Three days in Santa Marta give you ample opportunity to see everything that the compact and historic city has to offer, while also allowing time to explore Tayrona National Park and go trekking or scuba diving. See below for how to make the most of three days in Santa Marta.
Take advantage of the comparatively cool Santa Marta mornings to wander the colourful streets of downtown. Search for and snap photos of the street art while sipping on a freshly-prepared juice or Colombian coffee, before grabbing breakfast near Parque de los Novios. In order to orient yourself in Santa Marta with ease, join a walking tour and learn more about Colombia’s oldest city than you would if exploring alone.
Alternatively, make your own way to the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) or the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. Book your admission ticket for each in advance to save time waiting in line. In the evening, sample some of Santa Marta’s specialities, which include coconut rice and patacones (fried plantain), on a food tour that reveals lesser-known local delicacies.
Devote day two to exploring the best of the region’s beaches, which include Playa Blanca, El Rodadero, and Taganga—a scuba diver’s dream. Tours often combine stops at all three and save the hassle of dealing with water taxis, while scuba- and snorkel-specific excursions provide all the necessary equipment. At El Rodadero, dedicate an hour or so to admiring the dolphins, turtles, and numerous species of tropical fish at one or both of the city’s two aquariums, Mundo Marino and El Rodadero. Advance admission tickets guarantee entry.
Alternatively, make time to see the best of Tayrona National Park, to which Santa Marta is the gateway. While visitors can stop by independently—taking advantage of regular boat transfer services—it’s often easier to skip the logistics and visit as part of a hassle-free excursion. Some tours include stops at Crystal Beach.
On your final day in Santa Marta, embark on another day trip; Gabriel García Marquez’s hometown of Aracataca isn’t far away, nor are the jungles and organic coffee farms of Minca. Meanwhile, thrill seekers can start a multi-day excursion to Ciudad Perdida. A once-lost archaeological site, Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) isn’t easily accessible—hikes to the ruins take four or five days, on average—so traveling with guides who understand the terrain is recommended.
Or, pick up a new skill instead. Nearby Taganga is a popular dive site where newbies can either begin the process of PADI certification or just enjoy a relaxed few hours of scuba diving and snorkeling in the warm waters of the Caribbean.