What to do in Santa Marta Colombia?

27 July, 2021

Santa Marta Colombia is a city with character. Visitors from around the world flock to this historic and colorful destination for its incredible coastline overlooking the Caribbean Sea, vibrant culture and spectacular natural landscapes. It is especially popular for ecotourism and was one of the top five most visited destinations in Colombia before the pandemic. 

From sightseeing historic monuments to relaxing on the beach and trekking to a sacred archeological site, you can do it all in Santa Marta. Here are our top picks for what to see and do while visiting Santa Marta. 

Visit the beaches in Santa Marta

Calling all sun worshippers. If you're looking for beach vibes, you’ve got options. Santa Marta is home to the following beaches: El Rodadero, Playa Blanca, Cabo Tortuga, Bello Horizonte and Pozos Colorados. You can also experience a tour of the bays via a Catamaran.

Rodadero 

Rodadero Santa Marta Colombia

El Rodadero is located 20 minutes from the city center, and is one of the most popular beaches in Santa Marta and of the Colombian Caribbean. There are many different activities available to visitors, but with this being a very well-known destination, it can get a bit crowded. 

Playa Blanca 

Playa Blanca Santa Marta Colombia

Playa Blanca is located just 10 minutes by boat from the Rodadero. You can take a tour with an agency or buy a boat ticket on the beach. You can also visit the aquarium. Playa Blanca is a quiet beach with white sand. You can experience the canopy from the hill to the beachfront. 

Cabo Tortuga

Cabo Tortuga Santa Marta Colombia

Cabo Tortuga is an ideal beach to rest. It is located 45 minutes from the city center. Ideal to share with friends and family. It is a popular beach and can get a bit crowded.

Bello Horizonte and Pozos Colorados

Bello Horizonte y Pozos Colorados Santa Marta Colombia

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These beaches are located 10 minutes from the airport and 45 minutes from the city center. The main hotel chains are located in this area. They are quiet beaches with a long list of available activities. 

Explore the Historic Center of Santa Marta

  

Travel back in time with a tour of Santa Marta’s historic center. Here you can admire colorful colonial architecture and learn about Santa Marta’s rich history as Colombia’s oldest city. On the tour you can visit the Cathedral of Santa Marta, the Gold Museum, the Plaza de Bolívar, the Bay of Santa Marta with a spectacular view of the Morro de Santa Marta and walk through the International Marina. You can also walk through the Callejón del Correo or through the Parque de los Novios where you will find a wide range of restaurants and bars. Book our Free Walking Tour here.

Visit Taganga, Colombia 

Taganga Santa Marta Colombia

Taganga es un pequeño pueblo de pescadores ubicado a 20 minutos del centro histórico de la ciudad. Puedes llegar tomando bus, taxi o un tour con alguna agencia. Su historia, cultura y arte de pesca pasa de generación en generación. Es un lugar ideal para ir a la playa, hacer buceo o disfrutar de un delicioso plato de comida típica de mar en uno de los kioscos de la playa.  A tan solo 10 minutos caminando puedes visitar Playa Grande o caminar un poco más y disfrutar de otras playas. También puedes tomar una lancha desde Taganga. If you’re interested in scuba diving, check out our tour "Discover Scuba Diving". 

Taganga is also ideal to take a boat ride to the Tayrona National Natural Park. 

Get to know the Tayrona National Park 

Tayrona National Park is located in northern Colombia, about 34 kilometers from Santa Marta. Spanning about ​​15 thousand hectares, the park is known for its coastal lagoons, beautiful beaches, lush rainforest and rich biodiversity. Below are our picks for beaches and places to visit while in the park: 

Bahia Concha

Bahia Concha Santa Marta Colombia

This beach is about 20 minutes from Santa Marta and is one of the most visited beaches by tourists. It’s surrounded by mountains and offers beautiful views. You can access it by taxi, bus or by booking a tour. 

