Santa Marta is massive and beautiful; and I have to go back. Santa Marta itself is a quaint little port town with plenty provisions for relaxing; the true draw to Santa Marta is everything nearby–the hikes, the beaches, the mountains, etc. Go and lean into whatever adventurous opportunity calls to you.
where i stayed
Calle 11 Hostel in the “suburb” of El Rodadero. The hostel had a view, a such pool, fantastic staff and it only took me 15 minutes (and 1,6000 COP ) to get to Santa Marta centro. Getting to the airport was really easy; 30 minutes a 1,600 COP on a bus heading away from Santa Marta centro.
Most of the information below was gathered from fellow-travelers, from the Calle 11 staff or from their helpful guide book to the area. I spent most of time–only 4 days–in the Santa Marta area by the pool and working in coffee shops. One day I did go scuba diving with Casa de Buceo (“buceo” is Spanish for “scuba diving”).
I was adamant about learning about this area, though, because I’m desperate to come back to “do it better.”
Calle 11 hostel in Santa Marta, Colombia
- Taxis from Rodadero to Santa Marta cost between 10,000 and 12,000 COP.
- Taxis from Rodadero to Taganga costs between 20,000 and 25,000 COP.
- Taxis from Rodadero to the airport costs 20,000 COP.
- Buses around Santa Marta cost 1,600 COP.
food + coffee
The main area to eat in Santa Marta centro is Carrera 3 (between Calle 15 and Calle 19) and Calle19 (between Careera 3 and Carrera 5). This is the most active area I found.
- Lulo’s has fantastic juices and food. It also has great wifi; I worked here twice!
- Ouzo is said to have the best pizza in South America.
- Ikaro Cafe has great coffee, a great vibe and fast wifi. They also house Soul Seed coffee and the smell of freshly roasting coffee hangs in the air.
- Arte Gourmet
- Aborigen Cafe
- Playa Rodadero is a busy beach with lots of venders and restaurants right on the beach-front.
- Playa de Ritmo is a private beach with few vendors.
- Play Blanca is a popular beach for Colombians. You can only get to this beach via water taxi from Playa Rodadero. The taxi costs 12,000 COP.
- Playa Salguero is a less busy beach farther away from Santa Marta, toward the airport.
- Playa Brava a secluded beach in Tayrona Park. (See below for details)
- Playa Crystal is another beach in the park. You can go snorkeling as well. There is a price involved, but how much is unclear to me.
- Bahia Concha is also in the park. There are several expenses involved and it looks to have food and souvenir vendors.
- Finca Lost Angeles is a beach past Tayrona Park. It’s about 90 minutes from Calle 11.
- Costeno Beach is about 90 minutes from Calle 11, past Tayrona Park. There are two backpacker beach hostels there that are said to have “some party.” Otherwise, there is a small fishing village nearby.
Playa Rodadero near Santa Marta, Colombia
tayrona national park
If you can’t decide if you want to explore beaches or rainforest, go to Tayrona Park were the rainforest meets sea. There are a number of beaches, trails to walk and indignation communities still in the area and the pre-Hispanic town of Pueblito. From Calle 11, it takes about 90 minutes to get there and can cost 42,000 COP at the “easier” entrance of El Zaino. At the Calabazo entrance, there doesn’t appear to be a cost, but you’ll need to walk an additional 3 hours to beaches.
There aren’t a lot of place to stay within the park. You cannot book camp sites in advance; it’s first come, first serve. In high season, you’ll need to prioritize getting where you want to be early enough to claim your spot.
Cabo San Juan camp site is the most popular with hammock and tent options. They also offer tours around the park; 95,000 COP for foreigners and 70,000 COP for Colombians.
pueblito is an ancient site related to the Lost City. There are some Koggi indigenous homes nearby as well.
You can get playa brava by walking 90 minutes from Pueblito. There is a hostel there and you can book online: Teyumakke Hostel Playa Brava Tayrona.
- Make sure you travel with your passport or a valid ID.
- A lot of places allow for storage so you can hike with ease, but make sure you don’t leave these important items behind.
- Bring cash because ATMS and places the accept credit are scarce.
- Respect the park.
- You can buy tickets to Tayrona Park online and save time/ money.
Palomino is a small fishing village past Tayrona Park. I heard a lot about El Rio Hostel, which is described as “a beautiful hostel in the jungle by the Buritaca River.” It offers tubing, communal meals and has a bar.
It is about 2 hours and 30 minutes away from Calle 11.
riohacha and la guajira
Riohacha is the last city between Santa Mart and Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallina, the northern most point of South America. This area is best known for desert meeting sea and is still mostly untouched by tourism.
Calle 11 offers tours to this area for 590,000 COP (3 day / 2night trip) or you can venture here on your own. It’s about 5 hours away form Call 11.
sierra nevada mountains
A small town in the Sierra Nevada, Minca is base for several different treks through the mountains.
Calle 11 offers a day tour to Minca for 110,000 COP. It’s 1.5 hours from Calle 11.
Casa Elemento, known for having the larges hammock in the world, is 2 hours away from Minca.
finca carpe diem in bonda
This is a self-sustainable farm in the Sierra Nevada that offers private and dorm accommodations to travelers. They have a pool and offer access to natural swimming spots and small waterfalls. It’s about an hour from Calle 11.
candelaria organic coffee farm
You can visit this coffee farm in Sierra Nevada to learn about organic farming and fair-trade coffee. The farms offers several options for your visit:
- Coffee or Cacao tour: 20,000 COP
- Lunch (must call ahead): 15,000 COP
- Accommodations with tour and breakfast: 50,000 COP
This “Ciudad Perdida” was discovered in 1972 and is believed to be about 650 years older than Peru’s Machu Picchu. For those brave souls with the time and the physical required needed, you can sign up for a multi-day hike through the Sierra Nevada to this Lost City: Explur Lost City Trek
- Lonely Planet’s top things to do in Santa Marta
- Top 10 things to do in Santa Marta from DayTours4u.com
- Things to do in Santa Marta from Uncover Colombia
- Santa Marta City Guide from Go Backpacking
- Santa Marta: A Colombian Food Paradise
- Santa Marta gastro boom
- Introducing Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
- The Complete Guide to Tayrona – Part 4: What to do in Tayrona
- Colombia’s lost city: lure of the jungle
- On the Colombian Coast, Natural Beauty, Gritty Charm from The New York Times
*DISCLAIMER: Again, most of the information below was gathered from fellow-travelers, from the Calle 11 staff or from their helpful guide book to the area. I spent most of time–only 4 days–in the Santa Marta area by the pool and working in coffee shops.