25 Best Things To Do In Santa Marta [Colombia] in 2024

George Alvarez
Written By:
George Alvarez
Last Updated:
December 31, 2023
Here's a rundown of the absolute best things to do when in Santa Marta. Discover what makes this such a fantastic place to visit and plan the ideal stay.
Things To Do In Santa Marta

Located along Colombia’s stunning Caribbean Coast, Santa Marta has in recent decades become one of the most popular destinations you can visit in this South American nation.

Known for its more chilled-out scene (especially when compared to bigger cities like Bogotá and Medellin), it is home to a stunning malecón that overlooks the coast as well as various quirky squares and plazas. 

However it’s the surrounding region which is the biggest pull for travellers heading here, where there are many exciting landscapes and adventures just waiting to be had!

I've been here a few times now and wanted to share my personal experience of the absolute best places to visit Santa Marta has on offer.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about Santa Marta.

This includes where to stay, the very best things to see and do as well as my top tour recommendations.

Let's get down to it ...

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Getting to Know Santa Marta 

Why Visit Santa Marta

Why visit Santa Marta

When compared with other major Colombian cities, Santa Marta has a much more relaxed feel. 

Sure there’s still much bustle (those after an authentic Colombian experience will want to head to the markets), however you’ll also be able to enjoy its colourful streets and parks without feeling overrun.

Those after some quality beach time will be in the perfect place too.

Tayrona National Park is located quite close to Santa Marta, and continually ranks as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

There’s also some really great spots for snorkelling and scuba diving too, with the nearby town of Taganga being known as one of the cheapest places to learn to dive on the continent.

Santa Marta is also the perfect base camp for exploring a variety of mysterious and picturesque regions too. 

The Sierra Nevada Jungle (along with the mysterious ruins of The Lost City) is perfect for those who love a good hike, whilst Minca offers some stunning mountainous views. 

How to get to Santa Marta

Getting to Sta. Marta

Santa Marta is situated within the region of Magdalena, which lies along the northern coast of Colombia. 


Santa Marta is home to a large airport which connects very well with the other major Colombian cities.

Flying into this coastal city is by far the most popular option, given the bus journeys can be quite lengthy (we’ll take a look at this in more detail later).

If you're already in Bogotá, Medellin or Cali, then you can fly to Santa Marta for roughly $35-50 (for a one-way ticket, without additional costs for baggage). 

You can also fly directly from Panama City, which is ideal for those who have either travelled through Central America or will connect via this massive international airport. A one-way ticket to Santa Marta costs between $90-110 (baggage not included).

If anywhere else in the world, it’s best to first fly into Bogotá or Panama City, and then fly over to Santa Marta (with the latter you’ll possibly need to spend a couple of days in transit, given there’s just a few flights each week). 

You can check out the different flight routes and prices here on SkyScanner

By Bus

The other main way of reaching Santa Marta is by bus. However, given how big Colombia is (as well as the roads not always being the greatest), it’s only best to use the bus when heading from certain cities.

It’s mostly ideal if you're already located along the Colombian coast, in cities such as Cartagena or Barranquilla. 

This is because the buses will be much cheaper than the flights to Santa Marta, and also as the bus journeys aren’t too long (maximum of 5 hours).

From Cartagena the bus will take between 4-5 hours, and cost between $10-15 for the journey. If you're in nearby Barranquilla, then it will take just 2-3 hours and cost $10. 

Whilst booking online is always a good option, if you head to the terminal you can find further discounted rates on buses departing soon too.

Everywhere else in Colombia is going to be quite far. However for those on a budget (check out our guide to travelling cheaply) you can consider taking the bus from Medellin to Santa Marta.

The bus can cost as low as $20 (especially if booked last minute or buying within the terminal), which is ideal for saving.

The journey says it takes 18 hours, however given the road conditions it can sometimes take up to 24 hours!

You can see all routes and prices here on BusBud

Getting around Santa Marta

Getting around Santa Marta

The majority of the main sights are located near the touristic centre, which is right next to the sea. 

