After leaving Parque Nacional Tayrona, I thought Santa Marta would be a let down, but I was pleasantly surprised. Santa Marta was a beautiful mix of salty air, and towering mountains. We stayed in the heart of the historic center, which can cost more, but you are walking distance from most attractions, saving you money that would otherwise be spent on tours.
At night guitar chords hung on the air, reverberating from alley walls, while the guiro’s sandpaper beats mixed sweetly with the happy chatter of sun kissed diners. Couples stealing kisses in dark corners of Parque de Los Novios were inadvertently serenaded by musicians practicing their instrument of choice.
As the night grew deeper the discothèques pulsating beats flooded the streets and attracted women with Tina Turner stems to dance until the early hours of the morning. When the first light of day peeked over the church steeples, the city’s cafe’s wafted pan de yuca, and coffee through your window, helping you move your dancing feet back to the street.
During the day throngs of people head for the beaches. We went to three different beaches, and only enjoyed one of them. About a block from the historic center there is a great beach for boat tours, but not much else. The beach was packed and dirty, but the surrounding boardwalk was great for pictures and good food.
Rodadero was our next stop. Rodadero was a much better place for nightlife than for a relaxing day at the beach. You are constantly hounded by one of the many vendors, aggressively pushing their wares. I just continue saying, “no gracias” until they walk away, but Johanna has a hard time with this method. Johanna says “no” with her mouth, and “maybe” with her eyes. So far she has ended up with a bracelet, a hat, and a beads braided in her hair. I didn’t mind the masseuses. When you tell them no, they rub your shoulders in hopes that you will say yes. After about 5 of these people came buy I had a free 20 minute shoulder massage.
The third beach we visited was Playa del Ritmo. Playa del Ritmo is about 20 minutes from the historic center, and well worth the trip. Vendors still walked the beach, selling everything from hats to ceviche, but they were not as aggressive. If you want a relaxing day at the beach, this is the place to go in Santa Marta.
In my opinion, a trek into the mountains always beats a day at the beach. You can head to Parque Tayrona, only about 30 minutes away, or go explore La Ciudad Perdida. It takes around 5 days to hike to Ciudad Perdida, through the Sierra Nevada’s rivers, dense jungle and steep inclines. After the hike at Parque Tayrona, Johanna decided she wasn’t up for this one. If anyone out their wants to hit the trails let me know. After a few days in Santa Marta, I fell in love with the city and it’s people. I will gladly head back with a hiking partner!