Colombia destination

Travel tips and advice to explore the best Colombia destinations

How to get from Santa Marta to Tayrona: Our recommendations

How to travel from Santa Marta to Tayrona?

Like many other travelers, you have been seduced by the pictures of the Parque Tayrona.

Nestled on the Caribbean Coast, between Santa Marta and Palomino, Tayrona attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.

And, the simplest way to get access to the park is to first stop in Santa Marta.

Must read: Our travel guide to explore Tayrona

The coast in the Tayrona National Park

Santa Marta is a tourist hub

Santa Marta isn’t a pleasant city – Except for the area around Parque de Los Novios. Or some beaches near Rodadero.

My favorite highlights around Santa Marta (+)

But, there are many highlights to visit all around:

We wrote a list of the best trips to organize from Santa Marta.

Over the years, more and more tourists have decided to stay in Santa Marta instead of Cartagena.

Therefore, the city is well deserved by the public transports:

  • There is a national airport with flights from Bogota and Medellin | 1 hour
  • There are buses from
    • Cartagena: 4-6 hours
    • San Gil: 13 hours
    • Bogota: 18-20 hours
    • Medellin: 16 hours

Must read: Our travel guide to visit Santa Marta

Best Ways To Travel From Santa Marta To Tayrona

A) Take the public bus Santa Marta – Tayrona

Duration and price (+)

There are two places where you can take the bus Santa Marta to Tayrona:

  • At the main bus station – Outside the city
  • At the Mercado Publico (Market) | Calle 11 con Carrera 11

Bus Santa Marta – Tayrona: 1 hour | Price: Around 8 000 COP

B) Take a bus to Taganga then a boat to Tayrona

Explanation, prices, and duration (+)

The boat Taganga – Tayrona is the fastest way to get to Cabo San Juan in Tayrona.

First, travel to Taganga:

  • Blue Public buses
  • Taxi

Blue Buses To Taganga – On the Carrera 5 | 25 min | Around 2 000 COP

Taxi Santa Marta – Taganga | 20 min | Around 12 000 COP

Once you’re in Taganga, you have to find a boat to Tayrona National Natural Park

  • Ask the fishermen on the dock
  • The last boats leave before 9h30
  • The sea is rough from October to March. This boat ride is scary for the people who are not used to it
  • Boats leave from Cabo San Juan around 4 pm

Boat Taganga – Tayrona | 1 hour | 50 000 COP (1 way)

C) Private transports from Santa Marta

Prices and durations (+)

Another easy way to travel to Tayrona from Santa Marta is to contact a private transport

Where to travel after Tayrona

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

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Santa-Marta-to-Tayrona

Cartagena Beaches (2020): The good, the bad, and the ugly

Many people want to add Cartagena to their Colombia itinerary. The city has a tremendous reputation, there are many delicious restaurants and upscale hotels. However, you probably don’t know the truth about the Cartagena Beaches.

The Cartagena beaches nearby the city are unpleasant.

Fortunately, there are some cool alternatives to find a lovely white-sand spot. Read this post to find out where are the best beaches nearby Cartagena.

Cartagena Beaches: What you must know

Beaches within Cartagena: Boca Grande and La Boquilla are surrounded by skyscrapers, covered by plastic chairs and invaded by street sellers. Avoid them.

Tierra Bomba: It’s an island nearby where you can find some good beach clubs.

Rosario Islands: Archipelago nearby Cartagena where you will find your dreamy white-sand beach. Depending on the season, they can be overcrowded. Stay overnight if you can.

Isla Baru: The most famous Rosario island. There is a fabulous beach, but it’s always crowded. The easiest way to get there is to take a shuttle from Cartagena.

Isla Grande: Outstanding Rosario island with lots of Eco-resorts. Stay there to enjoy the most beautiful beaches. My favorites are Carolina Island and Isabella.

Day trips: Many beach tours sold in Cartagena aren’t great. I would recommend this one if you don’t have time to spend 1 or 2 nights on the Cartagena islands.

Isla Cholon: It’s a famous party place on the weekend that you can only reach by boat.

More tips about Cartagena: Read this.

Look at the Table of Contents in this post to get more information about the beaches in Cartagena.

Where to travel after Cartagena?

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

Table of Contents: Cartagena Beaches

  1. Beaches inside the city
  2. Tierra Bomba island
  3. Playa Blanca
  4. Playa Azul
  5. Isla Grande
  6. San Bernardo islands
  7. Weather in Cartagena
  8. Plan your trip step by step
  9. Use our premium service
Isla Grande Cartagena beaches
Sunset from Isla Grande

Credit: @launaart

The Beaches inside the city of Cartagena

In my opinion, you shouldn’t waste your time there – Except if you’re living in Cartagena de Indias or if you’re spending the week.

A. The beaches Boca Grande and Laguito in Cartagena (+)

It’s the wealthiest district of Cartagena. With the tall skyscrapers, it looks like a little Miami. There are fancy restaurants, boring Cartagena beach resorts, and tourists living on Mac Donald’s diet. In front of the buildings, there is the beach Boca Grande. Hundreds of Plastics chairs and umbrella are waiting for the lazy tourists who refuse to walk more than 50m before getting in the water. At the end of the peninsula, there is Laguito beach – similar.

Yes, I’m not in love with the two closest Cartagena beaches.

Boca grande Cartagena beaches
Boca grande Cartagena

Credit: @ayaladelrey

B. The beach La Boquilla in Cartagena (+)

La Boquilla is a little fisherman village just after Cartagena. There is no skyscraper this time but the Boquilla beach is not pleasant, and the sea is often murky. Still, it will be less touristic, and you can book an excellent tour to go fishing with locals among the mangroves.

In restaurants, there are many seafood options. Be careful, some unscrupulous owners try to increase the bills when white tourists with blond hair are eating. A plate should cost you around 20 – 30 000 COP.

La Boquilla Cartagena Beaches
La Boquilla Cartagena

Credit: @nanc.around.the.world

C. The beaches Manzanillo del Mar, Marbella, and Crespo in Cartagena (+)

The beaches Manzanillo del Mar,  Marbella, and Crespo, are between The Old City center and La Boquilla. It will be the same Colombia beaches than La Boquilla without the mangroves at the end.

Also, the currents can be dangerous around Cartagena. Don’t swim too far.

Must read: 40 stunning things to do in Cartagena

Best Day trips to fantastic beaches near Cartagena

Don’t stress. It’s not because I’m telling you that Cartagena beaches suck that you can’t have a great time with a cocktail in hands and your butt on a white-sand Colombia beach.

There are lovely islands nearby Cartagena. Ready to become a pirate?

A] The beaches in Isla Tierra Bomba | Day trip from Cartagena

Where is isla Tierra Bomba (+)

Tierra Bomba is an island 10 min away from Cartagena. You can take a boat by yourself in Bocagrande in front of the hospital. It’s quite big, and there are four little towns on it.

The best option is to get to Punta Arena. It’s where the loveliest beaches are. The water and the sands are still not heavenly, but you’re surrounded by trees instead of buildings. And the street vendors are less annoying :).

The other beaches are: Linda, Palmarito, Chiringuito and Marina

Tierra Bomba, bomba beach hotel
Tierra Bomba, bomba beach club

Credit: Bombabeach_club

Tips about Tierra Bomba (+)

You can book a day trip with different hotel resorts. They can offer you some interesting packages: Boat+ Chairs + Hammocks + swimming pool + lunch. It’s a great way to spend the day.

Stay at Blue Apple beach if you like beach clubs. They also offer day-pass here.

B] Isla Baru, Playa Blanca beach | 1 or 2-day trip from Cartagena

There, the beaches are beautiful with white sand and a turquoise sea. But there is another hic. It’s a famous place. It will be crowded. However, there is always a solution to avoid people. You just have to do it differently, and you will love Playa Blanca beach.

How to get to Isla Baru from Cartagena | 3 ways (+)

There are three different ways to arrive at Playa Blanca beach.

  • Public bus + Moto-taxi.
  • A round trip with a Mamallena’s Shuttle. It’s the best solution.
  • A boat ride from the touristic dock.

Once there, you just have to find a place without too many people or jetskis. There are many cabañas near the parking entrance, but if you walk 200-300 m, it will be quieter.

Playa Blanca Beach
Playa Blanca, Isla Baru

Credit: @flavia.m.f

How to avoid people on Playa Blanca (+)

The answer is simple. You must sleep there!

The majority of the tourists (99% of them) plan a day trip to Playa Blanca. Most of the buses and speedboats go back to Cartagena around 3-4 pm.

If you’re staying overnight, you will have this Colombia beach for yourself! Ready for a crazy sunset with your coco loco and nobody around?

Also, don’t go there on the weekend and on a public holiday.

The best way is to take a shuttle with Mamallena hostel. You pay for the round trip, but you can return to Cartagena whenever you want.

It’s one of the best Cartagena beaches.

Prices on Playa Blanca beach (+)

  • Boat round trip: Around 100 000 COP + 18 500 COP dock fee in Cartagena 
  • Shuttle round trip: 50 000 COP
  • Public transportation option: Around 17 000 COP – 1 way
  • Hammock: Around 20 000 COP
  • Cabañas: Around 100 000 COP
Playa Blanca beach Isla Baru
Playa Blanca, Isla Baru

Credit: @juanibian

If you’re in a hurry: An easy option to enjoy Playa Blanca

C] Playa Azul, Isla Cholon, Rosario Islands | Day trip from Cartagena

Lovely Cartagena beach a little further than Playa Blanca beach. You can book a full-day private boat tour in Cartagena or with the hotels near Cholon. There are many packages Isla Baru+ PIaya Azul. I believe it’s a private island so I don’t know if you can hang out by yourself. But it seems lovely, and there is almost no street vendor!

We recommend: Plan a 4-island trip in one day.

Cholon, Rosario islands
Cholon, Rosario islands

Credit: @ruedaniel

D] Playa libre, Isla Grande Colombia, Rosario islands | 3-day trip from Cartagena

The Rosario Archipelago is a set of 30 islands. Many are privates or protected, but fortunately, it’s not the case for Isla Grande in Colombia.

Isla Grande is a little paradise. The tiny islands around are fantastic, and they belong to the National park and reef of Rosario. It’s the best spot for snorkeling near Cartagena! And the lush vegetation of mangroves is an idyllic habitat for many birds.

Isla Grande Cartagena Beaches
Isla Grande

Credit: @raz_86

Tips about Isla Grande (+)

Boats leave from the tourist port between 8 and 10 am and it takes 1h. Be careful, most of them are Rosario island tours. I don’t recommend it. They offer you to visit an oceanarium where they keep poor animals and to swim in a natural aquarium – where there are more Colombians trying not to sink than fishes. And you won’t go on Isla Grande.

You can book your boat ride here to be sure.

The best Rosario beach is Playa libre. It’s also the most accessible :). Otherwise, there are many private beaches for different hotels/ beach hostels like Majagua.

You should at least stay 1 night on Isla Grande. Be aware that the accommodations are more expensive as it’s a remote place.

  • Secreto Hostel is the perfect hostel with excellent outdoor facilities and activities.

Turnkey itinerary: Itineraries that include Cartagena

The Non-Touristic San Bernardo Islands

If you’re not interested in the Cartagena beaches above, there is one last option. Grab a bottle of rum, a dead parrot, an inflatable buoy – I’ve got a preference for mermaids – and go to explore the San Bernardo Islands

For that, you need more than two days, but it’s worth it – It’s 2-3 hours away from Cartagena. Isla Mucura and Isla Tintipan are superb, these Colombian beaches and landscapes are better than what you can imagine.

And Casa En El Agua is loads of fun if you’re looking for parties.

Include them in a terrific Colombia itinerary.

Read more: Our ultimate guide for exploring Isla Mucura and Tintipan

Isla Mucura San Bernardo Islands
Isla Mucura San Bernardo Islands

Credit: @lepetitmondedecaroline

Now it’s time to make a choice. Which Cartagena beaches do you choose?

More tips about Colombia beaches (+)

Do you want to learn more about the different tours and activities around? Read a 4-day itinerary in Cartagena written by Rachel

Do you love beaches? Find out other fantastic beaches in Colombia.

Would you like more sandy information? TheDiscoverieSof wrote an article about the best beaches in Colombia

We also wrote a kick-ass Caribbean Coast itinerary if you’re a beach fan!

What’s the weather in Cartagena?

There are two types of weather in Cartagena: A day with or without rain.

But, you shouldn’t be to worry about it. Even during a rainy day, the sun will show up.

As a rule of thumb, here is what you need to know about the weather in Cartagena

Get to know the weather in Cartagena (+)

  • The sunniest month: December to March; July & August
  • The rainiest month: April, May, September, Octobre
  • The weather is always hot in Cartagena but it’s a bit windier from December to February.
  • Unfortunately, it’s also the tourist season. Prices increases by 2 and annoying tourists fall like rains from the sky.
  • The sea is rough from October to April. Think about it before organizing a day trip on the islands from Cartagena.

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

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A shell on a beach near Cartagena

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

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River Of Five Colors: A guide to Caño Cristales

A river of five colors?

I know it seems odd. Before Caño Cristales, I thought rainbow rivers were only in the imagination of three years old kids, with unicorns and flying bunnies.

But in Colombia, magic realism is more than a style of fiction used by famous writers.

Here, nature has no limit.

Read our travel guide to find out about the most beautiful river in the world.

River of five colors: What you must know

Where: You can admire this mind-blowing show in Caño Cristales. The national park is close to La Macarena.

When: The national park is open from mid-June till the end of November.

What is it: An aquatic plant grows in the bed river during the raining season. Its color changes because of the sun, and it makes the river looks like a liquid rainbow.

How to get to La Macarena: You can fly from Bogota with Satena. Some local agencies organize charters from Cali and Medellin.

How to visit Caño Cristales: It’s a lot easier to use the service of a local agency. Entrances per day are limited, and visitors must register at the Centro Ambiante. You can’t get in without a local guide. Geotours can help you to organize everything.

Is Caño cristales safe: Yes, 100%.

Where to stay: The accommodation will be included if you book a travel package. Otherwise, I recommend you one of the following hotels:

How many days: 4 – 5 days. The show is really extraordinary when the sun is out. By staying for 4 or 5 days, you increase your chance to get a sunny day.

Our best tips: Take long sleeves, a pant, and a hat. It’s forbidden to apply sunscreen on your skin if you enter the park – to protect the aquatic plants. The Centro Ambiente is closed on Tuesday.

Read more: Our La Macarena Travel guide

Where to travel after Caño Cristales

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

Table of contents: The river of five colors

  1. Where is the river of five colors?
  2. How to get there?
  3. How to visit the national park?
  4. Our day trip to Caño Cristales
  5. How much do you need?
  6. Where to stay?
  7. Where to eat?
  8. Should you book a package tour?
  9. Use our guidebook to plan your trip
  10. Let us take care of everything
Tapete Rojo and tom Macarena

Is the river of Five Colors real?

Yes, there is a river of five colors in Colombia.

