12 Fun Things to Do in Santa Marta, Colombia: Beaches, Hikes, & More

Jon Miksis Jon Miksis clock Updated April 18, 2024 tourism Dream Destinations
by Jem
Fun Things to Do in Santa Marta Featured Image
This post may have affiliate links, where I may receive a commission if you purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure and Privacy Policy for more info.

Santa Marta awaits with its perfect blend of natural beauty and vibrant culture. From the stunning vistas of Tayrona National Park to the laid-back charm of the Minca coffee region, we’re exploring it all. Get ready to discover the top attractions and things to do in Santa Marta!

If you’re itching for an adventure that’s as relaxing as it is thrilling, let me tell you about Santa Marta, Colombia. This place is a goldmine of experiences, from lazy beach days at Playa Blanca to epic treks to Ciudad Perdida. Santa Marta is where I found some of my coolest stories and trust me, you will too.

Whether you’re diving, hiking, or just soaking in the local scene, Santa Marta’s got you covered. Ready to dive into what makes this spot one of the best places in Colombia? Let’s check out the coolest things to do in Santa Marta that’ll make your trip unforgettable.

The top things to do in Santa Marta, Colombia right now

Best places to visit in Santa Marta, Colombia

Ready to uncover the charms of Santa Marta? From the serene beauty of Playa Blanca to the vibrant nightlife around Parque de Los Novios, brimming with unique bars and inviting cafes, there’s an abundance of exciting things to do in Santa Marta.

Whether you’re diving into the clear waters of Taganga or exploring the lush, ancient pathways to Ciudad Perdida, every moment here is an adventure. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best activities in Santa Marta – each one a must-experience!

1. Relax at Playa Blanca

Imagine a beach where the golden sand meets crystal-clear waters, and you’ve got Playa Blanca. This slice of paradise is my go-to spot when I need to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but that’s exactly what makes it special. The journey there is part of the adventure, and trust me, the views are worth every step.

Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a serene beach that feels worlds away from the crowded tourist spots. It’s the perfect place for a lazy day under the sun or a swim in the calm, turquoise sea. Don’t forget to try some of the fresh seafood from the local vendors. It’s as fresh as it gets, and savoring it with your toes in the sand just adds to the experience.

For the adventurers out there, there are plenty of water sports to get your adrenaline pumping. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling are just a few options to explore the vibrant marine life. And as the day winds down, make sure to stick around for the sunset. Watching the sky light up in fiery hues over the water is an unforgettable sight.

If you’re wondering where to go in Santa Marta for that perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, Playa Blanca should be at the top of your list. It’s a reminder of the simple pleasures in life and a spot where you can truly unwind and connect with nature.

Imagine yourself on a beach with golden sand and glistening pure waters.
Imagine yourself on a beach with golden sand and glistening pure waters.

2. Explore Tayrona National Park

There’s no place quite like Tayrona National Park. This natural wonder in South America is a must-visit for anyone coming to Santa Marta. Picture this: dense, green jungle one minute, pristine beaches the next. It’s one of the best places to visit in Colombia for nature lovers and a playground for adventurers.

Getting there is an adventure in itself, with trails that make you feel like you’re discovering a world hidden away from the rest of civilization. I recommend taking a guided hike to really understand the park’s ecological importance and to hear stories that bring the landscape to life. Plus, the guides can point out wildlife you might miss on your own, like howler monkeys and exotic birds.

Once you reach the coastline, the views are nothing short of breathtaking. The contrast of the lush forest against the backdrop of the Caribbean Sea is a sight to behold. And the beaches, oh the beaches! They’re some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, with Cabos San Juan being a personal favorite for a swim.

Remember to pack your eco-friendly sunscreen, plenty of water, and get ready for a day (or more!) of exploration in one of Colombia’s most precious jewels.

Any visitor to Santa Marta should make time to see this natural marvel.
Any visitor to Santa Marta should make time to see this natural marvel.

3. Dive in Taganga

Taganga, a small fishing village just a stone’s throw from Santa Marta, might not look like much at first glance. But beneath the surface, it’s a diver’s paradise. Known for its affordable diving courses, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life, Taganga is the perfect spot to take the plunge into the world of scuba diving.

If you’re a first-timer looking to get certified or an experienced diver keen to explore new depths, Taganga has something for everyone. The dive shops here are top-notch, offering courses and excursions that cater to all levels. And the vibe? It’s as laid-back as it gets, with friendly locals and dive instructors who feel more like friends by the end of your trip.

Underwater, you’re in for a treat. Coral reefs teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional reef shark make every dive an unforgettable experience. The visibility is amazing, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the underwater spectacle.

