Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia

15 Reasons Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia Is A Great Destination (From A Local)

Written by: Giorgy from G-Extreme

Wanna know why Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia is a great destination? I’ve got you covered; here is all you need to know from a local!

Let’s set the scene: Imagine waking up to the sound of exotic birds singing their morning song, the warm sunshine peeping through the palm leaves, and the salty sea breeze gently caressing your face.

Welcome to Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia!

Nestled between the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea and the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, Santa Marta is a melting pot of biodiversity and culture.

And who better to guide us through the wonders of this tropical paradise than my friend Giorgy from G-Extreme Travel? Having lived in the neighboring city of Cartagena, she knows the magic of this region like the back of her hand.

So, buckle up for the adventure as we dive into the 15 reasons why Santa Marta is an unbeatable holiday destination!

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

What Is Special About Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia?

Warm sandy beaches outside Santa Marta in Colombia. Surrounded by palm trees, with a small wooden fishing boat on the shore, and traditional huts under the palm trees.

In Santa Marta, every corner reveals a new surprise, making it a place where memories are made and hearts are left behind.

Enveloped by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Sierra Nevada mountains on the other, its unique geography gifts it with an enviable climate.

A tropical paradise where the temperatures are always just right for an adventure.

As you wander through its charismatic old city, the vibrant colors, distinctive architecture, and infectious rhythm of salsa music narrate a tale of rich cultural heritage.

Its pristine beaches are a sunbather’s haven, while the plethora of activities like scuba diving, bird watching, and indigenous community tours make it a bustling hotspot of excitement.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Read on to discover all the fun things to do in Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia.

Charming Santa Marta Colombia Neighborhoods

A bright orange classic colonial house in Las Bovedas neighborhood in Cartagena Colombia.

Santa Marta consists of five distinct neighborhoods, each possessing its own captivating charm and allure.

  • The Historic Center is the city’s beating heart, where vibrant colonial architecture and a lively atmosphere blend seamlessly with the modern rhythm of cafés, bars, and boutique shops.
  • Taganga, often dubbed as a ‘fishing village’, is a haven for backpackers, offering affordable accommodation and a gateway to the dreamy Tayrona National Park.
  • El Rodadero, on the other hand, is a popular haunt for locals and tourists alike, known for its sprawling sandy beach and a bustling strip of eateries and nightlife venues.
  • Pozos Colorados is a quiet, residential neighborhood, ideal for those seeking tranquility away from the crowd – its beach is known for stunning colorful redis sunsets.
  • Bello Horizonte, with its broad, quiet beaches and modern high-rise condos, offers a taste of luxury and an escape from the city’s bustling center.

15 Fun Things To Do In Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia

Things to do in Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia: spend a day on this beach!

Let’s dive into the heart of the magical things to do in Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia… but, one adventure at a time!

1. Day on the Beach

The pristine beaches of Santa Marta are a tropical paradise waiting to be explored, making a day at the beach the perfect place to start your adventure.

Feel the soft, golden sands under your feet, the invigorating splash of the cool, clear waters of the Caribbean Sea against your skin, and the warm sun kissing your face.

There are a plethora of water sports to try. Try paddleboarding or snorkeling, and experience the awe-inspiring, vibrant marine life that calls these waters home.

For an extra spectacular experience, you can bring the whole squad on a private boat trip to the Santa Marta beaches.

We are going to go into more detail about the marine activities further down!

2. Explore The Santa Marta Centro Historico

Immerse yourself in the heart of Santa Marta’s cultural heritage by exploring the Centro Historico, a beautiful neighborhood that serves as a testament to the city’s rich past.

As you stroll through the cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter colorful colonial buildings, historic churches, and bustling plazas, each narrating their own unique story.

Don’t forget to visit the Santa Marta Gold Museum and Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta, two landmarks that have withstood the test of time.

The best way to truly appreciate the history and charm of the Centro Historico is to explore it with a knowledgeable local guide.

Book your free tour and dive deeper into the captivating history of Santa Marta Centro Historico!

3. Jungle Trekking in Tayrona National Natural Park

Beautiful golden beach with fierce white waves on Tayrona National Natural Park, with green hills in the background

You cannot leave Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia, without embarking on the unforgettable adventure of jungle trekking in Tayrona National Natural Park.

Hop on a bus from Santa Marta, and in less than an hour, you’ll be stepping into a world brimming with lush vegetation, incredible wildlife, and pristine beaches.

As the sun starts to set, consider extending your stay and spending the night.