However, the expression Liquid Rainbow river is a bit exaggerated. But the guy who found it is a marketing genius.

By the way, we wrote a gigantic post to give you more than 45 places you can visit in Colombia.

1# Why is Caño Cristales so colorful?

Macarenia Clavigera is an aquatic plant – Not an algae! – that grows in the bed river of Caño Cristales during the raining season – from June to November.

The color of this plant change according to its sun exposure. It goes from Green to Brown – When it’s burned.

Hence, the 5 colors of Rio Cristal are:

  • Green
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Purple
  • Brown

Plus, the sedimentary rocks add a 6th color, the Yellow!

Tadam!

2# Where is the river of 5 colors?

Within the Meta department, in the middle of nowhere.

Caño Cristales is located in the National Park Natural Serranía de la Macarena.

It was an old FARC’s stronghold for a few years. Roads and tourism infrastructures aren’t ideal :). And yes, it’s now 100% safe to visit. Read our safety post about Colombia to get a better understanding of the political situation of the country.

It’s not easy to get there.

Let’s speak about your different options.

How to travel to the river of five colors

First of all, you need to arrive in La Macarena. The easiest way is to take a small plane from Bogota or book a seat in a charter through a local agency.

1# How to fly to la Macarena

1. Flights from Bogota to La Macarena (+)

You don’t like buses and don’t want to book a tour?

Then, you will have to take off from Bogota to reach La Macarena.

As usual, Satena is the only company that you can use.

Flight Bogota – La Macarena| Duration : 1h20 | Price: Around 240 000 COP / 80 $

  • Sunday (Mid-day)
  • Wednesday (Morning)
  • Friday (Morning)

Double-check the departure dates on their website.

2. Flights from La Macarena to Bogota (+)

The plane from La Macarena to Bogota leaves Sunday, Wednesday & Friday.

In Colombia, most of the public holidays are on Mondays. Thus Colombians can enjoy 3-day weekends.

If it’s the case, Satena will modify the dates of the flights – Especially the ones planed on Sundays.

Thus, check the flights before creating your itinerary 😉

Important: The luggage allowance changes according to the model of Aircraft

2# Can you reach la Macarena by land?

San Vincente del Caguan to La Macarena (+)

It’s an adventure but it’s doable.

First, you have to arrive in San Vicente del Caguan.

From Bogota, you can take a night bus with Coomotor: 16 h | Around 85 000 COP / 26 $

The bus passes by Neiva (Tatacoa) & Florencia.

Once in San Vicente del Caguan, find the bus office Cootranscaguan and buy your jeep ticket. The road trip is bumpy. Pray to not be at the back of the car ^^.

Jeep San Vicente del Caguan – La Macarena | Duration: 5 – 6 hours | Dirt road | Price : 50 000 COP / 16 $ | Depature time: Every day 7 am | 8 am | 9 am | 12h30

Jeep La Macarena – San Vicente del Caguan | Duration: 5 – 6 hours | Dirt road | Price : 50 000 COP / 16 $ | Depature time: 5 am | 7 am | 9 am | 11h30 am

From San Jose del Guaviare to La Macarena (+)

If you plan to visit San Jose del Guaviare and la Macarena, the easiest way to do it is to take the boat on the Guayabero river.

The landscapes are astonishing. However, it’s a long trip and the boat only leaves on Saturdays from San Jose del Guaviare.

Edit 2020: This boat trip isn’t doable anymore until further notice

C] Book a Charter to La Macarena to get more options

Charter flights from Cali, Medellin and Bogota(+)

Charters are tiny private planes that can be booked by everyone. However, it’s an expensive flight as you have to pay for the fuel.

Thus, except if you’re pooping diamonds, you won’t be able to book it for yourself.

Fortunately, travel agencies like Geotour Guaviare include a charter’s seat when you book a Caño Cristales package with them.

Charter Flights Cali, Medellin & Bogota to La Macarena | Duration: 1h20 | Price: Included in the Caño Cristales Package |Days: Monday & Friday

How to visit the river of five colors?

Ok. Now that you know how to arrive at La Macarena, there are still a few steps to follow to be able to observe the river of five colors.

1# What are the best months for Caño Cristales?

Caño Cristales isn’t open to the public all along the year.

Two reasons for that:

  • The Aquatic plant Macarenia Clavigera only grows during the raining season
  • Colombian Authorities close the park to preserve the environment

You can visit Caño Cristales from Mid June to the End of November. August and September are the “best” months.

2# You have to be registered at the Centro Ambiente

Caño Cristales is a protected area. You can’t visit it as you wish.

First and foremost, you have to register at the Centro Ambiente – Environment center – managed by CorMacarena.

There is a limited number of places per day to enter within the National Park. 318 in total.

It shouldn’t be a problem – yet? – during the week. However, avoid the public holidays if you plan to admire the river of 5 colors on your own.

The travel agencies take care of it if you book through them.

Centro Ambiante | Closed on Tuesday and Sunday Afternoon | Other days: 7h00 am – 12h00 / 14h00 pm – 17h00 pm

3# There are rules to follow to visit the river of five colors

What you must know/do before entering the park (+)

  • Once registered at the Centro Ambiente, you have to watch an introduction video
  • You have to hire a local guide
  • Pay the different taxes
  • Don’t use sunscreen – It affects badly the aquatic plants
  • Bring a hat with you
  • Plastic bottles, plastic bags, and repellents are forbidden – To keep the site clean. You can buy a cheap gourde
  • You need the authorization to use a drone
  • Kids under 7 years old can’t enter in Caño Cristales

Watch their video on youtube to get the complete explanation.

What does a trip to the river of five colors look like?

Our guide gave us a meeting point at the restaurant El Caporal for a heavy breakfast.

Ronald doesn’t speak good English, but we didn’t need it thanks to our 2 Spanish weeks with Colombia Immersion :p. Anyway, none of the guides in La Macarena speak English.

Sat at the back of the jeep, I could feel the excitement slowly growing inside me. I was looking all around like a kid while my butt played some drum beats on the car’s bunch. It was a jarring ride indeed.

Read the rest of our field trip in Caño Cristales (+)

1 hour later, we arrived at the park entrance. Militaries were playing cards and gave us a quick glimpse. We were among the last visitors of the year and they didn’t even check out our bags.

It allowed us to save some precious time within the park as we had to be back before 4 pm.

The trail is only 9 km long, but it takes time to appreciate the numerous spots. We knew we would not come back any time soon!

It was an easy hike through the savanna del Parque La Macarena. Ronald led us to the different highlights of the park while communicating with the other guides. Thus, there are not dozens of people in the same spot.

Caño Escondido and Cascada la Virgen were the appetizers. We could observe the pink aquatic plants, but the water was too shallow – the end of the season – to appreciate the show.

Moreover, the pictures I found on the internet were way too edited to match with reality.

I had to admit I was a bit disappointed at first.

People should stop lying on their pictures! And we always should below our expectations 🙂

Then, after our lunch break at Cascada Los Pianos, everything changed.

The sun finally decided to show up while we were above Tapete Largo. In a second, all the colors became brighter. The contrast between the green of the vegetation, the blue of the sky, the yellow from the bed river, and the pink colors of the plants was astonishing.

We stopped at another waterfall – Los Cuarzos – for a quick dip on our way to Tapete Rojo.

After that, it was an outburst of colors. Tapete Rojo is to Caño Cristales what Guernica is to Picasso. A masterpiece.

It was my favorite spot to appreciate the river of five colors.

And that was not all!

Like in San Jose del Guaviare, the bed river is made of sedimentary rocks. Throughout the years, the erosion caused by the water has created mesmerizing sceneries.

Los Ochos and the Coliseo are two of the spots where we could admire Mother Nature’s work.

Then it was time to get back to La Macarena. But not without enjoying a last swim in the clear water of Piscina Cristal.

Are there other highlights nearby la Macarena?

Yes, the river of the five colors is the main tourist attraction. But, it’s not the only one.

  • Have fun in Caño Piedra, a place located 8 km away from the town La Macarena | Half a day | 60 000 COP – Round Trip
  • Drive in the savanna at the end of the day to contemplate gorgeous sunsets | A couple of hours
  • Enjoy a boat trip to the Raudal Angosturas on the Guayabero river. You will be able to spot birds, caimans, and turtles | Full day trip
  • Organize an expedition to Caño Canoa – Huge Waterfalls | 1 or 2-day trip | 150 000 COP for the transport | Field trip here

How much does it cost to admire the river of five colors?

It’s time to decide if you want to do it with or without a tour package.

1# La Macarena Without a Tour Package

Do you have plenty of time and ready to cross the savanna with your machete?

In that case, you could try to reach La Macarena on your own and organize your tours to the river of five colors once you’re there.

Get the numbers and calculations (+)

  • Flight: 80 $ *2 = 160 $
  • Accommodations: 20 $ * 4 nights – You arrive on Wednesday and you leave on Sunday = 80 $
  • Meals (L & D) = 12 $ * 5 days = 60 $
  • 3 Tax Entrances = 131 000 COP / 45 $
  • Guide + Transport to La Macarena = 50 $ – You will join a group
  • Other activities (Caño Piedra & Raudal Agosturas) = 90 $

A traveler might spend at least 485 $ (5 days) to visit La Macarena and Caño Cristales.

You might be able to reduce the cost if you take the bus to reach La Macarena. But, you will need more days to organize your trip.

2# La Macarena with a Package Tour

Like San Jose del Guaviare, it’s financially interesting to book a tour to admire the river of five colors, especially if you don’t have many days to travel to Colombia.

In average, a package tour with Geotour to La Macarena will cost 575 USD for 4 days | 625 USD for 5 days

We used their services to explore La Macarena and we had an excellent time with them.

What does this package include (+)

  • A direct flight ticket from Cali, Medellin or Bogota – Round Trip
  • Pick up at the airports
  • 1/2 day trip exploring the Savanna around la Macarena
  • Day trip to Caño Cristales
  • Day trip to the river Guayabero to reach the Raudal Angosturas and observe wildlife
  • 1/2 day trip to admire the sunrise in the Savanna around la Macarena
  • 3 nights in a Finca with a swimming pool and games
  • 3 meals per day
  • All the transportations and taxes

Where to stay in La Macarena

You will have to find a place to stay if you want to visit Caño Cristales on your own.

We have visited different places to help you to make the right choice.

1# $ – Hostel Caño Cristales – Cheap and clean

Hostel Caño Cristales is the only hostel in La Macarena. The building is new and it will be your best chance to meet the few other backpackers. Hammocks are at disposal so you can rest after your expeditions.

Hostel La Macarena

More about this hostel (+)

The + + + | Hostel Caño Cristales

  • Hammocks
  • Cheap
  • You can find a guide easily
  • Modern

The – – – | Hostel Caño Cristales

  • Bad wifi
  • Small Kitchen

2# $$$ – El Punto Verde – Green & Clean

El Punto Verde is a nice hotel in the center of La Macarena. Lovely green alleys surround the different cabanas nestled near the river. Rooms are simple, comfortable and clean. Pleasant staff. They do their best to be eco-friendly. Also, there is a pool where you can relax after your excursions.

Punto Verde Hotel in La Macarena

More about this hostel (+)

The + + + | El Punto Verde Hotel La Macarena

  • Pool
  • Peaceful & Green

The – – – | El Punto Verde Hotel La Macarena

  • Not all the rooms have Air-con
  • Rooms are basics (For the price)

3# $$$ – La Fuente – Best hotel in Town

Hotel La Fuente is the best hotel in La Macarena. Rooms are spacious and beds are comfortable. Moreover, the staff is friendly and cooks delicious meals. Don’t forget to take a dip in the pool 😉

La Fuente Hotel La Macarena

More about this hostel (+)

The + + + | La Fuente Hotel in La Macarena

  • Comfortable bed
  • Good meals
  • New spacious rooms
  • Pools

4# $$$$ – La Manigua – Hidden Ecolodge

Albeit authentic, the town of La Macarena isn’t appealing. If your budget allows it, you’ll get a better experience if you immerse yourself in nature. La Manigua is an ecolodge located 20 min away on the Guayabero river bank. Their wooden cabins are well-built and blend perfectly in their environment. They also offer package tours.

La Manigua Caño Cristales

More about this hostel (+)

The + + + | La Manigua Ecolodge

  • Idyllic setting
  • Delicious food
  • Cozy cabins
  • Wildness
  • Animal
  • Personalized services
  • They organize day-trips for their clients

Where to eat in La Macarena

There are not many options, and you will probably die if you’re vegan.

Every restaurant will offer a menu del dia for less than 12 000 COP – It’s a bit more expensive for dinner. I write down the most famous ones.

List of our favorite restaurants (+)

  • Punto Verde serves a tasteful buffet to their guests for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Join them and make new friends! – 16 000 COP / pers 
  • Caporal is a Colombian Llaneros restaurant in La Macarena. Huge tables and lots of overcooked meats. – Around 20 000 COP / pers | Every day from 6 am to 11 pm
  • Aramis is THE local restaurant. The menu del dia is massive and you will have to roll from your seat to quit this place. – Around 14 000 COP / pers | Every day from 6 am to 8 pm
  • Cafe Litho is a cozy coffee in the center of la Macarena. The decoration is fantastic and would make jealous most of the trendy-hipster bars in Paris/Berlin. Stop there to enjoy a good coffee and delicious pastries for 1 or 2 dollars. They also serve various meals 😉 | Open from 6 pm.

Is it Mandatory to book a Package Tour to travel to the River of Five Colors?

No. You don’t have to.

But, it will make your life a lot easier when creating your Colombia itinerary.

  • Nobody speaks English in La Macarena. Thus, it’s a bit complicated to organize your trip on your own if you don’t speak like Antonio Banderas.
  • It will cost you almost the same if you’re traveling alone or as a couple.
  • They organize everything for you – Peace of mind!
  • You meet other travelers – You will be able to avoid your travel buddy

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

All you need to create your itinerary

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Disclosure: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. It’s a nice gesture to thanks us for the many hours we put in Tomplanmytrip 🙂 
Travel-to-Caño-Cristales

How to Visit San Jose del Guaviare in Colombia?

A place like San Jose del Guaviare is not easy to prospect. We couldn’t find any information on the internet.

Where to start? Who should we meet? How is the bus? 

Nothing, nada, nitchts.

Ten years ago, San Jose del Guaviare was a FARC’s stronghold. Even the government didn’t want to get there.

But the political situation has changed a lot in Colombia. And now, this town is a paradise filled with secret gems, colorful rivers, Colombian cowboys, and aguardiente.

San Jose del Guaviare: What you must know

Where: San Jose del Guaviare is in the Guaviare department, South of Bogota.

When: Although you can visit San Jose del Guaviare all year round, some highlights are more worth-seeing during the raining season.

What can you expect: Many stunning sites surround San Jose del Guaviare. You can admire a river that turns red during the rainy season (like in Caño Cristales), unravel mysterious rock paintings, observe pink dolphins, and swim in various natural pools and waterfalls.