For this reason you’ll easily be able to walk around Santa Marta when exploring, where it’s relatively safe too (just be careful when walking around at night alone).

Taxis can also be useful when heading further afield as to the bus station, or if heading back to your accommodation late at night. 

It’s recommended to use Uber since all drivers are registered, and you won’t have to worry about hailing a cab from the street late at night.

When it comes to exploring the region around Santa Marta (such as Minca and the Tayrona National Park), then it’s best to use the local colectivos and buses which depart from the Mercado Público.

Where to Stay in Santa Marta

Where to Stay in Santa Marta

Although Santa Marta looks quite big on a map (there are many barrios stretching more in-land), the area of San Martín is by far the best and safest area for tourists to stay in. 

It’s located right along the coast where the boardwalk is, and has a much larger variety of accommodation options, restaurants and nightlife.

  • Those who want to stick to a budget will want to stay at the República Bahía Santa Marta Hostel. Located just a block from the malecón, you’ll be staying in an air-conditioned dorm room where they also have a swimming pool on-site too. 
  • If you’re looking for a mid-range apartment, then Oasis Fresh Hotel is the best option for you. Here you’ll be staying in a stylish private room, and will be just footsteps from the bustling Plaza de los Novios. They also have a restaurant and even a hot tub here too! 
  • When it comes to luxury then our winner has to be the Placita Vieja Hotel Boutique Spa. This stunning hotel has sleek private rooms, with some even coming with a private sauna too. They also have a swimming pool and bar, and you’ll be located right on the Plaza de los Novios. 

Here are some of our top tips for getting cheap hotel rooms if you're looking the keep the costs low! 

Best Things to do in Santa Marta, Colombia

Now we’ll explore the very best things you can see and do when in Santa Marta …

1. Go for a Stroll in the Parque de los Novios

Parque de los Novios in Santa Marta

As with the majority of the major Colombian cities and towns, there is usually a plaza that stands out apart from the rest. 

In Santa Marta it’s the Parque de los Novios, which is located just a couple of blocks from the coast. This bustling plaza is a very popular place to walk around, given its home to a variety of great accommodation options and restaurants. 

During the day it’s quite relaxed, and it’s nice to sit here for a while and just take in the local life (there’s many trees providing shade over benches which is perfect). 

At night the plaza transforms into the epicentre of nightlife, with many awesome restaurants and bars where you can enjoy food and a few drinks (we’ll take a look at some of these later in this guide). 

If you're looking for free things to do in Santa Marta, then we recommend coming here!

2. Embark on the unforgettable trek to The Lost City

The Lost City

Out of all of the things mentioned on this list, this one is definitely the most adventurous and is perfect for those looking for a truly memorable hike. 

The Lost City (which is known as Teyuna by the locals) is situated within the dense jungle of the Sierra Nevada, and is known for its breathtaking temples and views when looking down from the nearby mountain. 

Built around 800 A.D. by the Tairona group, many indigenous communities (such as the Wiwa) have since used the site for both communal and spiritual purposes. 

To get here you’ll need to go with an organised trek, where you’ll spend multiple days hiking through thick jungle, along the rivers as well as over mountains too. 

Of course you’ll need to be in good shape, but also remember to bring light clothes and lots of sunscreen since it can be overwhelmingly hot during the day. 

3. Learn to Dive in nearby Taganga

The amazing Taganga bay

The stretch of coast that surrounds Santa Marta is some of the most idyllic in South America, let alone just Colombia! 

Here you’ll find transparent waters all year-long, as well as an abundance of exotic marine wildlife

This makes it a perfect place to go diving, and the nearby town of Taganga is one of the best places to do just this. Here you’ll find many reputable dive shops where you can either try out diving, or go for the full Open Water PADI Course. 

Whilst you can also find other good spots to learn to dive, Taganga is especially known for its water quality, as well as the fact that it’s the cheapest place to learn in the whole continent.

Some of the best wildlife to see here include angelfish, octopus, scorpion fish as well as moray eels.

