How Many Days In Santa Marta (Hero)

How Many Days In Santa Marta? 3 Great Itinerary Options

How many days in Santa Marta is enough? This coastal gem is full of energy and culture but is also the perfect base to explore the beautiful, varied Sierra Nevada, From Tayrona National Park to the Lost City. Here are 3 great itineraries from 3-9 days to help you plan your visit.

Contents

How Many Days In Santa Marta Is Enough?

I’ve visited Colombia many times and Santa Marta has become probably my favorite spot for a long weekend break.

 

I personally recommend a minimum of 3 days with 5 being the perfect amount to see everything it has to offer.

 

However, here’s a general guideline to help you decide how many days you need in Santa Marta:

 

 

  • 3 Days in Santa Marta: 3 days is perfect to enjoy the history and culture of Santa Marta, go fishing off the coast and exploring Parque Tayrona.

 

  • 5 Days in Santa Marta: 5 days is ideal to see Santa Marta, Taganga, Tayrona and a go for a mountain adventure in Minca.

 

  • 9 Days in Santa Marta: 9 days is essential if you want to see it all – Santa Marta, Taganga, Tayrona, Minca and the famous jungle trek to the ancient Lost City
How Many Days In Santa Marta (Hero)

3-Day Santa Marta Itinerary

This 3-day itinerary is perfect for travellers who are short on time in Colombia and want to see the best of Santa Marta before moving on to other parts of the country.

 

  • Day 1 – Central Santa Marta and Rodadero Beach
  • Day 2 – Explore Parque Tayrona
  • Day 3 – Fishing trip and drinks in Taganga

Day 1: Santa Marta Old Town and Rodadero Beach

  • Timing: Full Day
  • Cost: The Basilica and Tairona Gold Museum are both free while entry to the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino costs around US$4.35.

The heart of Santa Marta has a rich culture, interesting history and some great spots to explore.

 

Parts of the old town were destroyed in a 1834 earthquake but many important, historic buildings and monuments remain, telling the story of one of the earliest and most important in Colombia.

 

The Tairona Gold Museum is a great place to start, and entry is free for all visitors.

 

The museum tells the story of the of the thriving Tairona indigenous civilization with many of their intricate golden artifacts on show. It then continues the story to Spanish colonization, independence and beyond.

 

While exploring the history of the city you can also head over to Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino which was built in 1608 and was the final resting place of Simon Bolivar – one of the continent’s most celebrated and recognized figures who led the independence movement against Spanish colonisation.

 

Finally, your cultural and historic tour of the city can take you to Catedral Basílica, the oldest cathedral in the country. It was constructed in Renaissance Roman style in the 18th century and is where the heart of Simon Bolivar was taken after his death.

 

As a reward for a productive first day of learning you can then head to Rodadero beach for sunset.

TOP TIP: If you prefer a guide, this tour is free (but it's expected to give tips at the end). However, I always prefer a food tour. You get to see most of the same sights but you get fed along the way! Check out this top rated tour if you're interested

Santa Marta, Colombia

Day 2: Explore Parque Tayrona

  • Timing: Full Day (5–6-hour hike + time at the beach)
  • Cost: $68,500 COP (US$17.50) for foreign visitors.
  • Transport: $3 for a bus to the park or a taxi for around US$20.

Tayrona National Natural Park covers 150km of almost untouched forest, coastline and sea.

 

There are two main points of entry to the park where you can trek along set trails to explore, spot animals and eventually arrive at some beautiful beaches.

 

The two most popular beaches are Piscina and Cabo San Juan which can be reached by traveling through the park from the main El Zaino entrance.

 

Once you pay the entry fee then you have a brief talk about the routes available, protecting the environment, animals and park rules.

 

It should take around an hour to get through the forest, up and down the rocks, along the beach, through the mangroves and out to the beach.

 

Along the way you are likely to see monkeys up in the trees, plus some of the 300 bird species that live in the park.

 

Once you reach the beach you can have some food at a couple of restaurants and go swimming!

To leave the park you can either walk back to the entrance or get a speedboat from the beach to Taganga, which is a short taxi ride to Santa Marta.

 

The speedboats leave in the afternoon, and you can book your spot whilst at the beach but be aware that it is a little hectic.

 

Don’t miss the boat as you’ll have to stay overnight in the park!

