Santa Marta has a fairly varied offer of places to stay, do you want a place with a view of the sea or the mountains? do you want to save money on accommodation or is that not your main concern? do you want to be close to everything or in the middle of nowhere? As you can see, it all depends on your tastes and budget. In this article we will talk about the different tourist sectors in Santa Marta and see the advantages and disadvantages of staying in each one (We will not recommend any hotel or hostel). Just in case, we have an article for those who are doing the Lost City trek and want to know how is the pickup or the dropoff depending on the place you are staying.

Historic Center of Santa Marta

Parque de los Novios at twilight time
Parque de los Novios at twilight time

The historical center of Santa Marta has options for any budget, in this area you can get from backpacker hostels to boutique hotels. As you might expect, many of the accommodations are buildings from many years ago. Most of them have the style that prevailed in the first decades of the 20th century, are in excellent condition and have plenty of services and amenities.

The city’s commercial, financial and administrative activities are concentrated in the historical centre, so you will have everything close by if you stay in this area: ATMs, restaurants, travel agencies and/or airline offices, discos, bars, exchange houses and tourist attractions such as the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), the Cathedral or the Parque de los Novios, among others.

On the other hand, as you are within the urban area you will not have limitations with the mobile coverage and depending on where you stay, you could even count on quite fast internet connections, something very important if you are a digital nomad or simply cannot be offline for any other reason. The disadvantage of staying in the historic center is that the city is still barely developing the offer of tours and activities that can be done in the same area.

El Rodadero

El Rodadero developed as a result of tourism, which is why it has a wide range of hotels, restaurants and other things to do, but bear in mind that the offer has revolved around Colombian tourism. For this reason, if you ask a Colombian where he could stay in Santa Marta, he will surely recommend El Rodadero, but if you ask a foreigner, he will most likely not even mention this part of the city. This is because there are other more attractive places for a foreign tourist like the historical center, Taganga or Minca.

If you have any interest in the resort of El Rodadero, Playa Blanca or others further south in the city, staying in El Rodadero will be an obvious advantage. On the other hand, in El Rodadero you will find everything you need to enjoy your stay in Santa Marta, similar to what happens in the Historical Center. As a disadvantage we could cite the congestions that are so common especially in the high season of tourism in Colombia.


View of the Taganga bay
View of the Taganga bay

Taganga is a small fishing village surrounded by hills and with a horseshoe-shaped bay, only 15 minutes from Santa Marta. It is well known for its relaxed atmosphere that attracts backpackers from all over the world. You may be surprised to see the occasional advertisement written in Spanish, English and Hebrew, as Israeli tourists have preferred this destination for several years.

Taganga is a diving resort, offering low cost and excellent quality places for this activity. It is also the point of departure and arrival of boats from and to different parts of the Tayrona Park, in this regard it is worth clarifying that although taking a boat for example to Cabo San Juan del Guía is faster by this means, remember that going by boat on the high seas is not for everyone.

Although this destination is quite popular, it has a limited infrastructure and although its bay offers a beautiful view, perfect for enjoying the sunset while relaxing, it is not very attractive for swimming in it. Fortunately, there are better beaches nearby that can be reached by boat in a very short time.


View of the mountains from a hostel in Minca
View of the mountains from a hostel in Minca

The town of Minca is located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, is known as the gateway to the Sierra, because it is a starting point to different tourist destinations such as Cuchilla San Lorenzo, Cerro Kennedy and others. While the urban area of Santa Marta is surrounded by dry tropical forest, Minca is in a more humid area of forest and mountainous landscapes 45 minutes from the center of the city. It ranges from the 600 meters high and will take you away from the heat of the city as you go up the mountain. Near the town you have birdwatching hotspots, waterfalls, hiking trails, coffee and cacao plantations and interesting food alternatives.

In Minca and its surroundings you can find Among the cons of staying in Minca, depending on you are staying you could have some connectivity limitations or none at all. Get informed very well if being offline is not an option for you.

Tayrona Park and surroundings

With the exception of the camping zones and the ecohabs, inside the Tayrona Park there are no accommodations such as hotels or hostels (although there are some private properties, which offer accommodation services).

The Tayrona Park is quite extensive, so when we talk about the surroundings of the Park we mean the area that is on the opposite side of the reserve zone around the Zaino entrance. Here, most of the hotels are located near the road that goes from Santa Marta to La Guajira, and have a lodge-style in view of the fact that they are not on the coast but in an area of tropical forest in the lower part of the Sierra Nevada, where there are also several rivers and streams. You can find from simple accommodations to cabins and hotels with all the amenities.

