Travel guide: Santa Marta


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How to enjoy Santa Marta

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Santa Marta is located on the Caribbean coast, 4 hours north of Cartagena. Although many tourists visit it, the city itself is not that interesting.

But the surroundings are beautiful, and Santa Marta is a strategic destination to organize your future expeditions: Exploring the Sierra Nevada, meeting indigenous communities, relaxing in beautiful hotels on the beach.

We have been exploring Colombia since 2015 and stayed more than 2 months in and around Santa Marta.

In this article, you will find many tips and things to do in Santa Marta and on the Caribbean coast:

  1. What to do in Santa Marta
  2. Multi-day experiences
  3. Where to stay in Santa Marta
  4. Itineraries & Plans for Santa Marta
  5. How to get to Santa Marta
  6. Recommendations for Santa Marta

Estos son nuestros alojamientos favoritos para disfrutar de Santa Marta al máximo.

  • Masaya

    Best hostel


    A modern hostel with a large rooftop + swimming pool. Located in the historic center. See availability.
    See prices
  • Carolina

    Best hotel


    A cozy boutique hotel, with a swimming pool, in the historic center. Very friendly staff. See availability.
    See prices
  • Don Pepe

    Luxury Hotel

    Don Pepe

    Boutique hotel with pool and rooftop in a beautiful colonial house in the historic center. See availability.
    See prices
  • Grand Marina


    Grand Marina

    Modern and fully equipped apartments for 4 to 6 people. Incredible view of the sea. See availability.
    See prices

Summary for visiting Santa Marta

How to get to Santa Marta:

Santa Marta is easy to reach by plane (from Bogota, Medellin, Pereira, and Cali) or by road (from Cartagena or Riohacha).

The main destinations and experiences are quite close. The average duration is 1 to 2 hours, depending on the transport used.

The best lodgings in Santa Marta:

Why come to Santa Marta:

Santa Marta will allow you to easily visit the surroundings: Minca, Tayrona, Palomino, La Guajira.

In addition, there are some famous activities to do: the trekking of Ciudad Perdida, pass your diving certifications in Taganga.

Between each experience, you can organize a trip to the beach or a party weekend.

How many days in Santa Marta:

  • 1/2 day to visit the city.
  • 10 days to enjoy the surroundings thoroughly.

Things to do in Santa Marta

Do not spend too much time visiting the city of Santa Marta. Half a day is enough to see it.

When I am there, I like to plan a day at the beach.

There are different options. Let’s see which ones.

Learn more: Our detailed guide to the beaches of Santa Marta.

1# Santa Marta Beaches

Santa Marta is a coastal city. Most travelers think they will only have to walk a few meters to enjoy the beautiful white-sand beaches.

This is not true.

The beaches in the center of town are polluted (because of the nearby port).

The first decent beaches are in the south.

Tips from the experts: 

  • Go during the week, especially if it’s high season. It will be less crowded.
  • Boat trips are hectic during the windy season (December – April).

A – Go to the Rodadero Beach, Santa Marta

Rodadero beaches in Santa Marta
Rodadero Beach

El Rodadero is a recent neighborhood with large buildings, long beaches, lots of sun loungers, and street vendors.  It is usually very crowded. Personally, I’m not fond of it very much.

How to get there: 20 min by cab from the historic center

B – Go to Playa Blanca, Santa Marta

Playa Blanca Santa MARTA
Credit: Rocktomaz

Do not mistake this beach with Playa Blanca in the Rosario Islands. 

This beach is accessible by boat from El Rodadero. Some travelers recommend the agency Taximarino.

The environment is pleasant. The beach is located in a bay, between the hills. On the other hand, it is crowded. You don’t go there to be in a quiet environment.

The excursions usually offer to make a stop at the aquarium and then go to Playa Blanca. There you will find everything you need to eat, drink and take shelter from the sun.

  • How to get there: 5 min by boat from El Rodadero. Taximarino boats leave every half hour until 2 pm.
  • Duration: 4 – 6 hours
  • Price: $ $.

C – Go to Playa Inca Inca, Santa Marta

Playa de Inca Inca Santa Marta (1)
Credit: federicouribephoto

Inca Inca is a little-known beach in Santa Marta. The place is nice, but the beach is not paradisiacal (stones, pieces of wood).

I advise you to walk there from El Rodadero, you will have a nice view, and the swimming will be more enjoyable!

