SANTA MARTA

Colombia

Santa Marta an important commercial port and tourist destination. Every day, there are cargo ships coming and going and the action is very much visible. From the beach, the view of the Caribbean Sea is more or less to the west (beautiful sunsets) with a huge rock of an island jutting up out of the water to make a somewhat dramatic effect. Off to the right is the port snug behind another even bigger rock. This is a decent beach if you like beaches that are right in town with lots of people, vendors, and noise. Vendors are rather aggressive if you are on the beach.

Info Santa Marta

introduction

Santa Marta is a city in Colombia. It is the capital of the department of Magdalena and third largest urban city of the Caribbean Region of Colombia, after Barranquilla and Cartagena. Founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas, it was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, and is the oldest surviving city in that country, and second oldest in South America. This city is situated on a bay of the same name and as such, is a prime tourist destination.

Tourism

Santa Marta an important commercial port and tourist destination. Every day, there are cargo ships coming and going and the action is very much visible. From the beach, the view of the Caribbean Sea is more or less to the west (beautiful sunsets) with a huge rock of an island jutting up out of the water to make a somewhat dramatic effect. Off to the right is the port snug behind another even bigger rock. This is a decent beach if you like beaches that are right in town with lots of people, vendors, and noise. Vendors are rather aggressive if you are on the beach.

Aside from the old center, the main attractions of Santa Marta are its two resort-like suburbs El Rodadero, to the south, and Taganga, to the north. El Rodadero has several high-end hotels and private "clubs" that cater mostly to wealthy Colombians, whereas Taganga was originally a fishing village and is very popular with (mostly foreign) backpackers. Taganga has many scuba-diving agencies.

There is a high season and low season. High season is December through April, with its peak from mid-December to late January (due to school and university vacations).

History

Before the arrival of Europeans, the South American continent was inhabited by a number of indigenous groups. Due to a combination of tropical weather, significant rainfall, and the destruction and misrepresentation of many records by Spanish conquistadors, our understanding of the peoples of this region is limited.

The Tairona formed mid- to large-size population centers, consisting of stone pathways, terraces, protected waterways, and spaces dedicated to agricultural produce. Their economy was primarily agricultural, cultivating corn, pineapple, yucca, and other local foodstuffs. The Tayrona are considered quite advanced for their time period. Surviving archaeological sites consisted of formed terraces and small scale underground stone channels. They also were known to actively collect and process salt, which was a significant trading commodity. We know that they traded with other indigenous groups along the coast and interior. Archaeological excavations have recovered significant works in pottery, stonework and gold.

Climate

Climate data for Santa Marta

MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °C (°F)37.0
(98.6)
38.2
(100.8)
37.0
(98.6)
37.6
(99.7)
37.4
(99.3)
37.4
(99.3)
37.8
(100)
37.4
(99.3)
37.2
(99)
36.0
(96.8)
38.2
(100.8)
36.4
(97.5)
38.2
(100.8)
Average high °C (°F)33.0
(91.4)
33.5
(92.3)
33.7
(92.7)
33.4
(92.1)
32.6
(90.7)
32.7
(90.9)
32.7
(90.9)
32.4
(90.3)
31.9
(89.4)
31.5
(88.7)
31.7
(89.1)
32.3
(90.1)
32.62
(90.72)
Daily mean °C (°F)27.2
(81)
27.7
(81.9)
28.2
(82.8)
28.8
(83.8)
28.8
(83.8)
29.0
(84.2)
28.6
(83.5)
28.3
(82.9)
27.9
(82.2)
27.7
(81.9)
27.7
(81.9)
27.2
(81)
28.09
(82.58)
Average low °C (°F)21.7
(71.1)
22.6
(72.7)
23.7
(74.7)
24.9
(76.8)
25.1
(77.2)
24.6
(76.3)
24.0
(75.2)
24.0
(75.2)
23.8
(74.8)
23.6
(74.5)
23.2
(73.8)
22.0
(71.6)
23.6
(74.49)
Record low °C (°F)17.4
(63.3)
18.3
(64.9)
20.0
(68)
20.9
(69.6)
18.8
(65.8)
21.6
(70.9)
20.6
(69.1)
20.3
(68.5)
19.0
(66.2)
21.0
(69.8)
19.0
(66.2)
18.2
(64.8)
17.4
(63.3)
Source: Instituto de Hidrologia Meteorologia y Estudios Ambientales

Geography

Santa Marta is located on Santa Marta Bay of the Caribbean Sea in the province of Magdalena. It is 992 km from Bogotá and 93 km from Barranquilla. It is bordered to the north and west by the Caribbean and to the south by the municipalities of Aracataca and Ciénaga.