The park offers a variety of accommodations, from hammocks to eco-habs, that let you experience a night under the starry sky, lulled to sleep by the sounds of nature.

It’s more than just a visit; it’s a close encounter with nature at its purest. And sometimes you might wonder if you step into Jurassic World (without the presence of dinosaurs)!

4. Quinta De San Pedro Alejandrino

Quinta de San Pedro, a large open square lined by flag poles and greenery on a bright sunny day

The Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is an essential visit for anyone keen on learning about Colombian history.

It is not just a beautiful hacienda surrounded by botanical gardens, but it’s also a place of great historical significance as the final resting place of Simon Bolivar, a pivotal figure in South America’s struggle for independence.

The museum dedicated to Bolivar offers extensive insights into his life and the independence movement. Besides the museum, the lush gardens and the old sugar mill add to the charm of the place.

A visit to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino provides a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

As an important note to travelers, guided tours are available in both Spanish and English, and it’s advisable to wear comfortable shoes because of the extensive grounds to cover.

EpicNomadLife Tip: Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino in Santa Marta is also known as the historic house and museum of Simon Bolivar, essentially referring to the same location.

5. The Gold Museum

Immerse yourself in the glittering world of pre-Hispanic cultures at The Gold Museum, also known as “Museo del Oro,” conveniently located in the heart of Santa Marta Magdalena in Colombia’s Historic Center.

This museum hosts an astonishing array of gold artifacts, ceramics, and stone figurines from the indigenous cultures that inhabited the region.

These artifacts not only provide a glimpse into their way of life but also demonstrate their exquisite craftsmanship.

The museum is well-curated and provides information in both Spanish and English, making it accessible for international visitors.

Best of all, admission is free, making it a cost-effective way to delve into the rich history and culture of Magdalena, Colombia.

It’s certainly a visit that will enrich your understanding of Santa Marta’s past.

6. Visit Taganga’s Bay

The charming Taganga Bay outside Santa Maria Colombia. The dark blue water is beautiful in contrast to the green hills around the small town.

Taganga’s Bay is definitely a hidden gem not to be missed when visiting Santa Marta!

This charming and tranquil fishing village is known for its stunning sunsets and crystal-clear turquoise waters, offering an authentic glimpse of Colombian coastal life.

It’s definitely a perfect retreat for travelers seeking tranquility away from bustling tourist locations.

It’s not just the breathtaking natural beauty that makes Taganga’s Bay special, but the laid-back vibe and the array of activities it offers.

You can spend your day sailing, scuba diving, or simply lounging on the sandy beaches, soaking up the sun. Or do a multi-destination tour to Taganga’s Bay and three other must-see places in Santa Marta!

And don’t forget to try the mouth-watering fresh seafood served right by the beach!

7. Lunch at Santa Marta’s Best Spots

Let’s talk about a selection of the finest lunch destinations in Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia.

For an unforgettable culinary experience, you must visit the bustling city center, where you’ll find ‘Lulo Cafe Bar.’

Known for its vibrant atmosphere and fusion of traditional Colombian cuisine with modern twists, it’s a favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Moving towards the pier, ‘Siete Mares Santa Marta‘ stands out with its elegant seafood dishes and spectacular panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, making it an ideal spot for a romantic lunch.

Last but not least, unwind on the beach at the ‘El Rey Marino‘ restaurant.

Just located on the Taganga beach overlooking the sea, it offers a unique dining experience with its innovative menu, fresh seafood, and exotic cocktails, all accompanied by the mesmerizing sounds of the waves.

8. Go Scuba Diving In Santa Marta

Underwater photo from Colombia while scuba diving, sea floor and vegetation in a bluish light.

The clear Caribbean waters around Santa Marta are teeming with vibrant coral reefs and a mesmerizing variety of marine lifemaking it an ideal scuba diving destination!

Imagine yourself gliding through the azure water, swimming alongside curious sea turtles, and witnessing the spectacular dance of colorful fish around the coral formations.

What sets Santa Marta apart is its proximity to Tayrona National Natural Park, a marine protected area that ensures a rich and intact underwater ecosystem. Here, there are dive spots suitable for all skill levels.

9. Explore Snorkeling In Santa Marta

I understand that scuba diving is not for everybody, and that’s totally fine.

Now, worry not because the same sparkling clear waters of Santa Marta still provide excellent visibility for snorkelers to explore the abundant coral reefs and their technicolor inhabitants.

Whether you choose to snorkel in the calm waters of Tayrona National Park or off the tranquil beaches of Taganga Bay, you’ll be captivated by the underwater spectacle of darting fish, graceful sea turtles, and vibrant corals.

