Santa Marta is a medium-size city nestled on the Caribbean coast.

It’s far from being my favorite city in Colombia because there is not much to do in the center. Plus, the beaches are unpleasant and crowded with street vendors and foreigners.

But, Santa Marta is a touristic hub ideal for organizing your different activities and tours in the region. Thus, there is a high chance you will have to pass by there. 

Decide what you wanna do in advance, try to minimize the time spend in Santa Marta, and you should be fine 😉

Also, some of you could appreciate the luxury beach Hotels Resorts in Rodadero and Bello Horizonte.


Where is Santa Marta

Santa Marta is near the Sierra Nevada, between Tayrona and Cartagena.


Why would you like to visit or pass by Santa Marta

  • Exploring the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the national park of Tayrona
  • Booking 5-day tour to the Ciudad Perdida
  • Birdwatching in the Cuchillo San Lorenzo 
  • Passing your Open Water Diver Certification
  • Because you’re coming from San Gil with the night bus
  • Chill in a Luxury Beach Resort Hotel
  • Organizing a trip to the La Guajira desert


How much do you need to enjoy Santa Marta and around

  • Bus for traveling to Minca or Tayrona: Around 10 000 COP | 3 $
  • Night in a dorm: Around 35 000 COP | 12 $
  • Hotel in Rodadero (2 pers): Around 180 000 COP | 60 $
  • Luxury Beach Resort hotel (2 pers): Around 900 000 COP | 300 $
  • Open Water Diver Certification: Around 900 000 COP | 300 $
  • The Lost City Trek: Around 1 100 000 COP | 330 $
  • A trip to Playa Cristal: Around 110 000 COP | 37 $


Events in Santa Marta

  • Fiesta del Mar: End of July


Best time to visit Santa Marta

  • For the weather: From December to March and June to August 
  • High season: December to February


Safety advice

Santa Marta and Taganga are a bit dodgy at night. The Rodadero district is safer.


Where to go out in Santa Marta

  • In the center of Santa Marta 
    • The hostel La Brisa Loca – wild party + Rooftop
    • La Puerta – Nightclub
    • Crab’s bar – Rock bar
    • La Azotea – Nightclub with rooftop
  • In Rodadero
    • There are many bars and significant events for the celebrations like New Years Eve
    • La Escollera is a nightclub on an island
  • In Taganga
    • El Mirador – Nightclub with view on the ocean 

Santa Marta
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Where to stay in Santa Marta

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.

  • Masaya



    Upscale hotels. Nice building. Vast rooms. Bar and swimming pool. Many social events.
    Get the best price
  • Republica



    Large hostel with 2 lovely courtyards. Fantastic social area with a bar and swimming pool. Events.
    Get the best price
  • Casa Carolina

    Hotel Boutique

    Casa Carolina

    Fantastic hotel with excellent facilities (Pool & Jacuzzi). Comfortable rooms. Delicious food.
    Get the best price
  • Camali



    A bit far from Parque de Los Novios but excellent value for money. Pool. Awesome owners.
    Get the best price
  • Casa Mia

    Hotel Boutique

    Casa Mia

    Small hotel with comfortable rooms. Excellent staff, always ready to help. Small pool.
    Get the best price
  • Don Pepe


    Don Pepe

    Excellent facilities (Pool & jacuzzi) and beautiful rooms. Perfect service. Top-notch beds.
    Get the best price

Where to stay in Rodadero & Pozo Colorado

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.

  • Calle 11


    Calle 11

    Great hostel for people who want to party in Rodadero. Excellent social areas. Pool.
    Get the best price
  • Playa del ritmo


    Playa del ritmo

    Lovely hostel with a private beach. Perfect for resting. Friendly staff and quiet location.
    Get the best price
  • Casa verano


    Casa verano

    Top-notch hotel with excellent services. Small and personalized. Delicious food. Pool. No kid.
    Get the best price

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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.

  • Cristal & Cinto

    Beach Tour

    Cristal & Cinto

    The best beaches "near" Santa Marta. Nobody knows about Cinto. Gorgeous reef.
    Learn more
  • Playa Concha


    Playa Concha

    Easy day trip to reach a lovely beach. Walk at the end of the beach to get the best spot.
    Learn more
  • Diving

    Extreme sport


    You're allowed to dive in Tayrona Park. Not impressive reefs but cheap price.
    Learn more
  • Gold Museum


    Gold Museum

    A small collection of gold artifacts and some explanation about Santa Marta's history.
    Learn more
  • Tubing

    Day trip


    Go down the river on an inner-tube. Don Diego is a river located 1h30 away from Santa Marta.
  • Cerro Kennedy

    Weekend trip

    Cerro Kennedy

    Go to Minca and start a 2-day hike to admire the sunrise from Cerro Kennedy. Great views!
    Learn more
  • Tayrona

    Weekend trip


    Don't book a tour. It's useless. Start from Calabazo and explore Tayrona like nobody else.
    Learn more
  • Paso del Mango

    Weekend trip

    Paso del Mango

    Everyone goes to Minca to explore the Sierra Nevada. Be different and travel to Paso del Mango
    Learn more
  • Punta Gallinas

    Weekend trip

    Punta Gallinas

    Go to the northernmost point of South America and admire the beauty of the La Guajira desert.
    Learn more
  • Mountain biking

    Outdoor activity

    Mountain biking

    If you're fit and want to explore the Sierra Nevado on a good mountain bike. It's tough but beautiful.
    Learn more
  • E-bike

    Day trip to Minca


    Stop laying back on the beach and explore the Sierra Nevada on an electric bike. It's fun and cheap
    Learn more
  • Aruhaco Stay

    Weekend trip

    Aruhaco Stay

    Live for 2 days in an Aruhaco community. Learn about their culture and ideology.
    Learn more
  • The lost city

    Multi-day hike

    The lost city

    4-day trek through lush vegetation to admire the remnants of an old civilization.
    Learn more
  • Motorcycle Tour

    Multi day trip

    Motorcycle Tour

    Be part of a biking gang for a couple of days. Excellent gears and guides. Ride wherever you want.
    Learn more

How To Get To Santa Marta

All the travelers coming from San Gil with the night bus will stop in Santa Marta. And, for the ones who don’t like long bus drive, there is also an airport outside of town.

  • Night Bus Bogota – Santa Marta: Around 20 hours
  • Night Bus San Gil – Santa Marta: Around 13 hours
  • Night Bus Medellin – Santa Marta: Around 16 hours
  • Bus Cartagena – Santa Marta: Around 5 hours

There are direct flights from:

  • Medellin: 1h15
  • Bogota: 1h30


Read the full ArticleBest ways to travel to Santa Marta

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More travel ressources

We spent more than 2 weeks in Santa Marta and wrote about our travel experiences.

Partners we recommend

Some local partners we have met, tested and approved during our stay in Santa Marta.

  • Magic tour: Excellent local travel agency based in Santa Marta.

Find the best bars and restaurants

For us, good restaurants and exciting nightlife are important when traveling. We gathered our favorite picks on an interactive Map. Download the APP "Mapstr" and look for "Colombia Insider"!

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More things to do in this region

Eastern Caribbean Coast

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