Paisa Tours: Guide to Medellin and Colombia


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North Colombia & Caribbean Coast:
Cartegena
Rosario Islands
Santa Marta
Park Tayrona
Ciudad Perdida
La Guajira
San Andres
Providencia
San Bernardo Islands
Capurgana








Santa Marta & Taganga


Santa Marta is a Caribbean resort, while neighbouring Taganga is very much on the Gringo Trail and where backpackers invariably opt to stay. Details on each follow, along with advice and information on the better hotels.

Santa Marta & Rodadero

Santa Marta is one of Colombia's premier beach resorts. As international tourists haven't fully discovered quite what a fantastic country Colombia is, this means that Santa Marta is mainly full of Colombian tourists. There's numerous high rise beach front hotels both in, and in the beaches surrounding, Santa Marta. The nearby suburb of Rodadero is more upmarket but similar in fashion and full of various hotels, lilo shops and restaurants.

The beaches are ok, though rather crowded. Nightlife is fun and rowdy, and the city is far busier during the peak domestic tourism season. If you're a man, looking for a Colombian woman, here along with Cali is where you'll probably have most luck. Think "Cancun", but on a smaller, less in-your-face package holiday style, but with far more beautiful Colombian people.

Those who stay in Santa Marta or Taganga usually do so as a launching pad for tours to two of Colombia's real travel highlights - Park Tayrona, and Ciudad Perdida.

Santa Marta & Rodadero Hotels

There's dozens of hotels in Santa Marta, and many are pretty non-descript. I'll only list a few of the better, more interesting ones.

La Casa - a boutique hotel in Santa Marta? What a refreshing change from all the other, mainly tasteless hotels. Stay at this 3 bedroom boutique if you can afford it - it's only US $140 for a double.

La Casa del Farol - another new, upmarket boutique hotel in the city centre, hurray!

Hotel Casa Vieja - 21 air conditioned with simple rooms at a very reasonable prices.

Irotama - a "five star golf resort" that's in an "ecological complex", this option is very good value, and one of Santa Marta's better big resorts.

Hotel Mar Azul - a 55 room hotel in the centre of Rodadero.

SunCity - a good value budget / backpacker hotel in Santa Marta. Tours to Park Tayrona,Ciudad Perdida etc. can be arranged here.

Hotel Nueva Granada - a mid range hotel with a pleasant courtyard, small swimming pool and just a few blocks from the beach.

Park Hotel - a mid range waterfront hotel in the centre of town that makes far more of an effort than it's shabbier numerous neighbours.

Hotel La Sierra - a good mid range hotel in Rodadero with some great sea views.

La Brisa Loca - a backpackers hostel that describes itself as a "party hostel".

Aluna Hotel - a good looking Irish run hotel/hostel in Santa Marta.

Maybe also consider the chain hotels of Decameron Galeon, the Estelar Santamar and the Sol Arhuaco (a Solar owned hotel) - though they are all pretty non-descript.

Taganga

Just outside / next to Santa Marta, Taganga is one of Colombia's top backpacker hangouts. It's Santa Marta's "alternative" little brother.  There is a not particularly attractive beach on which to relax as well as a few prettier small beaches nearby (eg. Playa Grande), and some beautiful coastal walks. Taganga is also a popular place to organise a scuba diving course in Colombia. 

Reading out of date guidebooks you might be lead to believe that this is a peaceful idyllic fishing village - maybe it was like this 15 years ago, but it's not now. Vendors will hassle you on the beach, and music blares out of beachside restaurants until late at night, especially so on the weekends. There's a party vibe and little peace and quiet. If you want peace and beautiful beaches head to nearby Park Tayrona

One final bit of advice - don't drink the water in Taganga as many, many tourists get seriously ill from it (likewise what out for salads and juices). Everyone who goes to Taganga seems to get ill (myself included).

Taganga Hotels & Hostels

As a very popular backpacker destination, none of the hotels and hostels in Taganga are expensive. Most of those listed below cost about $10-15 per person, but you'll also find places to sleep for half that price.

Bahia Taganga - up on the hill overlooking the village, there's 20 rooms at this relatively upmarket hotel in Taganga.

Techos Azules is a great little hostel with fantastic views over the bay of Taganga - the only drawback is that it's a 5 minute walk from the town itself. It's great value though.

Casa Felipe is one of Taganga's most well established hostels, and is very popular with backpackers. A great place to meet other travellers.

Divanga Hostal - remarkably great value hostal with lovely swimming pool, this is a peaceful option.

Bayview Hostel - another good value hostel with swimming pool, this is a Colombian owned hotel (unlike most of the others in Taganga, which seem to be owned by foreigners).

Ballena Azul is supposedly the best hotel in Taganga, with a fine (but rather noisy) beachfront location. I'm personally not a fan as their food is awful, and it poisoned me so badly that I was unable to move from my bed for 3 days. I see little point staying here - the other places listed above cost a third the price, and are just as good. Avoid.

There's dozens of other accommodation options, most of which are basic but clean, throughout Taganga. Just turn up and pick one that takes your fancy.

See the video of Santa Marta and Taganga.

Minca & the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Colombia's coast around Santa Marta can get so hot and humid, that travellers might want to consider heading up into the mountains of Minca to get away from the heat. This seems to be the main reason to travel to Minca and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park - to avoid the heat, relax in a cooler climate, to interact a bit with nature and maybe go horseriding or birdwatching or frolicking in some rivers. Minca is also famous for it's organic coffee - which is some of Colombia's best. A taxi from Santa Marta to Minca should cost about 40,000 pesos (US $20) - travel time is about 30 minutes. There's a handful of hotels in Minca to choose from - consider Sierra Sound or Casa Santander - both are stylish, comfortable options.

Aracataca

About 100km South of Santa Marta is Aracataca, birthplace of famous Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In books such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez's birthplace was fictionalized as the sleepy town of Macondo.  There are various Marquez themed attractions in the town and fans of the excellent book should consider the detour - it's 90 minutes by bus from Santa Marta. Aracataca has a couple of simple places to stay and eat, such as the Gypsy Residence.






Santa Marta:
Santa Marta, Colombia
Santa Marta during peak tourism season can get very busy.

Santa Marta beaches
Santa Marta has fine beaches in town and nearby.

Taganga:
Taganga, Colombia
Taganga, a small fishing village, is far more laid back and relaxing than nearby Santa Marta.


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