Santa Marta is the essence of the Colombian Caribe. It’s small, loud, a bit dirty and very colorful. Here you can really go local and escape from the tourists, you just need to want it (and be brave;)).
Santa Marta is a place where people only spend a night or two on their way to Tayrona Park. And for us, local people lovers, it’s great! I highly recommend heading to playa el Rodadero at Sunset. It’s filled with people, large speakers playing Reggae, people dancing, and drinking. A few restaurants are open along the beach, but they were empty when I was there. The locals bring their own picnic to share it with family and friends. The music is so loud that you can barely hear people speaking. Bring a friend, it’s always nicer (and if you are a girl, safer).
Here are some things to do in Santa Marta:
Watch the sunset
Colombians say that Santa Marta is a Sunset factory of Colombia. Indeed, it’s location gives you the opportunity to watch the sunset over the Caribbean sea. It is stunning, and well worth taking the time and planning the day around it. The sun sets around 18:00 and it sets very fast, so come early.
Go on the bike City Tour
It’s a great way to see the city. There is also a free walking tour available, but when I was there, it was sold out. A biking tour is super interesting and it is available in Spanish and English.
You can find it over here.
Head to the local market
Mercado Publico de Santa Marta (map) is a great place to get some local food. Besides the usual fruit and vegetable stands you will also see people sitting on the ground selling arepas, rice balls, fried Colombian doughnuts, or fried meat. Pick one that looks and smells the best to you. Negotiate the price. It is always ar least doubled for tourists.
Visit the Gold Museum
If you somehow missed the Gold Museum in Bogota (like me), you can check out the one in Santa Marta. The Museum tells the story of the old Caribbean coast and its colonization history.
Address: Carrera 2 Parque Simón Bolívar, Santa Marta. Map
Go dancing in La Brisa Loca
This hostel has also a great rooftop. Every weekend there is a Salsa party, so don’t miss it! It’s a lot of fun, there are not that many tourists and you can always meet a friendly local that will show you some moves. We went there with some people from Medellin that I met in my hostel, it was awesome!
Address: Cl. 14 #3-58, Santa Marta. Map
If after Santa Marta you are heading further east, check out this post about Palomino and other places in Colombia.