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 every beach looks like a postcard with crystal-blue water, white-sand beaches, palm trees, and unicorns.

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

👉 Want to know everything about Santa Marta? Learn where are the best places, and avoid tourist traps and beginner’s mistakes? Nothing could be easier. I put it all together in our guide to Santa Marta.

Beaches in Santa Marta: What you must know

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. The main beach is crowded during the weekends.

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.

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 fee.

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Location of the Most Beautiful Beaches Around Santa Marta

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

Santa Marta Sunset beach
Sunset from the city center of Santa Marta

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

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

#2 beaches in Santa Marta, Rodadero

Santa Marta - Plage de Rodadero
Credit : @lion_and_goat

Rodadero is a touristic part of Santa Marta. It’s expensive, close to the airport, 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

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

Playa Grande in Taganga

Santa Marta - Playa Grande beach

Santa Marta beach | 30 min away

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.

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 the 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

Diving in Taganga: there are many diving centers in Taganga to discover fishes that live in the Caribbean Sea.

The best beaches around Santa Marta

Snorkeling Playa cinto Santa Marta
Playa Cinto and two mermaids

The Tayrona National Park is HUGE.

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

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

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

1# Playa Bahia Concha

Santa Marta - Playa Concha beach
Bahia Concha beach in the surroundings of Santa Marta | Credit: @fph42

Santa Marta Beach | 45 min drive

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

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 75 000 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

2# 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 much 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.

3# Bahia Gairaca

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

4# Bahia Siete Olas

Santa Marta - Playa Siete Olas
Siete Olas beach – Point of view | Credit: @fairtreats

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.

5# Playa Neguanje

Santa Marta - Playa Neguanje

Santa Marta Beach | 2 h drive

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 time and money to spare.

The white-sand beach is large and surrounded by 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

For the next beaches, I recommend you 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 fee (This might change soon)!

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

6# Playa Cristal or Playa Muerte

Santa Marta - Playa Cristal in the Tayrona National Park
Playa Cristal in Tayrona Park – Credit: @fraramu

Santa Marta Beach | 45 min boat ride

Playa Cristal was one of the most beautiful beaches near Santa Marta. Only the first 300 visitors are allowed each day 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: Departure from Rodadero

It’s the longest way. Tours leave early in the morning, reaching 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

Departure 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. Bats leave around 10 am every day and return at 4 pm.

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

7# Playa Cinto

Playa cinto
Playa Cinto

Santa Marta Beach | 1 h boat ride

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 water bottle and sandwiches if you decide to take the trip to Cinto Beach from Taganga.

How to get to Playa Cinto:

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

8# Playa Cabo San Juan

Playa Cabo San Juan beach Tayrona
Playa Cabo San Juan

Beach Santa Marta | 1h15 boat ride

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

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

How to get to Cabo San Juan:

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

Best beaches in Tayrona

1# Playa Brava

Playa Brava Tayrona
Playa Brava

Santa Marta Beach | 3h30 hike

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. There are very few tourists. On the next day, you’ll reach Cabo San Juan beach.

Playa Brava can be included in a great loop that can be done in 1 day if you are a big walker and have little time. I advise you to do it in 2 or 3 days to take the time to enjoy the environment where you are.

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)

Tayrona Park Map

2# Other well-known beaches in Tayrona

La piscina Tayrona
La piscina

All the following beaches are accessible from the Calabazo or Zaino entrance.

  • 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.

Best beaches after Tayrona Park

Palomino Beach Sunrise
Palomino’s beach

If you need beaches and palm trees, you shouldn’t stay in Santa Marta. There are many fantastic accommodations on the beach between Tayrona and Palomino.

You must 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 after Tayrona:

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

Bottom line : Best beaches in Santa Marta, Colombia

As you can see, you won’t find happiness in Santa Marta city. You’ll have to explore the surrounding area to find the most beautiful beaches.

If you only have one day to enjoy the beach from Santa Marta, stay in the nearby area. Personally, I loved our trip to playa Cinto. Most people only stop at playa Cristal, and we find ourselves alone in a huge, wild bay with beautiful snorkeling spots.

If you go to Tayrona Park, enjoy the beaches in this area. You will combine a bit of walking and the beach. It’s also nice to merit your swim.

So, which beach will you choose?

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I have been traveling around Colombia and Mexico since 2015 to discover new experiences and help travelers make the right choices.

5 comments

  1. Andrés says:

    Too bad such image of Taganga. I would love to take you and show you around Taganga. You will fall in love with the place!

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