If you love heat, but not humidity, Santa Marta is a little slice of heaven made just for you. With its high temperatures and blue skies, there is plenty of sunshine to go around. Rainy season doesn’t mean very much here, and getting a crispy, golden tan really isn’t negotiable. Being a very small town, Santa Marta’s centre doesn’t boast too much excitement, but has some decent nightlife, and good eats, if that’s what floats your boat. If you prefer a quieter stay, the barrio of Gaira, has everything you could want and thens ome. Beautiful beaches, amazing hotels and hostels and far less people overall. Eco Tourists won’t be disappointed either. The town’s surrounding areas are chock-full of amazing sites. With nearby Tayrona National Park, Taganga, Minca, and The Lost City in Sierra Nevada there is enough to see and do to keep you busy for at least 10 days. The Lost City trek itself is a whopping 5 day trip, and with camping available in Tayrona, you could really skip seeing “downtown” Santa Marta quite easily.
Top things to see and do in:
You absolutely have to go to Maharaja India Restaurante. I know, I know, Indian in Colombia? Yes. Indian in Colombia. It’s wowzerful! The service is super slow, but it's because they are so busy. Be patient, it’s worth it and more. The owners are great people, and have a super cute love story, ask them about it.
Catch a sunset at the marina. There are several vantage points up and down the beach. There are even some restaurants at the pier if you want to enjoy a meal while taking it all in.
Go Scuba Diving. While the diving sites are off Tayrona, you book in Santa Marta and leave from the marina. We used Carribean Pro and it was substantially cheaper than the other dive centres. $150,000 COP will get you two dives
The 5 hour round trip hike to and from the main beach in the park is quite something in itself. The park is far too busy for you to see any animals, maybe if you get up there REALLY early, but I doubt even then...but the trail is very scenic and has tons of amazing photo ops.
Check out the beaches within the park and go for a dip after all that walking. The main beach at Tayrona, Cabo San Juan, is amazingly beautiful, but very crowded. Some of the other beaches which may be even prettier than Cabo San Juan, have riptides and are too dangerous to swim in. My recommendation would actually be La Piscina. It’s a natural pool, surrounded by rock formations. It’s picturesque and not crowded at all.
Check out the world’s largest hammock at Hostel Casa Elemento.
Go for a hike to a waterfall (Las Cascadas de Marinka).
If you’re up for it, check out Cierro Kennedy. This trek will take you 2 days, including one overnight trek, but your reward is a stunning view of the snowy peaks of Los Nevados!
*Side note - It can get chilly in Minca. Pack accordingly.
Taganga is a fishing village with a beach and is really a must see for its:
Watching the local fisherman in their handmade canoes, is also a nice way to spend a morning, and get in some nice photos.
The Lost City
This paraphrased blurb from lostcitytrekcolombia.com says it all so well, I don’t think I could do much better.
Lost City Trek Colombia gives us the opportunity to go on a terrific journey through the path of the “Tayronas” on an adventure in the thick tropical rainforest, full with invaluable biological wealth. On this mountain hike, we will learn about the customs of the locals, and indigenous communities (descendants of the “Tayronas”) who still inhabit the territory. Join us to explore this pre-Hispanic jewel where harmony, and balance with nature are practiced and professed by the ancient inhabitants of this land, where the Kogi people maintain its legacy to this day.
As you can see Santa Marta is SantaMazing (see what I did there?) There is a reason why it’s on everybody’s list when travelling Colombia. Don’t miss out.