After a day of diving, the fun doesn’t stop. Taganga’s beachfront is dotted with cozy cafes and bars where you can unwind and share stories of your underwater adventures. The town may be small, but it’s full of character.

For anyone wondering what to do in Santa Marta, diving in Taganga should be on your list. It’s an experience that connects you with the beauty of the Caribbean Sea in the most intimate way possible.

The best place to introduce yourself to the world of scuba diving is Taganga.
The best place to introduce yourself to the world of scuba diving is Taganga.

4. Hike to Ciudad Perdida (Lost City)

If you’re up for a real adventure, hiking to Ciudad Perdida is an experience you won’t forget. This ancient city, hidden deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is often compared to Machu Picchu, but with far fewer tourists. The journey to get there is challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

The trek takes about 4 to 5 days, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. You’ll navigate through dense jungle, cross rivers, and climb steep, muddy paths. But the scenery? Stunning. You’re surrounded by the lush greenery of the rainforest, with the sounds of nature as your soundtrack.

Reaching Ciudad Perdida itself is a moment that’s hard to describe. The sight of the ancient stone terraces, emerging from the mist of the jungle, is something that feels straight out of a movie. Plus, learning about the area from the indigenous guides adds a layer of understanding and respect for the land and its people.

Remember, it’s essential to go with a reputable tour company and prepare well for the trek. But trust me, reaching the Lost City and witnessing its beauty and mystery firsthand is an achievement you’ll carry with you long after you’ve left the jungle behind. It’s easily one of the most amazing things to do in Santa Marta.

Hiking to Ciudad Perdida is a memorable experience if you're up for a true adventure.
Hiking to Ciudad Perdida is a memorable experience if you’re up for a true adventure.

5. Visit Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

One of my favorite places to go in Santa Marta has to be Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. It’s where Simón Bolívar, a huge name in Latin America’s fight for independence, spent his last days. But honestly, it’s more than its history. It’s a place where you can chill in beautiful gardens and get a real feel for Colombia’s past and present.

Walking around, you’ll see sculptures and art that tell Bolívar’s story in a way that’s way more interesting than history class. It’s kind of surreal to walk where he did, almost like you can feel the history in the air. I was especially drawn to the house itself. They’ve kept it just like it was back in the day. Seeing Bolívar’s personal stuff makes you feel like you’re stepping right into his life.

But what’s cool is that the Quinta isn’t stuck in the past. It’s alive with art shows, music, and events that make it a buzzing part of today’s Santa Marta. It’s this mix of old and new that makes it a standout place for me.

If you’re into history, looking for a quiet spot to kick back, or want to catch some local culture, this place has something for you. It’s a spot where you can really connect with Colombia’s story while having a laid-back day. Definitely add it to your list of places in Santa Marta to visit. Trust me, it’s worth it.

You can relax in lovely gardens there and truly experience Colombia's past and present.
You can relax in lovely gardens there and truly experience Colombia’s past and present.

6. Stroll Along the Santa Marta Marina

Ever just want to take it easy and enjoy a beautiful evening? The Santa Marta Marina is my go-to spot for that. There’s something about being near the water, especially in the evening, that just feels right. It’s a chill place where you can catch some amazing sunsets and feel that cool sea breeze.

Walking along the marina, you’ll see a bunch of boats, from sleek yachts to more traditional sailboats, all bobbing gently on the water. It’s pretty relaxing to just watch them and imagine where they’ve been. Plus, the marina is lined with cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite or a drink. Sitting there, sipping a cold one as the sun dips below the horizon, is one of those simple pleasures you don’t want to miss.

Santa Marta Marina is a great place to mingle, too. You’ll meet locals and travelers, all out to enjoy the evening. Everyone’s in a good mood, and you might even pick up some tips for hidden gems in Santa Marta.

So, if you’re wondering where to go in Santa Marta for a laid-back evening, head to the marina. It’s perfect for a stroll, a bit of people-watching, or just soaking up the seafront atmosphere. Santa Marta Marina is one of those spots that might not be on every tourist map, but it’s definitely worth your time.

It's an oasis where you may enjoy the refreshing sea wind and some breathtaking sunsets.
It’s an oasis where you may enjoy the refreshing sea wind and some breathtaking sunsets.

7. Enjoy the Nightlife in Parque de Los Novios

When the sun sets, there’s this one spot in Santa Marta that seems to attract everyone like a magnet – Parque de Los Novios. Honestly, if you’re looking to see the social side of the city, this is where you want to be. Believe me, a visit here is one of the best things to do at night in Santa Marta.

