9 Fantastic Beaches in Santa Marta, Colombia
If you’re curious about beaches in Santa Marta, Colombia — you’ve come to the right place.
In this detailed guide, I breakdown everything you’d ever want to know about the Caribbean beaches found both in and around this beach town. Of course, I’ll include some of the stunning stretches of sugar-white sand found within Parque Nacional de Tayrona as well.
Santa Marta, Colombia is a mid-sized city on the Caribbean coast. Known for its incredible 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 body to catch some rays at Santa Marta’s many fine beaches.
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.
9 Fantastic Santa Marta, Colombia Beaches
Santa Marta beaches are a mixed bag. You have stunning, world-class offerings at Parque Tayrona. Then you have the very 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, head to Tayrona or around 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 when getting rid of a pounding hangover.
But enough of my fluff…
Let’s dive in!
If you’re traveling to Santa Marta and you’re curious about the beaches, look no further, fam. Here’s everything you need to know about the beaches in and around the city:
Playa La Bahia, Centro
The worst beach I went to in Santa Marta. Scratch that, this spot rivalled the worst beach I’ve ever been to in my life: Boca Chica, Dominican Republic.
It’s filled with people, dirty, brown sand, and pesky vendors try to sell you junk non-stop. 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.
Best Hotel around Playa La Bahia: Bonita Bay Concept Hotel
Bonita Bay sits directly facing the Carribean Sea, with uninterrupted views of the beautiful bay. Sure, this may not be the city’s most beautiful beach, but it does look nice from your sky-high balcony up above. The contemporary concept hotel has been decked out with an ultramodern minimalist design, so don’t come here if you’re a fan of the traditional style. Either way, the staff are kind, and the daily breakfast buffet is the bomb.
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, and there are no vendors around annoying you. Heck, there aren’t even many other people here at all. This beach is the perfect place to swim in the center of the city.
Just be forewarned — this isn’t the prettiest beach in the world. But for swimming, splashing, and relaxing it’s fantastic.
The Best Hotel in Playa los Cocos: Hotel Santa Sophia del Mar
If Los Cocos is your playa of choice, then this elegant and mildly eccentric hotel is the best place to stay. The strange space has been decked out with oodles of oddball vintage furniture and decor. Each well-appointed room comes in a timeless traditional style, and you’ll find luxe little extras peppered around like a rooftop Jacuzzi. Nico, the owner, is a gentleman among men.
The biggest 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.
But don’t fool yourself. This isn’t anything like what you’ll find at Parque Tayrona.
Best Hotel in Taganga: La Ballena Azul Hotel
Overlooking the beach and right in the thick of it all, the centrally located La Ballena Azul Hotel is the best mid-range option in Taganga. Its spacious rooms are comfortable and clean, each boasting a sparkling ensuite with a piping hot shower. A fresh blue and white color theme adds a nice tropical touch.
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 can be slow during the week, as the majority of the apartments in the area are vacation rentals. But during the weekend, the beach comes to life.
Best Hotel in El Rodadero: Del Mar Hotel
Modern, sleek, and just a wee bit minimalist, Del Mar Hotel replicates the sophisticated upmarket vibe of the neighborhood to a tee. You’ll find this beautiful mid-range hotel within easy stumbling distance of the barrios best bars and clubs, which makes it a top choice for the thirsty night owl. And the El Rodadero Beach also resides nearby, so it’s easier than ever to spend your days soaking up some sun outside. Upstairs, you’ll find a refreshing pool, and there’s a tasty big breakfast served piping hot each day.
P.S: Colombians used to love swimming in Playa Rodadero at night but 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 place would be an ideal spot to spend a few days just unwinding, as it’s a truly beautiful beach and it’s far more relaxing than inside Parque Tayrona.
The Best Place to Stay in Playa Cristal: Amanecer Tayrona
Sure, it’s nothing flash. But these blissful little bungalows just a short distance from Playa Cristal are divine. Think rustic small huts with mosquito nets, simple wooden furnishings, and endless rural charm. Of course, you won’t need a plush place to stay because you’ll spend your days catching rays at one of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches.
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 leave it off the list.
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.
The next time I check out Santa Marta beaches, I’m making a beeline to Costeno Beach.
The Best Place to Stay on Costeno Beach: Bohemia Beach
Paradise right on the sands, Bohemia Beach consists of wooden cabins overlooking azure Carribean waves. Some of these chic rustic lodgings even have palm trees growing right through the middle — it’s that kind of vibe. Each morning, the friendly owners will treat you to a healthy breakfast comprised of vibrant ‘Insta-worthy’ salads and fruits. Come here to chill out with nothing but the soft sounds of the sea.
Cabo San Juan, Parque Tayrona
One of the main beaches in Parque Tayrona, Cabo San Juan is a stunning sight 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 with rugged unique rock formations jutting out everywhere. You’ll find fun areas to jump off the rocks into the water and the snorkeling everywhere is great.
You could spend a few days here just soaking up the scenery and you’d be happy as Larry.
While there’s a ton of people here, you’ll also find a restaurant, campsite, bathrooms, and a delicious street food vendor selling bread stuffed with meat.
Where to Stay in Cabo San Juan: Playa Brava Teyumakke
You won’t find any accommodation in Cabo San Juan as building hotels here is restricted, so consider this option instead. The fun tiki hut-style bungalow resort lies a short distance away and offers easy access to San Juan and Playa Brava; the latter lies directly adjacent. Each of the wooden huts is simple yet charming, and there’s an extensive network of hiking trails to explore nearby. The best part? There aren’t any other hotels here so you’ll feel like you’ve got the whole place to yourself.
If you want to sleep near Cabo San Juan and don’t mind roughing it, there’s a campsite across from the beach.
La Piscina, Parque Tayrona
My favorite beach in Santa Marta, near the city, is La Piscina in Parque Tayrona. The place was absolutely ideal for swimming and splashing around, and the stunning beach stretches for miles.
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. The swimming is absolutely amazing here too.
Where to Stay in La Piscina: Shambhala Tayrona Spa
Again, there aren’t any accommodations on Playa Piscina due to government restrictions, so this time you’ll have to base yourself on the Mingueo-Santa Marta Road. But hey, that’s what keeps the place so damn special.
Anyway, the best hotel I came across here was Shambhala Tayrona Spa, a gorgeous whitewashed colonial cottage surrounded by lush jungle. The cute abode building offers a whole host of luxuries–including a spa–so it’s a top option if you don’t fancy roughing it. Dorms are available for solo budget travelers.
Beaches in Santa Marta, Colombia | Verdict
Overall, Santa Marta beaches were a mixed bag.
Parque Tayrona is world-class and a MUST when visiting the coast of Colombia. You’ll find some of the finest playas in South America within the park, a bucket list attraction for the budding beach bum.
But the beaches within the city proper leave a little to be desired.
Use this post as a guide to all things beaches in Santa Marta! This unique city is well worth a visit, if only because it’s easy to get to Tayrona from Taganga or the city center.
Que te vaya bien,