Santa Marta Travel Guide For Digital Nomads
After my second trip to the city, I decided to create this Santa Marta travel guide for digital nomads. If you’re looking for beach life in Colombia without the confusion and hassle, this Caribbean city may be the perfect place for you.
On one had the city is overrun with tourists, but Santa Marta certainly has its charms. Plus, it’s the ideal place to base up while exploring Parque Tayrona. So every gringo should make a trip here at least once.
While not my favorite city in Colombia, I could see nomads basing up here and enjoying the solid beach life and tropical vibe. So let’s dive in and learn a little more about Santa Marta, Colombia.
Santa Marta Travel Guide For Digital Nomads
- Population: Santa Marta, Colombia has a population of around 500,000 people. While the place certainly has the feel of a city, it’s a small one. There are a few malls and nice neighborhoods, but it’s not overly developed.
- Weather: Hot and humid all the time. If you don’t like raging heat, this isn’t the place for you. Expect mid-80s temperatures or hotter nearly every single day.
- Safety: For Colombia and Latin America in general, Santa Marta is quite safe. You can walk around many streets at night and never have to worry. I felt safer here than in most places, as the city knows its economy relies heavily on tourists. Learn more about safety in Colombia here.
- Language: While Spanish is incredibly useful in the city, you can get by without the language here. Since there is a ton of tourism in Santa Marta, you’ll also find many people speak English, too. Still, a little Spanish always helps.
One of my favorite things about Santa Marta is the prices. You’ll find average costs here are much lower than Bogota and Cartagena. While the city isn’t as cheap as Cali, you can find super low rent here – when you consider all the amenities included.
Let’s take a look at some of the common costs here:
- Apartments: While you won’t find as many dirt cheap studios as you would in Cali, you can get great deals on two-bedroom apartments with stunning views and amenities here. Two bedrooms in Rodadero with swimming pools and beach views can go for as low as $850 a month in the off-season. My stunning two-bedroom with huge private terrace in the center of Santa Marta was about $46 a night if I remember correctly.
- Gym Costs: I went to the most expensive gym in the city. Well, I think I did. It was $22 for a week or $45 for a month and featured stunning ocean views. As always, gyms are never that cheap compared to other things.
- Typical Meal: Food in Santa Marta varied wildly in costs. For example, a cheap lunch at a local place away from the tourists costs about $2.50. The set meal included a huge chicken breast, rice, salad, plantains, and a juice. If you go to the touristy places, expect to pay more. A typical cheeseburger and fries at a tourist spot cost about $5-8 USD.
- Drinking: While I didn’t do much drinking here, all beer and drinks seem fairly cheap. The center is where the nightlife is and can be catered to the backpacking crowd, so you’ll find drinks are fairly cheap. $1.50-3 USD for a beer and $2-4 for a strong mixed drink seemed common.
Where to Stay
While many a Santa Marta travel guide only talks about Taganga or the center of the city, there are a plethora of places to stay here. And you should be within walking distance to a beach, no matter which neighborhood you pick.
Here are the places for travelers to stay:
- Santa Marta Center
- Playa de Los Cocos
I stayed in the center. I had easy access to coffee shops, restaurants, nightlife, a few ok beaches, and a gym. It was a good location. If you’re coming to Santa Marta for more than the beach, this is a good choice.
Playa de Los Cocos is the locale near the center, but with a beach. This beach is calm and great for swimming. If you want to be beachfront in Santa Marta center, this is the only place to do it. There are a few nice apartment buildings here.
Rodadero is where all the Colombian tourists come with their friends and family. Here you’ll find tons of high rise apartments, a solid beach, a mall, and some restaurants. This is a decent option for digital nomads basing up in Santa Marta.
Taganga is the backpacker haven in Colombia. Here you’ll find people from all around the world swimming in the ocean, going to Parque Tayrona, and doing drugs. I wouldn’t base up here personally, but many travelers love it.