Ocean Lovers Taganga is one of the best companies to go with, although it’s also worth researching the various different dive shops when you arrive (the town is pretty small so you’ll find it easy to walk between them). 

Taganga is located just 6 km north of Santa Marta, with the drive taking roughly 15 minutes.

4. Marvel at the Catedral Basílica de Santa Marta

Santa Marta Cathedral

Unless you’re really into colonial architecture or religion, there’s a fair chance that the smaller cathedrals won’t be on your to do list when travelling. 

However when in Santa Marta, we really recommend taking some time out from your day and visiting the Catedral Basílica de Santa Marta

This beautiful, white church was built in 1760, and incorporates many Renaissance features that are typical of this era, including the various columns found inside.

History buffs will especially love it, as not only does it house the remains of Rodrigo de Bastidas (the founder of the city), it once also contained the body of the notorious Simon Bolivar too! 

It’s also the first church to be built within continental America.

We recommend coming around midday, since it will be a nice break from the hot sun. 

The Catedral Basílica de Santa Marta is located right on the Plaza de la Catedral, and is just a 5 minute walk north-east from the Parque de los Novios. 

It’s open all days of the week, from 11:30am until 1:00pm as well as later from 4:30pm until 6:00pm.

5. View wildlife at the Acuario Mundo Marino

Perhaps you want to see many rare and wonderful marine species, but don’t have the time or effort to invest in diving or snorkelling in the surrounding region? 

Then a visit to the Acuario Mundo Marino is the perfect place for you to head when in Santa Marta.

This aquarium is home to over 150 rare and exotic species that are found along this stretch of Caribbean Coast. 

Here you can spot the popular Blowfish, as well as various Octopuses, Turtles and Sharks. 

There are also various opportunities for getting in the water with certain species, where you can even participate in a Shark Feeding too! 

The Acuario Mundo Marino is located roughly 7 km south of the Parque de los Novios, with the drive taking around 15 minutes. 

It’s open Monday through to Sunday, from 9:00am until 6:00pm.

6. Visit Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park

Out of all the different reasons to visit Santa Marta, this is by far the biggest and most popular for tourists. 

Because how often can you say you’ve visited one of the most beautiful beaches on Earth?! 

This is exactly what waits for you at Tayrona National Park, which is a must-do day trip from Santa Marta. This protected area is home to many scenic beaches such as the famous Cabo San Juan del Guía, as well as Playa Cristal and Playa Brava. 

Once at the main entrance to Tayrona National Park you’ll need to walk along the jungle pathways, where you’ll be able to spot various animals such as Tamarin Monkeys and Iguanas on your way to the various beaches. 

A great way to explore this site is by going with this day tour, where you’ll enjoy a private, guided hike around the very best routes of this fantastic region.

The Tayrona National Park is located some 16 km north of Santa Marta, and getting here is easy with the various shuttles and colectivos driving tourists to and from the city. 

The park is open from 8:00am until 5:00pm all days of the week (if camping you can stay past these times and wander around of course).

7. Walk along the Bahía de Santa Marta

A statue in Malecón de Bastidas along Bahía de Santa Marta

Also known as the main strip of Santa Marta, this long boardwalk runs along the coast of the city.

It’s located within the district of San Martín, and is the perfect place to get a cool breeze from the sometimes overbearing Colombian Sun. 

You can begin in the north by heading to the Puerto de Santa Marta, which features many luxurious yachts, as well as having a more relaxed feel along with a small beach. 

Heading south you’ll then reach the Malecón de Bastidas, which is the official name for this long walkway. Here you’ll find many cultural landmarks and statues, as well as plenty of benches and shaded spots to watch the sun go down

From here onwards we’ll see many restaurants and nightlife options, as well as more of a bustle since it’s close to the Parque de los Novios, the touristy part of Santa Marta. 

Finally we then arrive at the winding pier that juts out just in front, which is lovely for a walk as well as for finding more eating options. 

Be sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen when exploring given how hot Santa Marta can get!

