Things to Do in Santa Marta, Colombia
Santa Marta, on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast, is best known as a hub to explore the nearby beautiful beaches and gorgeous mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Learn about the best places to visit near Santa Marta here!
We work with and recommend booking flights with www.kiwi.com
See the Historic City Center and Waterfront
Unbeknownst to many, Santa Marta was actually founded before its more well-known sister city of Cartagena down the Caribbean Coast. An important colonial port of its own right, the more defensible position and the bay of Cartagena led to it receiving more colonial funding and it outshining the older Santa Marta.
However, there is still some neat colonial architecture to be seen in Santa Marta. The historic center of the city is right next to the waterfront where there is a pretty little beach, and you can look out and see the lighthouse on an island in the bay. There are several pretty churches in the Centro Histórico and some quaint examples of colonial-era architecture.
You can find some nice restaurants, bars, and cafes, many with outdoor seating around the Parque de Los Novios on the southern side of the Historic Center.
*Looking for the best hotels to lay your head down in Santa Marta? Then check out our recommendations for the best 3-star, the best 4- stars, and the best 5-star hotels in Santa Marta!
Visit the Quinta San Pedro Alejandrino
Once a farm on the outskirts of the colonial city, you’ll find this preserved area in the eastern sector of the city today.
It is where Colombian independence hero and leader Simón Bolívar died. You can see the bed where he died with the clock frozen forever at his time of death. There’s also a park of monuments celebrating Colombian independence on site. It’s a neat way to connect to a bit more of Colombia’s history.
Explore the Amazing Natural Areas Nearby
Santa Marta is a pretty little city with a handful of things to do and see. However, the truth is, that the main attraction of coming to Santa Marta is using it as a jumping-off point to explore the surrounding area. You’ll find amazing, unspoiled beaches and lovely, lush mountain jungles in the vicinity, an area that the indigenous peoples of Colombia considered the cradle of life.
Learn about some of the best places to visit near Santa Marta below.
Tayrona National Park
Tayrona is Colombia’s most famous natural area. It’s a well-deserved title, as the area is absolutely gorgeous. Here you can see a picturesque view of the mountains of the Sierra Nevada running into the sea and also enjoy unspoiled and undeveloped beaches.
The park is enormous, however, there are several popular places to visit. You can take a car and then boat ride from Santa Marta to the gorgeous Playa Cristal, stopping along the way to take in the amazing view of the Seven Waves Overlook.
For the more adventurous, you can head farther north to enter the park and take a 2-hour hike through the jungle-covered mountains before emerging along several beaches, arriving at Cabo San Juan del Guía, where the most adventurous who like to rough it and spend the night in hammocks. We recommend coming for just a day trip and staying in a comfy bed in Santa Marta or in one of the lovely lodges near the park, a great way to immerse yourself in nature while also being comfortable! *Learn everything you need to know about Tayrona Park HERE!
*Interested in visiting more destinations around Santa Marta? Check out our 2-day Mompox tour from Santa Marta.
Get Some Fresh Mountain Air in Minca
It’s not all beaches along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. You can also explore the lovely mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. A great place to do that is in the small town of Minca, located less than an hour outside of Santa Marta.
Doing a day trip here outside of Santa Marta is a terrific way to see some nature and get some fresh mountain air. Still a tropical climate, it is a bit cooler than sea level, giving you a nice break from the heat.
There are a number of fun things to do in Minca. Here you can visit coffee farms as well as cacao farms, where you can learn all about how two of our favorite treats, coffee, and chocolate go from bean to cup or bar. Don’t worry, free samples are included! *Book your coffee and cacao experience here!
You can also hike to a lovely waterfall, one of several outside the town. Here, you can take a refreshing dip in the fresh mountain water. Keep an eye out for all the tropical birds here as well. For those that are really into birding, consider spending a night and getting up early to go birdwatching.
If you do want to spend the night, there are some lovely little cafes and restaurants in town. There are hotels in and on the outskirts of town as well as some lovely mountain lodges nearby as well.
*Planning to stay a night or two in Minca? Then check out our recommendations for the best 3-star, the best 4- stars, and the best 5-star hotels in Minca!
Visit the Taironaka Nature and Indigenous Reserve
The ancient Tayrona people once inhabited this entire area of Colombia. They were considered one of the most advanced indigenous cultures of their time. Today, their descendants, known as the Kogui, make up the indigenous population.
A unique and largely undiscovered place to visit near Santa Marta is the Kogui town and archeological site of Taironaka. Here, you can see the remains of ancient settlements cut into the green hills. You can also interact with the present-day Kogui inhabitants and learn more about their culture and traditions. They will even bless you and the rest of your travels in Colombia! *Don’t miss this unique experience on your trip to Colombia, more info here.
Visit Nueva Venecia
Nueva Venecia, literally New Venice in English, is a small town located on the Cienaga de Santa Marta, the largest coastal lagoon in Colombia. Small, traditional fishing villages, many of them composed of the ancestors of former slaves, have long dotted this area. However, perhaps the most unique is Nueva Venecia.
Here, all the colorful, wooden homes are suspended over the water. You’ll have to take a canoe to get around here. Doing a tour here will let you visit some of the homes and important sites like the bakery, a carpenter’s house, the town church, the school, and even the soccer field that was donated by Colombian soccer star Falcao García. It’s a unique experience that lets you get to know and immerse yourself in the locals’ culture, many of whom continue their tradition as fishermen today. You’ll even get a chance to learn some of their traditional dances. *Complete your trip to the Caribbean by adding the New Venice tour HERE
Planning Your Visit to Santa Marta
Santa Marta is itself a nice city, but there’s so much more to see nearby. Here at BnB Colombia Tours, we have a 6-day Santa Marta Package that visits all these places. We also have a number of other multi-destination packages that include visits to Santa Marta and some or all of these wonderful places. We can also customize a trip just for you. Contact us here to find out more and arrange your perfect expedition to Santa Marta and Colombia