. Eco Stay At El Dorado Nature Reserve

To truly escape the built-up areas of northern Colombia and immerse yourself in the mountain and jungle landscapes that make this region so famous, you can do no better than staying at the El Dorado Nature Reserve.

Here, your stay will be defined by your accommodation, a Kogihab, which are individual huts inspired by the architecture of the Kogui indigenous tribe. Set within and surrounded by the best of north Colombian nature, the reserve is home to hundreds of bird species, nocturnal amphibians and a population of monkeys.

Your accommodation is complete with viewing balconies, perfect for watching the sunrise and set. 

Staying at the El Dorado Nature Reserve can be a chilled-out highlight of your time spent in the Santa Marta region and will offer pure relaxation after a tiring travel experience.

Know before you go:

  • Location –  Three-hour drive south of Santa Marta, not far from Minca.
  • Cost – Room rates start from 150,000 COP
  • Opening hours – N/A
  • Time needed – N/A
  • Getting there – You can get a bus from the main bus terminal to Minca which will cost around 10,000 per person each way. From Minca, you can organise a pick up with the hotel or a private taxi.

My Experience Living in Santa Marta as a Digital Nomad

I never intended to live in Santa Marta and to be honest; I’d have been lost if you asked me to place it on the map while I was living in Medellin.

I’d just got back in town, after one hell of a fun trip travelling around Cuba when my Colombian girlfriend at the time told me she’d been offered a job in Santa Marta. As mentioned above I had no idea where it was, but in true adventure style I said “f**k it” and threw caution to the wind; off we went a week later with our bags and moved to the Caribbean Colombian coast.

The first thing that struck me was the incredibly strong accent of the locals, known as “costeños”. After a 6-weeks crash course in Spanish and learning a hefty chunk of the language from my Latina lover of Bucaramanga – it was akin to someone learning BBC English and then being thrown into the centre of working-class Newcastle or Liverpool!

Costeños don’t pronounce the “S” letter in words at all, which was an absolute mind-fuck to me at first. But as a guy with a strong British accent, it made me empathise more with non-native English speakers in the future – so I tend to slow down and annunciate clearer now.

The honeymoon period of living in Santa Marta was a very short-lived one. After smashing through what to do in Santa Marta within a few months, I grew tired of the place but for very specific reasons…the (God awful) Wi-Fi and electricity.

Trying to work from home, I need to have a good internet connection or I can’t work and power outages were a common problem for me. I missed Medellin and when my Colombian visa was up I happily upped sticks to Mexico City. 

I guess at this stage in my life, living in a big city with more things going on was more important for me.

With all that being said, if online work isn’t your income source and you have time on your hands to live a quiet life, even for a little bit – then Santa Marta is a valid option. It’s also a perfect stop-off place for when you’re fatigued from travelling around Colombia, somewhere to rest up, enjoy some sexy sunsets and read a book (or 12) and live a bit of a lazy life before moving on to the next chapter. 

In terms of travelling around there as opposed to living there – it’s definitely a thumbs up from me. Plenty to see and do in this city and I hope I’ve showcased what to do in Santa Marta, for people of all interests.

Anthony Middleton

A former loser who took a risk. I now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand after visiting over 100 countries. Stay tuned for the next challenge against that clock!
Ultra runner walking in desert

Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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