8. Hang out on Playa Rodadero

Playa Rodadero from the sea

Whilst most head north of Santa Marta for beach-time (and to be fair the beaches are more picturesque and cleaner), they tend to be further away and more of a hassle to reach. 

For those looking for a no-fuss time of relaxation on the sands, then Playa Rodadero is your best bet. 

This beach has a Miami-esque feel to it with many skyscrapers lining this portion of coast, along with a tonne of restaurants and street vendors too.

Given its quite touristy, it’s not the best for those looking for peace and quiet, however those looking for a fun and a more upbeat vibe will love it here. 

Those who have a higher budget can choose to stay here too, where there are numerous resorts and hotels lining the sands

We recommend coming on weekdays around 9/10 am before it gets searingly hot (although the sea is perfect for quick cool-offs regardless). 

Playa Rodadero is located 6 km south of the Parque de los Novios, which is a 10 minute drive around the Cerro Ziruma which divides the city from this portion of the coast.

9. Enjoy Santa Marta’s Nightlife Scenes

Once you’re done hanging out on beaches and exploring the city’s highlights for the day, it’s time to let loose and enjoy the Santa Marta nightlife. 

Here you’ll find literally everything, with hostels like the Brisa Loca offering a great night of dancing and meeting other travellers, as well as being a good place to get those first beers in. 

All in all, you’ll find the best nightlife options around the Parque de los Novios, as well as the various blocks that surround it. 

Carrera 3 is the most notable, where you’ll find awesome bars like La Azotea as well as Oh La La La Puerta which is the perfect place for dancing salsa.

Of course just make sure to plan in advance how you’ll get back, and not to wander off drunk into unknown areas! 

10. Head to the Guajira Desert

If we had to pick a favourite experience out of all the amazing options you can have in and around Santa Marta, the Guajira Desert would have to come out on top.

This region is located further north of Santa Marta, and is a desert filled with scenic dunes and picturesque coastlines. It encompasses around 62,000 acres of arid land, and also borders Venezuela to the very Far East. 

Here you’ll also find the mysterious Wayuú tribe who are known for their handicrafts and minimalist lifestyle.

To get here you’ll first need to take a bus to Uribia, and then a smaller truck ride further north to Cabo de la Vela. 

Whilst it can be done within a couple of days, we recommend spending longer to enjoy this tiny fishing village, as well as Punta Gallinas which is the furthest northern-most point of the whole South American continent

We recommend joining this all-action tour to the Guajira Desert, where you’ll spend 3 Days seeing all of the very best highlights. It’s best for those who want less fuss and to have everything already organised.

11. Visit the Tairona Gold Museum

Exhibit in Tairona Gold Museum

Many who head to Santa Marta often do so because of the beautiful beaches and scenery that are found throughout the city and nearby region. 

However this area also has a rich historical culture too, which dates back many centuries

The Tairona Gold Museum is dedicated to covering the many indigenous groups who once lived (and those who still live!) in the area, as well as a special look at how they thrived in these regions. 

Here there are a variety of exhibit rooms, with everything from pre-Columbian gold to garments and other artefacts that have been preserved. 

The Tairona Gold Museum (known locally as the Museo del Oro Tairona) is located just 5 blocks north of the Parque de los Novios, which takes around 10 minutes when walking. 

It’s open from 9:00am until 5:00pm from Tuesday until Sunday.

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is another fantastic museum to visit if you've got the time and you're not cultured out!

12. Explore the Pueblos Palafitos

Pueblos Palafitos in Santa Marta

Continuing on the historical and anthropological theme of why you should visit Santa Marta, here we will now explore a community who live in stilt houses and have decided to reject the more modern ways of living. 

Known as the Pueblos Palafitos, they have built their houses above the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta - which is a UNESCO-declared biosphere full of swampy marshes. 

This proud and warm culture has also celebrated its unique ways by painting their homes in a variety of colours too - so it makes for a really stunning set of photos! 

It’s also a great place for seeing a rich abundance of wildlife. Here we can find a variety of bird species that are endemic to this particular region of Colombia. 

