Santa Marta is famous among backpackers as a base for other fun activities and things to do, such as trekking to Ciudad Perdida or exploring Tayrona Park. However, this town is also a prime beach destination itself and there are a lot more things you can do here.

After a week in Medellin, we headed to the North, to spend our last weeks in Colombia, by getting a 25-hour bus from Medellin to Santa Marta. Find below more information on how to get here from other main places in Colombia.

Things to do and see in Santa Marta:

Spend a day in Tayrona Park

Tayrona Park is a natural reserve located between the Sierra Nevada and Caribbean Coasts. This place is famous for the palms, the lagoons, the crystal water and the wildlife. A must-see in the North of Colombia.

You can visit the park for one day or sleep there for a night (or more). We went back to the hostel on the same day, but, if I could go back, I would spend a night in the reserve.  

If you are looking for more info on how to organise your trip here, make sure you check out the post below.

Go on a day trip to Minca

When in Santa Marta, make sure you visit Minca, a very relaxed off-the-beaten-path village nearby. This village is located about 600m up in the Sierra Nevada Mountain and some people spend a night here, simply to enjoy its vibes, or looking for cooler temperatures than in Santa Marta..

To get there, you can either get a collectivo for around 7,000 COP that will get you there in 45 minutes, or a taxi for 40,000 COP. I got a collectivo there and back and it worked okay for me. The main reason for me to visit Minca, was to go on a hike and see its waterfalls. As you can imagine, the weather is hot a humid, which makes the steep hike hard. Eventually, you should get to a waterfall called Cascada Marinka. There is also an alternative trail that brings you to a different waterfall, Pozo Azul. Whatever trail you take, swimming in the freezing water is extremely refreshing.

Trek to Ciudad Perdida

One of the main reasons why people stop in Santa Marta is to trek to the Lost City or Ciudad Perdida. To reach this citadel you have to commit to a very challenging four to five-day trek, hiking on muddy and rocky terrain and in extreme heat. There are mixed opinions on whether the views are worth this, but the best thing to do is to talk to other backpackers and people in your hostel who have already done it to get an idea of what it’s like.

Chill on Bahia Concha

Bahia Concha is a very popular beach here and it is a nice place to spend a day between a day trip and another. As a bonus point, you can go snorkelling in a safe and eco-friendly way – in small groups, so that the guy can make sure you don’t dive and touch the fish/corals, for only 30,000COP.

Scuba Dive in Taganga

Taganga is a small village only 10 minutes away from Santa Marta and it’s perfect for a day trip from here. The very relaxed vibe has been attracting a lot of backpackers and so there are a few options to get here easily. You can either take a taxi for approximately 12,000 COP or get one of the blue buses with the writing “Taganga” on top from the centro histórico for only 1,800 COP.

One of the reasons why people visit this place is for scuba diving. And as a matter of fact, you can get excellent Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) open-water diving courses for a great price.

Photo by Alejandro Ortiz on Unsplash

Visit the Museo del Oro Tairona

If you want a break from beautiful beaches, breathtaking hikes and fun snorkelling, and you are looking to dive into the local culture, you should visit Museo del Oro Tairona. This place is usually packed with tourists, so it is recommended that you book your ticket online before you get there.

Visit the Santa Marta Market

The Mercado Público de Santa Marta has over 500 vendors, and you’ll be able to find a bit of everything, from food to clothing and more. Make sure you try some of the fresh fruit from here.

Stay at Dreamers Hostel

Finally, if you are looking for a place to stay, we had an amazing time in Dreamers Hostel. This hostel is big and very clean, and it offers different activities every night, from salsa classes, beer pong, karaoke, movie night, and more. You also need to try their pizza!

How to get to Santa Marta

Santa Marta is a very popular destination and so there are a few options to get to this town from most places in Colombia:

  • From Bogota, you need to get a 20-hour bus for 80,000 COP
  • From Medellin, you need to get an 18-hour bus for 110,000 COP
  • From Cartagena, you need to get a 4-hour bus, which leaves every hour, for 25,000 COP
  • From Barranquilla, you can get a 2-hour bus for 15,000 COP.

Keep in mind that all these buses will take longer than this. For example, to get to Santa Marta from Medellin, it took us around 23 hours, so make sure you plan accordingly.


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