Is it touristic: Not yet as this destination has recently opened to the public. It’s the ideal occasion to stay in an authentic Colombian town!

How to get there: There are direct flights from Bogota and Villavicencio. You can also take a 10h night bus from Bogota.

How to plan your activities: You need to use a private vehicle to head to the different touristic sights. The easiest way to use the service of a local travel agency. We went with Geotours Guaviare. They did an amazing job.

Is San Jose del Guaviare safe: Yes! We never felt insecure during our stay, even late at night, when heading back to our hotel.

Where to stay: The lodging offer in San Jose del Guaviare isn’t exceptional.

How many days: You need at least 4 days in total to visit the main highlights. Save time by heading back to Bogota with a night bus.

Our best tips: Although you might save a few dollars by planning everything on your own, the experience will be a lot better (and easier) if you book a full package. Ask the agency if you can join a group tour. You will get more possibilities if you contact them for a few months in advance.

Must read: The field report of our 5-day experience in San Jose del Guaviare.

Where to travel after San Jose del Guaviare

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

Table of contents: San Jose del Guaviare

  1. How to get to San Jose del Guaviare
  2. How to leave
  3. Things to do
  4. Where to stay
  5. Where to go out
  6. Should you book an all-included tour?
  7. Get our free guidebook
  8. Chill out while we organize your trip
Watch this cool 1 min video!

How to Get to San Jose del Guaviare

You must leave from Bogota to include San Jose del Guaviare in your Colombia itinerary.

1# How to fly to San Jose del Guaviare?

Flying is always the easiest and most comfortable way to get somewhere in Colombia. 

However, there are still a few inconveniences

  • You can’t observe the landscapes
  • There is no daily flight. It means you have less flexibility
  • You pollute a lot more
  • They can cancel your trip in case of bad weather conditions
  • It’s sometimes difficult to book it online

Must read: Our Bogota travel guide to plan your activities and hotels

Flights Bogota - San Jose del Guaviare (+)

The only airline company to get to San Jose del Guaviare is Satena. They fly out of Bogota.

Flight Bogota – San Jose del Guaviare | Duration : 1h30 | Price: Around 220 000 COP / 70 $

  • Monday (Afternoon)
  • Wednesday (Early Morning) 
  • Saturday (Early Morning) 

The prices and dates can change. Check on Satena website before planning your trip.

The airport is near the center.

Important: The lugagge allowance change according the model of Aircraft

#2 Can you reach San Jose del Guaviare by bus?

Bus Bogota - San Jose del guaviare (+)

Yes, it is! 

Once again, the departures are from the main bus terminal (Salitre) in Bogota.

Look for the bus company Flota La Macarena.

There are buses leaving every day, days and nights. 

Bus Bogota – San Jose del Guaviare | Duration: 9 – 10 hours | Prices: Around 70 000 COP / 22 $

You can’t book them on the internet. However, there are departure times.

TIP: Take a night bus to save time. Our night bus wasn’t comfortable at all! Ask at the counter desk if there is a VIP one.

#3 Can you travel from Caño Cristales to San Jose del Guaviare?

Boat La Macarena - San Jose del guaviare (+)

Edit 2020: This boat trip isn’t doable anymore until further notice

After an amazing trip to the rainbow river, you can decide to extend your adventure to San Jose del Guaviare.

Don’t take the jeep. It will be a horrible muddy path for 10 hours.

Fortunately, there is a boat leaving every week – almost – on Mondays during the rainy season from June to November

Boat La Macarena – S.J.D Guaviare | Departure time: 8h00 am | Cootransfluvial | Duration: 10 hours | Price: 120 000 COP

How to leave from San Jose del Guaviare

Because you don’t want to stay forever in San Jose del Guaviare – Sorry Andres -, you also need to know how to leave the city.

There are not many options. You must head back to Bogota or Villavicencio.

1# Fly back to Bogota with Satena

Flight San jose del Guaviare - Bogota (+)

The flights San Jose del Guaviare – Bogota are not every day. Double-check the departures with the Satena.

  • Monday (Afternoon)
  • Wednesday (Morning)
  • Saturday (Morning)

Flight S.J.D Guaviare – Bogota | Duration: 1h15 | Price: Around 220 000 COP / 70 $ | Website

The airport is near the center. Order a taxi for 7 – 10 000 C0P  and arrive 1 hour in advance at the airport. 

#2 Take a night bus to Bogota

Bus San Jose del guaviare - Bogota (+)

There are various departure times. Ask your local agency which one would best suit you.

Bus S.J.D Guaviare – Bogota | Duration: 9 – 10 hours | Prices: Around 70 000 COP / 22 $

After San Jose del Guaviare, explore la Macarena

Boat San Jose del Guaviare - La Macarena (+)

Edit 2020: This boat trip isn’t doable anymore until further notice

There is a boat leaving to La Macarena every Saturday.

I don’t recommend you to take the jeep. The trip is longer and extremely muddy.

How do we know it? Because we did it ^^. Read our travel guide about Caño Cristales.

We planned to take the boat all the way to La Macarena. Unfortunately, there was a strike that day. So we had to take a boat then a jeep to La Macarena. The ride was insane! Plus, we had a massive hangover from the previous night…

I let you watch our video 🙂

Boat S.J.D Guaviare – La Macarena | Departure time: 9h00 am | Cootransfluvial | Duration: 10 hours | Price: 120 000 COP

Things to do in San Jose del Guaviare

The town of San Jose del Guaviare isn’t appealing, but we enjoyed a lot our stay there.

First of all, the town is 100% safe. We could hang out with our cameras and phones without being worried to use them. 

Second, there are many bars, clubs, and restaurants. We liked to spend the evening with our crew and the staff of Geotours. It’s perfect to create bonds while sharing beers and histories.

I will tell you about restaurants and bars in San Jose del Guaviare a bit further in this article

1# El Centro Cultural de San Jose del Guaviare

Some travelers don’t want to book their activities in advance. I wouldn’t recommend to do it in San Jose del Guaviare, especially if you’re a small group (1-2 people) because it can be a lot more expensive. Indeed, the local travel company won’t be able to add you to another group at the last minute.

But, if you don’t mind to pay a private tour, you shouldn’t have too much problem to find someone.

Once in San Jose, go to El centro Cultural to get the best information about the tours and trustful guides

Centro Cultural | Opening hours: Monday to Friday | 8 am – 6 pm

Town San Jose del Guaviare
Main square San Jose del Guaviare

#2 Cool things to do in town

There are not many things to do in town. But we still found 2 fun activities:

1. Wake up at 5h30 am and take pictures of the fish market. 

2. Drink a beer and observe the sunset on the Guaviare river

  • From boat-bar at the port
  • From the bar El Mirador
Sunset San Jose del Guaviare
sunset on the Guayabero River

#3 The different day trips from San Jose del Guaviare

I’m sure this place will be soon a booming touristic attraction in Colombia. 

Located between the Llanos and the Amazonia, San Jose del Guaviare offers various landscapes such as an immense savanna, a deep jungle, endless river banks,  and so on.

You need to be a bit organized to visit the maximum of these gorgeous places in a minimum of time.

First but not least, you have to book a guide and vehicle.

All these places are outside San Jose del Guaviare and there is no public transportation to get there.

We used the service of Geotour, and there were awesome 🙂

1 - Cerro Azul and the River Guayabero (+)

Located two and a half hours away from San Jose del Guaviare, Cerro Azul is one of the main highlights in the area.

There, an old and unknown civilization drawn hundreds of pictograms on 2 large facades.

The drawings are perfectly well preserved. And that’s weird! Because they are subject to every climatic condition like rain and heat.

How is it possible? What plants did they use? 

There are a lot of missing answers.

Moreover, we can find the same pictograms in the  National Park Chiribiquete.

On the way back, some tours offer you to take a boat ride through the Raudal -Rapid – de Guayabero. The scenery is impressive and you can even spot of a few dolphins!

Cerro Azul San Jose del Guaviare
Sebastian showing us different pictograms

2 - Dolphins in the Laguna Damas del Nare (+)

The laguna Damas del Nare is a lagoon rich in planktons located 2 hours away on the Guayabero river.

And do you know who love planktons?

Dolphins!

A family lives there throughout the year, enjoying an orgy of food.

Moreover, they share a cute relationship with the locals residing there. They love to pick the rope throw at them in the lagoon and terrorize the visitors by swimming between their legs.

3 - Puerta de Orion, Caño Sabana (Pink river) & Tranquilandia (+)

Caño Sabana is the little sister of Caño Cristales. There, from June to November, an aquatic plant called Macarenia Clavigera grows in the bed river. 

The color changes from Pink to Purple according to sun exposure. The result is astonishing.

On the way to observe this marvelous river, local tours give you the opportunity to start the hike a bit further so you can admire the Puerta de Orion, a huge rock – 12 m high – in the middle of the savanna. 

Then, you can chill at the waterfalls in Tranquilandia, hoping to spot a few monkeys.

4 - The intriguing pozos naturales (+)

Back in time, El Guaviare was just a small part of a huge ocean. But things are never set in stone with Mother Nature. 

Nowadays, the water has disappeared and made rooms for a soil composed of sedimentary rocks.

Because of the erosion, holes occurred through the ages in a bed river located 30 min away from San Jose del Guaviare. They look like natural jacuzzis. Moreover, some of them are deep enough that you can jump in it!

Pozos naturales San Jose del Guaviare
Let’s burn then jump in the Pozos Naturales

5 - Serrania de la Lindosa and Los Túneles (+)

As I told you, flows, rains and tides have shaped the landscapes of El Guaviare.

Serrania de la Lindosa and Los Tuneles are 2 perfect places if you want to admire the work of mother nature.

There, massive rocks create a mysterious atmosphere with sceneries comparable at an old abandoned city or a secret maze.

Ciudad de Piedra San Jose del guaviare

Where to stay in San Jose del Guaviare

The climate is very humid in this area of Colombia. Book a hotel with a pool and air-con if you can’t deal with the heat. 

  1. Panorama hotel: It’s one of the cheapest hotels you will be able to find in town. The family in charge is always smiling and ready to help. Rooms are simple but more than acceptable for the price. 
  2. Hostel Guaviare soul: The owner had the great idea to turn her mother’s house into a hostel where travelers can meet and share. Private rooms and Dorms. They also sell tours.
  3. Portico hotel: A pleasant hotel, with air-con in the rooms. As in every hotel in Colombia, the soundproofing is inexistent. Refreshing swimming pool.
  4. Aeroporto hotel: The value for money isn’t exceptional, but it’s still the best hotel in town. The rooms are moderns and comfortable. Guests can also relax in the pools and the gardens.

Where to go out in San Jose del Guaviare

San Jose del Guaviare isn’t a big city. You won’t have any issue to stroll in the zona rosa to pick your restaurants and bars.

1# Where to eat in San Jose del Guaviare

List of our favorite restaurants (+)

Nomadas was my favorite restaurant for the night. They serve different delicious meals around 22 000 COP. No menu del día.

El Dorado de Omar is a perfect restaurant if you wanna eat a big fish with your menu del día. Around 18 000 COP

Carnes y Carnes is for meat lovers. The small portion is already huge! They only open at night. Around 20 000 COP 

El Mirador del Barquito in the Cultural center is our little tasty secret. The view on the river is gorgeous and the food fantastic. Get your Menu del día for only 6 500 COP!

El Ranchon is one of the upscale restaurants in town but the menu del dia is affordable. 10 000 COP

2# Where to Go out in San Jose del Guaviare

Bars and clubs are open every day in San Jose del Guaviare. But the inhabitants usually go out on Saturdays.

The Zona Rosa – party district – is composed of 2 streets near the main square. Follow the lights and music beats, you can’t miss it.

List of our favorite bars (+)

Banana Disco club and La Cantina are 2 funky clubs with a mix of Salsa, Merengue and Reggaeton. A bottle of aguardiente cost 70 000 COP and there is no cover.

Also, enjoy the sunset on the river Guayabero from EL Mirador or El Barquito Sol Y Arena. Cheap Beers.

And in case you wanna drink a good coffee or juice, don’t hesitate to pay a visit to Marroqui cafe. Their internet is fast! 

EL Mirador San Jose del guaviare
EL Mirador

Can you visit San Jose del Guaviare on your own?

The answer is yes.

You can book your accommodations online and pay a bus ticket at the bus terminal in Bogota. 

Once you are in San Jose del Guaviare, go to the Cultural center and find a guide who will organize your day trips – you can’t do otherwise. You’ll also need to pay for a private vehicle.

By doing so, you will need more days to visit the main highlights. Also, it might be quite expensive if you can’t join another group.

Is it cheaper to book an all-included tour to visit San Jose del Guaviare?

This is the option we chose.

We had a great experience with Geotours Guaviare and we are happy to consider them as partners.

There are other local travel agencies in San Jose del Guaviare, and I’m sure some of them are doing a great job too.

Tip: Don’t book your tour with a national travel agency. Try to find a local travel agency in town. Thus, you will avoid paying an intermediary.

1# How much do you need to visit San Jose del Guaviare without a tour?

Let’s say you are a couple who wants to explore San Jose del Guaviare 4 days / 3 nights

Considering you arrive at the last minute, you’ll have to stay one extra day and night to organize your trip.

Moreover, it will be hard to join another small group – As it’s not very touristic yet.

You’ll need at least 2 460 000 COP

See the calculations

  • 4 nights El Portico : 90 000 COP * 4 = 360 000 COP
  • 5 breakfasts – 2 pers : 10 000 * 2 * 5 = 100 000 COP
  • 5 Lunches – 2 pers : 20 000 * 2 * 5 = 200 000 COP
  • 5 dinners – 2 pers : 20 000 * 2 * 5 = 200 000 COP
  • 4 day trips: 400 000 COP * 4 = 1 600 000 COP | Jeep + Private guide + entrances

2# How much does an all-included tour cost?

If you prevent Geotour (or us) in advance, they can give you various dates to be with another group and share the costs.

For the same activities and accommodations, you could pay – Prices 2019 / 2020:

  • 2 000 000 COP for 2 pers | Group of 6 pers in total
  • 2 500 000 COP for 2 pers | Group of 4 pers in total
  • 3 800 000 COP for 2 pers | Group of 2 pers in total

As you can see, prices can be super interesting if you can join another group! Besides, you get other advantages like:

  • Geotour helps you to book your bus tickets
  • They organize everything for you – Peace of mind!
  • You meet other travelers – You will be able to avoid your travel buddy
  • The staff hang out with you at night
  • You know they are doing an excellent job

I believe it’s 100% worth it to use the service of a local agency, especially when traveling to an off the beaten path destination.

The experience and the quality of your trip will be much higher, you’ll be less stressed and your money directly benefits the local economy.

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

All you need to create your itinerary

Why bother if we do it better?

Join Colombia Insider

Have fun while we do the hard job

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. It’s a nice gesture to thanks us for the many hours we put in Tomplanmytrip 🙂 

ravel-to-San-Jose-del-Guaviare

Is San Jose del Guaviare in Colombia worth it?

