Santa Marta, Colombia Nightlife | The 7 Best Bars and Clubs in 2020
I’ll admit it: The nightlife in Santa Marta was way better than I imagined.
A perfect combination of chatty locals, globetrotting gringos, and vacationing Colombians made this sweaty coastal city a fun AF place to party. However, I’m not going to lay on the hype too thick.
Santa Marta is a ho-hum medium-sized city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It’s a sweet spot to hang out before doing the Ciudad Perdida trek or checking out Parque Tayrona. But this ain’t no bustling metropolis. The scene here isn’t anything like the nightlife in Bogota.
Not even close!
There are levels to this, though. Santa Marta can be one hell of a good time, but you can’t expect a city of 500,000 to offer the same unadulterated debauchery as a city of 10+ million. The numbers just don’t stack up.
What you can expect is a beach city filled with backpacker-style nightlife and a healthy mix of tourists and locals.
The parties rage on, but the scene is pretty laid back. You certainly won’t want to rock your tailor-made suit around these breezy beach parties.
What Makes Santa Marta, Colombia Nightlife So Much Fun?
There’s a little more to it than that. So, let’s dive in and take a look at what makes nightlife in Santa Marta, Colombia so damn fun.
Here are a few things I noticed while staying semi-sober and going out in Santa Marta:
Lots of Foreigners
Santa Marta is one of the top backpacker hotspots in Colombia. The city boasts stacks of pristine beaches, and then you’ve got the epic Parque Tayrona just an hour’s drive away. And nearby Taganga, of course, is a mecca for hard-partying and illicit drugs. As such, most places you go to in Santa Marta will be packed full of foreigners enjoying a little slice of the rumba life. Normally, I’d hate this. But in Santa Marta, it actually makes the scene feel a little more international and fun. A real happy-go-lucky vacation kind of vibe.
Cover Isn’t Common
Some places around Parque de Los Novios charge a cover, but the backpacker orientated venues tend not to. That could always change, but I only remember one spot asking for cover when I went out.
The Nightlife in Santa Marta is Pretty Safe
I found Santa Marta to be a pretty safe city on the whole. Even at night, the center didn’t seem too sketchy. You shouldn’t have many safety issues enjoying the nightlife in Santa Marta. Someone could always drop a toxic dose of scopolamine in your drink–this is Colombia, after all–but you have fewer worries here than in Bogota, Cali, or Medellin.
Mingling Made Easy
Since Santa Marta is a tourist spot, it’s pretty easy to mingle in the clubs here. On the whole, people go out to meet other people. This isn’t like Cali, where party-goers only want to hang out with a group of friends who they’ve known since middle school. For me, that inclusivity is what made Santa Marta so great.
Since Santa Marta nightlife is fairly international, you can definitely get away without speaking any Spanish on a night out. Most people in the tourist areas speak at least a little English. However, you’ll definitely make things easier on yourself by speaking some Spanish, especially if you wanna impress that cute chica.
If you're looking to learn Spanish, I recommend starting here.
How To Survive and Thrive Partying in Santa Marta
Nightlife in Santa Marta isn’t too complex. Pick your scene and follow the crowd. There’s usually only a couple decent spots bumping each and every night.
That being said, you’ll want to know a few things before letting loose…
Pick Your Barrio Wisely
Although it doesn’t take all that long to get between El Rodero, Centro, and Taganga, it still makes sense to drink near where you sleep. Consuming a bunch of alcohol makes you vulnerable to unsavory types, so it’s always good to have a hotel someplace close to where your partying.
Play It Safe In Taganga
Once a haven for carefree backpackers, Taganga nightlife has really started to show its seedy underbelly in recent years. There have been plenty of reports of robberies and worse on its deserted beach at night, so play it safe and jump in a taxi instead.
Given Santa Marta is Colombia’s premier beach destination, the social scene is a lot more laid back than the country’s cosmopolitan big cities. Give that dope long-sleeve button-down a miss and opt for a casual pair of swimming trunks and flip flops instead.
However, these unpretentious vibes don’t extend through the whole city. The swankiest bars and clubs in centro and El Rodadero will expect you to at least make an effort. Still, they’ll probably let you in regardless if you look foreign and exotic.
Come During Colombian Holidays
Santa Marta goes insane during Colombian public holidays as half the country descends on the normally sleepy town to let loose. Colombian holidaymakers are super fun to chew the fat with as well, always up for a chat and a good laugh (and another damn shot of aguardiente). The Christmas and New Year period is especially off the chain.
Where to Stay In Santa Marta?
It’s best to stay in the neighborhood where you plan to do most of your debauchery. That way, you negate the need for a long and possibly dangerous trip home at some ungodly hour.
Santa Marta has three areas of interest to travelers and party fiends:
- El Centro has a laidback international vibe.
- Taganga is a rough-and-tumble backpacker haunt.
- Rodadero is an upmarket seaside barrio where the economic elite come to let loose.
Pick your poison.
For me, El Centro is the best neighborhood in Santa Marta for after-hours action. There are plenty of places to choose from around Parque de Los Novios, and the scene is generally laid back and inclusive. In my experience, Tanganga feels a bit too degenerate and El Rodadero nightlife is a bit too pretentious.
Both are often dead outside busy weekends anyway.
If you choose to stay in El Centro, do yourself a favor and book into the Bonita Bay Concept Hotel.
This funky little number has sweeping ocean views, quirky contemporary decor, and a delicious buffet breakfast to recover your strength after a long liquor-infused evening.
