It would be hard to visit Colombia and not end up in the city of Santa Marta on the Caribbean Sea. The city itself isn’t anything to write home about, although parts of the center are being pedestrianized and it’s obvious there is plenty of renovation work being done. Instead it’s the bars, hotels, hostels and restaurants that make it a popular backpacking destination and it’s also an excellent base to get into the Sierra Nevada and Tayrona National Park which is how I ended up there.
A days mini-bus ride (Air-conditioned is a must) up the coast from Cartagena will get you to the Caribbean city of Santa Marta. Me and my friend Jade were heading for the Brisa Loca Hostel where we were meeting up with another friend Jack who’d moved from Cumbria in England to Colombia 3 years earlier and opened a hostel. We were going to stay in Jacks hostel for the next few nights but for now we were catching up and having a night out in Santa Marta… I don’t really remember much of the night out in question apart from Rum, Pizza and a few blurred photos on my phone the next day.. **Travel Tip – DO NOT spin the wheel in the Brisa Loca.. Bad things happen! I won’t go into details…
Anywaaays... Surprisingly un-hung over, the next day we were starting to make our way up to Jacks Hostel, Casa Elemento.
Casa Elemento is above the town of Minca, high in the Sierra Nevada and boasts what I’d been told was the world’s biggest hammock.. To get there you need to get to Minca where you will be able to get a motor-taxi or 4x4 to take you another half an hour off road up the mountain. Alternatively you can walk from Minca up to the hostel but in summer it’s baking hot and in the rainy season I can imagine the track is more of a mud slide than a road.. It’s not the easiest place to get to but it definitely won’t disappoint!
We spent 3 nights with Jack and his wife Jean. It was awesome! From being woken up by howler monkeys screaming up the valley at 4am (scariest noise ever btw), climbing through the trees in ‘jungle town’ to fresh farmed coffee from the neighbours and probably the best view of a Colombian sunset from the two giant hammocks you will ever see. It’s an amazing place and I can’t recommend it enough if you get the chance to visit.
Our time up at Casa Elemento definitely wasn’t long enough but Jack had arranged for us to join him on a sailing hostel out of Santa Marta and up the Caribbean coast for a few days. So, via a pretty unique traffic jam leaving the jungle we went from the mountains to the sea.
The sailing hostel was a stunning blue sailing yacht, I’m not sure how big it was but it was definitely big enough for the 10 of us on board. We watched sunsets from secret coves in Tayrona National Park, snorkelled, wake boarded and sunbathed. I was even allowed to take control.. Well… For a minute at least! Apart from that I won’t go in to too much detail about our time on the boat… what happens at sea stays at sea! We went with Vamos Navegando, so if you’re planning a Colombian adventure definitely check them out!
Back on dry land we had a night in another hostel before we set off on our next adventure to find The Lost City, Ciudad Perdida…
This is the point I was making about Santa Marta, it has some brilliant places to stay and eat (I can personally recommend the Brisa Loca hostel for breakfast burritos and Ouzo for an amazing dinner) and it’s a really good, albeit messy, night out but its lacking on the day time sights and activities that other Colombian cities have to offer. Instead use it as a base to book trips and get up into Tayrona and the Sierra Nevada as it is perfect for that. Below are a couple of links to some of the hostels I would recommend in Santa Marta and the Surrounding area.
La Brisa Loca - Party Hostel in a great location
Casa Elemento - Hidden Hostel in the hills for the adventurous
Drop Bear Hostel - In an ex-cartel house, cool place but a little out of the centre
Vamos Navegando - Amazing sailing hostel in the Caribbean Sea