Santa Marta Travel Guide

Discover the best attractions, activities, food, accommodations, and more in Santa Marta, Colombia with our comprehensive travel guide.

Introduction to Santa Marta

Located in the Magdalena Department on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, Santa Marta is a popular destination for tourists seeking sun, sand, and adventure. Founded in 1525, Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia. The city boasts a mix of charming colonial architecture along with modern conveniences and is a great starting point for exploring the beautiful surrounding areas.

List of Places to Visit in Santa Marta

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Museo del Oro Tairona: This museum displays a collection of gold and pottery artifacts that showcase the indigenous Tairona culture.
  • Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino: This historic hacienda was the final residence of Simon Bolivar and is now a museum and cultural center.
  • Catedral de Santa Marta: Built-in the 18th century, this cathedral is the oldest in Colombia.
  • La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino: The final residence of Simon Bolivar, now transformed in a museum.

Natural Attractions of Santa Marta: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Tayrona National Park: One of the most popular national parks in Colombia, Tayrona is known for its white sand beaches, crystal-clear Caribbean waters, and hiking trails through dense jungle foliage.
  • Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: This mountain range is home to fascinating indigenous cultures still practicing ancient traditions and offers many opportunities for hiking and birdwatching.
  • La Ciudad Perdida: Located deep in the jungle, this ancient city was built by the indigenous Tayrona people and is only accessible by a challenging multi-day hike.
  • Playa Cristal: A stunning beach located inside Tayrona National Park, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Santa Marta

  • Pueblito: A challenging hike in the Sierra Nevada, with great views of the mountains and sea, and the opportunity to learn about the local indigenous culture along the way.
  • El Camino Real: A trek through the jungle to visit the base of the highest peak in Colombia.
  • La Ciudad Perdida: A multi-day hike through dense jungle and ancient cities.

Best Things to Do in Santa Marta: Activities and Tours

  • Scuba Diving: Discover the underwater world of the Caribbean Sea and explore colourful coral reefs, sea turtles, and schools of tropical fish.
  • Parque de los Novios: A vibrant nightlife scene, with bars, restaurants, live music, and street performers.
  • Horseback Riding: Ride along the beach or into the jungle to discover remote waterfalls and untouched landscapes.

Week-Long Itinerary for Santa Marta

Day Activity
1 Visit Tayrona National Park and relax on Cabo San Juan beach
2 Hike to Pueblito for a cultural experience with local indigenous tribes
3 Explore the colonial town center and visit the Cathedral of Santa Marta
4 Take a day trip to La Ciudad Perdida, the “Lost City,” and explore the ancient archeological site.
5 Relax on playa Cristal or take a scuba diving trip
6 Take a day trip to Minca, a charming mountain town, and explore coffee plantations
7 Hike in Sierra Nevada for stunning views of the mountains and the sea

Food and Drink Scene of Santa Marta

Must-Try Dishes

  • Bandeja Paisa: A delicious traditional Colombian dish consisting of beans, rice, pork, chicharrón, avocado, arepa, and fried egg.
  • Ceviche: A refreshing dish made with raw fish or shrimp marinated in lime juice, onions, and cilantro.
  • Arroz con Coco: A delicious coconut rice served as an accompaniment to many dishes.

Local Beverages

  • Cerveza Aguila: Colombia’s most popular beer.
  • Refajo: A beer and soda cocktail that is popular in Colombia.
  • Canelazo: A warm, spiced alcoholic drink with aguardiente, panela (brown sugar), cinnamon, and cloves.

Where to Stay in Santa Marta: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Hotel Boutique Casa Carolina: A charming, colonial-style hotel in the heart of the historic center.
  • The Dreamer Hostel: A lively hostel with a relaxed atmosphere and great communal areas.
  • Hotel La Casa del Farol: An elegant hotel with colorful decor and an excellent location near the beach and city center.

What to Buy in Santa Marta: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Arhuaco Mochilas: These traditional woven bags are made by the Arhuaco indigenous tribe and are available throughout Santa Marta.
  • Cocoa: Santa Marta is home to some of the best cocoa in the world. Visitors can purchase high-quality cacao products, such as chocolate or cocoa powder.
  • Handicrafts: Handmade pottery, ceramics, and woven textiles are readily available in Santa Marta.

Local Culture and Customs of Santa Marta

Santa Marta has a rich cultural history, and visitors should take time to learn about the local indigenous tribes, such as the Arhuaco people, who still practice many of their ancestral traditions. Visitors should also respect the local traditions and customs, such as greeting people with a handshake or kiss on the cheek.

Best Time to Visit Santa Marta

Santa Marta has warm, tropical weather year-round, with the rainy season between April and November. The best time to visit is from December to April, when the weather is dry and sunny, and there are fewer crowds.

Do’s and Don’ts of Santa Marta


  • Learn about the local culture and customs.
  • Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
  • Take precautions against mosquitos and other insects.


  • Ignore the cultural and environmental impact of your actions.
  • Expose yourself to unnecessary risks.
  • Take any narcotics or illegal drugs.

Safety and Health

Safety in Santa Marta

Santa Marta is generally safe for visitors, but precautions should still be taken to avoid petty crimes such as pickpocketing. Visitors should also be aware of any travel warnings or advisories and seek guidance from local authorities.

Health in Santa Marta

Visitors should take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, Dengue, or Chikungunya. Visitors should also drink bottled or filtered water, and avoid consuming ice or uncooked food from street vendors.

Getting to Santa Marta: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Santa Marta

The most convenient airport is Simon Bolivar International Airport, located about 20 minutes from Santa Marta.

Bus Stations Near Santa Marta

There are several bus stations, including the Terminal de Transporte de Santa Marta, which connects to various national and regional destinations.

Other Options

There are many taxi and private car services available for hire, as well as local buses or shared vans called “collectivos.”

How to Get Around in Santa Marta

The city center is small and easily walkable, but visitors can also use taxis, buses or shared vans called “collectivos.” For longer distances or trips to nearby attractions, private car hire or guided tours might be more convenient.

Where to Go Next from Santa Marta: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Palomino: A small beach town located along the coast famous for tubing trips and beautiful beaches.
  • Minca: A charming mountain town that offers coffee tours and beautiful nature hikes.
  • Cartagena: A gorgeous colonial city on the Caribbean coast with most stunning historic architecture and vibrant nightlife.


Santa Marta is an ideal destination for adventurous travelers looking for a mix of tropical beaches, lush jungles, and rich cultural experiences. Its mix of natural and cultural attractions attract visitors from all over the world. Enjoy the tropical weather, stunning scenery, and local hospitality in one of Colombia’s most beautiful destinations.