Outside the reserve, the strip of land that goes from one side of the road to the other until Palomino has an excellent offer of hotels, especially on the beach, where you can enjoy surroundings like those of the Tayrona Park. A beautiful beach line, full of coconut trees and vegetation.

Even if the beach is not suitable for swimming and you are in the middle of nowhere, there are many things you can do nearby such as surfing, horseback riding, hiking, paddle surfing, or just relaxing. As they are far away from the city, you can enjoy starry nights while listening to the sea waves and the breeze passing by, or have a good time with friends at the bar or the restaurant of your accommodation.

As in Minca and other areas on the outskirts of the city, there are limitations to mobile coverage.

As you can see, Santa Marta is full of options for all tastes and budgets. We hope that we have helped you to choose the sector or sectors of the city where you are going to stay on your next trip to our city.


*The accommodation services in the ecohabs are suspended while there is the process of change of administration of the Tayrona National Natural Park.


We have said ours is a community-based tourism company, but what do we mean when we use these words? Aren’t there other companies that also do community tourism in Santa Marta? In fact, what is community tourism? In this article we will answer these three questions.

What is community-based tourism?

In the community-based tourism concept there are some key factors that we take into account: firstly the participation of local residents in tourism activity, by inviting tourists to stay in their homes, eat local food, provide a cultural exchange, among others. And secondly, the way the tourism activities improve their economy and quality of life. In many cases the community can partner with the private sector, which provides logistic, clientele, marketing and other expertise.

Community-based tourism makes it possible for visitors to discover things that would otherwise be impossible or difficult to see or experience, such as get to exclusive places to see wildlife, or other off the beaten track tourist attractions and/or know the traditions of very reserved communities. On the community side, however, it opens up to commercial and cultural exchange that also allows it to gain visibility locally and even internationally.

Community tourism in Santa Marta

Today Santa Marta has a growing portfolio of activities that belong to the community tourism category, some of them in the urban area where there is a social work in the background and approach with some popular neighborhoods of the city, in the rural areas, with peasant communities, where you can do some activities of the agrotourism and ecotourism, and of course, with the indigenous communities Arhuaca, Kogi and Wiwa, to know their vision of the world, their crafts and culture.

Is safe the community tourism in Santa Marta?

Fortunately we can say yes to that question. Perhaps what could concern you a little more about this type of tourism in Santa Marta is the issue of infrastructure. Some places are quite far from the city, have limited or no mobile coverage, and also have limited some services or amenities. However, as we mentioned earlier, the fact that the options of community-based tourism in Santa Marta continues to grow, is also a guarantee that efforts are being made to continually improve. For example, in Ciudad Perdida there is already an internet connection in every campsite, two years ago the communication was much more limited.

Tourism companies in Santa Marta that do community-based tourism

If you are a tourist, you will have seen that the most important tourist destinations in the city are right… on the outskirts of the city. And it is on the outskirts of the city, in the rural area, in the mountains, where we find the peasant and indigenous communities that move most of the community tourism in the region.

Many times these initiatives require the support of already established companies, as we saw, this partnertship benefits both parties. Although this is true in the majority of cases there are businesses created by the communities themselves, in this way they get even more resources. Mega Sierra Tour is in this category, we are a company created by the community and for the community.

The communities are Mega Sierra Tour

Rural school at El Mamey
El Mamey one of the communities represented by Mega Sierra Tour

At this point you can see the difference between those businesses that support community tourism and those whose very roots are in the community. For this reason we take pride in the work we do and the impact we generate. In total, Mega Sierra Tour represents 6 communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, two of them are La Aguacatera, and El Mamey, the community of the village where the Lost City trek starts. The others are: Honduras, Casa ‘e tabla, San Martín and Quebrada del Sol.

All of them, have a great potential for ecotourism, that is why Mega Sierra Tour and Asojuntar G.B.D are working on the “Colibrí Trochilinas de mi Sierra” initiative, to bring more development to these communities. We know, both, our beloved customers and all the people that work with us, will be supporting this great project called Mega Sierra Tour, a company that takes care of the people and the environment.