Economy

Santa Marta's economy is based on tourism, trade, port activities, fishing and agriculture, in that order. The main agricultural products are:bananas, coffee, cocoa and cassava.

Prices in Santa Marta

PRICES LIST - USD

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk1 liter$0.80
Tomatoes1 kg$0.82
Cheese0.5 kg$1.65
Apples1 kg$1.35
Oranges1 kg$0.90
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$0.80
Bottle of Wine1 bottle$8.50
Coca-Cola2 liters$1.20
Bread1 piece$0.65
Water1.5 l$1.00

PRICES LIST - USD

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range)for 2$9.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2$18.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2$
Mac Meal or similar1 meal$4.70
Water0.33 l$0.60
Cappuccino1 cup$1.25
Beer (Imported)0.33 l$1.70
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$0.90
Coca-Cola0.33 l$0.70
Coctail drink1 drink$4.00

PRICES LIST - USD

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema2 tickets$8.00
Gym1 month$36.00
Men’s Haircut1 haircut$2.35
Theatar2 tickets$
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.$0.07
Pack of Marlboro1 pack$1.60

PRICES LIST - USD

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics1 pack$
Tampons32 pieces$
Deodorant50 ml.$2.70
Shampoo400 ml.$4.00
Toilet paper4 rolls$1.60
Toothpaste1 tube$

PRICES LIST - USD

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)1$56.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M.)1$43.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)1$75.00
Leather shoes1$68.00

PRICES LIST - USD

TRANSPORTATION

Gasoline1 liter$0.73
TaxiStart$1.40
Taxi1 km$1.30
Local Transport1 ticket$0.65

Tourist (Backpacker)  

24 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

112 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

The Simón Bolívar airport. has non-stop flights from Bogotá and Medellín. It is located along the beach, 20 min south of town, but much closer to most of the beach resorts and only 10 min from El Rodadero (main beach). If you get in from abroad check if baggage is unloaded in Bogota even if airlines promise they´ll send the baggage directly to Santa Marta.

A taxi to the Centre historico is around COP 25 000 (no prepaid or metered taxis available).

Transportation - Get In

By bus

The bus station (Terminal de Transporte). is all the way out of town on the main highway. To get there, you can catch a bus/colectivo with the sign "UCC TRANSPORTE" at carrera 1. The ride will take some 45 minutes and cost about 2000 COP. If carrying a big backpack, you might be rejected by some colectivo drivers, just wait for the big buses. With the taxi the trip takes around half hours and costs 15,000 pesos. In the bus terminal, you can get free WiFi at the tourist office.

Bus rides are available:

  • to/from Cartagena : 20,000 CO / 3.5 hours
  • to/from Barranquilla : 10,000 COP 2 hours
  • to/from Medellín : 108,000 COP / 15 hours
  • to/from Bucaramanga : 60,000 COP / 9 hours (Copetran, Brasilia) (feb 2016)
  • to/from Bogotá : 80,000 COP / 16 hours
  • to/from Riohacha : 15,000 COP / 2.5 hours
  • to/from Taganga : 1,400 COP / 15 min with minibus or taxi for 10000 COP

For more comfortable road travel across northern Colombia, a few companies offer air conditioned van services between Cartagena and Santa Marta, with stops in Barranquilla en route. Cochetur seems to be the most reputable of these. Price is 50,000 pesos per person between the main two stops and they will pick you up and drop you off at your desired location in each city. Note: you will likely share the van with 6-8 people including the driver. Tipping did not appear to be expected but a thousand or two goes a long way here.

If you're heading to the Coffee Region, a cheaper option is to catch a Berlinastur bus to Honda (70COP, 12+ hours, departure at 2PM), and right after that another bus to Pereira (30COP, 6hours). You'll need to wait for an hour or so in the middle of the night in Honda, but you can stay at Berlinastur office during that time.

 


Transportation - Get Around

Streets are numbered the beach can be considered "Carrera 1" or 1st St., and the first street is usually "Carrera 1A" or 1A St. The next street after the first row of buildings is Carrera 2 or 2nd St. Calles are streets running from north to south. Unlike bigger cities in Colombia, taxis do not run on a meter. payments range from 3500 pesos for a "lift" (usually a ride no more than 10 minutes) to upwards of 20,000 pesos, depending on where you go. If you meet someone who 'knows' a taxi driver, this can be a good opportunity to negotiate a price to your next checkpoint in Colombia. Some drivers will take you as far as Barranquilla, although you have to negotiate.