Cabo San Juan 

Cabo San Juan Santa Marta Colombia

The most popular option in Tayrona Park is Cabo San Juan. To get there you can take the bus in the public market, hire a taxi or book a tour with an agency. The entrance to Cabo San Juan is called “El Zaino.” There you can buy entry tickets to the park, then take a short ride in a small bus (costs $2.000 cop) to Cañaveral. From there it's a 20-minute hike to Arrecife beach. The waves are very strong in Arrecife, and this beach is not suitable for swimming. Continue hiking for 15 more minutes and you’ll arrive at “Playa la Piscina.” This beach is a reef lagoon ideal for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. You can walk another 15 minutes and arrive at “Playa Arenilla” which is another ideal beach to swim and sunbathe. After another 15 minutes of hiking you’ll finally arrive at Cabo San Juan.

This tour can be done in one day or you also have the option to camp or book an accommodation and stay overnight. There are different accommodation options available at each beach and prices vary. You can also check out our Tour of Cabo San Juan.

Playa Cristal (Crystal beach) 

Playa Cristal Santa Marta Colombia

With its crystal clear water, white sand and spectacular coral reefs, Playa Cristal is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. To get there, enter Tayrona Park through the Neguanje sector. You can only go by taxi, private car or through booking a tour. From Neguanje Beach, it’s a 10-minute boat ride to Playa Cristal where you can spend the day relaxing, snorkeling and enjoying the tranquility of the sea. 

There are other beaches inside Tayrona National Park, but many of them are not open to the public. Some can be accessed by boat and with prior verification. These beaches are less frequented and are remarkably preserved. Among these are Playa del Amor, Chengue, Cinto, Gairaca and Granate. 

Experience Minca 

Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, about 14km from the city, Minca is an ideal destination for visitors who love nature, adventure, cycling and a good cup of coffee. Some of the country’s best single origin coffee comes from Minca. You can experience it firsthand by touring a local coffee farm. To get to Minca, you can take a bus in the public market, go by taxi, private vehicle or book a tour. Here are some other things you can do in Minca:

Marinka waterfalls 

Cascada Marinca Santa Marta Colombia

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Go on a 20-minute walk from town or take a 10-minute motorcycle ride to enjoy a beautiful waterfall. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit (and bug repellent). Entry is about $ 5,000 COP per person. 

Pozo Azul 

Pozo Azul Santa Marta Colombia

Probably the most popular waterfall in Minca, Pozo Azul is about a 20-minute walk from the town or 10 minutes by motorcycle. It’s home to two swimming holes, making is a scenic and popular hangout for both locals and tourists. 

 

Cerro Kennedy Santa Marta Colombia

A must-see for landscape addicts, Cerro Kennedy offers awe-inspiring views of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta coastal range. At the summit, some 3,100 meters tall, hikers are rewarded with incredible views of Colombia’s two highest peaks, Pico Cristóbal and Pico Simón Bolívar. For more information, check out our Cerro Kennedy Tour.

Other activities that you can do in Minca are: La Tagua viewpoint, walk through town and visit the museums, visit some of the coffee farms such as La Victoria, explore the El Dorado Nature Reserve, go bird watching on the San Lorenzo trail, hike to one of the hotels famous for its view such as Sierra Minca. 

Trek to Lost City 

Ciudad Perdida Santa Marta Colombia

Trekking to the Lost City is one of the most well-known routes in South America. This 4 - 6 day adventure takes guests deep into the jungle through lush vegetation to a sacred archeological site that dates back to around 800 CE (some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu). Accessing the Lost City can only be done by booking a tour through an agency. You cannot do it alone. You’ll need to walk from 6 to 8 hours a day, and guests should be in good physical condition

The tour includes everything you need for you to enjoy the experience. Transportation is in a 4x4 vehicle from Santa Marta to the town of Mamey (where the trek begins). The tour also includes accommodation (in cabins of locals and indigenous people of the area), meals, guide of the area, translator and medical assistance (if needed). You can get more information about the Lost City Tour here.

One of the local phrases that best describes Santa Marta is "the magic of having it all.” You won’t have to be there long to see why. There are countless unique things to see and experience for every type of traveler. For more information or for help with planning a trip, contact us at [email protected]

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