How to Move Around in Santa Marta
If I remember correctly, Uber didn’t work at all in Santa Marta. I think there may not have been a single driver here due to laws or legislation. I could be wrong. Still, I remember using taxis here more than anywhere else.
You’ll probably end up using taxis, too. As it’s a tourist place, I didn’t have any issue with the drivers and you shouldn’t, either. They seem to understand that harming tourists will hurt their business.
You can get away with less Spanish in Santa Marta than in most places in Colombia. Here you’ll find a decent level of English, especially at any business that caters to tourism.
Still, the majority of the population won’t speak any English. If you’re coming here for a few days, don’t worry about it. If you plan to spend a month or two, make an effort to learn some Spanish.
Things to Do in Santa Marta, Colombia
As a tourism hotbed, there are a ton of things to do in Santa Marta. And most of them involve a beach. So let’s dive in:
- Parque Tayrona
Santa Marta is the best place to check out Parque Tayrona from. Here you’ll find a variety of ways to visit the park. You can take a bus, hike, or take a boat. Just make sure you go if you’re in Santa Marta.
While there’s a ton of tourism in Colombia, Parque Tayrona may be the only MUST visit attraction in the whole country. So pay whatever you have to and make it a priority while on the Caribbean coast.
- Beaches Galore
Parque Tayrona certainly isn’t the only beaches in Santa Marta. You’ll find great places to swim and chill out in Taganga, Rodadero, and Playa de Los Cocos. If you like beaches, you’ll find some decent ones in and around the city.
While the beaches here vary in quality, there’s definitely some good ones. Check out my post about Santa Marta beaches to learn more.
I didn’t get to check out Minca, but people kept telling me to visit. The mountain town about an hour from Santa Marta is filled with eco-tourism, waterfalls, tubing, and stunning views. Plus, the weather is cooler than near the beaches – a huge plus.
- The Lost City
I didn’t get to check out this attraction, either. It takes 3-5 days to make the hike, but many a gringo does it. Here you’ll hike for days up to the Colombian version of Machu Pichu. It’s known as the Lost City or Ciudad Perdida.
The views are stunning, and the hike can be fun, but I didn’t have half a week to spend in the jungle. If you like hiking and adventure, this should be on your list while on the Caribbean coast.
- Jet Skis in the Sea
A personal favorite, I always enjoy cruising around on a jet ski in the ocean. Rodadero offers the ideal place to do just that. While it’s not cheap, spending 30 minutes flying around the waves is always great fun.
Nightlife in Santa Marta
Many a gringo has enjoyed the nightlife in Santa Marta. Outside of Bogota, I found the party here to be the best in Colombia. I didn’t go too hard with the drinking, but I went out a few times. Here’s what I found:
- La Brisa Loca Hostel
This is the spot to party at in Santa Marta on a Saturday night. Around midnight, you’ll find the rooftop bar is filled to the brim with hundreds of locals and tourists alike. If you like to party, this should be where you start in the city. I went here three times and it never disappointed.
For other nightlife in the center of Santa Marta, you’ll want to visit Parque de Los Novios. Just down the street from La Brisa Loca, this park is surrounded by bars and clubs on all sides. You won’t get bored here on a Saturday evening.
Taganga is the other party hotspot in the city. This is a gringo-heavy area and is unlikely to have much local Colombian flavor. However, the nightlife here is said to be legendary.
Santa Marta airport is tiny and doesn’t offer many flights, but you can go to Bogota or Medellin from here. It’s right on the beach and offers stunning views during takeoff.
If you’re traveling the coast, you can take a “Puerta-a-Puerta” to Barranquilla or Cartagena. The service is great and fairly cheap, too.
Santa Marta Travel Guide For Digital Nomads
While I wanted to create this Santa Marta travel guide for digital nomads looking to base up, I’m not sure I’d live in this city for more than a month. While the beach is nice, I wasn’t enamored with all the tourists around all day and night.
If beach life is your main concern, then Santa Marta may be the perfect Colombian city for you. The best way to find out? Book a flight and check out the Caribbean beach city for yourself.