Hotels

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Hotels

- BEST VALUE -

Shopping

Santa Marta is famous for its beach sellers. Since beaches are open 365 days a year, there are always people wandering up and down the beach selling anything. The beaches in the northern suburb El Rodadero have aggressive sellers. Take this as an opportunity to haggle - usually aim for 2000-3000 Pesos below the price asked.

If you are planning to go to Tayrona and need to buy snorkeling gear, you'll be disappointed to see only a couple of very basic Chinese packs, the same in all the shops. If you decide to buy them, the cheapest prices are in a kitchenware shop at calle 15 with carrera 3 (15COP for the "good" one).

Post card stamps can be bought at the post office at Calle 22/Carrera 2 (COP 2900 for Europe). No stamps are sold at the Depris post office (Carrera 3) mentioned by Lonely Planet guides.

Carrera 5th is a big shopping promenade, with stores accompanied by street stalls and vendors. At the corner with Calle 20 there's a big supermarket (Exito). Some streets are pedestrian-friendly, such as Carrera 3 between Calle 15 and 20.

Restaurants

There are a lot of eating options. They seem to be good at roasting and grilling chicken. They do a good job of grilling beef tough but flavorful. Seafood is plentiful and relatively inexpensive lots of shrimp and seafood cocktail vendors. Most varieties of fruit are available even what is more common to cold climates. At night street vendors sell all types of snacks pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, shakes, kabobs, rice in milk with coco, fried stuffed doughy things, etc. Coffee, hot chocolate, and both hot cinnamon and lemon is omni-present.

  • Restaurante El EspañoleteCalle 13 no 2-45. Excellent Spanish food. Specialized in paellas, tapas and grilled meat. The owner, Toni, is from Valencia, Spain, and he can cook the real paella at a very reasonable price (less than $15 per person). His wife, Alexa, is Colombian and her smothies are the best (she uses fresh passion fruit, mango, and other varieties of tropical fruits). They are both really nice and provide their customers with helpful tips to visit the best places in Santa Marta. Lunch menu is about $5. The restaurant is housed in a colonial building and it is even haunted by a ghost!
  • La Tasca - Tapas BarCalle 18 No 2- 72. Run by a spaniard, this small and cosy restaurant offers an excellent selection of typical spanish tapas at a fair price. It is a real experience for the palate of both locals and tourists.
  • Agave Azul - Sabores de MexicoCalle 14 No 3-74,  431 6121. Open Tu-F for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner only. Happy Hour Margaritas 2X1 from 5-7 everyday.. Very good Mexican food prepared by fabulous New York trained chef Michael McMurdo. With a range from burritos to steaks to seafood this very elegant food will blow your mind but not break the bank. With lunch menu for $4 and dinner menu from $8 to $13.
  • Merkabar / Welcome RestaurantCalle 10 No 2-11. Good combination of local and gringo food. Good breakfasts, cheap filling lunches, and their famous "sopa del mar", soup overflowing with seafood. Their fruit juices are excellent. Gilberto, one of the brothers that owns and runs Merkabar, speaks English and is friendly and helpful with tourist needs.
  • Ben & Josep´s bar & restaurantCarrera 1 # 18-67. (Dutch owner) On the beach road in front of the Park Hotel. The very best steak (filet mignon)in Santa Marta. Fine dining for a reasonable price.
  • Restaurante El Escorial. A good restaurant is in the middle of the block behind the beach on 11th street
  • Restaurante y Pescadería ManuelCarrera 1A # 26-167,  +57 5-4231449. Very nice seafood.
  • Restaurante El SantoCalle 21 - 2a 52,  +57 5-423-6170. One of the few places in SM with good tender Argentinan meat and nice wine. Argentinan and Islandic owner. Very nice and welcoming.
  • Tim's Gourmet Coffee ShopCra 1A 23-57 (only 50 m from the entrance of the Marina in downtown Santa Marta.),  +57 5 431 5446, e-mail: . Opens at 7.15AM everyday. Tim's Owls Den Pub open until 10PM weekdays. 2AM Friday & Saturday. 2 X 1 cocktails.. You´ll get free Wi-Fi while you´re having a Fresh coffee made by beans direct from the organic growers on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada,Western Canadian/German pasteries and European style breakfasts daily until 2PM. Crepes and Deli Sandwiches all day.

