Santa Marta

Santa Marta is a city in the Magdalena Department of Colombia's Costa Norte.

Understand

Plaza de Bolívar: Banco de la República and Café Juan Valdez

Santa Marta an important commercial port and tourist destination. Every day, there are cargo ships coming and going and the action is very much visible. From the beach, the view of the Caribbean Sea is more or less to the west (beautiful sunsets) with a huge rock of an island jutting up out of the water to make a somewhat dramatic effect. Off to the right is the port snug behind another even bigger rock. This is a decent beach if you like beaches that are right in town with lots of people, vendors, and noise. Vendors are rather aggressive if you are on the beach.

Aside from the old center, the main attractions of Santa Marta are its two resort-like suburbs El Rodadero, to the south, and Taganga, to the north. El Rodadero has several high-end hotels and private "clubs" that cater mostly to wealthy Colombians, whereas Taganga was originally a fishing village and is very popular with (mostly foreign) backpackers. Taganga has many scuba-diving agencies.

There is a high season and low season. High season is December through April, with its peak from mid-December to late January (due to school and university vacations).

Get in

By plane

The   Simón Bolívar airport. has non-stop flights from Bogotá and Medellín. It is located along the beach, 20 min south of town, but much closer to most of the beach resorts and only 10 min from El Rodadero (main beach). If you get in from abroad check if baggage is unloaded in Bogota even if airlines promise they´ll send the baggage directly to Santa Marta.

By bus

The   bus station (Terminal de Transporte). is all the way out of town on the main highway. To get there, you can catch a bus/colectivo with the sign "UCC TRANSPORTE" at carrera 1. The ride will take some 45 minutes and cost about 2000 COP. If carrying a big backpack, you might be rejected by some colectivo drivers, just wait for the big buses. With the taxi the trip takes around half hours and costs 15,000 pesos. In the bus terminal, you can get free WiFi at the tourist office.

Bus rides are available:

For more comfortable road travel across northern Colombia, a few companies offer air conditioned van services between Cartagena and Santa Marta, with stops in Barranquilla en route. Cochetur seems to be the most reputable of these. Price is 50,000 pesos per person between the main two stops and they will pick you up and drop you off at your desired location in each city. Note: you will likely share the van with 6-8 people including the driver. Tipping did not appear to be expected but a thousand or two goes a long way here.

If you're heading to the Coffee Region, a cheaper option is to catch a Berlinastur bus to Honda (70COP, 12+ hours, departure at 14PM), and right after that another bus to Pereira (30COP, 6hours). You'll need to wait for an hour or so in the middle of the night in Honda, but you can stay at Berlinastur office during that time.

Get around

Streets are numbered the beach can be considered "Carrera 1" or 1st St., and the first street is usually "Carrera 1A" or 1A St. The next street after the first row of buildings is Carrera 2 or 2nd St. Calles are streets running from north to south. Unlike bigger cities in Colombia, taxis do not run on a meter. payments range from 3500 pesos for a "lift" (usually a ride no more than 10 minutes) to upwards of 20,000 pesos, depending on where you go. If you meet someone who 'knows' a taxi driver, this can be a good opportunity to negotiate a price to your next checkpoint in Colombia. Some drivers will take you as far as Barranquilla, although you have to negotiate.

See

Plaza Santander

Do

Buy

Santa Marta is famous for its beach sellers. Since beaches are open 365 days a year, there are always people wandering up and down the beach selling anything. The beaches in the northern suburb El Rodadero have aggressive sellers. Take this as an opportunity to haggle - usually aim for 2000-3000 Pesos below the price asked.

If you are planning to go to Tayrona and need to buy snorkeling gear, you'll be disappointed to see only a couple of very basic Chinese packs, the same in all the shops. If you decide to buy them, the cheapest prices are in a kitchenware shop at calle 15 with carrera 3 (15COP for the "good" one).

Eat

There are a lot of eating options. They seem to be good at roasting and grilling chicken. They do a good job of grilling beef tough but flavorful. Seafood is plentiful and relatively inexpensive lots of shrimp and seafood cocktail vendors. Most varieties of fruit are available even what is more common to cold climates. At night street vendors sell all types of snacks pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, shakes, kabobs, rice in milk with coco, fried stuffed doughy things, etc.. Coffee, hot chocolate, and both hot cinnamon and lemon is omni-present.

Street Food:

Drink

Outdoor cafeteria at the Airport

The drink of choice is, of course, beer. Because Santa Marta can get brutally hot during the summer (upwards of 35 C/95F), it is a good idea to constantly have a bottle of water with you. During the evenings, when it gets cooler, beer and friends is often an excellent combination. It would be good idea to take a couple of "Stubbie Coolers" (Australian vernacular for an item which keeps the beer in your bottle cooler or longer) as the heat will have you drinking warm beer by the time you are at the end of your drink.

Soft drinks can be found at nearly every restaurant - sometimes you can even pick it up in glass bottles. They are cheap: a Drink usually costs no more than 2,000 COP.

Ask about Ben´s Bar on the Beach. Barrio Samario, La Puerta, and El Garage.

Sleep

If you are looking for a place to stay, there are somewhat more expensive hotels. 10th street is less expensive. These include:

Go next


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 01, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.