TOP TIP: Why not stay overnight on the beach in either a tent or a hammock? The tent can get very warm but the hammock leaves you more exposed to the mosquitos, so take your pick!

It isn’t necessarily the most comfortable night's sleep but the beautiful sunrise in the morning is definitely worth it. Most visitors will leave before the sun goes down, so it is much more peaceful.

Tayrona National Park (Santa Marta, Colombia)

Day 3: Fishing trip and Sunset drinks in Taganga

  • Timing: Half Day 
  • Cost: Between US$35 to US$65 depending on specifications of the equipment

Taganga was once a very quiet, peaceful fishing town but over the last decade has become increasingly popular with tourists and backpackers.

 

This has been met with a mixed reaction from the local fisherman who welcome the investment but can get tired of the wild parties in their bay.

 

It still remains a beautiful spot surrounded by green mountains and packed full of boats ready for their early morning shifts. The area in and around the bay is great to explore and you can also head out to try to secure yourself a major catch.

 

There are fishing tours available which can range from 130,000 COP to 250,000 COP (US$35 to US$65) depending on the experience you are after.

 

They have options for beginners looking to catch their first fish or for experienced fisherman who want the best gear to try to hook something impressive.

 

The trip includes snacks and offers the chance to snorkel in the clear water.

 

Once you head back to Taganga you can celebrate with some tasty local fish, caught by yourself or offered by the restaurant, and a cool beer to enjoy overlooking the bay.

 

Or if fishing isn’t your thing, why not just go on a sunset cruise instead!

The Streets Of Santa Marta (Colombia)

5-Day Santa Marta Itinerary

A 5-day itinerary is essential if you want to see everything Santa Marta has to offer, from Parque Tayrona to the mountain town of Minca.

 

  • Day 1 – Central Santa Marta and Rodadero Beach
  • Day 2 – Explore Parque Tayrona
  • Day 3 – Fishing trip and drinks in Taganga
  • Day 4 – Visit the mountain town of Minca
  • Day 5 – Coffee tour and waterfalls of the Sierra Nevada

Day 4: Visit the mountain town of Minca

  • Timing: Full Day
  • Cost: The bus costs around 9,000 COP (US$2.30) and the official taxi is about 74,300 COP (US$19) as of January 2024. 

Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountains are one of the few places you’ll find snow-capped peaks overlooking tropical beaches.

 

It is a rich and diverse environment which is perfect for a day trip to explore.

 

Traveling 35 minutes up into the mountains you can reach the small town of Minca. The air is much cooler up here and the pace of life is much slower.

 

You can wander the sleepy streets of the town. There are a handful of restaurants and small bars. It is a short walk to get from end to end in the town with friendly locals offering warm greetings.

 

After some time in the town, you can decided to visit secluded waterfall, trek to viewpoints, or take a tour of a coffee farm. 

 

Minca is an amazing place to relax and escape the head, hustle and bustle of Santa Marta.

 

The town offers a very different experience, and it is difficult to believe you are just 35 minutes from the busy coastal town as you breathe in the fresh mountain air.

TOP TIP: I recommend staying overnight in Minca. Just pack a small bag and you'll be back in Santa Marta by the next morning! There are hotel options within the town but you can also follow paths out to the side of the mountains where you can find some great spots with views of the coast. I recommend Mundo Nuevo Eco Lodge or Masaya Casas Viejas. Both have pools and great views across the mountains.

Day 5: Coffee tour and waterfalls of the Sierra Nevada

  • Timing: Full day
  • Cost: US$50 for the tour and lunch per person

After taking the afternoon to relax in Minca, you can make the most of the following day with a full range of activities.

 

Jungle Joe offers a guided tour which includes a visit to a local coffee farm to learn about the process and taste some fresh coffee followed by an ecological walk through the forest.

 

You will arrive at waterfalls where you can swim in natural pools and slide down the smooth rocks.

 

The tour includes a delicious lunch plus the opportunity to learn about bamboo and the history of cocoa in the region.

 

Minca is not as well-known as Santa Marta or Tayrona but we found it to be a great alternative for either a long, busy single day or a more relaxing two day visit.

See how you can spend a month travelling through Colombia with this epic one month itinerary:

 

 

Views from Minca (Colombia)

9-Day Santa Marta Itinerary

9 days is needed in Santa Marta if you want to enjoy the town and also complete the famous Lost City Trek.