And the best part? All you need is a mask, a snorkel, and a sense of adventure!

10. Savor The Sunset at Bastidas Boardwalk

Without a doubt, Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia is blessed with breathtaking sunsets that paint the sky in hues of gold, pink, and purple.

But if you’re looking for the best place to watch the sun dip below the horizon, the Bastidas Boardwalk is the place to be.

This spot offers an unobstructed view of the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea, creating a mesmerizing spectacle of colors reflecting off the calm waters.

You can stroll along the boardwalk, immersing yourself in the captivating scene, with its gentle breeze and the melody of waves crashing against the shore.

11. Have Strong Colombian Coffee

Have great Colombian coffee in Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia

Known worldwide for its rich aroma and unparalleled taste, Colombian coffee offers an experience that is deeply rooted in the country’s culture and traditions.

Make sure to try “tinto,” a popular coffee beverage in Colombia, usually served black and strong.

Savoring this cherished Colombian staple is an experience that shouldn’t be missed during your visit, making it one of the best things to do in Santa Marta.

12. Do A Boat Trip From Santa Marta

Four boats on the water outside Santa Marta in Colombia that will take you out on a fun tour on the blue waters

Embark on a memorable boat trip from Santa Marta and discover the ethereal beauty of the Caribbean Sea.

You can opt for a private sail tour to the renowned Tayrona National Park on a snorkeling boat excursion to explore the vibrant underwater world.

Or do a sunset tour to witness the spectacular blend of colors as the sun dips below the horizon; each excursion offers a unique and mesmerizing experience.

The crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, and sun-kissed beaches of Santa Marta are just a boat trip away.

Don’t miss out on these captivating tours, which are essential to truly experiencing the magic of Magdalena, Colombia.

13. Have dinner at Ouzo

This Mediterranean fusion restaurant is renowned for its culinary excellence, offering a delectable menu that features a harmonious blend of Colombian flavors with a Mediterranean twist.

From their fresh seafood platter to their juicy steaks and classic pasta dishes, every item on their menu is prepared with meticulous attention to detail and a focus on local, seasonal ingredients.

The ambiance is cozy and welcoming, with an elegantly rustic interior and a romantic outdoor patio.

The staff provides impeccable service, making you feel relaxed and well-cared for throughout your meal.

Whether you’re searching for a quiet, intimate meal or a lively dinner with friends, Ouzo is an excellent choice, assuring a dining experience that will truly heighten your visit to Santa Marta in Colombia.

14. Learn Colombian Cooking

A close up photo of lots of colorful vegetables in Santa Marta Colombia.

One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the culture of Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia, is by taking a local cooking class.

You’ll gain hands-on experience in preparing traditional Colombian dishes from scratch under the guidance of local chefs.

From picking up fresh ingredients to learning to prepare staples like arepas and bandeja paisa, every part of the class offers a unique culinary journey.

After finishing, you will gather around and savor your labor! This memorable experience will stay with you forever. So, make sure to book your cooking class today!

If you don’t want to do the cooking yourself, join a tasty food tour instead to enjoy Colombian cuisine.

15. Santa Marta: The Starting Point for the Lost City Trek

Overview image of the Lost City in Colombia with the characteristic round grassy ruins. This is a few hours from Santa Marta, and then a four day hike there and back.

Santa Marta is famously recognized as the gateway to the fascinating Lost City (also known as la Ciudad Perdida) Trek. In fact, all tours destined for this ancient city, whether they originate in Santa Marta or nearby Taganga, kick off from this point.

The Lost City Trek goes to an archaeological wonder hidden deep within Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. It was constructed around 800 CE, predating Machu Picchu by about 650 years.

This trek leads you through lush jungles, across rivers, and into the heart of indigenous communities, culminating in the breathtaking sight of the city itself.

The best tour available, lauded for its experienced guides and attention to detail, is the 4-day trek that balances well-paced hiking with sufficient time to appreciate the rich cultural and natural beauty of the beaten path.

Also read: Review Inca Trail Trek 4 Days: My Epic Inca Trail Experience

Top Rated Places To Stay In Santa Marta

A charming restaurant in Santa Marta at night, photo taken from the second floor where you see down to the first floor with tiled floors, lights, and people.

When it comes to accommodation, Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia truly has something for every travel style and budget.

Let’s delve into some of the best places to stay in Santa Marta, handpicked with every type of traveler in mind.

For luxury seekers, the Irotama Resort Bungalow is an oasis of opulence.