  • How to get there: 30 min walk up and down!
  • Duration: 2 – 3 hours

D- Stay in Pozos Colorados, Santa Marta

Pozos Colorados
Credit: Neorady

Located near the airport, Pozos Colorados is an area similar to El Rodadero but quieter. You’ll find fewer street vendors, and the beach is nicer.

Insider’s tip: There is a good hotel if you want to rest the last night before your flight → Casa Verano Hotel.

  • How to get there: 30 min by cab from the historic center.

E- Go to Bahía Concha, Tayrona

Bahia Concha Santa Marta

It is a long bay, with turquoise water and a lovely sandy beach. At the entrance, you will find some restaurants with music and parasols. If you want to be in a quiet place, walk a few minutes to the right.

I liked this beach in Santa Marta. On the other hand, it takes a little time to go there.

Insider’s tip: Go early to find the few spaces available under the trees.

  • How to get there: The easiest way is to take a cab to the entrance (50 min) and then walk 20 minutes to the beach.
  • Price: The entrance to this beach costs about 5.000 COP.
  • Tour: There are excursions from Rodadero, or you can go by sailboat.

F –  Go to Playa Cristal, Tayrona

Playa Cristal Santa Marta

It is one of the most famous beaches in Colombia and is located in Tayrona Park. It is only accessible by sea.

Isolated among the dense vegetation of the national park, it is a small and pleasant site.

The problem is that it is too crowded (especially in the high season).

Expert advice: Choose the excursion Playa Cinto + Playa Cristal.

  • How to get there: Go to Taganga (15 min) and leave with the local company Chez Boaz. 40 minutes by boat (one way).
  • Duration: 9h30 AM – 4 PM
  • Price: $$.

G – Secret thing to do in Santa marta: Playa Cinto, Tayrona

Playa Cinto

This is my favorite beach in Santa Marta. Most locals don’t go there because there are no restaurants or music.

So it is quiet. Bliss.

There are some very nice reefs. Don’t forget to ask the agency to lend you a mask and snorkel.

Insider’s tip: Bring water and a picnic lunch.

  • How to get there: Playa Cinto is a 10-minute boat ride from Playa Cristal. Choose the tour Playa Cinto + Playa Cristal from Taganga with the company Chez Boaz.
  • Duration: 9h30 AM – 4 PM
  • Price: $$.

H – Go to Cabo San Juan, Tayrona

Playa Cabo San Juan beach Tayrona
Playa Cabo San Juan

This is the most beautiful beach in Tayrona Park. Normally, travelers enter through the main park entrance, El Zaino, and sleep one night at Cabo San Juan.

If you can’t/don’t want to walk, there are boat trips from Taganga. I’m not too fond of this option as you will be at Cabo San Juan at its busiest time.

Insider’s tip: It is better to sleep 2 nights in Tayrona Park.

  • How to get there: 1h15 by boat from Taganga
  • Duration: 9h30 AM – 4 PM
  • Price: $$.

I – Go to Playa Grande, Taganga

Playa Grande Taganga (1)
Credit: Emilyengberg

This is the beach of Taganga. It is similar to Playa Blanca.

Lots of people and little space to put the towel because of the restaurants.

In short, I wouldn’t say I like it.

  • How to get there: Taxi to Taganga (15 min) + 15 min walking from the village.
  • Duration: Half-day

2# Museums and colonial houses to visit in Santa Marta

Casa de Quinta San Pedro (1)
Credit: watchworld_photography

On a cultural level, there are few places to visit in the city of Santa Marta.

Start with a visit to the Tairona gold museum (free; closed on Mondays). This colonial building brings together 4 mini-exhibitions on the Caribbean region. Among other things, you will discover the history and indigenous culture present in the Magdalena and the Sierra Nevada. And a chronology on the famous Simon Bolivar, the liberator of 6 nations.

Once you have the history in mind, take a cab to visit the house where Bolivar spent his last days. This impressive hacienda is called La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino ($; daily).

3# Where to party in Santa Marta

Rooftop Brisa Loca
Credit: La Terraza

Santa Marta’s nightlife is great on weekends. Head to Rodadero if you want to party in the big Colombian nightclubs or stay in the center (near Parque de Los Novios) for a bar crawl.