In less than 15 years, the safety situation in Colombia has totally changed. San Jose del Guaviare is a perfect example of it.

Once a dangerous  FARC stronghold, it’s nowadays a secret paradise full of undiscovered gems. Travel to San Jose Del Guaviare to admire rock paintings, chill in natural jacuzzis, swim with dolphins, take fantastic pictures of a purple-pinkish river and wander through unreal landscapes made of vegetations and intriguing stones.

Skeptical?

Read our 5-day adventures in San Jose del Guaviare with Geotour.

Tips, photos, video and more!

Read our San Jose del Guaviare Travel guide to learn everything about this place!

Sunset on the Rio Guayabero in San José del Guaviare
Sunset on the Rio Guayabero

Two-night buses in a row to arrive in San Jose del Guaviare

San Jose del Guaviare was first on our list of places to visit in Colombia. And by chance, Andrés invited us to test the services of Geotour, one of the best local travel agencies to explore the surroundings of San Jose del Guaviare.

We added it to our excel planning – Adrien loves it.  It was set in stone. On the 10th of November, it will be.

But 2 weeks, 3 liters of aguardiente, and 2 Salsa classes later, we messed up with the dates. We thought the tour would start the 11th instead of the 10th. When we realized our mistake, it was too late. We had to take two night-buses in a row to arrive on time in San Jose del Guaviare.

The night bus Medellin – Bogota with Rapido Oacha was surprisingly comfortable – We booked the VIP seat thanks to the app Red Bus. There were luxurious and spacious seats, with individual screens to watch movies.

However, it was still a rolling fridge…

Once in Bogota, we spent the day in the hostel La Pinta in the Zona G. For the food addicts, this district is a true paradise.

Then, it was time to take our second night bus.

What an experience!

Shitty seats, no space, no toilets, it was the opposite of the previous one.

Day 1 in San Jose del Guaviare: Mysterious Rock paintings and dolphins

“Guys, be ready at 6h30 am tomorrow.”

The early bird catches the worm. It’s the same in San Jose del Guaviare. There are lots of activities to do around, so you need to wake up early to enjoy it a maximum.

Sat at the back of the jeep with 4 other fellow travelers, we were ready to discover one of the most impressive Guaviare’s secret.

It took only a few minutes to be out of the city. We followed a dirt road for 1h45 before arriving at Finca Chontaduro for a traditional Colombian Breakfast.

Finca Chontaduro, the education farm

Finca Educativa San Jose del Guaviare
The family who manages the Finca

Because of the FARC, lots of farmers were cultivating coca leaves in El Guaviare. Then, everything changed during the 2000s.

But, because their lands are often isolated, it’s not easy to make their living from agriculture. Hence, farmers try to find different ways to generate new incomes.

Fortunately, sustainable tourism is another solution. And Geotour Guaviare helps them to grow their business.

After a friendly welcome from the Finca’s staff – and a surprising pet -, we ate a huge breakfast with all the ingredients coming directly from their farming.

Arepa, hot chocolate, eggs, Borojo Arequipe – it’s supposed to be aphrodisiac, but the taste is so yeuks! –

In the meantime, the owner told us stories about his past to get a better understanding of the situation 20 years ago.

Then, to sensitize us about cocaine’s health problems, he listed all the chemicals you need to produce the famous white powder-like Gasolina and dilute sulfuric acid

The rock paintings in Cerro Azul near San Jose del Guaviare

Cerro Azul in San Jose del Guaviare
Sebastian showing us different pictograms

Filled with arepas, we were now ready to discover Cerro Azul. The hike isn’t tough, but the humidity makes you sweat like hell.

Anyway, it’s worth it.

After 30 min, we were able to enjoy the first part of Cerro Azul, a colossal wall of  7 m long and 4 m high. There are so many pictograms on it that I couldn’t observe them all at once. Drawn with an orange-reddish painting, they represent huge disappeared animals, geometrical patterns, and daily life events of the indigenous living there back in time.

There are still many unexplained mysteries around these rock paintings.

First, it’s complicated to date the pictograms. Scientists found foods and human rests near Cerro Azul. Thanks to the Carbon 14’s method, they were able to date them around 12 500 years old. But is it the age of the pictograms?

And if it’s the case, how is it possible they stayed in such perfect conditions? What ingredients did they use to draw the paintings?

So many questions left to answer.

After a short break, we continued our exploration. To reach the second part of Cerro Azul, we went through dark tunnels and passed by fantastic viewpoints.

Boat ride and dolphins nearby San Jose del Guaviare

Raudal Guayabero Speedboat
Our magnificent speedboat

In San Jose del Guaviare, the day never stops. On the way back, we had one last stop before enjoying the swimming pool of our hotel.

Regrouped on 2 small boats, we rode upstream el Raudal Guayabero to look for dolphins and have a quick dip in Cascada del Amor.

During the boat ride, I felt tiny. On both sides, high cliffs covered by the vegetation surrounded the river and our makeshift boats. Moreover, we noticed huge chunks of wood perched on the rocks. From June to September, because of the heavy rains, the river can increase up to 4 -6 m!

Day 2 in San Jose del Guaviare: Let’s swim with dolphins

Villa Lilia is another old Coca plantation located 2 hours away by boat. There, tourists can have a typical Colombian lunch and chill in hammocks before looking for dolphins.

Indeed, 20 min away from the Finca, there is a famous canal called Laguna Damas de Nare where live a small community of dolphins all year long. However, their number is higher from June to September.

Because it was a 3-day weekend, we were a big group (30 people). But, everything was well organized, and I didn’t fell “oppressed.”

After a quick 20 min walk from Villa Lilia, we jumped into 2 long speedboats to look for dolphins. It took us more than 1 hour to find 2 of them. During this time, we could swim in the warm water of the canal with our life jackets.

Boat looking for dolphins

Dolphins love the vibrations of the motors. They are curious and want to know what’s going on.

Our guide threw many times a long rope in the water to play with them while calling them by their name.

I have no idea if dolphins can recognize voice’s noises. But they grabbed the rope with their “mouth” and started swimming between our legs.

I have to admit it was a bit scary at first. You can’t even see your feet in the brown water of the canal. So, I let you imagine my face when I felt a big unknown submarine monster touching my legs.

Then, it was time to get back on the boat to arrive in time for our Velada Indigena – An indigenous Ceremony.

Watch our Day 2 in San Jose Del Guaviare

Day 3: What!? A pinky river in San Jose del Guaviare

Caño Cristales is probably one of the most famous places to visit in Colombia. There, a mysterious pink/purple aquatic plant grows in the river bed during the raining season.

The show is astonishing!

But traveling to La Macarena can be a bit expensive for some of us.

Another alternative is to observe the Macarenia Clavigera plant in Caño Sabana. It’s not as impressive than in Caño Cristales, but it gives you a good taste of it.

And it’s a lot easier to access.

Fitted with our best outfits – 2 same long shirts bought in San Jose del Guaviare because sandflies terrorize us -, we began the expeditions 40 min away from the city, in the direction of the Puerta de Orion.

Must read: Our Caño Cristales travel guide

Pass through the Puerta de Orion

Puerta de Orion San Jose del Guaviare
Puerta de Orion

A long time ago – way before the birth of my old old Grandpa -, the Guaviare department was under billions and billions of Cubic Meters of water.

Nowadays, the ocean is gone, but it left lots of traces of its passage like sediments and weird rock shapes. One of the most typical of them in San Jose del Guaviare is La Puerta de Orion.

We heard 2 explanations for the name.

  • The first people who have discovered it could observe the Constellation of  Orion through the huge hole
  • The place is deeply connected with Chiribiquete (There are the same rock paintings in both areas), and the Constellation of Orion is visible there through the year.

The 30 min walk to La Puerta de Orion was pleasant. Landscapes change a lot in San Jose del Guaviare. After 2 days walking among dense vegetation, it was surprising to wander in the savanna.

Caño Sabana and the cranberry river

Caño Sabana San Jose del Guaviare
Caño Sabana

Then, we arrived in front of Caño Sabana. Below our eyes, we admired cranberry water flowing between rocks and palm trees.

On 100 m long, a beautiful purple/pink carpet covers Caño Sabana.

From June to November, the Macarenia Clavigera grows in this bed river. The color of this aquatic plant change from Green to Purple according to its exposure to the sun – like your skin, especially if you’re from Irlande.

After hundreds of pictures, we moved to our final stop.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing our sour muscles in the cold water in Tranquillandia with beers, monkeys and fun Colombians

Watch our DAY 3 In san Jose Del Guaviare

Day 4 In San Jose del Guaviare: River with natural jacuzzis

Pozos Naturales are another highlight in San Jose del Guaviare.

Indeed, rocks of sedimentary origin are more soluble in the water. Therefore, the stream creates canyons and deep holes in the river bed.

It becomes a perfect playground for making funny videos and relaxes in warm natural jacuzzis.

The Pozos Naturales are part of the “Aquatic path” created by Geotour. We walked all day long near the river, and we have never been asked to hurry up.

Gosh, I could have stayed for hours in these kettles. There are three big ones, where a bunch of people can stand all together easily – I even dived into the first on.

The 6 others are more intimate. Pick the one that fits best your need and enjoy your slice of paradise.

For this 4th day, we were only 3 people. A cool Colombian girl named Yvonne, Adrien and I. And nobody else was there!!! Thus, we tried them all many times. ^^

Pozos naturales San Jose del Guaviare
Pozos naturales

We left once our toes were all crumpled like an old apple forgotten in the fruit basket.

Thank you, Luis, to be such a patient guide 😉

We arrived around 2 pm at an empty restaurant nestled on the riverbank – even the owner wasn’t there – and waited for Andres to bring us our delivery lunch in banana leaves.

We discovered a Tejo game in the backyard and quickly forgot our empty belly. The goal is to throw heavy iron disks into a box of clay — the closest to the center score.

Adrien won the 2 parties with 2 nice shots followed by explosions – Ah yeah, I forgot to tell you, there are also papers filled with gunpowder in that game.

Watch our DAY 4 in San Jose del Guaviare

Day 5 in San Jose del Guaviare: Let’s run amidst giant rocks!

– “Hm, we should maybe start running.”

In less than 5 min, pouring rain was playing drums on rocks and leaves. But, after 5 days in San Jose Del Guaviare, you become a forecast wizard. You know when it’s time to find a shelter.

And lucky for us, we were wandering within the Ciudad de Piedras.

There, huge rocks stand in line like sleepy giants and constitute natural streets paved with grasses. We hid between 2 massive stones, waiting for the storm to pass.

He didn’t take long to walk around before heading to our next destination, the tunnels, another rocky spot with mysterious entrances and bats.

Jose guided us among the narrow paths of this natural maze for a bit more than 1 hour. Then, it was time to get back to San Jose del Guaviare to enjoy our last night with the great team of Geotour.

Watch our DAY 5 in San Jose del Guaviare

Let’s compare the different day trips in San Jose del Guaviare

Maybe some of you can’t/don’t want to stay five days in San Jose del Guaviare.

In that case, you have to choose between different day trips.

But, how? :0

Let’s have a closer look at each of them.

1# Day trip to Cerro Azul and Raudal Gayabero

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 6h30 t0 19h00
  • Transportation time: 4 – 5 hours
  • Difficulty: 2.5/5
  • Point of interest: Rock paintings, dark caves, boat drive in the nice canyon, dolphins
  • Why you could not like it: You hate cavemen paintings because you think you could do better
  • Preference order: 2/5 | 1 being my favorite

2# Day trip with Dolphins and Laguna Damas de Nare

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 6h30 to 19h00
  • Transportation time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: 0/5
  • Point of interest: Swimming with Dolphins
  • Why you could not like it: You’ve already seen pink dolphins and they scare you
  • Preference order: 4/5

3# Day trip to Puerta de Orion and Caño Sabana

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 8h30 – 17h30
  • Transportation time: 1h30 – 2 h
  • Difficulty: 1/5
  • Point of interest: Red-purple-pink river because of Aquatic plants, weird rock shapes, and  swimming
  • Why you could not like it: You don’t like pink
  • Preference order: 1/5 – My Favorite

4# Day trip to Pozos Naturales

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 9h – 16h30
  • Transportation time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: 1/5
  • Point of interest: Lovely river with deep holes, swimming, an aquatic path
  • Why you could not like it: You don’t like to play and record funny videos
  • Preference order: 3/5

#5 Day trip tunnels and Ciudad de Piedras

Duration & Points of interest (+)

  • Duration: 9h – 17h
  • Transportation time: 1h30
  • Difficulty: 1/5
  • Point of interest: walking among giant rocks and admire the Guaviare plants
  • Why you could not like it: You don’t care about rocks
  • Preference order: 5/5

Our thoughts about San Jose del Guaviare

Julian, Andres, Sebastian, Amilton and the others are a young team full of energy, and they are proud to represent their hometown. Through their travel agency, they help different locals to live from tourism.

They were always smiling, helpful and ready to show us the best of San Jose del Guaviare – and a few nightclubs ;).

The different expeditions were well organized – not perfect but a lot more than what I was expected, considering that tourism is a recent thing here.

The town of San Jose del Guaviare itself is not attractive. However, we found some cool restaurants and funky bars.

I was also surprised to discover a town 100% safe. We could walk day and night with our camera without being worried. The inhabitants are smiling and glad to observe the growth of tourism thanks to the peace agreement. 

Don’t wait. Add San Jose del Guaviare to your Colombia itinerary!

Andres Staff Geotour
Casual Andrés, Casual ^^

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Where to travel after San Jose del Guaviare

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

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San-Jose-del-Guaviare

Paragliding In Medellin: Admire The City With Birds

Are you in Medellin? Are you looking for an exciting activity because you’re bored? Perfect, I have some excellent news for you. It’s time for Paragliding in Medellin to admire the city from the sky.

Watch Our Paragliding experience in Medellin

San Felix, the official departure runway for Paragliding in Medellin

As you know, it’s always complicated to find out all the best things to do before visiting a city. There is a lot of information to retain.

Sometimes, we miss a fantastic opportunity to try something new. And, when we realize it – because of this horrible friend who posts great things on Instagram -, it’s too late.

Like every traveler who doesn’t know the city, I’ve made a few mistakes the first time I came to Medellin.

Fortunately for you, I’m here to help you to make better decisions 🙂.

First, read this amazing list of the best things to do in Medellin.

Paraglidin in San Felix, Departure Runway

A] Why did we choose Parapente San Felix

Randomly. Almost.

There are 8 certified Paragliding companies in San Felix. And it seems that nobody dies during the paragliding sessions. Hence, we couldn’t sort the companies by the number of deaths. Youhou.

Then, like a ninja, I checked their Facebook page.

Parapente San Felix has more than 47 000 followers. I guess they can’t be bad with such a number. Moreover, they let you record your experience with your camera whereas some other paragliding companies prohibit it for money security reasons.

Psst, Fabio did 900 jumps last year.