The Pueblos Palafitos are located within the giant lake of Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, which is around an hour drive south of the city.

13. Head on a Day Trip to Barranquilla

Paseo de Bolivar in Barranquilla

Whilst Santa Marta is full of impressive things to see and do, it’s not the only city worth visiting when in this part of Colombia. 

There are many worthwhile cities located along the Caribbean coast, such as Cartagena and Palomino, however one that stands out for us is Barranquilla.

This sizzling, tropical city is only a couple of hours from Santa Marta, and has many awesome sights to see. 

Some of these include the imposing Catedral Metropolitana María Reina de Barranquilla, as well as the Museo del Caribe. 

If you’re in Colombia around late March or early April, then you’ll definitely want to visit the Carnival here too. Coinciding with the religious event of Semana Santa, Barranquilla actually hosts the second largest Carnival on Earth

Barranquilla is located 105 km west of Santa Marta, with the drive taking around 2 hours. 

There’s plenty of buses heading to and from the city, so you can always make it back without needing to worry or rush.

14. Visit the Marinka Waterfalls

Marinka Waterfalls

As with when exploring any hot Latin country, sometimes what is needed is a good cool-off in the sea or river. 

Whilst not as renowned as the beaches, there are also some beautiful waterfalls worth visiting and having a dip in too. 

One of the very best are the Marinka Waterfalls, which are located close to the popular town of Minca. 

Here you’ll be able to enjoy the falls which are surrounded by thick jungle and green vegetation. There’s also a giant hammock too (in true Minca style) which is perfect for some proper forest lounging as well as a good photo.

We recommend joining this day tour to the falls, which includes all transportation, a visit to the Pozos Azules as well as a tour through a local coffee farm.

To get here independently you can easily take a public bus to Minca, and then hike for around half an hour to reach the waterfalls. 

The total distance between Santa Marta and Marinka Waterfalls is roughly 25 km, which will take you around 1.5 hours to get to (including both the bus and the walk through the jungle). 

The site is open from 9:00am until 5:00pm all days of the week.

15. Explore Santa Marta on a Guided Bike Tour

bicycle in Santa Marta, Colombia

This city has loads of great landmarks and sights to visit. And whilst you could walk between them as usual, why not change things up for once? 

A great way of getting around Santa Marta is by bike, which is actually better since you’ll spend less time in the hot sun when getting from point A to B. 

Going with an organised bike tour is also great since you’ll ride with those who know Santa Marta well, as well as exploring some extra spots you wouldn’t otherwise find.

We recommend joining this specific bike tour, where you’ll visit various parks such as Parque Bolivar and Parque Grooms, as well as other notable sites such as the Mariner and the Camellón. 

Your guide will also show you various foods from the region along the way, and tell many historical facts as you visit each new destination. 

You’ll also have bottled water provided too which is always a nice bonus! 

If you're wondering what to do in Santa Marta, Colombia then why not check out this activity?

16. See the Altar of the Fatherland

Altar of the Fatherland monument in Santa Marta

Santa Marta has many historical landmarks and monuments, however the Altar of the Fatherland has to be one of the most underrated of all. 

This sleek, white shrine was built in 1930 and commemorates the death (and life) of Simon Bolivar, who liberated various South American nations such as Colombia from Spanish rule. 

Ever since these times, he is now regarded as one of Latin America’s biggest heroes, and as such you’ll find many statues of him as well as parks named after him throughout Santa Marta.

The Altar of the Fatherland was specifically designed by four artists, who created a door archway to represent this part of Colombia being the gateway into South America.

The Altar of the Fatherland is located just a short walk from the Centro Comercial Buenavista, which is around a 20-minute drive from the Parque de los Novios. 

It’s open from 9:30am until 4:00pm all days of the week. 

17. Head to the remote Beach of Inca Inca

There’s no better way to experience Santa Marta than by enjoying its numerous share of beautiful, tropical beaches

This area of Colombia is known for plenty of white sand strips, although those after a more quiet (and not overly touristy) option will want to head to Playa Inca Inca.