Going out in the historic center of Santa Marta:

  • Crab’s Bar: The best place for Rock and Blues music in Santa Marta. | 6.000 COP for a national beer.
  • La Puerta: Nightclub with a mix of locals and foreigners. Salsa music.
  • La Azotea: Nightclub with a rooftop | Crossover music. Good cocktails. Higher prices : Entrance: 10.000 COP.
  • La Bodeguita Pirata: A small bar with a friendly staff. Good cocktails. | Reasonable prices.
  • Festival shots: A great variety of “shots” for fun and intoxicating night out at reasonable prices.
  • Brisa Loca: This hostel organizes rooftop parties every weekend. It is a great place to dance and spend an unforgettable night in Santa Marta. Caribbean music. Standard prices : Entrance: 10.000 COP after 11 pm.

4# Diving in Santa Marta

Diving Taganga
Credit: Poseidon Dive Center

Taganga is a small fishing village located between Santa Marta and Tayrona. Due to mass tourism, this once peaceful place has become a bit dangerous at night (drug and security issues).

I am not a big fan of the vibe at night.

Nevertheless, I stayed there for over a week during my first trip to Colombia. 

There are a lot of very inexpensive dive centers in Santa Marta and Taganga. They organize excursions in the Tayrona’s reserve. You can’t go when the park is closed (you will go somewhere else).

5# Discover Minca in 1 day from Santa Marta

View of the sierra Nevada Minca (2) (1)

Minca is a hidden village in the Sierra Nevada. Numerous ecolodges have been built in the surrounding area. Most of them offer a spectacular view of the mountains and the sea.

If you don’t have much time, Joe offers a tour that will give you a good overview of the area: walk in the Sierra, waterfalls, coffee farm, explanation about cocoa, homemade lunch.

The tour starts in Minca.

  • How to get there: 30 min by cab or bus
  • Duration of tour: 9h30 – 17h00
  • Price: $$.
  • Tour: Book now

6# The Reserve Taironaka

Taironaka is a nature reserve where terraces dating back to the Tairona era have been found. The region has restored them so that travelers can take a step back in time. You will also have access to the museum that gathers more than 300 objects related to the Tairona culture.

In addition, the reserve offers different types of activities, such as tubing or ecological hikes. It’s a fun and unusual thing to do in Santa Marta.

Do not hesitate to sleep on-site if you want to take your time. There are different rooms at an affordable price.

  • How to get there: Bus to Don Diego river (1h30) + 10 min by boat.
  • Duration: All-day
  • Price: $$.

7# Spend the day on a sailboat

Sailboat Santa Marta Bahia Concha

Do you remember Bahía Concha (see beaches section)?

For even more fun, you can go by sailboat. Luis organizes departures from Santa Marta. It is a nice experience that allows you to discover the sailing life on a boat.

Once you arrive at Bahia Concha (1.5 hours), Luis will serve you a delicious lunch with fresh fish. Then, enjoy the beach before returning to Santa Marta in the late afternoon.

It’s a chill activity to do in Santa Marta.

Please note: Tayrona Park is closed 3 times a year. In these cases, you will go somewhere else.

  • How to get there: La Marina de Santa Marta, near the historic center.
  • Duration: 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Price: $$.
  • Tour: Book now

8# Indigenous communities: a cultural exchange to do in Santa Marta

Aruhaco experience indigenous (1)

Currently, there are 4 indigenous communities descended from the Tairona. They are the Koguis, the Arhuacos, the Wiwas, and the Kankuamos.

There are about 30,000 of them grouped in different villages of the Sierra Nevada. Some of these communities welcome travelers to visit them (and even spend the night).

It is a great way to immerse yourself in their culture and learn from their wisdom about nature.

Please note: For health reasons due to COVID, it is not possible to meet with these communities at this time.

9# Cocoa experience in Santa Marta

Everyone talks about Colombian coffee. But did you know that cacao is also an important product for the country?

A few kilometers from Buritaca (1h15), there is a cacao plantation. You will learn how these famous seeds of intense flavor are cultivated and transformed in cocoa.

This experience is combined with a tubing excursion or a visit to the Taironaka reserve.

  • How to get there: Tour from Santa Marta.
  • Duration: 6am – 5pm
  • Price: $$$.
  • Agency: Magic Tour

10# Tubing, a fun thing to do in Santa Marta

I love tubing. It consists of going down a river on a big inner tube. It is a quiet and effortless activity to do in Santa Marta. You have to let yourself go with the stream and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Sierra Nevada.

