The Best Things to Do in Santa Marta, Colombia

Is Santa Marta worth visiting?

Santa Marta, Colombia. A city with a rich history. Founded in 1525 by Rodrigo de Bastidas, Santa Marta is the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, its oldest remaining, city and the second oldest Spanish Settlement in South America. Named after its bay, Santa Marta is skirted across the area with white sand and beautiful, lush greenery. While this city pops up often as a cruise stopover, Santa Marta is not a place to be ignored. Located just a short drive from one of the most important national parks in the country, with mountains in the back, the sea in the front and a lot of culture in between. 

What is Santa Marta known for?

As well as its natural beauty, its history is not to be ignored. An important part of the Spanish Colonial territory, its liberator, Simon Bolivar died on the outskirts of this trade centre. As a result of Colombia’s perseverance, this city is an example of this country’s versatility. A main hub for trade, as well as its tourism industry and its burgeoning eco-tourist sector, Santa Marta is truly a glisten in Colombia’s past and present.

What to do in Santa Marta?

Take a trek to a lost city

Our hikers will relish in this great opportunity. Take a guided tour through the Ciudad Perdida Trek (the Lost City in English). Through this arduous hike, you will be able to explore Colombia’s lost past and see a glimpse of the Tayrona indigenous community. Ciudad Perdida is an example of an ancient settlement built by the indigenous before the colonization of South America. 

The ruins include stone terraces, and walkways that lead you to this lost city! 

Bask in historical excellence…

La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is a Spanish Colonial sugar cane plantation just a few minutes outside of Santa Marta. While this may seem like a regular plantation decorated nicely, its historical significance is nothing to look over. Simon Bolivar spent the remainder of his life in this Hacienda and you can learn about both the history of this plantation as well as learn about his final days in his journey to liberation. 

You can also find a botanical garden and art gallery to marvel at the flora and fauna as well as a taste of culture. If you wish, hire a guide! The guides in this location are actually students from a local secondary school. 

…Or bask in the Sun!

Do you want to bathe in the sun for hours on end? Do you want to get your scuba certification for a low cost? Or do you just want to dive into the warm abyss and splash around? If one applies (or all), the nearby village of Taganga is the perfect spot for you and your family! A rest stop before the Tayrona National Park, you will get a nice beach opportunity (one of the best beaches in the country!) in this sleepy fishing village with more fish than people! You will see endless amounts of colorful fish, coral reefs and fun activities like scuba diving, dolphin watching and just laying about (what fun!). 

Promenade Prance

Take a promenade along Paseo El Camellon and revel at what the beautiful Carribean Sea has to offer for sunsets and other viewing opportunities. The best part is that you are able to experience the full force of the vending culture in this city! Along Avenida Las Bastidas, you will find people selling coconuts, fruits, arepas and ceviche as well as drinks and cocktails for you to enjoy as you watch the sky offer a dramatic performance to conclude the day. 

Beautiful Biodiversity

Let’s address the elephant in the room — Tayrona National Park. This is probably the most popular place that people can visit in Santa Marta. This beautiful example of an ecosystem is located right on the coast with miles and miles of beach and mountain. Residents include birds, sloths, monkeys and unique amphibians. 

This might require a night’s stay in Cabo San Juan, a rustic encampment where you can rent a hammock to sleep on or a tent to sleep in. One good attraction to the secluded beaches is that there are restaurants that serve wonderful Caribbean seafood, and delicious beers. 

Where to Stay in Santa Marta

El Rodadero

Try a neighbourhood with a fun beach lifestyle, a burgeoning nightlife and a well situated area close to everything in Santa Marta. The entertainment and beach district of Santa Marta, Rodadero includes hotels, apartments, sports and facilities, yachts, shopping and everything you would want in a neighbourhood. Rodadero is great starting point for your beach vacation in Colombia. 

Old Town

Santa Marta’s Old Town district is the centre of it all. You can feel the 18th and 19th century atmosphere with the cathedral and museums as well as the restoration efforts of the municipality to better preserve this glorious relic of a district. While this is the heart of the city, it is advisable to practice some caution while out late at night. 

Bello Horizonte

The neighborhood where you can get away from it all! Bello Horizonte is the easy living lifestyle heart of this city where you can just recline and enjoy the view and the quiet of the area. This quarter is especially suitable for families as this is a restricted area where boats or jet skis are not allowed. This means you and your children can swim, splash and marvel at the sight of local life as this is a more local face of Santa Marta. It is noted that this is one of the safest places in the city. 

Is Santa Marta safe for tourists?

Like any city, it is suggested that you are careful of your surroundings, especially during the evening. While crime has greatly decreased in most Colombia cities, typical scams can be encountered in some settings. Make sure to read up on places that you visit before you depart, as it should be common practice to research. 

Also read: Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

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