B] What are the different steps to book a paragliding tour in Medellin

You can contact Parapente San Felix with WhatsApp or/and email to book your tour. Fabio answered us very quickly.

Email: [email protected]

Whatsapp:

  • (+57) 3012239089
  • (+57) 3003098284

Everyone uses WhatsApp in Colombia. So you should download it on your phone right now ;).

In no time, we were able to pick a date and time, and we received a detailed file with all the information we needed to arrive in San Felix with the public transportation and be prepared for this exciting paragliding adventure. I tell you more about it in the second part of this article 😉

All the documents were in Spanish, but they can also send it to you in English.

Would like to learn Spanish in Medellin? We had an amazing time with Colombia Immersion.

Read the Field trip (+)

The D-day, we wake up and discover that a horrible fog had invaded the city. Medellin’s nickname is City of the eternal spring but the weather can change 4 times a day during the raining season

While we were wondering if we should cancel or not our paragliding session, Fabio sent a text to reassure us. The altitude in San Felix is 1 000 m higher than Medellin, and the climate can be entirely different. Moreover, thanks to a bunch of websites and their weather-skills, they’re able to tell you if the conditions are right or not for paragliding.

If not, they will inform you before you leave to San Felix.

View from Medellin - Paragliding in San Felix

C] The last 20 min before the big jump over Medellin

After a short 50 min ride, we get off the bus just in front of their small office. A lovely lady and Fabio welcomed us with a huge smile and directly put us at ease. 

They asked us if it was our first time paragliding and if we had any concerns. 

Then, we sat in front of a huge screen to watch a short explanatory video in English. In a nutshell, you have to do nothing except running a the beginning. Easy Peasy. 

After that, the lovely lady handed us a form with a bunch of health questions like medical history, plastic surgery, phobias and so on. It’s part of their medical insurance of flight. As a reward, you will get an orange bracelet with all the necessary information. 

Parapente San Felix Office
Parapente San Felix Office

Once outside the office, we took the 167 steps – I didn’t count – to reach the official departure runway for paragliding above Medellin. 

Fabio and his employe were already waiting for us. Behind them, we could discern a green slope and a deep valley.  Down there, Bello – North of Medellin – spread everywhere like a paint can which has felt on the floor.

Paragliding Instructor Parapente San Felix

D] You run, run, run

The staff set up the canvas on the grass and Fabio checked his material out loud with me:

  • First-aid kit: Ok
  • Emergency Parachute: Ok
  • Helmet: Ok
  • Weather condition: Ok

Then, he hooked me my equipment and asked to run the fastest I could while he was holding my seat. I don’t remember my diaper-childhood when I was a kid, but I think I was running in a similar way. 

 The staff checked once again our equipment then we started running down the slope.

Equipement preparation Paragliding in Medellin

E] Paragliding in Medellin with birds

– “Run, run, run!”

The canvas quickly expanded because of the wind and before the last “run” my feet couldn’t touch the ground anymore. 

Then, it was silent.

Below me, I could spot tiny people, coffee plantations, waterfalls and admire the large city of Medellìn in the valley. 

Because you’re comfortably sat with someone at your back, paragliding isn’t a scary experience. During the 20 min flight, I was able to appreciate every moment, with the wind in my hair on my face and birds on my sides. 

Paragliding Instructor and Thomas

Some time to time. Fabio gave me the names of the rivers and showed me the different parts of Medellin. Then we did a few twists for fun before going down toward Bello*. 

– “Ok Thomas, now raise your legs and do nothing else.”

It was time to say goodbye to the birds and get back to the ground.

*Most of the time, you will fly back to San Felix instead of landing in Bello. 

Landing in Bello - Paragliding in Medellin

Must Read: Our travel guide to visit Medellin

II) Useful Information for paragliding in Medellin

A. Book the paragliding in Medellin at least a few days in advance (+)

We had a great time doing it with Parapente San Felix but the other companies seem great too. Take the time to contact them a few days in advance so you can organize your trip.

Moreover, the weather change often in April – June & September – November. Every day, they will let you know if the conditions are right or not. Try paragliding the first day when you arrive. Thus, you will be able to reschedule it in case of bad weather.

B. What should you pack for Paragliding in Medellin (+)

Paragliding is an outside activity. You have to be protected from the cold and the sun.

  • Comfortable and warm clothing: Jacket and pants
  • Sneakers
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
Departure Runway Paragliding san Felix

C] How to travel to San Felix for Paragliding in Medellin

1. Private transport to travel to San Felix (Paragliding departure) (+)

There are transport companies that can pick you up in the city of Medellin, drive to the flight site, wait for you during the activity and then drive back to your accommodation.

Prices:

  • 1 to 4 people: 100 000 COP in total
  • 5 to 8 people: 200 000 COP in total

How to contact them:

  • Ask the paragliding company
  • Some hostels offer to book for you the activity and the transports

2. Taxi and Uber to travel to San Felix (Paragliding departure) (+)

It’s easy to book an Uber or a taxi to get to San Felix from Medellin

  • Price: Around 30 000 COP
  • Duration: 50 min

However, once you’re paragliding experience is over, it will be complicated to find another taxi/uber to get back to Medellin.

But don’t worry, you won’t be stuck forever.

Wait on the side of the road to catch a bus in the direction of Medellin.

  • Frequency: every 15 min from 5 am to 8 pm
  • Price: 4 800 COP
  • Duration: 50 min
  • Final stop: North Bus Station (Caribe metro station)

Then you can take a taxi/uber or the Metro.

3. Public transport to travel to San Felix (Paragliding departure) (+)

It’s simple and cheap to get to San Felix with public transport, especially if you stay in Laureles.

  1. Take the metro and stop at Caribe Station.
  2. Cross the bridge to arrive at the North Bus Station
  3. Look for the Counter 11 and buy a ticket to San Felix
  4. Tell the bus driver you want paragliding. He will know where to stop.

For the way back, follow the steps in the previous section. 

Prices:

  • Metro: 2 625 COP
  • Bus: 4 800 COP – 1 Way

Duration:

  • 50 min
  • Buses leave every 20 min – More or less.
Feet Paragliding above Medellin

D] Prices for Paragliding in Medellin [2019]

All the paragliding companies in San Felix offer similar prices – except the illegal ones.

  • Paragliding flight of 15 min: 130 000 COP
  • Paragliding flight of 20 min: 160 000 COP
  • Paragliding flight of 30 min: 220 000 COP
  • Photo and video service: 40 000 COP

Check the updated prices with Parapente San Felix

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

Where to travel after Medellin

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

All you need to create your itinerary

Why bother if we do it better?

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Have fun while we do the hard job

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. It’s a nice gesture to thanks us for the many hours we put in Tomplanmytrip 🙂 

Paragliding-above-Medellin-683x1024

Parce, Find Out About The Best Spanish School in Medellin

You don’t understand the word “Parce” and you are looking for the best Spanish School in Medellin?

Perfect, you’re in the right place.

There are 2 things you should know about Colombia.

Firstly, the country is called Colombia and not Columbia.

Secondly, not many people speak English.

Since the beginning of our project, Adrien and I knew that we had to improve our Spanish before exploring the country.

We quickly decided it would be Medellín.

Watch the video to discover why you should visit Colombia!

Why Should You take your Spanish class in Medellín?

For us, it was a no-brainer.

I traveled a few times around the big cities of Colombia. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages. But Medellin stands out.

There are a lot of good arguments, aren’t there?

This is why we picked Medellin to learn Colombian Spanish.

View of Medellin from Morro de Moravia-min
View of Medellin from Morro de Moravia – Field trip with Colombia Immersion

Spanish School in Medellin: We chose Colombia Immersion

But, how to find the best Spanish school in Medellin?

You see, there are many schools and private teachers giving Spanish lessons in Medellin, It’s hard to make a choice, especially when you don’t know the city at all.

From my experience in Medellin, I wouldn’t recommend booking a school in Poblado.

You will want to find a place near your Spanish School so you won’t have to spend money on Ubers and Taxis. The Zona Rosa is great for parties, but there are so many foreigners that you will speak English most of the time.

There are 2 other districts that I consider perfect for studying Spanish in Medellin.

  • Laureles is a district located near the center of the city. It’s safe, and there are metro stations that you can use to move around in Medellin. Moreover, there are 2 famous areas where you can go out at night: La 70 and La 33.
  • Envigado is a little town in the South that belongs to Medellin. More and more ex-pats and wealthy Colombian families are settling in this quiet area of the city. It’s also one of the safest districts of Medellin.
Colombia Immersion in Laureles Spanish School in Medellin
Colombia Immersion in Laureles

Colombia Immersion offers you the possibility to learn Spanish in both places.

Also, I think a mix of activities, small groups of classes and private Spanish classes are essential to learning how to speak like a Colombian, especially if you’re a beginner.

I know It’s never easy to start learning a new language.

“Al principio, me dolia la Cabeza “– At first, It hurt my brain. And it was a bit scary to speak with locals.

But if you don’t chat, you won’t progress.

Spanish Lessons in Medellin Laureles
Adrien trying to memorize all the Spanish Rules

Must read: Our travel guide to visit Medellin

On Colombia Immersion’s website, we can read that we will:

  • Speak with young teachers full of energy
  • Enjoy daily activities to learn about Colombia, Medellin and its culture
  • Get Spanish classes in small groups
  • Explore the city and get off the beaten path

It was more than enough to convince us to make the jump with them.

So, here we are, in front of the old house in Laureles, ready to become mas Paisa que la Arepa.*

*Medellin expression.

Spanish Group Classes with Colombia Immersion in Medellin
Spanish Group Classes with Colombia Immersion

Now, I hand the keyboard to Adrien. Tell us about your Colombian Immersion Experience!

Adrien’s experience in Colombia Immersion, Medellin.

A] Why learning Spanish in Medellin was important to me

Before going to Colombia, Thomas and I agreed on one thing. We had to improve our Spanish a lot to be more confident in dealing with our project.

We looked on the internet to find the best Spanish school in Medellin to learn this ‘’new’’ language. We finally chose a school called Colombia Immersion six weeks before leaving.

We didn’t know yet, but we had made an excellent choice.

Our first contact with the school was friendly and professional. We took our first leveling test on the internet whilst in France. A week later, we got a phone call to complete our level test.

Friendly staff in Colombia Immersion
Johanna and Andrey 🙂

Thanks to the results, the school can determine your Spanish level and put you in the class that suits you the most.

Once in Colombia, we decided to have a look at our future Spanish School before starting the classes.

We discovered a lovely two-floor house close to Plaza La America in a neighborhood of Medellin called Laureles.

All around the house, a black gate protects the entrance.

There are fences because it’s the house where Pablo Escobar was killed. Each day, lots of tourists were trying to come inside the house to take pictures. Therefore, it was necessary to stop them to keep the place quiet for the students.

We rang the bell to come inside.

What an enthusiastic welcome from the staff!

I LOVE Buñuelos <3

They offered coffee, cookies and big hugs. We immediately felt comfortable. We loved it because a family atmosphere is one of the most important things to learn Spanish or any other language.

Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish yet, everyone is able to speak English as well if needed.

And in case you’re from France, you will have to use your body language to communicate.

But it shouldn’t matter anyway! You are here to speak, eat and dream in Spanish.

Are you a bit scared?

You shouldn’t be mate.

Let me tell you how I dealt with that.

B] My experience in the Spanish School Colombia immersion

My Spanish wasn’t good although I knew some basic stuff to ‘’survive’’ in Colombia. I decided to take the full immersion package.

What a great choice!

It’s a good mix of Spanish courses with teachers and fun chats with Colombians. It’s a useful package to improve your Spanish skills quickly.

Also, I enjoy the fact the school is in a house. You bump into staff members, teachers, and the other students every time. It’s easy to meet people, make new friends and start conversations in Spanish.

Spanish Students taking a break between two Spanish Classes
Spanish Students taking a break between two Spanish Classes

Every Monday morning, Buñuelos (a Colombian specialty), hot coffee and broad smiles from the staff welcome you to begin your week on the right foot.

a – My Spanish Classes in Medellin

I met the other students from my group on Monday. We were with six in my class which is the maximum.

Can you imagine one teacher for only six people?

It’s an excellent opportunity to discuss, ask any questions you want and stay focused all the time. I enjoyed the desire of our teacher to make our lessons and courses alive. He put a lot of energy and enthusiasm to find different activities to make us participate. And believe me, it’s not that simple with a bunch of beginner students.

I had 4 hours per day of Spanish Class with my group.

Spanish Group class with Sergio
Spanish Group class with Sergio

b – Let’s do one-to-one talks in Spanish

Coaching is like a “one to one” discussion with a Colombian. It hurts the brain, but it’s an excellent method for learning a new language. I liked the fact that you can talk about anything you want without any pressure or judgment. You can also give a rendez-vous in a bar or a park.

I met many interesting students, and it was fun to discuss hundreds of different subjects. Moreover, I appreciated I could organize my private coaching as I wanted in order to attend the daily school activities.

Oh, I didn’t mention the activities yet!

Spanish Coaching 1 to 1 with awesome Colombians :)
Spanish Coaching 1 to 1 with awesome Colombians 🙂

c – Daily Free Activities with our Spanish School in Medellin

Each day, the Spanish School gives you the opportunity to register to an activity. Most of them are free and are running by an excellent guide named Felipe.

The tours are very diversified and allow you to discover more of the Colombian Culture, find out how Medellin works and learn thousands of great tips from your guide.

  • How to give your direction to a taxi driver
  • Know the different kinds of supermarkets
  • How it works with daily restaurant and their “Menu Del Dia” – Menu of the day

I went to the Laureles Tour, where one of the two schools of Colombia Immersion is located.

It was formidable to know the story of the neighborhood. We learned about the way the streets of the city were built, and how the addresses work.

Also, our guide was always happy to answer our questions and did his best to maintain good vibes during all the tour.

Hence, I recommend you to register for all of them. It’s a great way to improve your Spanish, and you will get to know your classmates better.

A free Cooking Class + Salsa Activity for free with Colombia Immersion
A free Cooking Class + Salsa Activity for free with Colombia Immersion
A free Cooking Class + Salsa Activity for free with Colombia Immersion

A community is essential to learn a language 😉

d – Field trip in Spanish in Medellin every Thursday

Beside the daily activities, students can join the field trips on Thursdays. Medellin is divided into 16 communes and 275 districts. Each part of the city has an exciting story to tell. And Colombia Immersion wants that its students get the possibility to learn more about it.

Each Thursday, thanks to 2 local guides, we explored a different district for more than 4 hours with our Spanish school in Medellin. We learned about the history, admired hidden graffiti streets, and visited untouristic places like Moravia.

Morro de Moravia | Field Trip with Colombia Immersion
Morro de Moravia | Field Trip with Colombia Immersion

During the 50’s, Moravia was the official dump in the middle of the city. And, because of its strategic location, poor people decided progressively to build houses made of bric-a-brac.