There are 3 rivers where you can go tubing: Buritaca, San Diego, or Palomino.

It is up to you if you prefer to go on your own and rent a buoy or decide to go with Magic Tour from Santa Marta.

  • How to get there: Take a bus to Riohacha and stop at the river of your choice.
  • Duration: All-day
  • Price: $

11# Birdwatching in the Sierra Nevada

It is not in Santa Marta where you will be able to birdwatch. However, the Sierra Nevada is right next door. The diversity of its fauna and flora is incredible. For example, it has almost 7% of the world’s bird species.

If you want to do this activity from Santa Marta, you’d better set your alarm clock. It is at dawn when you will have the best opportunity to observe them.

Magic Tour offers a 3-hour visit with a guide, transportation, breakfast, and binoculars.

  • How to get there: Departure from Santa Marta
  • Duration: 5 AM – 10 AM
  • Price: $$.

12# E-bike in Minca

E-BIKE Minca (1)

This is the ideal activity for adventurers who don’t want to get too tired. Rent Bike Santa Marta will pick you up in Santa Marta and take you to Minca. From there, you get on an E-bike and explore the most famous places in the area (Marinka waterfalls, Pozo Azul waterfalls, La Victoria coffee farm).

Insider’s tip: On weekends, there are usually a lot of people at the Minca waterfalls.

  • How to get there: Departure from Santa Marta
  • Duration: 8 AM – 5 PM
  • Price: $$$
  • Tour: Book now

13# Discover los pueblos palafitos

Nueva Venecia and Buenavista are surprising towns. The colorful wooden houses are built on pilotis in the middle of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta.

The boat is the only means of transportation.

It is an isolated place and quite difficult to reach from Santa Marta. Magic Tour offers a one-day excursion, but it is necessary to have at least 4 travelers to do it.

This experience allows you to discover the landscape of La Ciénaga and meet people who live in a very different way from what we are used to seeing.

If you feel adventurous, you can try to go on your own and sleep in Nueva Venecia. However, it is better if you are 2 people to split the transportation costs.

  • How to get there: Departure from Santa Marta
  • Duration: 5h30 AM – 3 PM
  • Price: $$$$

Multi-day experiences to do in Santa Marta

You already know the activities you can easily do in Santa Marta. But it would be a shame not to explore the other places on the east coast of the Caribbean. 

Let’s take a look at the hikes and other expeditions not to be missed.

1# The Ciudad Perdida, a multi-day trek to do in Santa Marta

This is the most famous hike in Colombia.

For 4 or 5 days, you will trek with your guide through the Sierra Nevada to reach the famous terraces of the Lost City.

This trek is very well organized and is a good option for travelers who want to discover the joys (and tears) of multi-day treks.

I did this experience with our local partner, and I tell you our experience with the Ciudad Perdida.

  • How to get there: Departure from Santa Marta
  • Duration: 4 or 5 days
  • Price: $$$$
  • Tour: Book now and pay the right price!

2# Plan a trip to the La Guajira Desert

Everyone talks about the Tatacoa desert. The truth is that I like the Guajira desert better.

Aboard a jeep, you will cross arid expanses to discover lunar landscapes composed of cactus, dunes, and mangroves.

There are many agencies, and some are far from excellent. Our favorite partner is based in Riohacha. You can decide to go by bus (3h) or ask them to organize private transport from Santa Marta (departure around 4 am).

They offer different plans:

  • Classic tour: 3 days, with Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas.
  • Cultural tour: 4 days. You will have more time to discover the Wayuu culture.
  • Macuira tour: 4 days. It is a hidden national park in Guajira.
  • Kitesurfing: 4 days. There are excellent conditions for kitesurfing in Cabo de la Vela.

I tell you here the best tips to go to the Guajira desert.

  • How to get there: Departure from Santa Marta or Riohacha
  • Duration: 3 or 4 days
  • Price: $$$$
  • Tour: Book now

3# Visit Tayrona Park

Tayrona Park is located in the Sierra Nevada. It is a fairly easy destination to visit. The few trails in the park lead to the different beaches, and you can reserve your hammock or tent in several places. The landscapes are beautiful, and it is enjoyable to jump into the sea after a hike.

Yes, you can sleep inside the park. It would be a shame not to take advantage of it.

I always recommend travelers to stay 3 days, making the loop Calabazo – Punta Brava – Cabo San Juan – El Zaino. To learn more, read our guide to Tayrona Park.