Just shy of half a kilometre, it’s not the longest beach around, however it's much more relaxed when compared with Tayrona and the city beaches like Playa Rodadero. 

The waters are also pretty calm too, making it a safe place to swim, go snorkelling or carry out other water sports such as jet skiing. 

Playa Inca Inca is shielded away from the rest of Santa Marta, with Cerro Ziruma resting in-between. 

It’s located roughly 8 km south of the Parque de los Novios, which takes around 25 minutes to drive to. 

It’s best to head to this beach on weekdays, where there’ll be barely any tourists or locals around.

18. Go Souvenir Shopping

souvenirs in Colombia

Of all the places you can visit in Colombia, Santa Marta definitely tops the list in terms of variety. 

Here you’ll find many different cultures, landscapes and experiences. And there’s no better way to remember it all after than by getting yourself or a loved one a solid souvenir. 

By far the best thing you can purchase here is a hand-woven bag or hammock made by the indigenous Wayuú people. You’ll need to head to nearby Uribia (which is the capital of the Guajira region) to get the most authentic goods, however it really is worth the trip. 

Within Santa Marta, you’ll find some of the best souvenir shops along Calle 20 (which runs from Parque de los Novios until the Malecón). 

Centro Artesanía Cultural is one of the best markets you can head to, who sell everything from wooden handicrafts and authentic jewellery to hand-knitted bags and garments. It’s open from 8:00am until 9:00pm all days of the week.

You can also check out this guide for more ideas on what souvenirs to buy when in Santa Marta.

19. Visit Minca

Awesome mountain views from Minca

Those who have already spent much time in Santa Marta will either love or begin to loathe the extra hot temperatures when walking around during the day. 

If you fall into the latter camp (or perhaps want to see a beautiful mountainous town), then a visit to Minca will be a great addition to your trip. 

Situated 650 metres up into the surrounding mountains of the Sierra Nevada, this small village is known for its striking nature. 

Here you can see a variety of exotic Toucans, hummingbirds and Sparrows. As such, make sure you've got a good-quality camera on you! 

As well as this, this region is home to some perfect coffee-growing conditions, and whilst here you’ll want to visit the plantations and try out some of the very best produce. 

Other awesome things to do here include visiting the waterfalls of Pozo Azul, hiking Cerro Kennedy as well as sprawling out on the famous, massive hammock that overlooks the valley. 

We recommend heading on this all-action tour to Minca, where you’ll spend the day seeing incredible waterfalls, coffee plantations as well as learning how to make your own chocolate. You’ll also have private transport as well as lunch included too.

Minca is located roughly 22 km south of Santa Marta, with the drive taking an hour. 

20. Head on a Local Street Food Tour

Santa Marta Local Foods

Colombian food comes in a wide variety, and in this country you’ll find everything from tasty desserts and drinks to staples that locals rave about and eat daily. 

During your time in Santa Marta (and Colombia as a whole) you’ll hopefully have tried out different local dishes and found something that you like. 

If you haven’t yet (or simply want to do some further digging), then a street food tour is an amazing experience worth doing. 

We highly recommend joining this half-day tour, where you’ll try various local dishes whilst visiting the markets of the Plaza Parque Simon Bolivar as well as the main Catedral. 

You’ll have various dishes included in your experience, from bollos (corn dough which is wrapped in palm leaves) to Cassava and Shrimp Ceviche. 

Even better is that you’ll have a knowledgeable guide showing you the way, and you can also ask for more unorthodox dishes too if you’re feeling brave! 

21. Hike up to the Mirador on top of Cerro Ziruma

There’s no better place to have an eagle-eye view of a destination than from a mirador

It’s usually the most strategically-located vantage point of a city, and offers some breathtaking vistas along with the surrounding nature.

In Santa Marta, the best is on top of Cerro Ziruma, which lies just south of the beachside city. 

The hike up will take around an hour (depending on your fitness level), and you’ll pass various exotic plants that are native to this dry tropical forest biome.

We recommend coming up around 4:00pm to enjoy the sunset over Santa Marta and the picturesque coast. 

