Santa Marta, is South America’s oldest European-founded town and the second most important colonial city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It is told to be “The Pearl of the Americas,” and is known by the beautiful beaches surrounding it. The biggest eye-catcher for me are the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the highest coastal mountain range in the world.  It is the only place in the Caribbean with everlasting snow, although peaks have slowly been melting due to climate change. It is one of the most biodiverse areas of the world.

It was Rodrigo de Bastidas who planted a Spanish flag here in 1525. Why? He choose it as a site at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to serve as a convenient base for the incalculable gold treasures of the Tayronas.


Although Santa Marta has been given a bad reputation by lots of tourists finding it a dodgy and traffic loaded place nowadays it is undergoing a process of urban renewal. To me it is a charming city with a long history. It is a town difficult to forget. The secret to Santa Marta is to use it for what it does well: cute little hostels, cool restaurants and bars.


While strolling through the streets you can really feel the Colonial atmosphere. You get overwhelmed by Colonial style architecture painted in the most colourful colours making me think of the little houses of Cartagena. On every corner of the street you can find delicious fruits and juices and sadly but truly, homeless people.. This is the one downside of the town which really hurts my heart.

Besides the beautiful architecture, Santa Marta is the perfect spot to get out and explore other pearls of  destinations nearby such as The National Park of Tayrona, the lush and green Minca and  the little fishers town Taganga. You can discover more about these cute spots in my next blog posts.

Where to stay when in Santa Marta?

During my stay in Santa Marta, which was 5 days and then I returned for 2 more nights, I only stayed in one hotel called El Habitante Hotel Escuela. It’s a 900s Republican era estate of Mr Bastidas. From day 1 I fell in love with this place and the people hosting it. It felt like a little home away from home.

While scrolling through I wanted to avoid the touristy and chique hostels. This one immediately caught my eye because the hotel is a social business created by one of Colombia’s leading NGO on Sports For Development strategies, Fundación Tiempo De Juego.


Thanks to your stay in the hotel, children and youth from Colombia are able to develop Life Skills through sports, arts and culture while creating their own life project and promoting a movement towards peace, equality and cohabitation. Proceeds from El Habitante help sustain a local program right there in Santa Marta. At the same time, it is conceived as a training facility for local youth to learn skills and trades related to the hospitality industry.  (VISIT WEBSITE:  El habitante Hotel Escuela)

Everything from top to bottom just falls together in one place. When you enter the lush green garden, the little pool captures your eye immediately and invites you to jump in and cool down from the tropic heat. You can choose for a private room or a shared dorm with a delicious breakfast included in the price. I tried both and both were very comfortable to sleep. There is also a little fair-trade shop and tons of activities you can join, like dance classes and day trips to surrounding towns.






Are you already excited to visit incredible Santa Marta?

Published by Ellen Van Liedekerke

A wa(o)ndering soul, made in Belgium, traveling to any place that inspires me. Loving life through the lens of my Nikon D750. In love with sports such as yoga, boxing and surfing in order to escape from the world. Sunsets and sunrises are my favourite TV-shows, I could binge watch them every single day. Currently in Belgium finding my way back to reality but dreaming at the same time of making the world a better place elsewhere.

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