 

  • Day 1 – Central Santa Marta and Rodadero Beach
  • Day 2 – Explore Parque Tayrona
  • Day 3 – Fishing trip and drinks in Taganga
  • Day 4 – Visit the mountain town of Minca
  • Day 5 – Coffee tour and waterfalls of the Sierra Nevada
  • Day 6 – Lost City Trek
  • Day 7 – Lost City Trek
  • Day 8 – Lost City Trek
  • Day 9 – Lost City Trek

Day 6-9: The Lost City Trek

  • Timing: 4-6 Day options
  • Cost: 2,150,000 COP or $550 per person for food, guide, transfers and accommodation costs.

If you have the time, budget and you feel you are physically up for it then I would very strongly recommend the Lost City Trek.

 

This is the most popular trek in Colombia and one of the best in South America. 

 

Teyuna, as the ancient settlement is known by the local indigenous community, is 650 years older than Peru’s Machu Picchu.

 

It is built upon 169 terraces which rise above the jungle canopy high up in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. It was once the administrative, spiritual and economic center for the Tairona people with between 2,000 to 8,000 residents.

 

The Spanish conquistadors arrived in search of gold and forced the population to abandon their home, bringing violence and disease.

 

The city was lost to history, with the local indigenous communities keeping the existence of their spiritual home a secret for centuries.

 

Today the indigenous community continue to control the region, but a limited number of groups are permitted to enter and travel with approved guides to visit the amazing site.

TOP TIP: I always recommend booking tours in person when in South America. Online prices are always inflated. It's better to visit tour companies and see if they have any deals on. For reference, Baquainos have the best reputation. Waiwa are also a great option and use guides from the indigenous communities.

Views from the Lost City, Santa Marta (Colombia)

When Is The Best Time To Visit Santa Marta?

When it comes to planning your adventure in Santa Marta, here are some suggestions:

 

  • High SeasonJanuary-March and July-August are some of the best months where Colombia enjoys the best weather. With sunny days and warm temperatures, these months offer ideal conditions for being by the beach.

 

  • Low Season – Try to avoid visiting during the rainy season from April-June and October-December as it will be raining a lot on the Caribbean Coast.

 

  • Shoulder Seasons – Additionally, the shoulder seasons of March and September can also have good conditions, blending warm weather with fewer crowds, ideal for backpackers looking for the best deals on tours and accommodation.
Downloadable PDF timetable demonstrating the best time to visit south America

When's The Best Time To Visit South America?

Sign up for a FREE PDF outlining the best months to visit every country:

Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta (Colombia)

Where To Stay In Santa Marta?

The Dreamer

The Dreamer Hostel is one of my favourite hostels in all South America.

 

The staff and set-up of this hostel make it the such a great place to meet other travellers, easily relax during the day and socialise at night.

 

The dorms surround a large pool and outhouse that has a bar, pool table and chillout space upstairs. There are also loads of bean bags and hammocks surrounding the pool so it’s a great place to nurse a hangover during the day.

The Dreamer, Santa Marta (Colombia)
The pool at 'The Dreamer' Hostel in Santa Marta, Colombia

La Brisa Loca

If you want a great party hostel then I recommend staying at La Brisa Loca is in the centre of town.

 

The rooftop bar and dancefloor are huge, and the ocean breeze keeps you cool while you dance the night away.

The rooftop at La Brisa Loca, Santa Marta (Colombia)
chill out area on the rooftop at La Brisa Loca, Santa Marta (Colombia)

How To Get To Santa Marta?

How To Get To Santa Marta From Bogota / Medellin

The best way to get to Santa Marta from Bogota or Medellin is to fly.

 

  • From Bogota it takes 1h 30m.
  • From Medellin it takes 1h 15m.

Taking a bus is cheaper but these are long journeys (12 hours or more) on windy mountain roads.

Internal flights are cheap in Colombia and start at around $50. 

How To Get To Santa Marta From Cartagena

The best way to get to Santa Marta from Cartagena is to take the bus.

 

Buses take around 4h 30m and start at $12. 

Make sure you visit Cartagena on your Colombian adventure too:

 

 

Leave a Comment

Travel South America With Ease

Sign up to my weekly newsletter for the latest itineraries, guides and deals for South America.

Travel South America Like An Expert

Budget South America Itinerary (Free PDF)