The 7 Best Beaches in Santa Marta, Colombia

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Are you a beach bum visiting Santa Marta, Colombia? We’ve rounded up the best Santa Marta beaches. Pack your sunscreen & start beach-hopping.

Santa Marta beach with flag

Lying in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, Santa Marta is a small coastal city with a relaxed atmosphere and cool winds whipping down from the mountains.

The beaches in Santa Marta are stunning with their blindingly white sand and turquoise waters. Some have a lively atmosphere, while others offer a serene Robinson Crusoe-esque experience. 

Whether you’re into snorkeling along coral reefs and dramatic underwater cliffs or working on your tan with a cocktail in hand, here are the seven best Santa Marta beaches.

Get a taste of the Caribbean at Santa Marta Beach

drone view of Santa Marta beach

One of the principal attractions of Santa Marta is its beach, right in the heart of the city. 

While it’s not a picture-perfect beach, the palm-fringed Santa Marta Bay boasts light-colored and black-flecked sand. It can get lively here, particularly at weekends when locals drop by, but you will find a spot to spread your towel and dip in the blue water. 

Once you’re done tanning, you can fuel up at one of the seafood restaurants and local eateries nearby or go to the marina and visit craft stores. 

Or, take a stroll along the promenade, catching the salty scent and listening to waves crashing ashore. The views are especially lovely when the sky turns pink as the sun sets behind El Morro de Santa Marta — a rocky hill that helped prevent pirate attacks during Spanish conquistador times.

Recharge your batteries at Bahia Concha

Bahia Concha Beach Santa Marta

Tree-dotted hills provide an arid backdrop to Bahia Concha or Shell Bay that stretches for about a kilometer, giving it a remote feel. 

Well-known among Colombians who come here at the weekend, this beach on the edge of Tayrona National Park is a popular camping ground. Yet, foreigners are few and far between. 

The restaurants are a bit pricey, so bring your own food if you travel on a shoestring. 

It’s an excellent place for winding down and swimming in crystal clear, slightly cooler water than other Santa Marta beaches. You can read a book, let the wind dishevel your hair, and let the hours slip past.

Getting here is possible via sailboat, by riding a taxi from the Old City center (which takes about 50 minutes), or by jumping on a bus that reads Bastidias. If you ride the bus, get off at the final station and hop on a moto-taxi for the last few minutes. 

Soak up the nature at Playa Cristal

Playa Cristal Santa marta

As the name implies, Playa Cristal, or Crystal Beach, boasts transparent waters ideal for snorkeling. 

Due to its captivating beauty, the authorities had to restrict access to this white-sand beach to 300 people per day. We assume you’d dislike sitting nearly shoulder to shoulder at this 100-meter stretch of beach, so avoid visiting on the weekend or in the peak season. 

Instead, come on a weekday to listen to the waves washing ashore, watch sea foam cluster, and enjoy a lazy afternoon that’ll leave you tanned. 

Several on-site restaurants serve ice-cold cervezas and provide creature comforts. Be sure to try fresh, mouthwatering fish that’ll tickle your taste buds.

To get here, you can take a 45-minute boat ride from Taganga, ten minutes north of Santa Marta’s city center.

Join the party at Rodadero Beach

people on Rodadero Beach Santa Marta, Colombia

An extension of Santa Marta, Rodadero Beach sits just south of Santa Marta’s city center. Colombians flock to this modern beach town in the summer, unwinding during the day and drinking and dancing to live music well into the night. 

Aside from partying and swimming, Rodadero is great for kayaking and walking on the esplanade.

It’s cheaper to stay here than in Santa Marta. Driven by the needs of Colombians, you can find many street vendors and tons of skyscraper hotels, condos, and nightclubs to paint the town red. 

To get here, you can ride a bus over the foothills or ride a cab from the airport, which is just nearby.

Have fun on Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca Santa Marta

For a few dollars, you can take a short boat ride north from Rodadero Beach to find the more remote Playa Blanca. 