Note: Swimming is not allowed on all beaches.

Insider’s tip: Instead of staying in Santa Marta, book a hotel near Tayrona. The area is very nice.

  • How to get there: Bus from Santa Marta (1 hour)
  • Duration: 1, 2, or 3 days.
  • Price: $$.

4# Explore the Caribbean Coast by motorcycle

Colombia riders
Credit: Colombian riders

Colombian Riders are motorcycle lovers. Their excursions allow you to visit places difficult to access, with qualified guides and motorcycles in excellent condition.

It is up to you whether you prefer to venture into the Sierra Nevada or head to the Guajira desert.

Their plans are adapted to your level of experience and physical condition.

  • How to get there: Departure from Santa Marta (1 hour)
  • Duration: 1 – 7 days
  • Website: Colombian Riders

5# Relax on a paradisiacal beach

Cayena Beach Villa
Credit: Cayena Beach Villa

Between Tayrona and Buritaca, there are beautiful ecolodges built along the beach. It is one of the best places to spend 1 or 2 nights with your toes in the sand under the palm trees.

There are 3 areas that I like:

Playa Los Naranjos. It is the closest beach to the entrance of Tayrona Park. You will find amazing hotels with quality service and delicious meals.

Playa Guachaca. You will find more affordable hotels, with some restaurants. If you go there, you can take some surfing lessons.

→ Playa Buritaca. The same atmosphere as Guachaca, with different types of accommodations. It is a good option if you plan to go to Palomino to spend the day.

6# Watch the Sunrise from Cerro Kennedy

Cerro Kennedy Sierra Nevada Minca
Cerro Kennedy

Cerro Kennedy is a little-known hike that allows hikers to enjoy splendid sunrise and a panoramic view of the snow-capped peaks.

It is an activity that can be done in 2 days, starting from Minca. Sleep in Casas Viejas and start early the next day. Part of the route can be done by motorcycle to save time.

At night, sleep at the hotel el Ramo. You will see the sign on the road. Count on 4 – 6 hours of hiking before arriving.

The next day, leave at 4 a.m. to reach Cerro Kennedy before sunrise.

  • Duration: 2 days
  • Tour: The trail is easy to follow but a bit complicated to organize from Santa Marta. You can book this tour to save time.

7# Bird watching in El Dorado

El Dorado Reserve (1)
Credit: El Dorado

Above Minca, a famous bird reserve called “Cuchilla de San Lorenzo,” travelers can stay at El Dorado. A true paradise for professional ornithologists and beginners.

  • How to get there: It takes about 3 hours to get there by private transport from Santa Marta. The road can be in bad condition due to heavy rains.
  • Price: $$$$

Where to stay in Santa Marta

There are 3 areas where you can decide to stay in Santa Marta.

To help you, we have analyzed in detail the best hotels in Santa Marta.

Staying in the historic center of Santa Marta

I prefer this part of Santa Marta. It feels more authentic.

Choose a hotel in this area if you wish:

  • Take the bus the next day to Tayrona, Palomino, or Minca.
  • Enjoy the bars and restaurants without hailing a cab.
  • Find inexpensive hotels.

Downtown downsides:

  • The city seems unsafe to me from 9 p.m. Ask for a cab when you come back from a party.
  • The beach is ugly.

My favorite options are:

Staying in El Rodadero

Here you will find modern all-inclusive hotels with swimming pools and hundreds of rooms available.

Choose a hotel in this area if you wish:

  • Stay near the beach.
  • Have a comfortable stay without having to move from your hotel.

Rodadero’s downsides:

  • Buildings and tourists invade the beach.
  • It lacks charm.

My favorite choices are:

Staying in Pozos Colorados

Pozos Colorados is a quieter version of Rodadero. The beach is nicer, and there are few street vendors.

Choose a hotel in this area if:

  • You arrive by plane late at night or if you have an early morning flight.
  • You are looking for a quiet and comfortable place next to the beach and close to El Rodadero (10 min).

Pozos Colorados’ downsides:

  • You need a car or cab to get around.
  • It lacks charm.

My favorite options are:

Book your hotel now 👇

  • Casa Carolina - $$

    A modern hotel built around a large courtyard with a swimming pool and SPA. It is the ideal option to rest after a trip of several days. In the historic center. Book now (can’t cancel).

