Santa Marta is the capital city of the Magdalena department in the north of Colombia, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. This city was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, founded in 1525, and is the oldest city in the country. Today, Santa Marta’s economy is based on tourism and trade – in fact, it's a major port for commerce in the Caribbean.
The city is more of a starting point for exploring the nearby area than a destination in itself: around Santa Marta you’ll find towering mountains, and beautiful beaches - including El Rodadero to the south, and Taganga to the north. Hike to the Tayrona National Park to discover ancient ruins, explore and snorkel the stunning coral reefs, and experience the city by night - the cool sea air is a welcome relief from the dry, daytime heat.
QUINTA DE SAN PEDRO ALEJANDRINO – This is the mansion where Simon Bolivar spent his final days before passing away, and contains a beautiful botanical garden. Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino was a famous place for the sugarcane harvesting and cultivation.
MUSEO DEL ORO – This museum is set inside a grand colonial mansion, and contains a number of fine artifacts. Here you can find gold and pottery works from the various indigenous people that were living here.
PASO DEL MANGO – This is a small village that features beautiful nature. Here you can see the natural pools, and even some of the amazing waterfalls that Paso Del Mango has to offer.
SCUBA DIVING – The nearby coral reef off the coast is a great place to scuba dive. There are many companies that offer trips out there, and it's an opportunity to see some of the great marine life in the Caribbean Sea.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
There are plenty of options when it comes to passing your time on the beach or in the water. Go on scuba diving excursions, or rent your own jet ski!
Santa Marta provides a variety of different food options. You can find anything from grilled chicken or beef to some great seafood. Also at night-time, you'll see the street vendors selling anything from hamburgers to pizza.
If you’re traveling on a budget, go to 039 Restaurante (Carrera 20 # 3-39) - here you’ll find Caribbean and South American cuisine. Inside it is cute and colourful, and decorated with framed photos and artwork. It’s open every day from 11am to midnight.
For a great restaurant, check out Lulo (Cra 3 #16-34 Callejon del Correo). Situated in the heart of the historic centre, here you’ll experience a great atmosphere, with tables outside where you can sit and watch the world go by, and enjoy street music and performances.
Another place to try is Soul Food (Calle 20 # 3-51), which has a cool vibe and an arty décor. Here you’ll find a variety of dishes, including seafood, meat, and vegetarian options.
For live music and chilled vibes, go to El Rego Gastro Bar (Calle 18 #2-55). Sample the delicious, well prepared cocktails or the cold craft beer, and enjoy the Cuban style music performed by local artists.
The place to go for happy hour and to kick the night off is Charlies Bar (Calle 19 | Carrera 4 - 12). Come here for awesome music, cheap drinks, and a good time. The owner is very friendly, and here can meet all sorts of people.
A great spot to enjoy an exceptional harbour view is Miko (Carrera 1 Bastidas # 22-93). Taste the delicious cocktails, and relax on the terrace with a refreshing sea breeze and gorgeous sunset. The DJs are great and spin mostly house and electro.
The average temperature is about 28 degrees Celsius. In Santa Marta, the rainy months are from May to October, but October is the only month that experiences more than 100mm on average. There is not very much rain here and it can get pretty hot at times.
The international airport here has flights leaving regularly to and from Bogota (1 hour and 30 minutes) and Medellin (1 hour and 10 minutes). The bus station here offers trips between Santa Marta and the main cities of Colombia, including Bogota (16 hours) and Medellin (15 hours).
At the end of Calle 11 and Calle 10c you can find a group of hotels and hostels to stay at. The rest of the higher end places can be found more in the centre of the town, and are slightly safer options as robberies can occur at the beach end of Calle 11 and 10c.
One great place is The Dreamer Hostel (cr 51, 26D-161) – here you can hang out and have a great time, with friendly, helpful staff and a sociable atmosphere. There’s a nice pool, hammocks, and a bar, so it’s easy to meet new people. Equally, you can find a quiet spot if you just want to relax. It’s situated 20 minutes from downtown.
For one big party, go to La Brisa Loca (cl. 14 #3 – 58), perfect for backpackers looking for a good time - only come here if sleeping is not your priority! There’s a great bar, a pool, and even a rooftop terrace to enjoy.
Be careful where you wander at night. Thefts occur by the beach end of some of the streets.
Take caution with the local tour guides, and with anything you choose to rent, whether it be a jet ski or scuba gear: check that it’s up to safety standards.