The Cerro Ziruma is located roughly 8 km south of the Parque de los Novios, and the start of the trail can be reached in around 20 minutes by car.

22. Go Horseback Riding

Los Naranjos Beach
The stunning Los Naranjos Beach! 

Given you’ll be spending so much time on picturesque beaches, as well as hiking around various mountainous towns, it makes Santa Marta (and the accompanying region) perfect for going horseback riding. 

Not only does it give you a chance to rest tired legs, it’s also pretty memorable too, where you can watch a beautiful sunset or better observe the jungle canopy or the towering peaks. 

One of the best places to do this is within the Tayrona National Park, and we suggest heading on this memorable tour

You’ll first start by heading through the thick rainforest along the Piedras River, passing by many wild animals and plants along the way (which your guide will stop to show and explain). 

You’ll finally reach the sands of Los Naranjos, where you can then enjoy the postcard-perfect beach as well as the on-site restaurant for some much-needed drinks and snacks. 

23. Visit the Indigenous Village of Tungueka

Wayuu Tribe

If you’ve already spent time exploring this city and the surrounding towns, then you’ll most likely have already met some of the mysterious, indigenous groups that reside in these parts.

One of the very places to further immerse yourself in local culture is within the village of Tungueka, which is located within the rainforest outside of Santa Marta. 

It’s home to the native Kogi tribe, who are the oldest culture to still remain here despite the pressures during the Spanish Rule. 

They are direct descendants of the Tairona Culture (who were the first here and also built the legendary Lost City), and whilst here you can communicate with them and see how they continue to live without much help from modern-day society. 

There’s various tour operators who are located within Santa Marta who can take you there, along the streets that surround  the Parque de los Novios. 

The village of Tungueka is situated roughly 97 km east of Santa Marta, within the thick jungle of the Sierra Nevada. 

Whilst you could technically drive and walk here yourself, it makes no sense given you won’t be able to communicate with the locals (nor probably won’t be welcome either).

24. Wander around the Simón Bolívar Metropolitan Park

Parque Bolívar, Santa Marta

As we’ve already mentioned, Simon Bolívar is one of Colombia’s most loved heroes.

And as a result, virtually all of the cities and towns here have various landmarks and places named after the libertador

The Simón Bolívar Metropolitan Park is another great one, which is very much worth the visit when in Santa Marta. 

This picturesque plaza is one of the largest in the city, and is also located right next the coast (which is perfect as the cooling breeze comes through here unrestricted). 

Here you can see various statues and historical landmarks, where you can learn about the importance of this city during the liberation of Colombia. 

There’s also many shaded walkways, benches to sit as well as various restaurants and colonial buildings located around its perimeter. 

The Simón Bolívar Metropolitan Park is located just four blocks south of the Parque de los Novios, which can be walked in around 5 minutes.

25. Hike the towering Pico Cristóbal Colón

Pico Cristóbal Colón

The variety of beautiful sceneries that surround Santa Marta come in all shapes and sizes. 

Whilst most stick to just the beaches and jungle towns, there’s also the breathtaking mountain range to be explored too. 

At a dizzying height of 5775 metres, Pico Cristóbal Colón is the very highest peak of this range, and also the overall tallest in Colombia. 

Whilst few can make it up to the summit (it’s best for those who have advanced hiking experience) there’s still various hiking routes that can be enjoyed, as well as the main route up for those who want more of a challenge. 

It’s mandatory to go with an organised trek, given the routes can be dangerous as well as being easy to get lost on. 

MountainMadness offers several multi-day hikes into the region, and you’ll also find many more reputable companies within Santa Marta too. 

It’s important to remember that these will be high altitude climbs, so you’ll want to spend a few days acclimatising before as well as taking medications for altitude sickness.

Santa Marta Travel Tips & FAQ

When is a good time to visit Santa Marta?

Given Santa Marta is located along the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, the city has a typical tropical climate with both a dry and wet season. 

Let’s now take a look at the difference between the two and what to expect, as you'll need to adjust your packing list accordingly! 