    See availability
  • Masaya - $

    A modern and pleasant hostel with 2 swimming pools and a well-equipped rooftop. Lots of social events. Perfect for meeting other travelers. In the historic center. Book now (15%).

    See availability
  • La Brisa Loca - $

    Come to Brisa Loca if you want to party. On its rooftop, parties take place every weekend. It’s a place to have fun, not to relax. Historic center. Book now (15%)

    See availability
  • Camali - $$

    A recent hotel, with a swimming pool and palm trees. It is an ideal option to come with your family to Santa Marta. A 20-minute walk from downtown. The area is not safe at night. Book now.

    See availability
  • Don Pepe - $$$$

    The best boutique hotel in Santa Marta. Choose Don Pepe if you want a romantic and luxurious stay. Swimming pool, jacuzzi & rooftop. In the historic center. Book now.

    See availability
  • Casa Linda - $

    Casa Linda is the best economical option to sleep in El Rodadero. The rooms are simple and clean. You can cook. Close to the beach. Book now (without paying).

    See availability
  • Del Mar hotel - $$

    Modern hotel, with many spacious rooms. Excellent value for money for a pleasant stay in El Rodadero. Book now.

    See availability
  • Apart. Palanoa - $$

    A large apartment with a capacity for 8 people. Only 15 meters from the Rodadero beach. Excellent prices. Book now.

    See availability
  • Playa del Ritmo - $

    A hostel on the beach, in the quiet area of Pozos Colorados. It is a good option if you want to relax for 2 days before your flight. Good atmosphere. Book now (15%).

    See availability
  • Casa Verano - $$$

    The best boutique hotel near the airport. Perfect for a well-deserved leisure day. Direct access to Pozos Colorados beach. Book now.

    See availability

Travel itineraries for Santa Marta

Now that you know what to do in Santa Marta, you only have to organize your stay. To help you, I have created several itineraries. Use them to decide how many days you will stay in Santa Marta.

Itinerary Santa Marta + Tayrona

If you only pass through Santa Marta to visit Tayrona Park, do not book your hotel in the city. Choose a lodging close to the park entrance to start the day early (to avoid the crowds and the heat).

  • Day 1: Arrival in Santa Marta + transfer to your hotel
  • Day 2: Entrance through Calabazo + hike to Playa Brava
  • Day 3: Hike from Playa Brava to Cabo San Juan
  • Day 4: Hike from Cabo San Juan to Zaino entrance + return to the hotel
  • Day 5: Departure

Itinerary Santa Marta + Ciudad Perdida

The Ciudad Perdida trek is not difficult, but it is still a 4-day trek. You will enjoy staying in a good hotel before and after this experience.

  • Day 1: Arrival in Santa Marta + city tour + hotel Casa Carolina.
  • Day 2 – 5: Lost City Trek
  • Day 5 in the afternoon: Return to the hotel.

Itinerary Santa Marta + La Guajira

Leaving Santa Marta to visit the desert of La Guajira is a good solution if you have little time. On the other hand, you will spend more hours in the jeep. Choose a good hotel in Santa Marta to rest from this adventure.

  • Day 1: Departure at 4 am for Riohocha + expedition to the desert.
  • 3 or 4 days in La Guajira
  • Day 4 or 5: Return to the hotel in Santa Marta.

Itinerary Santa Marta + La Sierra Nevada

You can venture into the Sierra Nevada without having to pay for a guide or an excursion.

  • Day 1: Arrival in Santa Marta + city tour. Choose a hotel in the center.
  • Day 2: Leave your big backpack at the hotel and take the bus to Minca. Stay in Casas Viejas. (20 min by motorcycle).
  • Day 3: Hike 6 hours to get to the hotel El Ramo.
  • Day 4: Wake up at 4 am and walk 1h30 to see the sunrise from Cerro Kennedy. Return to Casas Viejas (6h).
  • Day 5: Relax in Casas Viejas.
  • Day 6: Drive down to Minca and walk 4 hours to get to Paso del Mango. Stay at Carpe Diem.
  • Day 7: Enjoy Paso del Mango.
  • Day 8: Take a moto-taxi + bus to Santa Marta (45 min).

Itinerary Santa Marta + beaches

The most beautiful beaches in Santa Marta are in the direction of Tayrona. You can start with a quick stay in town and then head to Los Naranjos, Guachaca, or Buritaca beach.

