Santa Marta is one of the oldest towns in South America, located on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. It’s close to other tourist destinations like Baranquilla, Minca and the Tayrona National Park.
Things to do
Walk around the old town and fall in love with colorful colonial buildings
Have a drink at a roof top bar of a colonial house
Have delicious dinner in the cute old street Carrera 3
Relax & have a fresh fruit juice or coconut water on the atmospheric plazas
Discover impressive street art
The old city is full of colonial buildings, some are still in original shape and others colorfully renovated. We strolled around narrow old streets, found old churches and plazas where street vendors sold fruit juices and souvenirs. Beside the sea there is a promenade with bars, restaurants and a street market.
The Old Town is very busy with locals and tourists. Especially around Calle 18 & Carrera 3, close to Parque de los Novios, we found stylish restaurants and bars with delicious food. A lot of hotels and restaurants are in colonial houses and have an amazing atmosphere. There are also rooftop bars on the colonial buildings. They are not very high but high enough to have a nice view over the streets and plazas of Santa Marta. Food and drinks in the old town are a bit pricy: food 9 € (30.000 COP), drinks 4,50 € (15.000 COP) – look for a place with happy hour (1+1 free) to save money.
Carrera 3 is a narrow street with restaurants, where you can sit outside and enjoy the great ambience. We had dinner at La Casona Restaurante and ordered a fish filet with coconut rice and it was really delicious! (Filete de pescado blanco en salsa de coco, 10€ / 33.000 COP) If you like partying, you can find some bars and clubs to dance the night through, but check out if there are some festivals by the time you get there. In this area there are a lot of Music and Beach Festivals.
Beaches of Santa Marta
To be honest, we didn’t like the beaches of Santa Marta, because they are not that beautiful, clean or relaxed. The beach in Santa Marta (Playa del Centro)is small, next to a busy port with big ships, quite dirty and the most crowded one I have ever seen. We set there for a while watching this hustle and bustle and enjoyed watching the Colombians spending time with their family and friends. They had a lot of fun, drinking, playing and chatting – very loud and vivid.
We made a half-day trip to Taganga beach, which was as well overcrowded. The beach is not that nice and I would not go there again. I heard that it was more famous for tourists a few decades ago but now the small town looks a bit shabby. There is a bus going from Santa Marta to Taganga every few minutes, it takes 20 minutes to get there and a bus ticket is 0,34 € (1.200 COP).
We stayed at the hostel Aluna Casa y Cafe, which is located close to the city center but still in a quiet area. The double room is 30 € and the friendly hosts offer breakfast for 2 € (7.000 COP) and very good coffee for 0,60 € (1.200 COP). The hostel is new and was the cheapest we found.
Transfer around Santa Marta
Minivan Barranquilla – Santa Marta: 2 bus companies in Calle 93, 2 hours, 7 € (25.000 COP)
Santa Marta – Taganga: 20 minutes, 0,34 € (1.200 COP)
Bus Santa Marta – Tayrona National Park (Posada Villa Margarita): 1 hour, 2 € (7.000 COP)
Bus Tayrona National Park – Palomino: 1 hour, 2 € (7.000 COP)
Bus Santa Marta – Cartagena: 7 hours, 6 € (20.000 COP)
Minca (Finca Carpe Diem): Bus Santa Marta – Bonda: 10 mins, 0,45 € (1.600 COP) & motor taxi to the Finca: 20 mins, 3 € (10.000 COP)