Lined with bars, restaurants, and cafes, the area buzzes with energy every night. I love how each spot has its own vibe, from chill lounges to lively dance bars. And the food? You’ve got to try the local dishes. Sitting outside, enjoying some fresh, delicious seafood while people-watching is my idea of a perfect evening.

What makes Parque de Los Novios truly special is the mix of people. It’s a blend of locals and travelers, all out to have a good time. You’ll hear stories from around the world, share laughs, and maybe even make some new friends. It’s this atmosphere that really shows off the warm, welcoming spirit of Santa Marta.

And for those who love a bit of music and dancing, you’re in for a treat. The streets come alive with rhythms ranging from salsa to reggaeton, pulling you into the dance. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the fun!

When you’re drawing up your Santa Marta things to do list, make sure Parque de Los Novios is on your list. It’s the perfect place to experience the city’s lively side, enjoy great food, and dance the night away.

Make sure to include Parque de Los Novios on your list of things to do in Santa Marta.
Make sure to include Parque de Los Novios on your list of things to do in Santa Marta.

8. Visit the Indigenous Village of Minca

If you’re craving a break from the beach and looking for something a little different, let me take you to Minca. Nestled in the mountains just above Santa Marta, this small village is a world away from the coastal heat and hustle. Here, you can breathe in the cool, fresh mountain air and dive into nature.

Minca is known for its stunning natural scenery, coffee plantations, and beautiful waterfalls. One of my favorite things to do here is to take a hike to one of the nearby waterfalls, like Pozo Azul. It’s not too tough of a trek, and the reward is a refreshing swim in crystal-clear water.

The village of Minca has a charming vibe, with cozy cafes and artisan shops. I love grabbing a cup of locally grown coffee and just soaking in the peaceful atmosphere. It’s also a great place to learn more about indigenous cultures and the area’s unique ecosystem.

For those interested in a bit of adventure, Minca offers mountain biking and bird watching. The area is a paradise for bird enthusiasts, with countless species calling these mountains home. And the views? They’re spectacular, offering panoramic vistas of the entire region that you won’t forget.

Heading to Minca is a reminder that Santa Marta’s beauty extends far beyond its beaches. If you’re looking for fun places to visit in Santa Marta that offer a mix of nature, culture, and relaxation, this attraction in Minca should be on your radar.

Allow me to take you to Minca if you're itching for something a little different and a getaway from the beach.
Allow me to take you to Minca if you’re itching for something a little different and a getaway from the beach.

9. Snorkel at Crystal Beach in Tayrona Park

Ever dream of exploring an underwater world where tropical fish dart through coral gardens and the water is so clear it’s like swimming in liquid glass? Welcome to Crystal Beach in Tayrona National Park, a place that’s every bit as magical as it sounds.

Snorkeling here is one of the most fun things to do in Santa Marta. The moment you put your face in the water, you’re transported to a vibrant world beneath the waves. The variety of marine life is stunning – from colorful parrotfish to elusive sea turtles, every glance reveals something new.

What I love about Crystal Beach is how accessible this beauty is. You don’t need to be a dive pro to get up close with the marine life. The waters are calm and clear, which makes it perfect for first-timers and families. Plus, the beach itself is a slice of paradise, with soft sand and shady palms for when you need a break from the water.

Bringing your own gear is a good idea, but you can also rent snorkeling equipment right at the beach. And while you’re there, don’t miss the chance to hike some of Tayrona’s trails. The views and the wildlife are incredible.

Looking for cool things to do in Santa Marta? Snorkeling at Crystal Beach is a highlight. You’ll remember this experience for a lifetime, believe me!

Here is one of the most enjoyable places to go snorkeling in Santa Marta.
Here is one of the most enjoyable places to go snorkeling in Santa Marta.

10. Sample Local Cuisine at the Mercado Público

The Mercado Público in Santa Marta is where it’s at if you want to dive into local flavors and dishes that are as authentic as they come. This place is a feast for the senses and, trust me, your stomach will thank you.

Walking through the market, you’re hit with the smells of fresh fruit, grilled meats, and the ocean’s catch of the day. It’s chaotic but in the best possible way. My first stop? Always a stall selling arepas. These aren’t just any arepas; they’re loaded with fillings and flavors that you won’t find back home.

Given Santa Marta’s coastal location, it’s no surprise that the fish and shrimp are out-of-this-world fresh. Grab a seat at one of the casual eateries and order up some ceviche or a seafood stew. It’s simple food, but the flavors are mind-blowing.

And you can’t miss out on the fruit. The variety is incredible, with some stuff I’d never even heard of before coming here. Ask the vendors for a taste. They’re usually more than happy to share.

Eating at the Mercado Público is one of the best Santa Marta places to visit. It’s where locals shop and eat, giving you a real slice of life here. Plus, it’s a chance to support small vendors and take in the vibrant market life.

