Santa Marta, Colombia was on our potential list of one month destinations in 2018/2019. Rio De Janeiro beat it out, and PRAISE THE JESUS, because Rio is way better than Santa Marta.
That is not to say Santa Marta is a dump or terrible location. The Millers simply enjoyed what Rio had to offer in comparison to Santa Marta.
Good thing this isn’t a comparison blog between Rio and Santa Marta…
We stayed in Santa Marta one block from the beach at Casa Del Rio via Airbnb. We had seven days here and the goal was to break up the time between Mexico City and Medellin. Since we didn’t get to visit in our previous travels, we figured why not make a pit stop.
This was a fine accommodation – nothing special. But VERY safe. Which felt…important in Santa Marta. I would go higher end accommodation here, than not. Although there are all types of hotels, resorts and hostels here. So, you should be able to find your preference.
Again, we were in Santa Marta for a break of sorts. Which meant I spent a fair amount of time at the roof top pools. Which is where the photos above were taken. I HIGHLY suggest either choosing a hotel with a pool you’ll love (like we did) or stay in Taganga for a nicer beach. But I cannot speak to accommodations there.
That brings us to what you DON’T come to Santa Marta for…
The photo above is a flattering photo of the beach in Santa Marta. It is not a tropical oasis, and I want to make that clear. I repeat – choose a hotel with a rooftop pool or plan to travel elsewhere for better beaches. Which you can 100% do.
Taganga Beach – you can take a taxi, bus, or rent a scooter. We rented a scooter and opted to just drive down to Playaca. The super nice lady working at the scooter rental place told us to go here. It was great. No tourists, quiet and hidden just before Taganga. All photos below are from Playaca, besides the last one.
Tayrona Park – this is a farther drive. I would suggest actually staying in the park. There are several beaches but the part was closed when we were there. So that was a big fail. We drove there, but it wasn’t open.
That is where you’ll find Cristal beach and Cabo San Juan – two of the most popular and beautiful beaches “near” Santa Marta. It was a 30-45 minute drive to the park. Then they said it would be an additional 30-45 to the beaches once inside the park.
Santa Marta doesn’t have much to offer for the Millers (I think we would have preferred Cartagena), but it does have some character. I know, my photos make it look instagramable AF, but these are all from a very close proximity to one another. Just note that.
Take a day to explore the old town and the cathedral. And there are tons of little cafes. These two were our favorites:
Ikora Cafe – for breakfast. The coffee was UH-MAZING here.
Lulo – for the best smoothies and paninis in town.
The Millers decided we missed the mountains, did some research and went the opposite direction of the beaches…into the mountains.
We rented a 250cc motorcycle from Moto Rent Santa Marta for $120 usd for 48 hours + insurance.
Drove to Minca – Paid 30,000 col for coffee tour with two other couples. It was awesome.
We stayed at Reserva Natural Tierra Adentro. SKETCHY AF ROAD – starting in Minca all the way up to the hotel. I had to get off because we started rolling backwards. Almost made it home and crashed the bike 5 minutes out from the rental place…Stay tuned for my full blog on that adventure.
Santa Marta is CHEAP and slow. Which is PERFECT for some people. You will be haggled and pick pocketing is a thing for sure. But to be truthful, it is in most locations. Especially if you’re clearly a tourist. I highly suggest the National Park (it was a main reason we went but then couldn’t go), check out neighboring beaches, walk the old town, and focus on the accommodation + location if you plan to pretty much stay put.
You’ll need to get a taxi from the airport. The ride is about 45 minutes (or ours was) and we paid too much I am sure. But didn’t note the amount. Just safely get to Santa Marta OKAY!? Our hotel also arranged a ride back to the airport for us, which was helpful. Did I say pick your accommodation wisely yet?
You can find wild adventure here, or resort life, or a little of both. What you won’t find, is dependable wifi.
So, maybe take a gamble on old Santa Marta. We met people who had been there for a hot minute (because it’s cheap and sunny), and people who vacation there often. Hopefully our experience gives some perspective, no matter what you’re looking for.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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