Let’s face it, the beaches in South America aren’t that great. That is, at least not until you get to Colombia’s picturesque Caribbean coast, where blindingly white sand stretches endlessly between clear turquoise water and throngs of swaying palm trees. But it’s not all about the beaches, with plenty of other worthwhile reasons to pay the seaside resort of Santa Marta a visit before you die.
Become a beach bum in Tayrona National Park
Okay, to be honest, it is mostly about the beaches and some of the most idyllic shorelines on the continent can be found in the Tayrona National Park, just a short drive north of Santa Marta.
Chill out in Taganga
Although not nearly as postcard perfect as Tayrona, the nearby fishing village of Taganga does have a pleasant stretch of sand and a laid-back vibe. What’s more, the backpacker orientated party scene is off the chain.
Learn to SCUBA in Taganga
The other attraction of Taganga is the town offers some of the best value SCUBA instruction in the world without compromising on quality or safety. After learning the ropes, most travelers head to Tayrona to explore the park’s incredible marine life.
Trek through the jungle to find a lost city
Fancy doing something adventurous on your next trip to Colombia? Then how does a four-day trek through dense jungle terrain in search of a long-lost pre-Inca citadel sound? Known as the Lost City Trek, this epic adventure is the sole reason many travelers visit the region.
Sample some seafood
Located right by the ocean, it’s no surprise Santa Marta serves up some delicious seafood delicacies. Whether it be lobster in a fancy restaurant or ceviche from a beachside street stall, the region is awash with delectable ocean dwelling delights.
Check out some street stalls
Speaking of street food, that’s something they certainly do well in Santa Marta. Ceviche is an obvious pick, although there are plenty of cheap options for fresh fruit, juice, and sweet local pastries as well.
Stay in an awesome hostel
Thanks to its incredible surrounding attractions, Santa Marta has seen numerous amazing hostels spring up over the years. From raucous party venues to luxurious “flashpacker” digs, there’s a cool place to say for every budget traveler in Santa Marta.
Eat at an amazing restaurant
Well to do tourists from all over the country ensure Santa Marta’s restaurant scene remains on point, with everything from local haunts to international fine dining restaurants to tempt hungry travelers.
Get some history at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino
As South America’s principal liberator, Simon Bolivar was a pretty important guy. He lived out his last days in the opulent estate known as the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino which is well worthy of a visit for those after a Latin American history fix.
See some cool jewels at the Museo del Oro
But Colombia’s history goes back way further than conquistadors and revolutionaries, with a sizable contingent of indigenous folk inhabiting the region for thousands of years. Check out their best handicrafts and jewelry in the city’s impressive Gold Museum.
Hang out in El Rodadero
For the best beach in the city proper, head to the southern neighborhood of El Rodadero. Perfect for people watchers, this glitzy neighborhood attracts some of Santa Marta’s most glamorous citizens.
Pull up a towel on Playa Blanca
For a more tranquil beach escape, jump on a ferry to the isolated Playa Blanca. Located past a headland to the south of town, the beautiful “White Beach” is largely devoid of the crowds (except during holidays).
People watch at Parque de los Novios
Sit back in a nice restaurant, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the world go by at the buzzing Parque de los Novios. Some of the city’s finest eateries are located here and there is always plenty of action in the evening.
Explore the mountains of Minca
Just an hour out of Santa Marta, the beautiful mountainous town of Minca is famous for its coffee plantations, rivers, and waterfalls. Go on a day trip or stay overnight to better explore the region.
Hang out with the vacation crowd
Colombians love going to Santa Marta on vacation, so expect the place to have a buzzing vibe over any given holiday weekend.