Santa Marta & Taganga quick guide

If you’re planning a trip to northern Colombia you’ve probably heard of Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park. Perhaps even as confused as we were, trying to figure out how to get there and if it’s worth it?

To help with those questions, here’s our quick guide to the area, giving you all you need to know before booking your trip.

We’ll be honest; both Santa Marta and Taganga are far from pretty or paradisiac locations in their centres. Despite being close to beautiful environments, they’re fairly run down & developing. We chose to stay in Taganga (20mins past Santa Marta) for 3 main reasons: tours are cheaper as they’re closer, it’s quicker to get the taxi-boats for day trips and it’s more remote compared to Santa Marta, meaning you avoid big tourist groups.

➡️ You can check out our post on the Top 4 things you must do in Taganga here.

Our top tips:

How long to I need?

3 days plus. If you’re coming this way it’s likely your planning on visiting Tayrona Park and a couple of beaches. If that’s the case, we’d say give yourself at least 3 days.

Important for Tayrona – unless you’re going on a quick day trip, the best option is to stay 1 night in the park. It takes around 1hr30 to get there (tour buses leave at 10am), then 2hrs walk from the park entrance to reach the first beach, and the last tour bus back leaves around 15:30pm. So as you can see, it means you’re very short for time on a day trip.

Originally we had Tayrona on our list, along with snorkelling 2 beaches. After finding out the transport & entry cost for the park (around $60USD each), and with not being able to stay over, it came off the list.

How do I get there?

You’re probably coming from Cartagena, so we’d recommend taking the ‘Berlinas’ minivan service from Catagena to Santa Marta, they leave roughly every 20mins from their own station and it costs 40,000 COP/$14USD pp. If you catch a taxi to get you there, it’s important to say ‘Berlinas a Santa Marta’ to the driver, as there are many bus stations in town.

If Santa Marta is where you’re staying then you’re sorted!

For Taganga, first get to Santa Marta (above), then you have 2 options to reach Taganga: either the colectivo (blue local buses) or a taxi, with either one you’ll reach the village in about 20mins. If you’re on a budget, the colectivo is the best option, they stop at nearly every block in Taganga.

You catch them from Carrera 5 in the city centre & it costs $1,600COP/$30cents pp. Ask a local in Santa Marta to point you in the right direction for the blue bus to Taganga if you’re unsure (‘donde puedo coger la buseta azul a Taganga?’). It can be a bit confusing, with blue buses everywhere so we found asking was quickest.

Same steps to get back to Santa Marta.

Vegan options?

We found 2 places with small vegan selections though we’d say the best option here is to just cook for yourself. Café Bonsai and Divanga Hostal are the 2 places to go.

What’s the weather like?

As it sits between the Caribbean Sea and the rainforest, it’s hot and humid. Take plenty of water and sunscreen, especially on day trips. Try to book a hostel or hotel with ac for a good night sleep.

Is it safe?

We read a few recent comments on tourist robberies increasing in 2018 and that it can be a dangerous place. We had no issues, though it’s fair to say that it doesn’t feel like the safest place. General awareness / common sense applies and you’ll be fine: don’t walk alone at night, stick to the main streets both day and night, not side streets (it’s surprisingly easy to get lost as everything looks the same) and get to the other beaches via tours, don’t try walking there.

Cash or card?

100% Cash! Make sure you plan the cost of trips, accommodation & food, then take this out either in Cartagena or Santa Marta. Some tour places may take card though add a 5-10% fee on. There’s one atm in Taganga, though it’s expensive to use.

Image by Matt and Kristen’s South American travel blog

That’s our quick guide to Taganga, a place quite literally off the beaten path (no roads just dirt tracks), which makes it all the more fun!

If you have any other questions or need advice just drop us a message or WhatsApp and we’ll help you out.

Shay & Iban 👬 🐠

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