If you want to experience authentic local flavors and delicacies, the Mercado Público is the place to go.
If you want to experience authentic local flavors and delicacies, the Mercado Público is the place to go. | Image Credit: santamarta

11. Take a Coffee Tour in the Sierra Nevada

If you’re anything like me and can’t start your day without a cup of coffee, then you’ve got to check out Finca La Victoria near Minca. This place isn’t just about sipping coffee; it’s a journey into the heart of Colombian coffee culture, set in a family-run plantation that dates back to the late 19th century.

The 40-minute tours here are a real eye-opener, and not just because of the caffeine. You get to see the entire coffee-production process, from bean to cup, and it’s fascinating. The guides do an amazing job explaining everything. They usually offer tours in English, which is super helpful.

After the tour, make sure to hit the charming cafe upstairs. Sitting there with a cup of the plantation’s own coffee and a piece of cake is the perfect way to soak in the atmosphere.

Getting to Finca La Victoria is part of the adventure. It’s a steep walk from Minca, about 1½ hours, but the scenery is worth every step. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can always hop on a motorbike taxi for around COP$10,000.

So, if you’re hunting for unique things to do in Santa Marta, this coffee tour is it. It’s a fantastic way to get a taste of the local culture and tradition that’ll leave you buzzing in the best way possible.

This coffee tour is the ideal choice if you're looking for something different to do in Santa Marta.
This coffee tour is the ideal choice if you’re looking for something different to do in Santa Marta.

12. Watch the Sunset at El Morro

Okay, so you’ve explored, dived, hiked, and eaten your way through Santa Marta. Want to know my favorite way to end a day here? Catching the sunset at El Morro. And guess what? It’s one of the best free things to do in Santa Marta.

El Morro is a little rocky outcrop just off the coast. It’s not a big place, but the views are stunning. There’s something about watching the sun dip below the horizon, painting the sky in shades of orange and pink, that gets me every time. It’s the kind of moment that makes you stop and appreciate the simple things.

You don’t need much for this – just yourself, maybe a friend or two, and a sense of wonder. Sitting there, feeling the cool evening breeze as the day fades away, is pure bliss. It’s a reminder of the beauty of nature and how the best things in life really are free.

I always tell friends visiting Santa Marta not to miss this. It’s a perfect, peaceful end to any day, and it doesn’t cost a dime. Plus, it’s a great spot for those Instagram-worthy shots, if that’s your thing.

Just off the coast lies a little rocky outcrop called El Morro.
Just off the coast lies a little rocky outcrop called El Morro. | Image Credit: Flickr

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the best things to do in Santa Marta, Colombia:

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Santa Marta, Colombia? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to one of the most beautiful places in Colombia.

Is Santa Marta, Colombia, worth visiting?

Definitely! Santa Marta offers a unique blend of beautiful beaches, lush mountains, and rich history. If you’re into adventure, nature, or just chilling by the sea, you’ll find something that catches your eye. Trust me, it’s a place that stays with you long after you’ve left.

How many days should I spend in Santa Marta, Colombia?

I’d say give yourself at least 3 to 5 days in Santa Marta. This gives you enough time to soak up the city vibe, explore the stunning Tayrona National Park, and maybe even take a trip to the Lost City or relax in Minca. There’s a lot to see and do, so a few days will let you experience the best of it without rushing.

Santa Marta has everything you need, whether you're diving, trekking, or just taking in the local culture.
Santa Marta has everything you need, whether you’re diving, trekking, or just taking in the local culture.

Which is better: Cartagena or Santa Marta?

Tough call, but it depends on what you’re after. Cartagena is all about the historic charm, vibrant streets, and lively atmosphere. Santa Marta, on the other hand, is your gateway to incredible natural landscapes and a more laid-back vibe. I love Santa Marta for its access to nature and adventure spots.

Does Santa Marta have a beach?

Yes, and they’re gorgeous! Santa Marta boasts several beautiful beaches, from the popular Rodadero to the serene beaches of Tayrona Park like Playa Cristal. Whether you’re looking to relax on the sand or dive into crystal-clear waters, you’ll find the perfect beach here.

Is it safe to walk around Santa Marta at night?

Like any city, it’s all about being smart. Stick to well-lit, busier areas, especially around Parque de Los Novios where there’s a lively night scene. I’ve had many great nights out in Santa Marta, but always keep an eye on your belongings and maybe take a cab back to your accommodation if it’s late.

The top things to do in Santa Marta, Colombia for all type of travelers
Enjoyed reading about the top things to do in Santa Marta, Colombia? Pin it!


You may also like

Leave a Comment