Packed on the weekend but barely a soul in sight during weekdays, Playa Blanca offers a laid-back vibe. 

You won’t have to bring food and drinks despite the isolated location. A few restaurants are scattered along the well-kept beach, providing fried fish and ice-cold beer.

Do you like snorkeling? Go for it, but watch out for the sea urchins. 

And unlike a bouncing ride on a banana boat that’ll have you screaming with laughter, a hike up to the viewpoint will render you speechless.

Admire the stark beauty at Playa Brava

Playa Brava Colombia

Set in the heart of Parque Tayrona, Playa Brava is a nature reserve with a castaway feel. 

Due to the strong current, it’s not suitable for swimming, but the scenery is worth it. 

You can find plenty of viewpoints, let the wind rush through your hair, and take in the sight of a jungle backdrop teeming with wildlife. Right behind this coastal stretch, sloths hang in the trees, side by side with playing monkeys.

Do you want to be one with nature? Ride a horse along the bay and experience the force of the sea from up close. Exploring the Tayrona National Park is ideal for a day trip from Santa Marta, a convenient one-hour ride away.

Kick back at Taganga Bay

landscape of Taganga Bay Santa Marta Colombia

A haven for backpackers, party animals, and divers, Taganga is a former fishing village turned tourist hotspot. 

You can jump on a minivan from Santa Marta to Taganga to get here – it’s just a 50-minute drive.

There’s no shortage of hostels and restaurants. You can dine on delectable regional specialties, get a tan, rent floats or kayak around the bay. 

Due to the picturesque setting and calm ocean, Taganga Bay is one of the best beaches in Santa Marta. 

Map of Santa Marta and its beaches

Ready to get beach hopping? We don’t blame you. Here is a map to help you decide where to go first. 

How to get to Santa Marta

Santa Marta Beach Colombia

Depending on where you are coming from, you might be able to fly directly into the Simon Bolivar Santa Marta International Airport just south of the city.

If you are traveling through northern Colombia, you have options:

Weather in Santa Marta, Colombia

white sand beach of Santa Marta

Since Colombia straddles the equator, the climate is relatively uniform in Santa Marta. You can count on a generally balmy mid-70s to low 90s year round. And given its proximity to the mountain range, it’s hardly surprising that this port town offers less humidity than other cities on the Caribbean coast. 

The dry season is from December to April. But when May hits, the skies open, and the rainy season lasts through November.  

Packing list for the beaches in Santa Marta

beachview of Santa marta Colombia

You’re going to the beach, so you’ll need the obvious loose clothes, swimsuits, sunscreen, and sandals. But don’t forget:

  • Sand-free, microfiber travel towel
  • Portable battery charger
  • Electric adapter 
  • Underwater camera or waterproof sleeve to put your phone in 
  • Dry bag
  • Aloe (just in case)

Santa Marta Beaches final word

pelicans on Santa marta Beach

You can’t go wrong no matter which beach you lay your towel at. And since they are all relatively close, you might as well experience them all. 

If you decide that all the beach hopping is just too much, there are many other things to do in Santa Marta. You’ll never be bored. 


What’s the weather like in Santa Marta?

While Santa Marta is not the most humid city due to the nearby Sierra Nevadas, you can expect balmy weather throughout the year.

Where do most travelers stay when visiting Santa Marta?

Most people stay in either the Old City center or at Rodadero.

What else can you do in Santa Marta, apart from lounging on beaches?

From trekking to the Lost City and checking out street stalls to sampling local food and visiting Quinta de San Pedro for a history lesson – there’s plenty to do in Santa Marta

Posted December 25, 2023
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Philipp Meier
Philipp Meier is a Phuket-based travel writer passionate about Thai culture and wandering off Thailand’s well-trodden tourist trail. His work has been published on the Nat Geo Traveller India, South China Morning Post, Culture Trip, BootsnAll, GoNOMAD, and elsewhere. You can find him at Writer Philipp Meier and LinkedIn.
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