This district wasn’t safe at all. Methane emissions came out from the tons of garbage, the ground was unstable, and a significant wildfire destroyed hundreds of houses.

To protect its inhabitants, the city of Medellin decided to shut down the dump in 1984 and started to offer other accommodation options to the people. Nowadays, trees and flower have replaced the mountains of trashes.

Morro de Moravia | Field Trip with Colombia Immersion
Morro de Moravia | Field Trip with Colombia Immersion

During the tour, we were able to wander among the streets, eat the best empañadas of Moravia and understand the efforts made by the city to improve the quality of life in the disadvantaged neighborhoods.

It was very instructive.

e – Let’s speak Spanish in Envigado on Friday nights

I had 25 hours of Spanish practice after my first week with Colombia Immersion. And it’s without taking into consideration the activities!

I felt more at ease while speaking Spanish and I was excited to practice even more with unknown Colombians. It was the perfect moment to intend our first Language Exchange in Spanish.

Every Friday, Colombia Immersion organizes one in Envigado.

It was quite simple to get there. We took the metro to Envigado station then we walked 15 min. The Language exchange starts at 6h30 pm. I recommend you to use the metro if you stay in Laureles. From 5 to 7 pm, it’s rushing hour in Medellin, so you will be stuck in the traffic if you take a taxi.

Like in Laureles, I immediately could feel the family vibes in the school in Envigado.

At the first floor, there is a large terrace where people can sit and interact while drinking a cold beer. We all know it’s a bit easier to speak another language with a club Colombia in our blood 🙂

Salud, Cheers, santé, Saúde, Proost!

Every Friday, more than 70 people from different countries come here to meet and improve their language skills. And to facilitate the interactions, members of Colombia immersion organizes fun games!

There is one rule. If you’re a foreigner, you have to speak in Spanish!

I had to guess the animal written on my forehead. Conejo!

The language exchange ended at 10 pm. Then, with our new friends, we have decided to join another party at Social Club to dance Salsa all night long!

An activity organized by our Spanish school in Medellin, Colombia Immersion

We had a great time in Colombia Immersion and when the week was over, we were glad to still have one left.

Since day 1, everyone did their best to make us feel at ease. Colombia Immersion is a lot more than a simple language school. It’s a home where you meet amazing people that become friends.

Remember, people and experiences make memories, not selfies.

The essentials about our favorite Spanish School in Medellin

Colombia Immersion owns two establishments in Medellin:

  • Cra 40 # 40D Sur – 49 El Dorado, Envigado
  • Cra 79B # 45D – 94 Los Olivos, Laureles

They offer different options to learn Spanish at your own pace:

  • Semi-Intensive Group Classes: 10 hours per week
  • Intensive Group Classes: 20 hours per week
  • Full Immersion Package: Intensive Classes + Field Trip + 5 hours of Coaching
  • Private Classes: 10 hours with a private teacher

Get all the prices here

Moreover, Thanks to the leveling test, you will be in class with students with similar levels in Spanish!

Email: [email protected]

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

Where to travel after Medellin

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

All you need to create your itinerary

Why bother if we do it better?

Join Colombia Insider

Have fun while we do the hard job

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. It’s a nice gesture to thanks us for the many hours we put in Tomplanmytrip 🙂 
Spanish-School-in-Medellin-683x1024

Things To Do in Santa Marta To Spend Awesome Holidays

What are the best things to do in Santa Marta? How to decide among the different tours and activities?

It’s complicated to make choices if you’ve never been to a place before.

Although Santa Marta is quite boring, the surroundings are astonishing and offer many activities like diving, birdwatching, and hiking.

I traveled several months on the Caribbean coast and I wrote down this post to help you to organize your stay in this city. Find out my favorite things to do in Santa Marta and the Sierra Nevada!

Things to do in Santa Marta: What you must know

Where: Santa Marta is a costal Caribbean town close to Taryona and Minca.

How to get there: Direct buses or door to door shuttles leave from Cartagena (5-6 hours). There is also an airport at 25 min from the historic center.

Beaches in Santa Marta:

  • Many visitors stay in massive resorts in the Rodadero district. The beach is nice but crowded with tourists and street sellers.
  • The old city center is next to the trading port. You don’t want to swim there.
  • Fortunately, there are lovely secluded beaches like Bahia concha and playa Cinto.

Nightlife in Santa Marta: It’s quite fun on the weekends. Head to Rodadero if you want to party in large Colombian nightclubs or hang out in the center to go from bar to bar. I love the Brisa Loca’s rooftop.

Is Santa Marta safe: You must be careful in Santa Marta. It’s fine to stroll nearby Parque de Los Novios and Rodadero during the day. However, the city becomes super dodgy at night. Take taxis.

Day trips from Santa Marta:

Hiking in the Sierra Nevada:

Multi-day expedition: Being on the Caribbean coast is an excellent occasion to explore the La Guajira desert. You can start this trip from Santa Marta.

Consult our guide on Santa Marta to know, in a few clicks, the best accommodations and activities.

Where to travel after Santa Marta

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

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Table of contents: Things to do in Santa Marta

  1. Things to do in the city of Santa Marta
  2. Things to do outside of Santa Marta
  3. Get our free Colombia guidebook
  4. Let us take care of everything for you
Activities Around Santa Marta

Things To Do In Santa Marta

The beaches in town aren’t pleasant, and the city center is small. In less than 2 hours, you should be able to visit the most “interesting” sights.

List of the things to do in the city of Santa Marta (+)

  • Admire the Cathedral in Santa Marta
  • Visit the Golden museum
  • Explore La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. Simon Bolivar spent his last days in this famous Finca. 4 km away from the center of Santa Marta

Then, at night, travelers like to have a few drinks at Parque de Los Novios before heading to various nightclubs.

The nightlife in Santa Marta is a lot cheaper than Cartagena. Almost none of the bars/clubs ask for a cover.

However, be careful when you walk outside Parque de Los Novios. Streets are dodgy and quite unsafe at night. We give many safety tips in this post.

1# Going out in the old town of Santa Marta

Santa Marta doesn’t have a “Zona Rosa” but most of the bars & restaurants are located in the same area, near El Parque de Los Novios.

List of the best bars in Santa Marta: (+)

  • Crab’s Bar: The best place for rock and blues in Santa Marta | Pool tables | 6 000 COP for a National Beer
  • La Puerta: Nightclub with a mix of locals and foreigners |Salsa music | cheap
  • La Azotea: Nightclub with a rooftop | Crossover music |Good Cocktails | Higher prices | Cover: 10 000 COP
  • La Bodeguita Pirata: Small bars with a friendly staff | Good Cocktails | Fair prices
  • Festival shots: A large variety of shots to spend a fun and tipsy night |Shots | Good prices
  • Brisa Loca: This hostel organizes rooftop parties every weekend. It’s a great place to dance and have an unforgettable night in Santa Marta | Caribbean Music | Normal Prices | Cover: 10 000 COP after 11 pm

There is also a bunch of other bars around Parque de Los Novios. Don’t hesitate to check them out. And read this post from Nomadichustle to get more details about the nightlife in Santa Marta.

There are also many tasty restaurant options in the old city center. The two main spots to enjoy a delicious meal are Parque de Los Novios and the street ” Callejón del Correo “

List of the best restaurants in Santa Marta (+)

  • Ouzo | Mediterranean food and pizza | Go early or make a reservation |Romantic |Parque de Los Novios| $$$
  • Radio Burger | Delicious burgers & cool staff | Fast | Parque de Los Novios | $$
  • Caribbean Team | Good meals and music & Lovely view | Food to share | La Marina | $$
  • Donde Chucho | Great Seafood | Parque de Los Novios | $$
  • Lulo Cafe Bar | Correct vegetarian food, stuffed arepa & great smoothies | Callejon del Correo” | $$
  • Absurdo Grill | Pork lover | Parque de Los Novios | $$

2# Going out in Rodadero

I never stayed in Rodadero, so I can’t give my personal opinion about it. I’ve just passed by a few times. From what I’ve seen, it’s a mix of hotel resorts – Like Boca Grande in Cartagena.

List of the nightclubs in Rodadero (+)

  • Bar Jamaica: A quiet place where you can drink a cocktail or smoke a
    hookah while listening to reggae music
  • La Escollera: An old nightclub surrounded by water | Colombian music
  • Burukuka: The best restaurant in Santa Marta with a fantastic view of the coast | DJ on weekends | Expensive

3# Going out in Taganga

Taganga is a little fishing village located 10 min away by cab from Santa Marta. Well-known for its many cheap dive centers, it’s also a place of debauchery at night – Lots of drugs.

Be careful, don’t wander alone in the alleys or on the beach at night. I’ve heard many robbery stories.

The Mirador is the most famous club in Taganga. There is a great view of the open sea. It’s only worth it if there is a 3-day weekend or during the high season. We give you the best months to visit Colombia in this post.

Yes, staying in Santa Marta is boring

As I said previously, there are not many things to do in Santa Marta. Also, the romantic atmosphere is more vibrating in Cartagena’s old center. We tell you how to travel from Santa Marta to Cartagena.

So what is Santa Marta famous for? Why are there so many foreigners?

It’s because the East Caribbean coast is fantastic and rich in biodiversity and landscapes. And, Santa Marta is an excellent spot to organize your day trips, especially if you’re running out of time.

Now, let’s discover your different options.

Must read: Our Santa Marta travel guide

Things to do outside of Santa Marta

The Sierra Nevada is the second highest coastal range in the world. It means that on a clear day, you will see the white snow peaks while drinking your margarita on the beach.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

And, that’s not all. Between the white sand beach and the snow-capped summits, there is vast tropical rainforest hosting thousands of species of birds, monkeys, frogs, and plants.

The Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta is a vast playground for explorers and nature lovers.

Let’s see the activities you can organize from Santa Marta.

1# Hiking 1, 2 or 3 days in Tayrona National Park

Things to do around Santa Marta

The National Park of Tayrona is a vast protected area of 150 square km on the Caribbean coast. There are two enters to get in. Calabazo and Zaino.

I love this park.

Visiting Tayrona is an excellent way to explore a rainforest and spot animals for days without a guide. The trails are well marked, and the hikes are easy. Plus, the visitors don’t have to carry a heavy backpack filled with bottles of water and foods because there are campings nestled along the coast.

And, at the end of the excursions, gorgeous beaches like Cabo San Juan, La Piscina, or Playa Brava are a fantastic reward. Particularly when you’re all dirty and sweating.

Pros and Cons Tayrona Park (+)

The + + +

  • Easy Hikes
  • Gorgeous beaches
  • Monkeys and birds
  • Camping and restaurants inside the park

The – – –

  • It’s crowded during long weekends and holidays
  • The park entrance is a bit expensive if you decide only to stay 1 day

Don’t book a tour if you decide to hike in Tayrona National Park. You don’t need it. And the tour will only last one day. It’s not enough for enjoying the experience. Besides, it’s one of the easiest things to do from Santa Marta.

Must read: Our Tayrona Travel guide

2# Lying on beautiful white sandy beaches

Things to do around Santa Marta

Most tourists met on the same crowded beach called Rodadero. Fortunately, you can do things differently and head to the secluded beaches of Tayrona. Read our post about the best Santa Marta beaches to get even more information.

Bahia Concha is beautiful bay easily reachable and it’s an excellent thing to do in Santa Marta. Ask any taxi to drive you to the park entrance (50 min) then walk 30 min to arrive at the beach.

What you must know about Bahia Concha (+)

Tips: Get there early to find one of the rare shady spots on the right side of the beach. Otherwise, act genuinely like a Colombian and book a tent with some plastic chairs.

Price: The ticket entrance costs around 5 000 COP and the taxi should cost around 130 000 COP round trip. Don’t forget to tell him when he should come back to pick you up.

Alternative: Avoid the hassles and get there on a sailboat. Lunch and snorkeling equipment included | $$ | 7 hours

Book a tour: Enjoy Bahia Concha (Thu – Sunday) on a stunning sailboat

Another option (my favorite) is to leave early to Taganga and book a tour to explore Playa Cristal and Playa Cinto. Both beaches are surrounded by mountains, thick vegetation, and colorful corals.

Although Playa Cristal is a beautiful spot, the beach is a bit spoiled by restaurants and loud music. Don’t expect a quiet haven of peace. Fortunately, it’s the case of Playa Cinto!

It’s my favorite day trip from Santa Marta.

What you must know about Playa Cinto (+)

Company: Show up at Taganga around 9 am and look for the company “Chez Boaz”. They’re the best.

Duration: It takes 1 hour to get to Playa Cinto. You will come back at 5 pm.

Tips: There is no restaurant or shop in Playa Cinto. Bring bottles of water and sandwiches with you. The sea is rougher from December to April. Ask to stop at Playa Cristal on the way back.

Colombia Insider: We like to include this activity in our itineraries

3# La Ciudad Perdida, a fantastic multi-day hike in the Sierra Nevada

Things to do around Santa Marta

The Tairona were indigenous who lived on the Caribbean coast of Colombia hundreds of years before the colonization by the Spaniards. And, to escape the conquistadores, many of them went deeply in the Sierra Nevada. Nowadays, the Kogi, Wiwa, Arthuacos, and Karkuamo people are their direct descendants.

For the indigenous, Mother Earth is a goddess, also known as Pachamama, who needs to be loved and protected. And, they consider the mountains of the Sierra Nevada as sacred.

Therefore, you can’t wander as you want. You need a bunch of permissions, a certified guide and pay a few taxes to the local communities.

Fortunately, 5 local travel agencies are authorized to organize a multi-day hike through the national park to discover the Ciudad Perdida, a secret gem hidden in the Sierra Nevada.

If you’re looking for a thrilling thing to do around Santa Marta, the Ciudad Perdia will be a great pick.

Pros and Cons Cidudad Perdida (+)

The + + +

  • An original experience in the jungle (hammock, meals, nature)
  • Birds and animals
  • Learn about an indigenous culture
  • Not many tourists

The – – –

  • Some travelers don’t like to deal with hot and humid weather. Or the occasional heavy rains. Or the wet feet.
  • The trails can be muddy
  • The ruins aren’t great
  • Bugs and mosquitos

Don’t hope to find ruins like in Mexico or Peru. You will be disappointed.

This hike through the Sierra Nevada is more of an experience, a challenge, an adventure. You will live between 4 and 6 days in the jungle, sleep in bed camps, eat local meals like tamales, observe birds and monkeys, cross rivers, and kill hundreds of mosquitos.

The 5 certified companies are Guías Y Baquianos, Magic Tour, ExpoTour, Wiwa Tours, Turcol Travel.

What you must know about the Lost City (+)

Organization: Although there are many visitors doing it, you will only hike with your group. You still have this pleasant alone-in-the-world feeling. The size might vary from 5 to 20 people.

Difficulty: The trail isn’t technical – except for the thousand stairs at the end. However, you will cover nearly 19 km a day. You need to be in good shape if you want to enjoy the experience.

Duration: Most people are doing it in 4 days.

Weather: Be ready to be soaked every afternoon, especially during the rainy season. The Sierra Nevada is warm and humid.