Nestled amidst lush vegetation and overlooking the sparkling Caribbean Sea, the resort offers private beach access, sumptuous suites, and a variety of gourmet dining options.

Casa de Leda a Kali Hotel is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of the historic center. It boasts tastefully decorated rooms, an inviting pool and spa, and a tranquil courtyard perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration.

Budget travelers don’t need to compromise on comfort at Masaya Hostel. Centrally located, this friendly hostel provides clean, comfortable dorms and private rooms, a communal kitchen, and lively social areas.

FAQs Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia 

Is Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia Worth Visiting?

Absolutely, Santa Marta, Colombia, is worth visiting! It is a vibrant city that perfectly blends the charms of history, culture, and natural beauty.

Not only does the city itself have a lot to offer, but its location serves as a starting point for the iconic Lost City Trek! It also offers easy access by boat, tours, or local buses to the breathtaking Tayrona National Natural Park.

Best Time To Visit Santa Marta Colombia?

The best time to visit Santa Marta, Colombia, is during the dry season, which spans from December to March.

During this time, you’ll be greeted with warm, sunny days perfect for exploring the city, the beaches, and the surrounding natural attractions.

Similar to nearby Cartagena, the weather remains fairly consistent throughout the year, ensuring a pleasant visit regardless of the season.

It’s worth noting that July to October tends to be rainier, but even then, showers are usually brief and followed by sunshine!

Why Is Santa Marta Colombia Famous?

Santa Marta, Colombia, is famous for its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and vibrant culture.

As South America’s oldest surviving city, it offers a unique glimpse into the past with its well-preserved historical buildings and museums.

The city is also renowned for its picturesque beaches, the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains, and its proximity to Tayrona National Natural Park, making it a haven for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.

Furthermore, Santa Marta is well-regarded for its lively festivals, local cuisine, and the iconic Lost City Trek, one of South America’s most exciting archaeological adventures.

Is Santa Marta Safe?

Yes, Santa Marta is generally considered safe for tourists and, as Cartagena, it’s home to friendly locals.

As with any travel destination, it’s important to maintain vigilance and follow basic safety precautions such as safeguarding personal belongings and avoiding less touristy areas late at night.

Is Santa Marta or Cartagena Better?

While both Santa Marta and Cartagena offer unique experiences, the choice between them depends on what you’re looking for in a holiday destination.

Cartagena, being more touristic, offers a bustling city vibe with beautiful colonial architecture, vibrant nightlife, and a lively arts scene.

On the other hand, Santa Marta, while less touristic, provides a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s a gateway to the unrivaled beauty of Tayrona National Natural Park and the starting point for the thrilling Lost City Trek.

Side note: You might be wondering how to travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta or vice versa. There are multiple options available, from comfortable air-conditioned buses to private taxis, depending on your budget and preference.

To make your travel planning easier, here is a comprehensive guide that details all the routes, costs, and travel tips.

Travel In Colombia

Colombia is a fascinating country in South America with a coastline to two oceans: the Caribbean Sea with coveted Caribbean islands, and the vast Pacific.

With an unfortunate reputation for not-so-nice activities like drug cartels and internal conflict, Colombia also has a plethora of amazing sights, culture, incredible nature, wildlife, vibrant cities, and a lot more.

The dance and music scene in Colombia is vibrant, and the country has fostered a number of internationally renowned artists like Feist, who is doing a huge world tour starting in 2024.

If you are into jungle trekking, I did the Amazon jungle hike to The Lost City in the Sierra Nevada, and that was truly amazing!

Wrap-Up Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia Holiday

There you have it, a treasure trove of information on why Santa Marta Magdalena Colombia should be your next holiday destination.

Packed with historic charm, natural wonders, and cultural richness, this city offers an immersive experience unlike any other.

Whether you’re trekking through the Lost City, savoring authentic Colombian cuisine, or simply soaking up the sun on a sandy beach, Santa Marta ensures unforgettable memories.

Start planning your trip to this enchanting city right away and experience the magic of Santa Marta firsthand. I assure you, it will be a journey worth every moment!

Related blog posts:

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The Best Time To Visit Cartagena From A Local: The Answer Might Suprise You! (2024)

About Giorgy from G-Extreme

Giorgy is the founder of G-Extreme Travel. She is on a mission to empower every person to discover Cartagena, Colombia. Going off-grid, immersing yourself completely in Colombia as an undercover tourist, by leaving fearlessly the comfort zone behind, all characterized by goofiness.

She helps over 100,000 people per month plan their adventures and trips in Cartagena, Colombia!

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