Santa Marta, Colombia | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
Average: 7 (1 vote)

Santa Marta, Colombia

Santa Marta is a city in the Magdalena Department of Colombia's Costa Norte.

Santa Marta is an important commercial port and tourist destination. Every day, there are cargo ships coming and going and the action is very much so 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, aggressive vendors, and plenty of noise.
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... Read more

Santa Marta, Colombia

Santa Marta is a city in the Magdalena Department of Colombia's Costa Norte.

Santa Marta is an important commercial port and tourist destination. Every day, there are cargo ships coming and going and the action is very much so 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, aggressive vendors, and plenty of noise.
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).


Pre-Columbian times
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.

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Santa Marta, Colombia: Port Information

The Puerto de Colombia is situated about half a mile away from downtown Santa Marta.
Shuttle service is available.
There are no special facilities for cruise passengers. 
Everything you need is within walking distance. 

Get around Santa Marta, Colombia

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. If you meet someone who 'knows' a taxi driver, this can be a good opportunity to negotiate a price for your next checkpoint in Colombia. Some drivers will take you as far as Barranquilla, although you have to negotiate.

What to see in Santa Marta, Colombia

  • Museo del Oro, Calle 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

  • Simon Bolivar's place of death (

    La Quinta de San Pedro de Alejadrino

    ). Now a museum, 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". 

What to do in Santa Marta, Colombia

  • The 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 license required).
  • On the beaches (in Rodadero or sometimes Santa Marta), 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. You will find that the further away you get from the population centers, the cleaner the beaches are. It is little-known fact that Bahia Concha which is just inside

    Tayrona National Park

    has no entrance fee instead of the fee charged at the main entrances. Los Angeles and Costeño beaches just to the east of Tayrona are great if you want to escape the hordes at the weekend and stay somewhere a bit nicer than the dilapidated and overpriced options inside the Park. That said, the actual beaches themselves inside Tayrona are truly spectacular, some of the most beautiful in the world, and well worth a visit.
  • Minca is a small village 650m above Santa Marta reached in a 45 min ride via bumpy mountain road from "Estacion de Minca" en Calle 11 con 12 en el mercado publico de Santa Marta. The village center itself is a quaint friendly little mountain town with not much to offer other than a few nice new restaurants and pool halls in the center. It is only when you explore to its very hilly edges you will discover the real magic of Minca in some truly spectacular hostels, fincas and places to chill by the river or with a beer and panoramic vistas to the sea far below.
  • Birdwatching at the world famous El Dorado, a bird reserve brimming with natural treasures. It is one of the most important bird reserves in the world and also harbors many rare amphibians and plants. The elegant wooden cabins command an amazing view of the ocean above Minca.
  • Paso Del Mango. is a tiny village in the Sierra Nevada mountains located on an old Tayrona civilization. 50 min from Santa Marta. There are plenty of waterfalls, natural pools, endemic animal and plant species and a range of hikes to make. Daytrips are possible. There are several possibilities to sleep and eat. Off the beaten track paradise.