Street Food:

  • Excellent seafood soup from a man at the corner of 13th st. and 4th Carr (diagonally opposite the small church.. next to sunglasses vendors. You'll see huge pots of soup). Very cheap and delicious, but only in mornings. Sells out by noon.
  • There is a man who has been sitting on 14th street between 3rd and 4th carrera (behind the beach) selling shrimp cocktail at a reasonable price for 23 years.
  • There is another man who has been sitting on 22th street on 1st carrera (in front of the beach) selling a delicious shrimp cocktail at a reasonable price and he is very reliable and well known in the city.

Coffe & Drink

The drink of choice is, of course, beer. Because Santa Marta can get brutally hot during the summer (upwards of 35 C/95F), it is a good idea to constantly have a bottle of water with you. During the evenings, when it gets cooler, beer and friends is often an excellent combination. It would be good idea to take a couple of "Stubbie Coolers" (Australian vernacular for an item which keeps the beer in your bottle cooler or longer) as the heat will have you drinking warm beer by the time you are at the end of your drink.

Soft drinks can be found at nearly every restaurant - sometimes you can even pick it up in glass bottles. They are cheap: a Drink usually costs no more than 2,000 COP.

Ask about Ben´s Bar on the Beach. Barrio Samario, La Puerta, and El Garage.

  • Juan Valdez CafeCalle 14 (next to the Gold Museum). One of the surprisingly few excellent coffee options in town. Even many good restaurants don't have a good coffee machine and/or use good coffee beans.

Sights & Landmarks

  • Museo del OroCalle 14 No.2-67 (on plaza Bolivar). Displays a collection of precolumbian pottery, a nice collection of gold and a scale model of Ciudad Perdida. Free entrance.
  • Simon Bolivar's place of death (Take a bus for 1,400 COP or taxi for 5,000 COP). Beautiful and very interesting gardens, lots of iguanas, study the map before getting any further. The guide will tell you only about the buildings and the history of the "Libertador". Entrance 12,000 COP.

Things to do

  • Scuba diving. Nearby coral reefs provide good possibilities for scuba diving. All the scuba diving operators are at Taganga, so you'll need to go there to shop around (prices are very different from one to another). You can follow the PADI course (3-4 days), or just go for a 1-day dive (no licence required).
  • Jet ski. On the beaches, you can usually rent a jet ski in increments of 10 minutes. If you are not comfortable operating one, you can usually ask for a ride around. Life jackets are provided.
  • Birdwatching. Birdwatching at the El Dorado bird reserve above Minca ProAves.
  • Spanish SchoolCalle 21 3-88 Centro, e-mail: . The Neotropical Spanish School at Casa Scania is a small size Spanish School focused on quality giving classes in downtown Santa Marta and Barranquilla, 8 USD/hour with one student per teacher, 6 USD per person in small groups.Course material, hot and cold drinks included. Casa Scania Calle 21 3-88 (between Carrera 3 and 4) Central Santa Marta. For more info see homepage. 8 USD.
  • Adrenaline AddictsCarrera 21, Calle 20-36,  +57 311 3642134. 09:00 - 18:00. They offer motorcycle rentals, lessons, and motorcycle tours spanning 1-7 days. Run by a pair of young Americans, new business with nice new bikes. Rentals around US$30/day, Tours under US$100/day, all inclusive, varies by tour. Run from Drop Bear Hostel.

Nightlife

  • Seko BarCalle 19 4-11, Santa Marta. Good music, cocktails, excellent prices, slightly insane. Very popular.
  • Santo DomingoCalle 17 No. 3 - 70 near the cathedral.. The best place to party in Santa Marta. The owners are super nice, they will personally attend. The owners are two Spanish. That women more beautiful and rumba, to good music and really nice atmosphere.I always found it a good show. Thanks Elena and Kike.
  • Crab's BarCalle 18 No. 3-69 (between Carr 3 & 4). a fun rock n' roll bar. The Colombian owner (who is a spitting image of Neil Young) used to own a large rock club in Bogotá, but he sold it to settle down here. Every evening he VJ's videos of all the great classic rock bands. Friendly staff, great vibe, nice decor.
  • Burukuka. A trendy nightclub on the way towards El Rodadero. Burukuka sits on top of a hill overlooking the sea, with a great terrace. It's a high-end place, so dress appropriately. Also serves food. Vía al Edificio Cascadas del Rodadero, just out of town, to the south.

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