Tips: Avoid the high season (Dec – Jan & July – Aug) to get a better experience. Keep your sleeping clothes dry. On the way back, you can ask the agency to let you at Tayrona.

We recommend: Book it now to save your spot

#4 A 2-day hike to Cerro Kennedy to watch the snow-capped peaks

Things to do around Santa Marta

The town of Minca is in the Sierra Nevada, but it’s not part of the national park. Therefore, travelers can chase waterfalls, visit an 100 years old coffee farm, look for colorful birds, or hike in the mountains around without annoying indigenous communities.

Cerro Kennedy is an off the beaten path trip that allows hikers to admire an astonishing sunrise and a clear view of the snowy peaks.

Pros and Cons Cerro Kennedy (+)

The + + +

  • You can do it without a guide
  • Beautiful view of the snow peaks
  • You cross a bird reserve

The – – –

  • If it’s cloudy when you wake up, you won’t be able to admire the view. Fortunately, it’s not often the case.
  • You follow a dirt road all along this hike

If you plan to do it on your own, you must stay in Minca the previous night.

The path is easy to follow and you can stay in the hotel El Ramo. Wake up at 4 am the following morning and hike the last hour with a flashlight to reach the military base camp of Cerro Kennedy.

Download Maps.me just in case.

What you must know about Cerro Kennedy (+)

Do it on your own: Take a moto-taxi early in the morning and ask him to drive you the “Y”. Once at the intersection, take the path on your left. There should be a sign “San Lorenzo reserve”. Hike 4-5 hours till reaching the Hotel “El Ramo”. You will spend the night there. The rooms are very basic. They serve 3 meals per day. Wake up at 4 am the following morning and hike the last hour with a flashlight to reach the military base camp of Cerro Kennedy.

Tips: It’s best to hike early in the morning to avoid the rainy afternoons.

Use the services of a local agency: It will be a bit complicated to organize everything if you don’t speak a bit of Spanish. Fortunately, River Adventure is an excellent company that can take care of it! The meeting point is in Minca, and Santa Marta is only 40 min away by taxi.

Play it easy: Book the 2 Days/1 night trip with River Adventure

Another option (even better) is to add a rappelling experience to this epic adventure. There is a lot of walking in this activity. Do it if you’re in good shape.

Play it easy: Book the 3 Days / 2 nights trip with River adventure

Must read: Our Minca travel guide

Cerro Kennedy Sierra Nevada Minca
Cerro Kennedy

5# Birdwatching in the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo

Things to do around Santa Marta

Colombia is a paradise for bird lovers. The country is the 2nd most biodiverse country in the world – more than 1880 species of birds! – and more than 50% of Colombia is covered by forest.

It’s a giant playground for hide-and-seek 😉

Did you hear about the Global Big Day?

Once a year, all the bird lovers are invited to spot a maximum of bird species in one day. And for the 2nd time in a row, it’s Colombia, and its impressive community of ornithologists, that reported the highest number of species.

Sierra Nevada is one of the best areas for birdwatching. There are 635 species recorded. It’s 6% of all the species of birds on earth.

Above Minca, there is a famous bird reserve called The Cuchilla de San Lorenzo and travelers can stay in El Dorado – It’s the paradise for bird seekers.

If you’re just curious and want to observe birds for a few hours with a local guide, you can speak with jungle joe in Minca.

It’s the best thing to do around Santa Marta for animal lovers.

Pros and Cons Birdwatching in the Sierra Nevada (+)

The + + +

  • 6% of all the species of birds on earth
  • El Dorado is an excellent accommodation
  • An Awesome birding community

The – – –

  • One day won’t be enough
  • The weather is unpredictable – Rainforest
THE CHESTNUT-BREASTED CHLOROPHONIA PYRRHOPHRYS

Must read: Our Minca travel guide

6# Santa Marta is a cheap place for scuba diving

Things to do around Santa Marta

Don’t want to spend most of your time being moist in the Sierra Nevada?

Don’t worry. There are other activities around Santa Marta without involving long hikes, bugs, and river crossing.

Taganga is a small fishing town nestled between Santa Marta and Tayrona. Because of mass tourism, the place became unsafe at night (drug and security issues).

I’m not a big fan of the vibe there.

Still, I stayed there for over a week during my first trip to Colombia because it’s also one of the cheapest places in the world for diving. The Dive centers are all over the place and organize tours in the submarine reserve of Tayrona.

The Pros and Cons diving in Taganga (+)

The + + +

  • Cheap
  • Playa Grande is a nice beach
  • PADI certified Companies
  • Beach town vibes

The – – –

  • There are too many backpackers
  • Safety issues at night

The dives in Taganga aren’t like in the Philippines or Egypte, but it’s still pleasant, especially if it’s your first time and you wanna pass your Open Water Diver Certification.

For obvious security reasons, book your tours with a certified company.

What you must know about diving in Taganga (+)

Santa Marta or Taganga: There are excellent dive centers in both places. It can be pleasant to stay in Taganga if you decide to pass your open water though.

Where: You usually dive in the Tayrona reserve. You won’t be able to do it when the national park is closed. Don’t worry, there are still colorful fishes and corals in the other areas.

Tips: There are more visibility from May to November.

Add this diving experience to your Colombia itinerary (Free cancelation)

Dive near Taganga

  Credit: @purplemawa

7# Multi-day trip to the La Guajira desert

Things to do from Santa Marta

La Guajira is the most significant desert in Colombia, and for hundreds of years, the Wayuu have been living in this harsh environment.

The desert, located in the north of the Caribbean Coast and isolated from any major cities, offers gorgeous landscapes made of sands, yellowish rocks, cactus, and a glittering blue ocean.

Pro and Cons La Guajira (+)

The + + +

  • Experience off the beaten path
  • Gorgeous landscapes, starry nights and sunsets
  • Learn about the Wayuu culture

The – – –

  • Lack of tourism infrastructure
  • The long journey in a jeep

The most common trip in La Guajira is to travel to the northernmost point of South America, Punta Gallinas.

The easiest way is to organize this tour is from Riohacha. However, it’s a thing you can do from Santa Marta if you’re on a tight schedule with your Colombia itinerary.

What you must know about La Guajira (+)

  • Most of them are for 3 days / 2 nights
  • You will sleep 1 night in Cabo de la Vela and 1 night in Punta Gallinas
  • You’re spending many hours per day in a jeep
  • You won’t interact much with the Indigenous Wayuu
  • You’ll sleep in a hammock

We like to add this Guajira trip to our Colombia itineraries

If you think that La Guajira should be one of the highlights of your itinerary, you might want to devote more time to visit it.

Take a direct bus from Santa Marta to Riohacha then plan various activities and tours to learn about the Wayuu culture and explore the desert.

Must read: Our La Guajira travel guide

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Best things to do SANTA MARTA (1)

Beaches in Santa Marta: Stop picking the ugliest ones

Do you hope to encounter mind-blowing beaches in Santa Marta?

You’re going to be so disappointed. Sorry, buddy.

Yes, Santa Marta is on the Caribbean Coast. But it doesn’t mean that every beach looks like a postcard with crystal-blue water, white-sand beaches, palm trees, and unicorns.

Fortunately, we went a few times in Santa Marta, and we can help you out. Let’s find out where are the best beaches nearby Santa Marta.

Beaches in Santa Marta: What you must know

Where is Santa Marta: Santa Marta is on the Caribbean Coast, at 5h from Cartagena. Learn how to add it to your Colombia itinerary.

How to get to Santa Marta: There is all you need to know here.

Weather in Santa Marta: You shouldn’t worry too much. More info here.

Beach in the city: The beach in front of the old city center is polluted.

Rodadero Beach: Rodadero is an area with many skyscrapers next to the airport. There are tons of tourists and street sellers.

Pozos Colorados: Lovely beach with fewer people, but you still have the skyscrapers in your back.

Taganga: It’s a small fishing town with a lousy reputation. It’s totally fine during the day. Crowded.

Bahia Concha: The easiest way is to take a private vehicle. Lovely and large beach. | 1 hour to get there. You can also get there by sailboat!

Playa Cristal: The beach was fantastic, but it’s crowded most of the time. Take a boat from Taganga. | 45 min.

Playa Cinto: The most beautiful secluded beach in Tayrona. Take a boat from Taganga. | 1h. We can include it in your itinerary.

Cabo San Juan Beach: It’s the most famous beach in Tayrona. You can take a boat from Taganga if you don’t want to hike through the park. You must pay the park entrance.

Best tips: Stay in a hotel after Tayrona Park if you want some good beach quality time. Avoid Rodadero.

More information about Santa Marta: Read our top-notch Santa Marta Travel guide

Take a look at our table of contents to get more in-depth information about the topics aforementioned.

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

Where to travel after Santa Marta

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers for more than 45 Colombian destinations.

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Table of contents: beaches in Santa Marta

  1. Is it true that beaches in Santa Marta suck?
  2. The beach in Taganga
  3. Day trips from Santa Marta to Tayrona’s beaches
  4. Beaches in Tayrona accessible by hiking
  5. Beaches after Tayrona
  6. Our Kick-ass free Colombia Guidebook
  7. Lay back while we do the hard job
Beaches around Santa Marta
5 Years old’s drawing – Beaches around Santa Marta

Is it true that beaches in Santa Marta suck?

Sorry to be rude but it’s essential that it sticks in your mind. Yes, beaches in Santa Marta are unpleasant – like in Cartagena.

There are two main parts of the city where travelers stay:

  • The Old city center
  • Rodadero

#1 Beaches in the old city center of Santa Marta

Don’t even think to swim there. The water isn’t clean because of the port. Neither the sand. However, the sunsets are pretty cool.

So grab a cold Aguila beer, wait for the show and avoid looking the street vendors into their eyes 🙂

Santa Marta Sunset beach

Sunset from the city center of Santa Marta

#2 beaches in Santa Marta, Rodadero

Rodadero is a touristic part of Santa Marta. It’s close to the airport, expensive and there are many restaurants, tour agencies, and accommodations.

Like Boca Grande in Cartagena, it’s a bit gringolandia. But it’s the place to be if you’re looking for a beach resort. And the nightlife around is fun.

Moreover, the beach is okay for swimming. But it’s crowded and invaded by street vendors.

How to get to Rodadero beach (+)

  • Directly from the airport
  • Taxi from the old city center: 10 000 COP
  • Public Buses: 1 800 COP
Rodadero beaches in Santa Marta

Credit: @lion_and_goat

Read more: There are better activities around Santa Marta

Fortunately, there are lovely beaches outside of Santa Marta. Let’s see the various day trips you can organize from the city.

Beach day trips from Santa Marta to Taganga

Taganga is a small fishing town famous among the backpacker community. I’m not a big fan because of safety and drug issues at night – but there is nothing to be worried about during the day.

Also, it’s an excellent choice for travelers looking for a dive center.

Get some fun: Affordable fun dives in Tayrona Park

Taganga is located 15 min away from Santa Marta.

Don’t stop at the beach in town. Walk 20 min more to arrive at Playa Grande. The place is lovely, and you will be able to swim. Moreover, there are many restaurants where you can eat, drink or rent a sun tent + Long chair.

It’s a cool place to relax during an afternoon even if it is crowded on weekends.

How to get to Taganga (+)

  • Bus from the city: 1 800 COP
  • Taxi: 15 000 COP

How to get to Playa Grande (+)

  • Walk along the coast for 20 min from the port in Taganga
  • Boat from Taganga: 5 000 COP / 5 min
Playa Grande Beach in Taganga near Santa Marta

Playa Grande Beach in Taganga near Santa Marta

Credit: @neyetzou

Beach day trips from Santa Marta to Tayrona Park

The Tayrona National Park is HUGE.

There are 4 entrances but only 2 – Calabazo & Zaino – are for the travelers who want to hike within the national park.

The two other entrances are Bahia Concha & Palangana. Both are near Santa Marta and allow the visitors to explore the secluded beaches in the park.

Since March 2019, 3 beaches in Tayrona are closed to the public: 
Chengue, Los Naranjos, and the oriental zone of Bahia Concha.

#1 Beach in Bahia Concha

Bahia Concha is a vast bay where travelers can camp on the beach. The place is well-known from the Colombians, and they love to get there for the weekends ->  crowded.

The place is more expensive than the usual places on the Caribbean Coast. There is no shop to buy some food, so the restaurants increase their prices. Bring your meals if you’re traveling on a shoestring budget.

  • Tent: 25 000 COP
  • Meal: Around 30 000 COP

Why visit Bahia Concha Beach (+)

  • You want to sleep 1 night on the beach with your tent
  • You’re looking for a lovely beach in Santa Marta and easy to access

How to get to Bahia Concha (+)

  • Park entrance: 5 000 COP
  • Taxi from the old city center: Around 60 000 COP/ 50 min
  • Tours from Rodadero: Around 60 000 COP
  • Or you can use public transport
    • Take the Public bus with the sign Bastidias on it and get out at the last stop: 1 800 COP / 40 min
    • Then use a moto-taxi to arrive in Bahia Concha: 5 000 COP / 20 min

Get some fun: Become a VIP and do a sailboat trip to Bahia Concha

Bahia Concha near Santa Marta
Bahia Concha near Santa Marta

Credit: @fph42

#2 Beaches after the Palangana Entrance

For the next beaches, I recommend you to book a tour. Otherwise, it will be a pain in the ass to get there. It takes too much time and you’re not allowed to sleep there.

The boat trip is a better option as you won’t pay the Park entrance!

  • Entrance for Foreigners: Around 50 000 COP
  • Opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm

1. Playa Chengue (Closed to the public) (+)

Playa Chengue is the most secluded beach within the park. There is no tourism infrastructure or a well-indicated path to get there.

I don’t have a lot of information about it, but it looks terrific with a white-sand beach and a crystal-blue ocean. Don’t forget to bring your food and water.

2. Bahia Gairaca (+)

It’s a spot for local fishers only. The beach is made of little rocks, and the water isn’t clear.

3. Bahia Siete Olas (+)

You can’t swim or walk down on the beach there. However, there is an excellent viewpoint for taking pictures, and it’s on the way to Neguanje beach.

Beach Siete Olas - Viewpoint
Beach Siete Olas – Viewpoint

Beach Siete Olas – Viewpoint – Credit: @fairtreats

4. Neguanje Beach (+)

It’s a long trip from Santa Marta to Neguanje Beach – The dirt road for vehicles is horrible. But it’s worth it if you have some time and money to spare.

The white-sand beach is large and surrounded by the mountains. Moreover, the sea is calm at both extremities of the Neguange beach. It’s great for swimming and snorkeling.

But it would be too bad to travel all this way without visiting Playa Cristal.