History, beauty and tourist importance, are words that help us define the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino in Santa Marta. The Quinta is an ancient big farm (hacienda) where the liberator Simón Bolívar died. Today the surroundings are also a large botanical garden, with its art museum that exhibits the works of artists from ‘bolivarian’ nations, those liberated by Simón Bolívar. The Quinta is an oasis within the city of Santa Marta and it is worth visiting every corner. You can visit it accompanied by a tour guide who are hired (by a voluntary donation), in the same place.

How to get to the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino

Taxi. The easiest way to get there is to take a taxi. The taxi fare will depend on where you are, it could be from $6,000 to about $10,000 COP or more if you are in a very remote part of the city.

Bus. If you decide to take a bus to get to the Quinta de San Pedro, what you need to know is the route that take you there is any that goes to Mamatoco. No problem if you are in Taganga, the Historical Center or El Rodadero, just ask at the front desk where you can take the bus. The bus fare is $2,000 COP or $2,050 on sundays and holidays for the regular buses. For the new ones the fare is $2,100 COP and $2,150 on sundays and holidays. The time from El Rodadero to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is about 45 minutes, from the Historical Center or Taganga it will take about 30 minutes.

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino entrance fees

The entrance fees for the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino depend on the origin and age of the visitor. They keep the same fees all year round. The admission tickets are sold at the ticket office at the entrance of the Quinta. All prices here are in colombian pesos (COP).

  • Colombian adult: $17,000
  • Foreigner adult: $23,000
  • Children: $15,000
  • Colombian adult older than 65 years old: $15,000
  • Foreigner adult older than 65 years old: $21,000

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino hours

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino opens at 9:00 am and allows entrance until 4:30 pm in low season, in high season they allow entrance until 5:30 pm. It closes at 5:30 pm in low season and at 6:00 pm in high season.

The cafeteria and souvenir shop is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The only days in which there are important changes in the time schedule at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino are December 24th and 31st, in both cases they open at 9:00 am and close at 1:00 pm. The only day of the year when they do not open is January 1st.

1. Santa Marta is the first city founded in Colombia

In 1521, the Spanish crown authorized the foundation and colonization of the province of Santa Marta, that had been discovered in 1502. Officially, it is known that the city was founded in 1525 by Rodrigo de Bastidas. Although in 1510 an attempt had already been made to establish a city in territory that is currently Colombian, the city was abandoned over time. Santa Marta was the first city founded in Colombia that is still standing. And the first one founded in continental South America under the order of the Spanish crown.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
Sierra Nevada peaks as seen from Valledupar

2. The two highest peaks in Colombia are located in Santa Marta

Santa Marta area includes part of the mountainous range called Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and its highest peaks Bolivar and Colon, both have an altitude of 5,775 m.a.s.l. (18,946 f.a.s.l), which make them the two highest peaks in Colombia, and take us to the next fact.

3. Santa Marta has all the thermal floors

Although the city is at sea level, Santa Marta has all the thermal floors, ranging from sea level to the perpetual snows of the Bolivar and Colon peaks.

4. Pirates attacked the city for more than 200 years

The first attack to the city was officially registered in 1543 and the last one in 1779. One of this attacks, in 1655 by William Goodson left the city in ruins and it even changed the original layout of the streets of what is now the historical center.

5. The Cathedral of Santa Marta was built thanks to the consumption of aguardiente

Santa Marta Cathedral in 1844 Watercolor
Square of the Cathedral in 1844, Watercolor

The resources given for the construction fell short. Because of that it was necessary to create a tax on each bottle of aguardiente (an alcoholic beverage). This initiative had support of Spain, and worked, thanks to this tax on aguardiente the Cathedral could be finished in 1794 after almost 30 years of construction.

6. One of the two most developed civilizations in Colombia, was in our region

In Colombia, the civilizations that achieved the greatest social and cultural development were the Muiscas and the Tayronas. Of these, the Tayronas inhabited the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and many of their most important archaeological remains are found here, such as Ciudad Perdida (Teyuna) or Pueblito Chairama.

7. You can find the same Bolivar’s equestrian statue in 4 different cities

The equestrian statue of Simon Bolivar that you can see in Bolivar Park in Santa Marta was a gift from Venezuela and is a replica of the one in the Park of the same name in Caracas. The curious thing is that the original one is in Lima, Peru, which was the inspiration to that in Caracas, so there are three of them in South America. But the story does not end here, there is another statue in San Francisco, for a total of 4.