What to eat and drink in Santa Marta, Colombia


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 in cold climates. At night street vendors sell all types of snacks pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, shakes, kabobs, rice in milk with cocoa, fried stuffed doughy things, etc. Coffee, hot chocolate, and both hot cinnamon and lemon are omnipresent.
  • La Tasca - Tapas Bar, Calle 18 No 2- 72. Run by a Spaniard, this small and cozy 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 Mexico, Calle 14 No 3-74 phone 431 6121. 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. Open Tuesday to Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner only. Happy Hour Margaritas 2X1 from 5-7 every day.
  • Merkabar / Welcome Restaurant, Calle 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.
  • Restaurante El Escorial. A good restaurant is in the middle of the block behind the beach on 11th street
  • Restaurante y Pescadería Manuel - Carrera 1A # 26-167, Santa Marta. 5-4231449. Very nice seafood.
  • Camarita just minutes up the road from Minca. You won't miss his giant wood burning oven on the left side of the road as you continue up the hill from Minca. Camarita will serve you up some of the best BBQed pork you have ever tasted for around 12-14,000 including sides.
  • Luz's Restaurant in Minca, has no sign but is run by such a charming Colombian couple. It is the orange painted place across the road from the Iglesia with just a menu on the wall. 
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.
  • Santo Domingo Calle 17 No. 3 - 70 near the cathedral. The best place to party in Santa Marta. The owners are super nice, they will personally attend. 
  • Crab's Bar - 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 décor. Calle 18 No. 3-69 (between Carr 3 & 4).
  • Seko Bar - A cool new bar at the walking street of Santa Marta's centro historico. Cold beers and economic cocktails. Music without vallenato. Play free pool while sipping techno sluts. Coffee and iced coffee drinks available. Probably the only place in town where you can find single malt Scotch whiskey. Good place to start and end your evening.
  • 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. 
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 a 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.
Ask about Ben´s Bar on the Beach. Barrio Samario, La Puerta, and El Garage.
  • Charlie's, calle 19 con cerrera 4, 300 593 4855, 7 - 12 or 3 am. The coolest and most rocking bar in Santa awesome place where you can share with friends or meet new ones from all parts of the world.

Shopping in Santa Marta, Colombia

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.

Santa Marta is famous for its beach sellers. Someone can go to the beach 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.

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.

"Mochilas": the most popular bag of the country is made in "La Sierra Nevada", Santa Marta region. They are made by the Khoguis (indigenous people still living in La Sierra Nevada). You can find them anywhere else in the country since they are very popular but you will have more choice and it will be a way cheaper in Santa Marta.

Safety in Santa Marta, Colombia

The areas around Santa Marta are safe.
However, you should always use your common sense. Avoid remote areas and strangers, especially if you are alone. Major urban centers and the countryside of Colombia still have very high violent crime rates.
Taxi crime is a very serious danger in major cities, so always request taxis by phone or app, rather than hailing them off the street—it costs the same and your call will be answered rapidly. Official taxi ranks are safe as well (airports, bus terminals, shopping malls).

Drink only bottled water outside the major cities. The water in major cities is safe. Most drinking water in people's homes is either boiled or of the purified variety that comes in huge multi-gallon plastic bags (which you can find at any little grocery store). The coffee's delicious, though, so why not just start that habit!

Language spoken in Santa Marta, Colombia

The official language of Colombia is Spanish. Some indigenous tribes in rural areas continue to speak their own languages, though almost all people from those tribes will be bilingual in their own language and Spanish.

If you've recently learned Spanish, it's a relief to know that the Bogotá dialect is clear and easy to understand. The Spanish does vary, however, from Cartagena to Bogotá to Cali. Generally, the Spanish on the coasts is spoken more rapidly, and Spanish from Medellín has its own idiosyncrasies. Note that in cities like Medellín and Cali, the dialect of Spanish is the voseo form. Meaning that instead of the second person familiar pronoun tú, vos is used instead. Though tú is also understood by everybody, vos is a more friendly voice while tú is reserved for intimate circles. The Spanish spoken along the Caribbean coast is similar to the dialects spoken in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Quite a few Colombians know at least a few basic phrases in English, because English is taught at school, and Hollywood movies tend to be in English with Spanish subtitles. For the most part, however, you should definitely invest in learning the basics of Spanish since you will encounter plenty of situations where no-one will speak any English.

Colombians from more affluent backgrounds will be more likely to have learned English, and the majority of high ranking professionals, executives and government workers in Colombia speak an acceptable level of English.


8:47 pm
January 19, 2022


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26.48 °C/80 °F
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25.81 °C/78 °F
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25.75 °C/78 °F
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25.48 °C/78 °F
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Latest travel blogs about Santa Marta, Colombia

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10 Best Things to Do in Santa Marta, Colombia

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