My motherland’s Caribbean Coast is one of my favorite places to visit. There is so much history nestled among the beautiful blue waters! If you’re spending some time in Cartagena, you should look at spending some time in Santa Marta, Colombia.
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Why you should visit Santa Marta
Santa Marta is a gorgeous city on the Caribbean Sea in the Magdalena Department of Colombia. This busy port is big with locals as a national tourism destination and was also the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, so its full of history!
And there are a number of trips you can take very easily while in Santa Marta. The most popular day trip from Santa Marta is to Tayrona National Natural Park, known for its beautiful beaches and biodiversity. There are also guided multi-day treks to the Lost City you can go on and get in touch with your inner Indiana Jones! And if you are wanting to do it for the gram, you can’t miss out on visiting Minca! This jungle town on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains has recently seen a spike in tourism. And with some amazing waterfalls nearby and a blossoming scene, you’ll want to make sure you check the area out.
The easiest way to get from Cartagena to Santa Marta
The cheapest and quickest way to get from Cartagena to Santa Marta is a private shuttle or a bus. The trip from Cartagena to Santa Marta takes 4-5 hours. Departures leave multiple times a day too.
The cheapest way
Buses headed to Santa Marta will leave from the Transportation Terminal (Terminal de Transporte). Depending on where you are staying in Cartagena, you will generally have two options to get to the terminal. You can buy your tickets online but there is also the option to buy them at the station.
- The easiest option is a taxi. Make sure you confirm the price before you get in and close the door, as many of Cartagena’s taxis don’t have meters. From the Old City, it costs anywhere from $15,000-20,000 Colombian Pesos to get to the terminal. And it can take about 30 minutes depending on traffic.
- If you are a bit more adventurous or on a tighter budget, it is possible to take a public bus to the terminal. All buses in Colombia have signs letting you know what major stops they go to. You’ll want to look for one that says “Terminal de Transporte” and ask the driver before you get on if that is where he is going to confirm. Taking a bus from the Old City will cost you less than $1 USD ($1,800-$2,500 COP). Since city buses make more stops though, the trip can take about an hour.
Once at the terminal, you can head straight to the ticket booth to purchase your tickets. In Santa Marta, the bus terminal is just 5 minutes outside the city. From there, you can take a taxi or bus into the city.
The quickest way
If you’re looking for the quickest way to get to Santa Marta from Cartagena, Colombia you’re going to want to book a private shuttle service that is a direct route with no stops.
A private shuttle is where a driver takes a small tourist on a minibus on for $19-23 USD. These shuttles don’t stop as the buses do so you’ll get from Cartagena to Santa Marta pretty quickly. They seat between 14-20 people, think micro-charter buses, have AC and are pretty comfortable to travel in.
Look at getting your tickets a day or two before your trip and if you can from a hostel even if you are staying in a hotel – they are official sellers and often times have the best price. If you are traveling during peak season, I suggest booking your tickets online ahead of time. It will cost you a bit extra, but if you have other reservations or plans pending your arrival in Santa Marta like a tour, it is worth the peace of mind.
Marsol and Moviliza are the two most well-known shuttle companies that. You can reserve your space in advance and pay in advance through Juan Ballena.
Are there flights from Cartagena to Santa Marta?
Short answer? Yes. But none of them are direct flights, they are all connecting flights with layovers so it is faster to take ground transportation. Flights are more expensive too!
One last thing…
Here are some books I recommend to check out before your trip. And even though researching ahead of your trip is always the goal we definitely suggest bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some we recommend.