Santa Marta, Colombia

January 24, 2016

If you are looking for fun in the sun in Colombia, Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast is for you. No matter what you are looking for in a beach; it is here. More or less, there are two kinds of beaches. First, wide, white sand beaches filled with hotels and people. Usually, these well-developed beaches are where people go who like to see, and to be seen. This the Rodadero Beach.

The second kind of beach is more elusive; private, remote, difficult to find and inconvenient to visit. But the second type is also here; very near to Santa Marta; Tayrona National Park. The park is 50 years old and is the area traditional inhabited by the Tairona tribe; who were wiped out after rebelling against Spanish-rule in the late 1500’s.  There are three entrances into Tayrona National Park; two of which are highly regulated and are difficult to visit. (1) The furthest entrance; requires taking a series of buses and hiking/horses for 2 hours. I went here many years ago; and it is the best option if you want to camp on a spectacular beach. (2) The second entrance takes you to Playa Cristal (Crystal Beach). This requires waking up in the middle of the night to wait in line at the entrance; because only 300 people are admitted into the park. In off season, you can get boat from Taganga. (3) The third entrance in unregulated and takes you to Playa Concha, which is a well developed beach very similar to Rodedero. Very crowded, but still very beautiful.

Much of Colombia’s Caribbean coast is dominated by the Rio Magdelena; comparable to the Mississippi River; which empties is muddied waters into the sea; clouding the Caribbean’s famous turquoise waters. While the waters of Santa Marta are only slightly clearer than Cartegena, the geography of the Eastward coastline provides just enough shelter to keep the pristine clear.

Lastly, the part of Tayrona that I have still not been able to visit is the Lost City; Ciudad Perdida. It is a 45km, 5-to-6-day hike through steamy jungle. It’s similar in distance to Peru’s more famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Though the ruins are of a much smaller scale than Machu Picchu, I will hopefully be able to visit someday soon.


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