Many tourists don’t rate Santa Marta, the first city founded by the Spanish and now the oldest city in Colombia, as there isn’t much for tourists to see in the city itself. But I think that this city has some charm with its Parque de los Novios and entrepreneurial locals selling and repairing items of clothing or machinery on the street. It’s rough and ready but has a good night-life and some nice restaurants. It’s very different to the cosmopolitan city of Cartagena where holidaying tourists flourish but give it a chance and you might enjoy it. It reminded me of Vallodolid in Mexico. It is also an excellent location to base yourself for Minca, Tayrona National Park and Ciudad Perdida (Lost City Trek). It’s also very close to Taganga and Rodadero – beach towns. For history lovers it’s the city where Simón Bolívar died.
Where we stayed
We spent 6 nights in total in Santa Marta in March 2018. Two nights in Hostel Fatima – nice room and common areas with a rooftop bar, Hostel Jackie for two nights – private room was nice but dorm was not, Mulata hostel – good food and room, and Aluna hostel – comfortable bed, nice rooftop area and helpful Irish host Patrick. We picked these hostels as they are all centrally located. Santa Marta is hot so try get air conditioning. We had a few nights without and it got warm! Most hostels can store your luggage for the Lost City Trek but double check when booking.
What we did in Santa Marta
Museo del Oro
This museum contains some gold artefacts from the Tayrona civilization, history of Santa Marta and supposedly an imitation of the Lost City, however we searched and didn’t find it so hopefully you will have more luck. Its worth the visit as there are a lot of English descriptions, it’s small and free.
Artefacts from the Museo del Oro
Walk along the beach
The beach in Santa Marta is not much to write home about but nice enough to stroll along and maybe catch a sunset. There are some cool statues that line the beach front.
The limited beach in Santa Marta
Walk along calle 19 and carrera 3
This is the place for a selection of restaurants and bars. There are a lot of hawkers on the street so maybe try eat indoors if they bother you or tip them so they move on. Always ask about menú del día especially at lunch time.
Head to Parque de los Novios during the evening. There will more than likely be a dance troop or two acrobatically dancing or musicians belting out tunes. Its a nice area for a few drinks and spend the night watching the passer-bys.
Cathedral of Santa Marta
Places to eat
Lulo – the best smoothies for 7,000 \ 8,000 COP – definitely worth it. Food is nice but overpriced for a sandwich 18,000 COP. One of the waiters there is sooo friendly too!
Mi Oficina – local restaurant, beside Hot to Go, is very cheap with typical lunch – soup, drink and main meal for 9,000 – 15,000 COP depending on selection. Rice and plantain was cold when we got our food but other than that it was fine. We heard Colonial is economical but it was closed when we tried to go there for dinner.
Mulata hostel – nice stir-fry and they even managed to cook and serve our food with a 10 minute power outage – 17,000 COP.
SMR burger, not so budget friendly but it served our group of 15 or so with delicious burgers and chips, 25,000 – 40,000 COP for the beer combo. Happy hour special was two moijitos for 16,000COP so we had to sample it! Really good evening with our Lost City group and a few more friends from our hostel. I slept happy that night with tired muscles and a full belly.
Maharaja India Restaurante – small portion of chicken masala with rice/beans/salad for 13,000 COP, served on a weird plate. Nice, friendly staff. It did the job for us, twice for lunch.
We paid 7,000 COP for one bag of laundry in Mulata hostel and the clothes came back smelling so good! I miss the smell of clean!! I think the lady just brought the clothes back to her own house.
After Ciudad Perdida we had two bags of stink clothes and found our closest lavaderia however it was a complete rip off but we stupidly handed over our clothes and got charged 54,000COP. Most expensive laundry to date. To make it even more annoying was when we arrived in Rodadero in Casa del Ritmo we could have got it all done for 15,000COP!!! I blame Alan for this 😆 his clothes were so stink he couldn’t wait to get them washed! 😀
Plaza Parque Simon Bolivar
Things To Do Around Santa Marta
Click here to read about our not so good trip in Minca.
Tayrona National Park
Click here for more information on Tayrona National Park.
Click here for our experience on the Lost City trek. It was difficult but totally worth it. In my opinion its a must. We had a great group of people and has been one of the highlights of our trip so far.
After the Lost City trek we needed to chill out and recoup so we booked two nights in Rodadero, mostly because it was close to the airport and had a beach. We stayed in Casa del Ritmo and it was perfect for our needs. Quiet, friendly and a great bed! Rodadero is about a 10 minute taxi ride from Santa Marta for 12,000 COP, there are bus options available too but after the trek we went we the easier option – taxi! We had planned not to leave the hostel for the day but as the hostel was going to be fumigated we were advised to leave or stay with face-masks (reminded me of work, eek!!) so we left and went to the hostels sister site – Playa del Ritmo. After visiting Rodadero’s beach the evening before where there are hoards of people relaxing and plenty of vendors to keep you busy, we were happily surprised to find this beach to be quiet so we grabbed a few chairs, listened to some Xmas music (random English playlist being played at the bar!!!) and chilled out for the day. A perfect end to our stay on the Caribbean Coast.
Sign post on Playa del Ritmo
If you have any suggestions or tips, please feel free to share them in the comment section, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram.
3 weeks in Medellín is up next, I am only very slightly excited!! Watch this space for our Medellín adventure.