Santa Marta Travel Guide

Santa Marta, Colombia: Our detailed 2020 guide from how to get there, best tours, the must-sees and much more!

Santa Marta Brief Summary:

  • The place where Simón Bolívar, liberator of South America lived out his last days.
  • The oldest city in Colombia, it was founded in 1525 by the Spanish.
  • The place where you can find some of the best beaches in Colombia.

Santa Marta Table of Contents:

  1. How To Get To Santa Marta – Compare transportation options.
  2. Sightseeing & Tours in Santa Marta – Most popular activities for travelers.
  3. Must Do In Santa Marta – The activities you cannot miss.
  4. Arts & Culture in Santa Marta – Best museums and areas with cultural art.
  5. Nightlife in Santa Marta – Good places to go for a drink.
  6. Photo Gallery – A few of the best photos of Santa Marta.

How to Get to Santa Marta


  • Take a public bus. To do this you need to travel from where you are staying, to the central bus station in Cartegena. 
  • Take Colombia Hop buswith drop-offs directly at your hotel/hostel in the tourist district.

Colombia Hop offers a safe option for making your way to Santa Marta with stops along the way to appreciate the real beauty of Colombia. With a variety of passes to choose from, all counting with an onboard bilingual guide to assist you, you will be glad to have discovered so many gems on the road to Santa Marta. Best of all, Colombia Hop will drop you off right at your hotel/hostel’s door in Santa Marta.

Taking a public bus offers several issues. The bus station is located in central Cartagena, which can be difficult to access for tourists. You would need to take a taxi in order to get there. Remember that Uber is illegal in Colombia, so it is not necessarily the best choice for travelers. 

Taking a van provides the usual concerns in South America, with over-filled buses and dangerous driving. It also means that you will miss out on all of the hidden gems along the way.

Sightseeing & Tours in Santa Marta


Lost City Trek

This is a great adventure for hiking fans. The Lost City was built by the Tayrona people around 1200 years ago and was lost deep inside the coastal jungles after being abandoned. 

Visit Bolivar’s Hacienda

Just outside of Santa Marta is the place where the liberator Simón Bolívar lived out the end of his life. There are botanical gardens and a guided tour of the place. 

Tayrona National Park 

One of the most popular attractions of Santa Marta, this national park is home to plenty of pristine white beaches, found deep in forests full of jungle wildlife. 


Lose yourself in nature in the midst of the lush vegetation and the cloud forest of Minca. Enjoy the waterfalls and the wildlife for a night as a break from the beach. 

Must Do in Santa Marta


Visit the beach 

Santa Marta is famous for its beautiful beaches, and there are plenty of small towns close by to visit, such as Taganga, if you can’t quite get your fill from Santa Marta.

Visit the market 

Santa Marta is home to incredible markets, most notably the Public Market. You can find practically anything that you could dream of here and it is the perfect representation of Colombian markets. 

Historic Center

Santa Marta was the very first settlement of the Spanish, and so it holds the claim of being among the oldest colonial cities in the continent. 

Caribbean Cuisine

Fall in love with fresh seafood all over again in Santa Marta. The street food is cheap, delicious and fresh. What more could you want? 

Arts & Culture in Santa Marta

Memorial museum of Sierra Nevada

Technically in Minca, this is a great place to understand the history of the Sierra Nevada.

Gold museum

Smaller than its sister found in Bogota, but still just as shiny, this gold museum will invite you into the complex world of the precious metal. 


Casa de Madame Agustine

Home to the wife of Simon Bolivar’s doctor, this old mansion is the perfect colonial jewel to add to Santa Marta’s crown.

Bolivar’s Hacienda

Just outside of Santa Marta, the place where the liberator Simón Bolívar lived out the end of his life. There are botanical gardens and a guided tour of the place.

Nightlife in Santa Marta

The nightlife in Santa Marta is found close to the ocean and concentrated mostly around Calle #19. There is plenty of different bars to choose from, from Reggae and Rock to traditional Colombian Salsa. Santa Marta is a town that is friendly to backpackers and relatively safe. However, as always, you should always only drink drinks that you have seen made in front of you and never leave your drinks with strangers.

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