Beaches in Santa Marta: Stop picking the ugliest ones

Beaches in Santa Marta: Stop picking the ugliest ones
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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.

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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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)

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#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
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Panoramic view cabo San Juan in Tayrona park

Get inspired: Take a look at our Colombia itineraries

Beaches after Tayrona

Palomino Beach Sunrise
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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
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