The Best Hotel in El Centro is the Bonita Bay Concept Hotel.
Costs of Santa Marta Nightlife
Honestly, it’s pretty cheap to have a big night out in Santa Marta.
A lot of the clubs cater to the backpacking crowd and we all know these aren’t big spenders.
As such, you won’t have to spend much money to have a great time partying in Santa Marta. Here’s a quick look at some costs:
- Beer in a bar/club: $1-4 USD
- Drink in a bar: $2-6 USD
- Drink in a club: $4-8 USD
- Cover charge: Many places don’t have cover in Santa Marta. The ones that do tend to charge between $3-7 USD.
- Bottle of wine at a bar: $15-40 USD
- Bottle of booze at a club: $20-100 USD
These are just estimates, but overall, everything is pretty damn cheap in Santa Marta. You could spend a lot of money on a night out or you could have a crazy time for as little as $20 USD! Up to you, jefe.
While I won’t delve too deep into this controversial topic, know that drugs are cheap and widely available in Santa Marta. Taganga is especially notorious for the illicit trade.
Where to Party in Santa Marta, Colombia?
We’ve already touched on this a bit already, but Santa Marta nightlife is fairly concentrated around a few areas. The best areas to stay in Santa Marta are also the best places to party.
If you’re looking for a little rumba here, you’re likely to end up at:
This is where I spent the majority of my second trip to Santa Marta. You’ll find a solid selection of boozy venues here, especially around Parque de Los Novios. While Santa Marta doesn’t have a true Zona Rosa, this is the closest thing you’ll get.
A backpacker mecca full of cheap drugs, scuba shops, and crazy all-night fiestas. If you want to grab hold of some party favors, this is the place to go. The nightlife here can be hit or miss, but when it hits you’re guaranteed one hell of a night.
People party on the beach in Rodadero and there are a few bars scattered along the shore. I never went to a club here that was popping, though. Overall, you’re better off in the other two areas.
A Gringo’s Guide to Nightlife in Santa Marta, Colombia
Now we’re getting to the good stuff.
While I’ve been to the city twice, the best after-dark venues are always changing. So make sure to ask around as new bars and clubs open up all the time.
Alright, let’s dive in and take a look at my top nightlife spots in Santa Marta…
- La Brisa Loca, El Centro: This is my go-to spot in Santa Marta. If you want to party in the center of the city, this is where you gotta be on a Friday or Saturday night. The huge rooftop bar turns into a rowdy dance club filled to the brim with backpackers, traveling Colombians, and friendly locals. Highly recommended, especially in the high season.
- La Puerta, El Centro: If La Brisa Loca isn’t your speed, head over to laid back La Puerta instead. This is a Santa Marta institution and most of the locals here enjoy hanging out with fresh-faced travelers. The beers are cheap and it gets a bit of a clubby vibe when it starts to fill out
- Crab’s Bar, El Centro: More of a dive bar than a nightclub, Crab’s Bar plays rock music and mostly caters to a chilled out local crowd. The punters are all pretty friendly and the place is an ideal starting point for a big night out in El Centro.
- La Azotea, El Centro: A small rooftop bar near Parque de Los Novios that connects to a club downstairs. The scene is a bit more local and the prices a bit more expensive. I only stayed here for half an hour, but I felt it had a pretty nice vibe.
- El Mirador, Taganga: While I went to Sensation Club during my first trip to Taganga, I heard it had since closed down. However, I’ve heard word the current top club in Taganga is El Mirador. With sweeping harbor views and a hedonistic late-night crowd, this is said to be the best rumba in town right now.
- La Escollera, El Rodadero: I didn’t get the chance to go to this El Rodadero institution, but I’ve heard it goes mental when they bring in reggaeton DJs from out of town. The club is enormous and is fairly high-end for Santa Marta, so don some dope threads and pack a bit of extra cash. Be sure to check this joint out if any big bands are in town because you’d be guaranteed an epic night out.
- Bars and Clubs Around Parque de Los Novios: There are at least two dozen venues around Parque de Los Novios, ranging from casual pubs to pumping clubs. The best place seems to change as often as the winds, so wander around a little and suss out what looks busy on the night. Best of all, this Zona Rosa is a five-minute walk from La Bris Loca, which makes it easy to stumble back and forth.
Best Nights to Rumba in Santa Marta
Santa Marta parties pretty much every night of the week due to all the booze-hungry foreign faces in town.
That’s a bit of a double-edged sword, however, as it can get a little too quiet during the wet season between April and November.
Nonetheless, the weekends are always the best time to go out, as Colombian tourists will be doing their thang. As mentioned earlier, public holidays here are particularly intense.
Stick with Friday and Saturday if you’re looking to really tie one on in Santa Marta, mate.
Santa Marta, Colombia Nightlife | The Verdict?
And that’s it!
Everything you need to know about Santa Marta nightlife. I was honestly quite surprised at how awesome the nightlife in the tiny little city could be. If you love a bit of cheeky rumba, you’ll have an amazing time here.
Here’s my rough game plan for the next time I visit: go out on a Friday and Saturday and start in one of the bars around Parque de Los Novios. Then I’d bounce to La Brisa Loca around 11:30 pm. If I was still bored around 1:30 am, I’d head back to Parque de Los Novios and hit one of the clubs there.
Guaranteed to be an awesome night on the town.
Hell, you could always just head out to Taganga, too. Beach parties, booze, and booger sugar await in this hectic backpacker mecca. Whatever floats your boat.