  • Day 1: Arrival in Santa Marta + City Tour
  • Day 2: Tour Playa Cinto + Playa Cristal or sailing tour to Bahia Concha.
  • Day 3: Find a hotel after Tayrona Park.
  • Day 4: Day in Taironaka + tubing.
  • Day 5 and 6: Visit Tayrona Park.
  • Day 7: Surf class

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How to get to Santa Marta

Santa Marta is easily accessible by bus or plane. We wrote an article about it: Best ways to travel to Santa Marta.

The airport is 25 minutes by cab, and the bus terminal is on the city’s outskirts (10 minutes by cab from downtown).

The “Mercado Público” located at “La Calle 11 con Carrera 11” also acts as an “annex” terminal for certain destinations such as Palomino and Tayrona.

It takes about 5-10 minutes by cab to get from “Parque de Los Novios.”

You can ask for private transport to go to nearby places like Cartagena (4h), Minca (45 min), Palomino (1h30), Tayrona (45 min), Riohacha (2h30).

To learn more, click on the box below. 👇

How to reach Santa Marta

From Cartagena to Santa Marta:


From Riohacha to Santa Marta:


From Tayrona to Santa Marta:

  • Wait for a bus on the side of the road | 1 h
  • Take a shuttle at the park entrance | 1 h


From Palomino to Santa Marta:

  • Wait for a bus on the side of the road | 2 h


From Medellin to Santa Marta:


From Bogota to Santa Marta:

  • Direct flights from the airport | Avianca, Viva Colombia & Latam | 1h30 | Book your flight now 
  • A few direct buses leave from the terminal Salitre. Schedule – double-check with the bus company | Copetran & Expreso Brasilia | 20 h


From Cali to Santa Marta:


From Pereira to Santa Marta:


From San Gil to Santa Marta:

Santa Marta Travel tips

I learned many tips during my trips to Santa Marta and its surroundings.

What to bring to Santa Marta:

  • It is hot on the Caribbean coast. Bring light clothing, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Don’t forget your bathing suit.
  • A good mosquito repellent and trekking equipment if you are going to walk in the Sierra Nevada.

When to go to Santa Marta:

  • The sunniest months are Mid-December to March; mid-July to mid-September. The rainy season is not disturbing if you stay on the coast (it rains a lot, and then the sun comes back). However, think about it if you want to hike in the Sierra Nevada.
  • Both Colombians and foreigners love the Caribbean coast. Avoid high season periods, such as holidays, from 15/12 to 15/01 and Easter. Book in advance if you go during high season.
  • The sea is rough from December to May.

Special dates in Santa Marta:

Budget to visit Santa Marta:

The Caribbean coast is one of the most expensive areas of Colombia, but Santa Marta is still an affordable city (compared to Cartagena).

  • Budget travelers should choose their hostel in the city center to reduce transportation costs.
    For accommodation, you will find all price ranges. However, luxury hotels cannot compete with the beautiful hotels in Cartagena.
  • There is plenty of public transportation to get around the coast.
  • Cheap bars and restaurants are easy to find. Avoid the Rodadero, Parque de los Novios and the seafront.

Security in Santa Marta:

  • I did not feel unsafe during the day.
  • At night it is different. There is a lot of drug dealing for foreigners (downtown Santa Marta, Taganga). Avoid walking on isolated streets and use cabs.

Where to eat in Santa Marta:

  • Mane Cayon serves delicious seafood stews.
  • Caribbean Team offers the best view of the sunset.
  • Ouzo serves Italian cuisine with ingredients from the coast.
  • Lulo Cafe Bar prepares the best arepas in Santa Marta.
  • Maharaja is an inexpensive Indian restaurant.


Where to travel after Santa Marta

There are many cool destinations on the east and west side of the Caribbean Coast.

Here is a list of our favorite places :


My opinion on Santa Marta

Santa Marta is a good choice for travelers wishing to visit the eastern Caribbean coast. You will find many local agencies to organize excellent excursions to visit the area. Or you can take public transportation and go on your own.

The atmosphere of the city did not particularly appeal to me. There are too many tourists for my taste.

You can visit the city in half a day at most. However, you can easily plan 10 days if you want to enjoy the Sierra Nevada and the beach. If this is the case, you will have to pass through Santa Marta several times.


Alternatives to Santa Marta

  • If you want to visit a beautiful coastal city, you will love Cartagena.


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