The old center of Santa Marta is tiny and we don't recommend you to pick a hotel in Calle 11 and below. Most of the restaurants are located around Parque de Los Novios. Santa Marta can be quite dodgy at night. Use cabs at night if it's late and be aware of your surroundings. There are mosquitoes in Santa Marta. Take your repellent.
Rodadero is located 20 min away by taxi from the old center. It's like the Boca Grande of Cartagena. There are big buildings called hotel resorts and lots of restaurants. The beach is better than in Santa Marta but there are street sellers everywhere. If you're looking for something quieter and less touristy, I advise you to pick your hotel in Pozo Colorados.
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Things to do in Santa Marta
There is not much to do in Santa Marta. Some tourists decide to rent an apartment in Rodadero and enjoy the crowded beach below their balcony. Other travelers use it as a base to explore the surroundings mentioned below.
For us, good restaurants and exciting nightlife are important while traveling. We gathered our favorite picks on an interactive Map. Look for "Colombia Insider - Eat and Party like a local in Colombia" on Mapstr!
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More travel ressources
We spent more than 2 weeks in Santa Marta and wrote about our travel experiences.