How We Stay Safe in Colombia

Some of our friends asked how we are faring in Colombia during these difficult times. On top of struggling to combat Covid, the country has economic troubles, and citizens are protesting the government. Don’t worry, we are okay and staying out of the fray. Here’s more details about what’s going on here and how we stay safe in Colombia.

country wide covid lockdowns

Santa Marta was our first stop, and the covid protocols tightened in our time there. When we left after six weeks, the city was shutting down and keeping people effectively locked at home for entire weekends, from Friday evening to Monday morning. Unfortunately, these lockdowns are common across Colombia, notably in the major cities like Cali, Medellin and Bogota. The reason for the lockdowns is hospital capacity. Once a city’s ICUs reach capacity or near-capacity, the city shuts down, hoping that will decrease the Covid cases.

where we are

We are on Sava in a marina in Cartagena. The marina is in a residential part of town called Manga, just a short walk across the bridge to the hope neighborhood of Getsemani and a little further walk to the Old City of Cartagena. It’s a great location and we have enjoyed walking, especially in the evenings when all the locals are out getting their exercise.

Map of Manga, Getsemani and Cartagena
Map shows Manga just south of Getsemani and east of Bocagrande, Cartagena

It’s strange being in Cartagena again after so long, especially during the pandemic. Usually a bustling city with multiple cruise ships in port, the UNESCO walled city is relatively empty, and the few tourists are deluged with requests to go on tours and buy trinkets. Despite the emptiness and hungry vendors, Cartagena is safe. Everyone wears masks inside and in the streets and it’s mostly business as usual.

hats in Cartagena
The one time we’ve both worn our authentic Colombian hats purchased in Cartagena
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Rafting Down The Rio Palomino

We spent a weekend in Palomino with a group of cruiser friends and it was my favorite of our adventurous getaways from Santa Marta. A laid-back beach town with a weekend tradition of rafting down the Rio Palomino, Palomino is a blast!

About Palomino

Palomino is a small town on the north Caribbean coast of Colombia, near the Venezuela border. An agrarian community, it is now seeing tourism due to its beautiful white sand beaches and chill vibe. The town consists of one main paved road, the road from Santa Marta, and dirt road offshoots to the beach, the river, and farmlands.

bird mural Palomino Colombia
Bird mural in Palomino. It’s got a mask!

We walked around the town a bit and it’s rustic and charming, with lots of restaurants, hostels, artisan shops and some cool street art. And, one of the top attractions is tubing down the river. No wonder backpackers are flocking to Palomino.

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Top Things to Do in Santa Marta Colombia

Stuck in Santa Marta, Colombia? Maybe you’ve already visited Tayrona National Park and have a few days to kick back in the city. This city is the capital of the Magdalena region and bases its economy on tourism, followed by commerce, the port and fishing. Nestled in a valley beneath Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Santa Marta has a lot of attractions. After six weeks there on our sailboat at the marina, I have top things to do in Santa Marta Colombia.

VISIT THE museo del oro/gold museum

The gold museum is in a two-story building in the historic centre of Santa Marta. While not as big as its namesake in Bogota, the Santa Marta museum’s artifacts and displays within are interesting. In addition to showcasing gold unearthed from ancient cultures in the surrounding mountains, the museum provides a nice historical overview of the region and the city in particular. Good news, all of the displays are in English as well as Spanish.

exterior of Gold Museum in Santa Marta
Exterior of Museo de Oro de Santa Marta
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A Day Trip to Nueva Venecia

One of the most memorable tours we’ve done so far in Colombia is a visit to Nueva Venecia. A community built on stilts in the middle of a swamp which is a natural sanctuary, it’s like nowhere I’ve ever been. Keep reading for more about our day trip to Nueva Venecia in Colombia.

Cienaga and Nueva Venecia

You may have already guessed that Nueva Venecia is Spanish for New Venice. Named after the famous Italian city, the entire town is on the Grande Ciénega, a marsh leading from the River Magdalena to the Caribbean Sea. Residents live in houses built on stilts in the marsh, and instead of cars and bikes, they get around by boat, mostly long canoes. It was a real treat to visit and get a glimpse into the lives of its residents.

Map of Cienaga and Nueva Venecia
Day trip to Nueva Venecia map from Santa Marta

Getting to Nueva Venecia

For the day trip to Nueva Venecia, we took a tour from Santa Marta by bus to Ciénaga, where we met our boat driver. A quick drive under an hour from either Santa Marta or Baranquilla, and then a couple of hours boating around makes a great day trip!

Our bus tour guide spoke English and imparted interesting information about the region and its history. The boat captain who we met in Ciénaga spoke Spanish, and he took us for a long tour of the village and the surrounding waters, where we saw a variety of birds and the local fishermen at work.

boat day trip to Nueva Venecia
The boat waiting at the dock to take us to Nuevo Venecia
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Day Trip to Parque Tayrona

Santa Marta is an ideal base for a Colombia vacation. Santa Marta is a city with a good selection of restaurants, shops and museums, and is a great jumping off point for Colombian adventures, and we are taking part. From Santa Marta, we took a day trip to Parque Tayrona.

What is Parque Tayrona?

Parque Tayrona, or Tayrona Park, is a large protected area on the Caribbean coastline in northern Colombia. Just over an hour drive from Santa Marta, it covers 150 square kilometers of rainforest, coastal lagoons, archaeological sites, and remote beaches.

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Visiting Santa Marta On A Sailboat

We checked into Colombia almost a month ago at Santa Marta Marina. We love the stunning views and friendly people. Here’s what it’s like staying in Santa Marta on a sailboat.

About Santa Marta

Located on the Caribbean Sea, Santa Marta is a busy port and Colombia’s oldest city, founded by the Spanish in 1525. It is interesting geographically because of the proximity of high mountains to this city by the sea. It makes for beautiful views when approaching on your boat or walking around the town.

Church in Santa Marta Colombia
One of Santa Marta’s churches

In addition to the marina, Santa Marta has an airport and a bustling downtown with restaurants, museums, and historic squares. We aren’t bored staying in Santa Marta on a sailboat.

Location map of Santa Marta Marina
Where we are in Colombia

Marina Life

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What to Eat in Curaçao

An island populated by citizens from multiple cultures, the food in Curaçao reflects that diversity. After years in the Eastern Caribbean, we were almost overwhelmed by the choices in Bonaire and Curaçao, and spent four months on the island sampling the cuisine. Read on for my tips, favorite restaurants and what to eat in Curaçao.

Farm to Table Brunch at Hofi Cas Cora

One of our favorite restaurants in Curaçao is Hofi Cas Cora, a farmhouse which serves brunch only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The space is charming, the food is delicious, and you can walk around the working farm before or after your meal.

waffles at Hofi Cas Cora
Pumpkin Waffles at Hofi Cas Cora

Not surprisingly, this is a popular place for families, whose kids love to feed and interact with the animals, which range from chickens, ducks and peacocks to horses, goats and pigs.

goat at Hofi Cas Cora
One of the goats at the Hofi Cas Cora!

It’s a great place for anyone. The menu is extensive and delicious and includes vegan and vegetarian dishes, fresh from the farm.

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Curaçao to Colombia

We did it! After numerous delays caused by human and mechanical breakdowns, we did our longest passage yet. We sailed 320+nm from Curaçao to Colombia. Currently comfortable in the welcoming Marina de Santa Marta, we are rested and content after an eventful voyage.

Sunset on our second night sailing to Colombia
Sunset on our second night sailing Curaçao to Colombia

Waiting to Go

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