How to Get To Neguanje Beach:
  • Tour from Rodadero: Around 70 000 COP / 2 hours drive – 1 way
  • Boat Neguanje to Playa Cristal: 70 000 COP / 10 min
Neguanje Beach in Tayrona
Neguanje Beach in Tayrona

Neguanje Beach in Tayrona – Credit: @jasb.studio

5. Playa Cristal or Playa Muerte (+)

Playa Cristal was one of the most beautiful beaches near Santa Marta. Each day, only the first 300 visitors are allowed to get their butt tanned on this gorgeous white-sand beach. Unfortunately, the beach is quite small and there are 300 people most of the time.

Avoid going there on the weekend and during the high season.

On-site, many restaurants welcome visitors with fresh fish, long chairs, and cold beers.

  • Meals around 35 000 COP
  • Sun tent around 30 000 COP
How to get to Playa Cristal from Santa Marta

It’s the longest way. Tours leave early in the morning, and they reach the beach 2h30 later. But it’s the best option if you’re afraid to use the tiny speedboats.

Tours from Rodadero (Entrance + Transport): Around 110 000 COP / 2h30

How to get to Playa Cristal from Taganga

It’s a lot faster, but the boat ride is bumpy during the windy season. It can be scary if you’re not used to it. Every day, boats leave around 10 am and come back at 4 pm.

Tours from Taganga: 70 000 COP / 40 min. I recommend the local agency “Chez Boaz”

Playa Cristal in Tayrona
Playa Cristal in Tayrona

Playa Cristal in Tayrona – Credit: @fraramu

6. Playa Cinto (+)

It’s my favorite beach in Tayrona and it’s an easy day trip from Taganga. Like in Playa Cristal, the bay is surrounded by lush vegetation. Don’t forget to take your snorkel gears, the snorkeling there is fantastic! Playa Cinto is only 10 min further than Playa Cristal, but 99% of tourists don’t go there.

Why?

  • It’s less known
  • It’s a few bucks more expensive
  • There is no restaurant and bars

Therefore, bring your bottle of water and sandwiches if you decide to take the trip to Cinto Beach from Taganga.

How to get to Playa Cinto from Taganga
  • Book a tour with the local Agency “Chez Boaz” in Taganga
  • 1-h boat trip
  • Snorkel gears are included
  • Bring your picnic and water

Go to the pub while we include Playa Cinto in your Colombia itinerary

Playa cinto
Playa Cinto

7. Cabo San Juan (+)

Cabo San Juan is the most famous beach in Tayrona Park. I recommend staying for 3 days in the national park to really get soaked by the experience.

However, it’s still doable to do it in 1 day if you’re in a rush.

2 options:

  1. Direct boat from Taganga | 1h15
  2. Enter by El Zaino and hike 1.5h | More information here

Beaches in Tayrona accessible by hiking

#1 Playa Brava

Calabazo is my favorite entrance for hiking in Tayrona Park.

The trails are less busy than the Zaino Entrance, and you don’t have to wait and watch a boring video.

Moreover, it’s the only entrance possible to get access to Playa Brava, a secluded beach where you can spend the night.

Information about Playa Brava (+)

  • Tayrona Park Entrance: Around 60 000 COP
  • Hammock in Playa Brava: 25 000 COP
How to get to Playa Brava

Hike 3h30 from the Calabazo entrance (See the map)

#2 Other well-known beaches in Tayrona

All the following beaches are accessible from the Calabazo or Zaino entrance. Read our travel guide about the beaches in Tayrona to get more specific information about them.

List of the beaches in Tayrona Park (+)

  • Nudist beach: It’s a pleasant place, and there is nobody. It’s an excellent way to escape from the crowd in Cabo San Juan. And it’s the occasion to swim naked!
  • Cabo San Juan: It’s beautiful. Big boulders surround 2 little bays. There is no current, and you can snorkel. However, it can be ultra crowded. You should wake up early to enjoy it.
  • La piscina: It’s a little bigger and still protected by many rocks – It’s like a natural swimming pool. There are fewer people compared to Cabo San Juan, but there is no Campsite.
  • Arrecife: Beach where you can’t swim – It’s dangerous because of the currents and aggressive mermaids.
Panoramic view cabo San Juan in Tayrona park, Colombia
Panoramic view cabo San Juan in Tayrona park

Get inspired: Take a look at our Colombia itineraries

Beaches after Tayrona

Palomino Beach Sunrise
Palomino’s beach

If all you need is love, alcohol, and sands, you shouldn’t stay in Santa Marta. There are many fantastic accommodations on the beach between Tayrona and Palomino.

You have to be careful with the strong currents, and the snorkeling isn’t great.

But, gosh, I love these secluded beaches.

Palm trees, white-sand beach as far as your eyes can see, wood constructions, hammocks, and cocktails make everyone happy.

Beaches between Tayrona and Palomino (+)

  • Playa Los Angeles
  • Playa Los Naranjos – Closed to the public since March 2019
  • Playa Costeño beach
  • Buritaca beach

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Beaches Santa Marta

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Best beaches Santa Marta, Colombia

How To Travel From Santa Marta To Cartagena (and more)

It’s quite straightforward to travel from Santa Marta to Cartagena and the other way around. Let’s find out how to take the bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta or a door to door shuttle.

Cartagena to Santa Marta: What you must know

Duration Bus Cartagena to Santa Marta: It takes 5-6 hours with a bus leaving from the terminal.

Bus Company: Use a good one to avoid changing buses in Barranquilla – Copetran and Expreso Brasilia.

Cartagena bus terminal: It’s 45 min away from the old city center.

Duration shuttle Cartagena to Santa Marta: It takes around 4-5 hours.

Marsol: It’s a door to door service. They pick you up at your hotel, as well as the other passengers.

Berlinastur: It’s a shuttle service. They have their own terminal near the old city center in Cartagena and Santa Marta.

Cost: The bus is a bit less expensive (9$) than the shuttle (13$).

Car rental: There is AVIS in both cities.

Private transportation: It’s super expensive, and not worth it.

More information: Our Cartagena travel guide

Take a look at our table of contents to get more in-depth information about the trip Santa Marta to Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin and more.

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Where to travel after Santa Marta

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Table of Contents: How to travel to Santa Marta

  1. Where is Santa Marta
  2. The Airport in Santa Marta
  3. The bus terminal in Santa Marta
  4. Getting from Santa Marta to Cartagena
  5. Travel from San Gil to Santa Marta
  6. How to get from Bogota to Santa Marta
  7. Traveling from Medellin to Santa Marta
  8. Let’s work on your itinerary
  9. Use our premium service

Where is Santa Marta

Santa Marta is on the Caribbean Coast, nestled among the Sierra Nevada, between Cartagena and Tayrona National ParkThe place became a tourist hub because of its perfect location to explore the surroundings:

Cool spots around Santa Marta (+)

Moreover, there is no direct night bus San Gil – Cartagena. Travelers have to stop in Santa Marta first.

Some people also prefer visiting Santa Marta rather than Cartagena. Although there is a more authentic Colombian vibe in Santa Marta – and better beaches -, the walled city of Cartagena is much nicer.

Map of the tourist attractions near Santa Marta

Map Activities around Santa Marta

Read more: Explore Santa Marta like an Insider

Is there an Airport in Santa Marta?

Yes!

National flights are cheap in Colombia, so don’t hesitate to use them when backpacking through Colombia. 

But book them at least one week in advance to get the best prices.

1. Which airlines can you use to fly to Santa Marta? 

  • Viva Air Colombia: it’s a Ryanair company. Cheap airline with basic services
  • Avianca: It’s the main national Airline in Colombia
  • Latam

2. How to get to Santa Marta Airport

Go to the Santa Marta airport by bus (+)

The Santa Marta Airport is a bit far from the city – 16 km away, near Rodadero. Catch the bus “Aeropuerto Rodadero.” : Santa Marta Airport to the center by bus: 45 min / 2 000 COP

But if you’ve booked your accommodation in Rodadero, it’s a lot closer: Santa Marta Airport to Rodadero by bus: 20 min / 2 000 COP

Go the the Santa Marta Airport by taxi (+)

Always agree on the price before getting inside the taxi. It will avoid misunderstanding 🙂

  • Taxi Airport to the city center: Around 25 000 COP / 25 min
  • Taxi Aiport to Rodadero: Around 12 000 COP / 10 min

Where is the Bus terminal?

The main bus terminal is on the outskirt of the city. You will arrive there if you take the classic long buses from Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Medellin.

There are always taxis waiting for new clients.

  • Taxi Bus terminal to the city center: Around 6 000 COP / 10 min
  • Taxi Bus terminal to Rodadero: Around 10 000 COP / 15 min

The other bus terminals in Santa Marta (+)

Be careful. The private shuttle Berlinastur and the buses for Tayrona and Santa Marta aren’t located in the main bus terminal. (See the map)

  • Berlinastur: Carrera 18, Calle 23
  • Bus Santa Marta to Tayrona: Carrera 11, Calle 11
  • Bus Santa Marta to Minca: Calle 11 con Carrera 12

Read more: The best hostels around Tayrona and Santa Marta

Map: How To Travel To Santa Marta

Map to travel to Santa Marta from Cartagena, Bogota, Medellin & San Gil

How to get from Santa Marta To Cartagena

The distance between Cartagena and Santa Marta is not that big: 240 Kms.

If you’re in a rush, you can book private transport or a taxi to travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta.

1. Direct flights from Cartagena

There is no direct flight Santa Marta to Cartagena. You will have to stop in Bogota first.

It would be silly. Don’t do it.

2. Buses from Cartagena to Santa Marta

There are plenty of buses for getting to Santa Marta from Cartagena!

Tips, duration and prices (+)

First, a few tips about buses in Colombia:

  • You don’t need to buy your bus ticket in advance – Except during public holidays maybe.
  • Each bus company has its own counter office
  • You can bargain the price of your bus ticket

There are 3 bus companies you can take from Cartagena to Santa Marta: Expreso Brasilia, Copetran, Unitrasco.

They cost more or less the same.

  • Bus Cartagena to Santa Marta: Around 30 000 COP / 5-6 hours

The bus terminal in Cartagena is far from the old city center. There are 2 options:

  • Taxi: 20 000 COP / 45 min
  • Public Bus Terminal to India Catalina Monument: 1 800 COP / at least 1 hour

3. Private Shuttle from Cartagena

Take a private shuttle from Santa Marta to Cartagena is a great option to save time and effort. It’s a tiny bit more expensive.

Marsol, a door to door private shuttle service (+)

Marsol is a door to door shuttle company that works a lot with hostels and hotels on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

They pick and drop you off at your accommodations. It means you save time and money – 0 taxis. Let your hotel knows when you wish to leave. There are various departures during the day.

  • Marsol Private shuttle Santa Marta to Cartagena: 48 000 COP / 4-5 hours
  • Facebook contact

I used them twice without any problems, but they seem to have many unsatisfied customers on the internet.

Marsol inconveniences (+)

  • It can be a bit longer if you’re the first one on the shuttle because they have to pick all the other clients up. And they’re not very organized.
  • There is no legroom
  • Limited space for the luggage

I wasn’t aware of their company, but Practical wanderlust and other fellow travelers seem to like them more than Marsol.

You have to get to their office to use their private shuttle to Cartagena. There are many departures every day.

Berlinastur, another private shuttle service. (+)

  • Berlinastur Office in Santa Marta: Cra. 18 #23-4 | 6 000 COP in taxi
  • Berlinastur Office in Cartagena: Cra. 18 #57, Marbella station | 10 000 COP in taxi

But there are cheaper and faster than Marsol.

  • Berlinastur private shuttle from Cartagena to Santa Marta: 40 000 COP / 4 h

And there is more space for the luggage.

3. Be rich and pay a taxi from Santa Marta to Cartagena

If you’re in a rush and you don’t want to bother with the transport, ask your hotel to find you a taxi to drive you to Cartagena.

It shouldn’t be difficult.

  • Price and duration taxi Santa Marta To Cartagena: Around 320 000 COP / 3h30

Or you can book a fast private transport to Santa Marta!

Read more: Follow our advice to avoid making mistakes with your itinerary

How to get from San Gil to Santa Marta

With a night bus from San Gil or a flight from Bucaramanga.

1. A direct flight from San Gil

Fly from Bucaramanga (+)

There is no airport in San Gil. If you don’t wanna take the long night bus from San Gil to Santa Marta, you have to fly from Bucaramanga to Santa Marta.

There are many buses from San Gil to Bucaramanga but if your flight is early in the morning, I recommend you to sleep in Giron.

  • Bus San Gil to Bucaramanga: Around 20 000 COP / 2.5 hours

Then, it’s quick to get from Giron or Bucaramanga to the airport.

To help you to calculate if it’s worth it, I did a simulation with 3 airline companies – Every time with 1 checked baggage and 1 hand luggage, 1-week before departure.

There is no direct flight Bucaramanga – Santa Marta. You have to stop in Bogota first.

  • Viva Air Colombia: 240 000 COP / 6 – 8 hours
  • Latam: 445 000 COP / 5 hours
  • Avianca: 340 000 COP / 4 hours

2. Night Bus in San Gil

Duration and prices (+)

Ok, it’s not the most comfortable way of traveling, but it’s practical. Especially in this case.

  • Night Bus San Gil to Santa Marta: Around 60 000 COP / 13 hours

Psss: Don’t forget to take a blanket for the bus, they love Air-con.

How To Get From Bogota to Santa Marta

It’s a bit too long to travel by bus from Bogota to Santa Marta! So I advise you to book a flight.

Unfortunately, you will miss Villa de Leyva & San Gil

1. Direct flights from Bogota

Tips, duration and prices (+)

The good thing is there are many flights from Bogota to Santa Marta.

First,  you have to arrive at El Dorado (Bogota’s airport). Medellin Guru wrote a great article about it.

Let’s see what prices you can expect to pay –  with a 1 checked baggage and 1 hand luggage, 1-week before departure.

  • Viva air Colombia: 160 000 COP / 1h30
  • Latam: 330 000 COP / 1h30
  • Avianca: 320 000 COP / 1h30

2. I prefer to spend my whole day on the bus Bogota to Santa Marta

Tips, duration and prices (+)

Ok, it’s your choice 😉

Buy some food, water and be ready to cross half the country by bus.

  • Bus Bogota to Santa Marta: Around 90 000 COP / 18-20 h
  • Bus Companies: Copetran, Berlinas del Fonce, Brasilia

You will have to spend the night on the bus – It’s safe.

Read more: Visit Bogota like an Insider

How To Get From Medellin To Santa Marta

1. Direct flights from Medellin to Santa Marta

Tips, duration and prices (+)

First, you have to go to Jose Maria Cordova airport in Medellin.

Let’s see what prices you can expect to pay – with a 1 checked baggage and 1 hand luggage, 1-week before departure.

  • Viva Air Colombia: 180 000 COP / 1h15
  • Latam: 280 000 COP / 1h15
  • Avianca: 250 000 COP / 1h15

2. Bus Medellin to Santa Marta

Tips, duration and prices (+)

Book a night bus for saving some time.

  • Bus Medellin to Santa Marta: Around 120 000 COP / 16h
  • Bus Companies: Brasilia and Rapido Ochoa

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Transport to Santa Marta