Top Things to Do in Santa Marta Colombia

Santa Marta at night

Stuck in Santa Marta, Colombia? Maybe you’ve already visited Tayrona National Park and have a few days to kick back in the city. After six weeks there on our sailboat at the marina, I know the top things to do in Santa Marta Colombia.

About Santa Marta Colombia

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, it’s a great jumping off point to visit the mountain town of Minca. However, don’t skip these attractions in Santa Marta.

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

Free to enter, you must go online and book an appointment at least a day in advance. This site is for every gold museum in Colombia, so take care to choose the correct city! Santa Marta is at the bottom of the page. This may be due to Covid safety protocols for less crowds in the museum. Please note they will kick you out after an hour for the next group. We visited twice so we could see everything, since it didn’t cost us anything.

WALK through the Historic centre

Similar to many Central and South American cities with town squares and plazas where people sit and vendors sell, in Santa Marta you can walk from square to square admiring the statues and fountains and bargaining for food or souvenirs.

Santa Marta town square
View of Parque Bolivar from Santa Marta’s gold museum

In the Parque Bolivar, visit the monument to the region’s hero, Simon Bolivar. Or take a photograph with the statue of “Gabo,” the famous local scribe Gabriel Garcia Marquez, near the library in his honor.

Gabo statue in Santa Marta Colombia
Brian poses with Gabo in Santa Marta

The great thing about the historic zone is that it encompasses many of the best restaurants and street art of Santa Marta.

Street vendors Santa Marta
Vendors sell locally produced wares outside the Gold Museum in Santa Market

dine in the restaurant zone

We missed seeing Santa Marta as a party city with the Covid lockdowns, but the restaurant zone is still fun to visit with good places to eat and drink. Conveniently located adjacent to one of the main town squares in the Centro Historico, the pedestrian zone is about three blocks long and two wide with a lot packed into that area. Our favorites range from a Mediterranean coffee bar, to tacos, to Indian food. It’s a good selection, to say the least!

El Mexican

Go to the lively and fun El Mexican for margaritas, micheladas, tacos and nachos. The bright space has big murals in a wide open space where they serve yummy Mexican fare like tacos and nachos.

The patio of the Mexican place in Santa Marta
Ikaros Cafe

For reliable free wifi and equally worthwhile Mediterranean vegetarian food, tasty coffee and fruity smoothies at good prices, join the locals at Ikaros Café. Taste their mushroom burger, dips and pitas, or order a locally roasted Colombian coffee or fresh juice.

Dips at Ikaro Santa Marta
Dips at Ikaro Café Santa Marta
Maharaja Indian

Finally, we had a great lunch at Maharaja Indian. I don’t know the last time we ate Indian but this meal was delicious. The owner/chef is so friendly and speaks English. He even offers cooking classes!

Maharaja Indian restaurant in Santa Marta Colombia
Maharaja Indian in Santa Marta

admire the street art

Santa Marta is another city with great street art so if you are into murals and graffiti, you’ll love it here.

You can take a guided or self-guided tour of the “Ruta del Grafiti,” or Graffiti route, in downtown Santa Marta. Created by local artists from Casa Buena Cultura, the route is easily accessed within Santa Marta’s historic district.

Here are just some examples of the local art showcased on the streets of Santa Marta.

  • fish mural Santa Marta Colombia
  • top things to do in Santa Marta street art
  • Notable Salazar Ruta del Grafiti mural
  • Santa marta street art by Salazar Notable.
  • Santa marta retro 70s street art

TOP THING NOT TO DO: Quinta de San Pedro

The guide books will recommend Quinta de San Pedro, which is well known as the place Bolivar died, but I disagree. A big site, with monuments and gardens, it should be much better than it was. I don’t know if it’s been recently neglected because of Covid or it’s a long standing problem, but this attraction doesn’t live up to it’s potential. I don’t recommend spending the money or the time to visit this site.

Monument at Quinta San Pedro Santa Marta
Monument at Quinta de San Pedro

Why were we disappointed? Let me count the ways. The grounds, touted as a botanical garden, were not landscaped at all; in fact, it looked like nothing had been watered in months with weeds everywhere. We couldn’t even enter the “art museum” because it was completely empty or the doors were locked, depending on which section we visited. The only part of the site which was open and had anything worth viewing besides the cafeteria was the historic building which used to be the living quarters and had some displays on military history of Simon Bolivar. I would skip this place but wanted to warn you because it will likely be suggested.

Visiting Santa Marta

Don’t go to Santa Marta only for the day trips out of town because the city is a fun place to spend some days. I hope you follow my top things to do in Santa Marta Colombia, and like them as much as I did! Please share in the comments if there’s anything I missed or you have questions.

Pin Top things to do Santa Marta
Pin Me!
Pin What to do in Santa Marta
Sharing is caring. Please Pin!

Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

5 thoughts on “Top Things to Do in Santa Marta Colombia”

Leave a Reply