The dry season begins in December, and lasts until around mid April. 

Daily average temperatures range from 81-83°F, with highs of 88°F and evening lows that dip to around 75°F. Rainfall is very sparse during this time of year, with as little as 0-0.5 inches falling throughout any of these months. 

This makes this time of year the best for visiting Santa Marta, given your plans won’t be disrupted by unpredictable weather. As well as this, temperatures are also more comfortable, as later in the year it can feel quite overbearing and sticky.

The wet season of Santa Marta is longer than most other coastal cities (which runs from late April until November), however there are certain times that are better for visiting. 

Daily average temperatures hover between 82-84°F, with highs that reach up to 88°F. The biggest difference to the dry season are the evening lows, which vary from 79-81°F.

Levels of rainfall can vary each month, but average between 2-5.5 inches. May, September and October are the wettest months, however visiting in July and August is still relatively dry.

You can check out the annual weather for Santa Marta here on WeatherSpark.

How long should you spend in Santa Marta

Out of all the places that can be visited when in Colombia, Santa Marta is often the one that travellers spend the most time in. 

It’s the perfect base camp for exploring a wide range of sites and even biomes too, with white-sand beaches, desert and tropical rainforest all quite close to the city. 

We therefore recommend spending a minimum of 6 days in Santa Marta, where you can explore everything without rushing, as well as getting to know the city on a more intimate level too. 

You’ll need to plan more time if embarking on the Lost City Trek, or if spending time within the Guajira Desert.

What is a good budget for Santa Marta?

Travellers on all kinds of budgets will love Santa Marta, where you’ll find a tonne of both cheap hostels and local restaurants, as well as fancy hotels and finer establishments.

If you’re looking to stay on the cheaper side of things, then you can budget for around $20 a day. Here you’ll be staying at a well-located hostel (which usually includes a swimming pool and AC), as well as eating typical Colombian meals and street foods. You’ll also have some budget leftover for some bus or colectivo rides, or for enjoying beers at night.

Those who want a more luxurious and comfortable experience can expect to spend between $30-40 per day in Santa Marta. With this budget you can either upgrade to a private room in a hostel, or stay at a nicer hotel (which usually includes breakfast in the rate). You can eat at nicer restaurants as well as take a few taxis with this budget.

It’s important to remember that these budgets are only for accommodation and food costs, with just a little left over for an attraction or taxi ride. It doesn’t account for flights, travel insurance, tours or buses between destinations.

To make the most of your money, we recommend opting for a travel card such as Monzo or Revolut.

Can you just book a tour for Santa Marta?

If you’re short on time, then booking a tour is an ideal way of seeing the city highlights within a day. 

Of course you’ll need much more time to explore the region and other gems such as Tayrona National Park, however it’s still a good option. 

We recommend heading on this day tour of Santa Marta, where you’ll explore the main sites which include El Parque de los Novios and the Malecón de Bastidas. 

As well as trying some really delicious coffee (which is included with the tour), you’ll also learn how to make your very own Arepas too! 

Where to go after Santa Marta?

This city, along with its surrounding regions tend to keep travellers here longer than they expected or planned. 

However, after you’ve seen it all and are ready to move on, you may be wondering where is best to travel next. 

We highly recommend heading to the beautiful island of San Andrés. Located within the middle of the Caribbean Ocean, here you’ll be able to enjoy the colourful atmosphere whilst lounging on some of the most beautiful beaches around. 

One of the best things you can do when in San Andres is to head on this full-day tour, where you’ll explore some of the most picturesque islets that belong to the Colombian island. 

You’ll also be able to get up close with Manta Rays, as well as have plenty of time to enjoy the wildlife of Acuario Cay. 

Here are some other guides that you may find helpful for planing your Colombian adventure:

Disclaimer: Fully research your destination prior to travel, or any products prior to purchase. We can accept no responsibility for anything you experience as a result of the information found on this website. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for some purchases, at no additional expense to you. Read more here
Some images courtesy of Deposit Photos.
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