Coastal cityscape with beach and palm trees

Santa Marta Wiki

Santa Marta is the first city in Latin America to have been created by the Spanish conquistadores.

Located in the north of the country, capital of the department of Magdalena, it is an important tourist, cultural and historical center.

Simon Bolivar, a political and military personality, died here in 1830.

Number of Inhabitants

The city of Santa Marta has approximately 500,000 inhabitants (2018 estimate)

taganga colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

History of Santa Marta

Before the colonial era, the area was occupied by Amerindians.

In 1524, the Spaniard Rodrigo de Bastidas landed in the region.

He founded the city of Santa Marta and developed it as the port and capital of the region.

In 1596, Governor Lope de Orozco restructured the commercial and political environment of the territory.

The town was targeted by pirates in the region and was stormed several times during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Santa Marta is a place of struggle for independence, marked in particular by the Battle of Santa Marta (November 11, 1820), which resulted in nearly a thousand dead and as many wounded and prisoners.

Banana cultivation helped the city to prosper in the first half of the 20th century.

Since then, the region has relied on tourism.

santa marta old map
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Geography of Santa Marta

Located on the north coast of Colombia, Santa Marta gives its name to the bay that surrounds it.

Built between sea and mountains, it is located on the Caribbean Sea and has an altitude of between 0 and 5.7 m.

The mountains of Sierra Nevada, the highest coastal massif in the world, dominate it in the southeast.

The highest mountain of the range, the Cristóbal Colón peak, overlooks it with its altitude of 5,775 m.

More info : 

santa marta colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

How to get around the in Santa Marta ?

The city of Santa Marta offers a choice of various modes of transport, buses, busetas or taxis.

Buses and busetas: several bus companies serve Santa Marta.

Taxis: Taxis are easy to spot in the streets because of their yellow colour.

Drivers are required to show a document showing the legal prices for each destination.

If the driver does not have one, it is preferable to hail another taxi.

santa marta colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

What to see in Santa Marta (for Free)

The city of Santa Marta has many sights to see for free

  • The Casa de Aduana
  • The town hall
  • The cathedral
  • The sculpture in homage to the Tayrona ethnic group
  • The statue of Rodrigo de Bastidas
  • Sunset in front of the Moro

The city is also home to several very interesting museums such as

  • The Gold Museum
  • The Bolivarian Museum of Modern Art
  • The Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum

But Santa Marta is above all know for the Rodadero, a very touristic beach of national fame, which receive mass tourism all the year around. 

santa marta colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Historic Center of Santa Marta

A visit to Santa Marta takes the visitor to the main viewpoints and places of interest such as :

santa marta colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Historic Center – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Customs House & Glod Museum

Parque de los Novios

santa marta parque novios colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Historic Center – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Taganga viewpoint

taganga colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Taganga Viewpoint – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

What to do in Santa Marta (Activities)

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

It is the final resting place of Simon Bolivar, hero of the revolution and major historical figure of Latin America.

santa marta quinta san pedro colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino – Photo © Tristan Quevilly
  • Diving
  • Sailing Tours
  • Boat Trips to Tayrona
  • Beach in Taganga
  • Bahia Concha

How to get around in Santa Marta

Getting around Renting a car

If you want to take a road trip from Santa Marta, and have the freedom to visit Taganga, Minca, Palomino and Tayrona at your own pace, a good idea is to rent a car. Here you can compare the available offers and rent a car at the best price.

Be aware though that road are in a bad state in Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta, and you may need to park the car in the village and then take a 4×4 or a motorbike taxi.

Getting around Renting a Motorcycle

If you would like to visit the area in an adventurous style and go off path, another good idea is to rent a motorcycle. We partner with Adrian who runs Colombian Riders, a motorbike Rental agency

Getting around renting a 4×4 with Driver

If you prefer safety, traveling with an experienced 4×4 driver is essential in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The roads are often in an incredibly bad state, and in rainy season things get worth. With a private driver, you can drive to Cerro Kennedy or visit remote communities. Here you can contact our partners, we have partnerships with several excellent drivers in the area


The heart of the city is full of shops and small businesses where it is possible to make various purchases.

During a trip to Santa Marta, you can acquire, among other typical products :

  • Mochila ( Colombian Indigenous Bags)
  • Gold jewelry
  • Ruana (Colombian pancho)
  • Indian pottery and leather goods.

Gastronomy and local recipe(s)

The dishes

  • The Cayeye
  • cassava cooked with cheese
  • fish soup and empanadas (filled slippers)


The yellow fever vaccine is highly recommended for the coastal regions and the Amazon, as well as the DTP update.

Vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever and rabies may also be recommended.

Repellents should be used to repel mosquitoes.

In case of emergency, dial 123.

Hospitals in Santa Marta

Hospital Universitario Fernando Troconis

  • Comuna 4 Santa Marta
  • +57 4213 698.

Clínica La Milagrosa

  • Calle 22 # 13A – 09
  • +57 5 4215850.

Time difference

  • In summer : – 7h
  • In winter : – 6h

Where to go After Santa Marta


To enjoy the freshness of the mountains, climb in the Sierra Nevada (1h from Santa Marta)! 

In Minca, you stay in charming ecohabs overlooking the Caribbean coast.

In this green and restful environment, you are lulled by the songs of the multitude of colorful birds.

You go on a day trip to observe the birds, discover natural waterfalls, and a traditional coffee Finca.

From here, birdwatchers can also discover the exclusive El Dorado Park, famous for its many bird species.

minca colombia travel guide
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Tayrona Park

A day’s walk between tropical forest, bays, and pristine beaches:

Follow an ecological trail through the rainforest up the river, reach the coast, and the pristine beaches of Arrecifes, and then swim in the crystal clear waters of La Piscina (4h walk, medium level).

You can then reach Cape San Juan de Guia (“El Cabo”), a spectacular bay of white sand, surrounded by huge volcanic rocks.

See also : Tayrona Park Complete Travel Guide

tayrona park cabo san juan colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Tayrona Park – Photo © Tristan Quevilly

Lost City Trek (Ciudad Perdida)

Leave for 4 to 5 days of hiking in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Departing from Santa Marta or Tayrona Park, go deep into the Sierra Nevada to discover the mythical Lost City of the Tayrona civilization.

This trek is the opportunity to understand the beliefs of this mystical place and to meet the Kogui people.

During the trek, you will be able to swim in natural pools of great beauty.

Note: Bring good shoes, mosquito repellent, and sunscreen.

Attention: It is planned to walk 5 to 7 hours per day with a negative and positive difference in altitude each day.

Note: This tour can be offered privately or in groups.

Lost City ciudad perdida colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Lost City – Photo © Tristan Quevilly


For a moment of disconnection with civilization, choose to take a few days in a bungalow in Palomino, on a deserted beach.

Here you are alone to enjoy the ocean rolls and the excellent local cuisine.

Located 1h30 away from Santa Marta, this accommodation guarantees you resourcing and relaxation during a seaside stay far from the crowds.

You can opt for relaxation or nature activities such as :

A buoy descent on the Don Diego river: a contemplative and relaxing walk in the forest.

An excursion to the Quebrada Valencia: in the middle of the jungle, enjoy the natural freshwater pools.

palomino colombia
Santa Marta Travel Guide – Palomino – Photo © Tristan Quevilly