Santa Marta, Colombia is a mid-sized city on the Caribbean coast. Known for beaches, tourism, and nightlife – the city offers a lot to the typical traveler.
Recently, I spend a few weeks exploring the city at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And one of my favorite activities was taking my pasty white self to all of the Santa Marta beaches.
Selfie gang in La Piscina, Parque Tayrona.
Amid sunburn after sunburn, I splashed around and took in the rays. I’ve always been a beach guy and Santa Marta, Colombia has plenty to offer for those nautically inclined individuals.
What are the Beaches in Santa Marta Like?
Santa Marta, Colombia beaches are a mixed bag. You have stunning, world-class offerings at Parque Tayrona. Then you have marginally average beachfront near the center of the city.
Overall, the beaches in Santa Marta did their job. If you want some of the best beaches in the world, just head to Tayrona or near it.
If you want something close to the center, you can find beachfront all over the city. Looking to unwind in a Miami-esque fashion? Rodadero has a beach you might enjoy. For backpackers, the calm waters in Taganga worked wonders.
9 Fantastic Santa Marta, Colombia Beaches to Check Out
If you’re traveling to Santa Marta and curious about the beaches, I’ll break it down all here. Here’s everything you need to know about beaches in and around the city:
Playa La Bahia, Centro
The worst beach I went to in Santa Marta. This spot rivaled the worst beach I’ve ever been to in my life – Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. It’s filled with people, dirty, brown sand, and vendors try to sell you things any time you swim there.
My friend and I spent around three minutes at Playa La Bahia before leaving and vowing never, ever to come back. The good news is this beach is a 30 second walk from the center of Santa Marta, which is where we stayed.
Bahia de Santa Marta.
Playa Los Cocos, Centro
Playa Los Cocos was a welcome surprise. I found this beach after hitting the gym right next to Santa Marta Marina. I got nice and swole, then hit Playa Los Cocos for a relaxing swim.
Playa Los Cocos is a five minute walk from Parque Bolivar in Santa Marta, right next to the marina. The water is cold and refreshing. There are no vendors annoying you. There aren’t even many other people. This is the perfect place to swim in the center of the city.
Just be forewarned – this isn’t the prettiest beach in the world. For swimming, splashing, and relaxing – it’s fantastic.
The backpacker ghetto in all of the Colombian coast, Taganga is not a place I planned to spend a lot of time. If you’re into that scene, it can be a great time and the nightlife is fantastic.
The beach in Taganga is not too shabby. The sand is ok, the water is fairly blue, and they keep it pretty clean on the weekends. For a nice refreshing swim after a big night out, Playa Taganga works wonders.
If you plan to spend more than a few weeks in Santa Marta, I’d surmise Rodadero is where you’d want to be. The neighborhood is just five minutes from the center of Santa Marta and right on the beach.
The beach is well maintained, the water is fairly blue, and the sand semi-white. It’s not perfect, but for a decent beach with all the modern amenities you’d want within walking distance, it does its job.
Rodadero Beach Views.
P.S: Colombians used to love swimming in Playa Rodadero at night, but they recently outlawed the practice. Why? Because too many people were copulating in the water at night and the moans kept beachfront property owners up at night ;(
Playa Blanca, near Rodadero
Don’t fall for this scam! Playa Blanca is a five minute boat ride from Rodadero and the beach isn’t much nicer at all. It’s simply not worth it. The beach looks exactly like Rodadero and you pay $15-20 USD for a quick boat trip. Waste of time and money. Not even worthy of a photo here…
Playa Cristal, near Parque Tayrona
I was thoroughly impressed when I saw Playa Cristal near Parque Tayrona. The stunning beach goes on for a nearly a mile (from what I saw). The sand is white and the water is crystal clear – ideal for snorkeling.
There are a few campsites and Eco-lodges here. You take a boat from Taganga and the driver drops you off before heading to Parque Tayrona. This would be an ideal spot to spend a few days just unwinding, as it’s a truly beautiful beach.
Costeno Beach, near Parque Tayrona
Costeno Beach is the only area I haven’t seen with my own eyes on this list, but I’ve heard so many good things that I couldn’t ignore it.
Located just a little outside Parque Tayrona, this travelers’ haven is what dreams are made of. A hostel, campsite, and Eco-lodge all in one – you can surf, swim, do yoga, hike, and visit Parque Tayrona from this unique location.
One of the main beaches in Parque Tayrona, Cabo San Juan is a stunning site to behold. I always thought the Dominican Republic had better beaches than Colombia, but I questioned that belief when I walked over the hill and saw this place for the first time.
The water here is crystal clear. There are unique rock formations all over. There’s fun areas to jump off the rocks into the water. Snorkeling is great. You could spend a few days here and be happy.
While there’s a ton of people here, you’ll also find restaurant, campsite, bathrooms, and a delicious street food vendor selling breads stuffed with meat.
Such stunning views at Cabo San Juan.
La Piscina, Parque Tayrona
My favorite beach in Santa Marta, Colombia (well, near the city) is La Piscina in Parque Tayrona. The place was absolutely ideal for swimming and splashing around. It’s a stunning beach that stretches for awhile.
The water at La Piscina is crystal clear and it seemed to be a good spot to snorkel around. I’d spend most of my time here if I went to Tayrona, again. The views were just too good to pass up.
Not too shabby.
Santa Marta, Colombia Beaches
Overall, Santa Marta beaches were a mixed bag. Parque Tayrona is world-class and a MUST when visiting the coast of Colombia. But the beaches within the city proper leave a little to be desired.
Use this post as a guide to all things Santa Marta beaches. This unique city is well worth a visit just because it’s easy to get to Tayrona from the center or Taganga.
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.