A rustic and less touristy version of Cartagena.
Santa Marta is often just seen as merely a stopover en route to La Ciudad Perdida and Parque Tayrona. The streets of Santa Marta are rustic, slightly run down and a bit chaotic but have their own charm nonetheless. We couldn’t help but think Santa Marta has a lot of potential that may become more evident in the coming years.
If you can handle Santa Marta’s intense heat, the city offers visitors a handful of highlights. Museo del Oro Tairona is a surprisingly well put together wee museum. Despite it’s name, the museum holds little gold but has an interesting presentation of Santa Marta, the area and Simon Bolivar. Information is in both Spanish and English and whats more, its free!
The markets near Calle 11 have a decent selection of goods and strange food. It’s a good place to buy a hammock, as are the numerous souvenir markets scattered through the city. Catedral de Santa Marta, Parque Simon Bolivar, nearby beaches and sporadic displays of creative street art are a nice selection of whats on offer.
If you need to escape the heat of Santa Marta, Minca provides a perfect getaway to cool down, relax and unwind.
Accommodation: Mango Tree Hostel was one of the nicest hostels we stayed in. Don’t let the 20 bed dorms put you off. For COP20,000, these dorms are likely to be more spacious than any other dorm you’ve stayed in. The room is air-conditioned making sleeping in Santa Marta heat achievable. The price includes breakfast of toast, bananas, mangos, tea and coffee. There is a nice kitchen, pool, hammocks and hang out space. If you’re going to Tayrona or Ciudad Perdida luggage storage is free. We really would recommend Mango Tree Hostel if you’re staying in Santa Marta.
Getting there from Cartagena:
• From Cartagena, catch a local bus to the main terminal (1800 per person, 45 minutes – heavily dependent on traffic).
• From the main terminal catch a local bus to Santa Marta (COP20,000 per person, 4 hours 45 minutes in light traffic). Ensure you get a ticket all the way to Santa Marta and not just to Barranquilla.
• You will be dropped at Terminal de Transportes bus terminal (#31-277 a, Cl. 41 #31347, Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia). Before you leave there is a very helpful police office/ stand which gives out maps and advice of the area.
• Taxis from the bus station to Santa Marta cost around COP6000 – 8000 depending on your haggling skills. Alternatively, a bus costs COP1,500 per person.
Getting away to Minca:
• Catch a collectivo (COP7,000 per person, 50 mins) from the corner of Calle 11 and Carrera 12 (Estacion Minca. Cra. 12 #11-06, Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia).
• Collectivos leave when they are full. There should only be a 20 minute wait.
• To get here follow calle 11 in the opposite direction to the ocean and head through the markets. Once you’ve reached the end of the markets keep going for 2 blocks and it should be on your right. Like us, you’ll likely miss it as it’s not obvious so just ask someone for help if need be.
Getting away to Cartagena:
• Take a taxi (COP6000) to Terminal de Transportes bus terminal (#31-277 a, Cl. 41 #31347, Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia).
• Buses to Cartagena leave fairly frequently costing COP20,000 and taking around 4 hours 45 mins.
• Supermarket: Exito, Cra. 5 #19-20, Santa Marta.