Scuba diving and surfing on the Caribbean Coast, Santa Marta

Michelle Jiménez | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Located in the Magdalena - one of the thirty-two Colombian departments which stands out as a marine region due to its 220 kilometers of coastal strip on the Colombian Caribbean - Santa Marta is a mystical and gorgeous place. It is best known for its wide offer of sun, beaches, nature and, of course, its richness in marine life. It is as well home to around thirty thousand indigenous people. Santa Marta is also the location of one of the only snowy peaks in Colombia, the Sierra Nevada, and its ecological capital of Minca. Here you can also find the Lost City and the National Natural Park of Tayrona. This whole area was declared as a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site in 1979 by Unesco

© iStock/mehdi33300

Strolling around Santa Marta

Strolling around Santa Marta will give you a good feeling of its culture and essence. It is said to be the oldest city in Colombia, and it was founded in 1525 by the Spanish. In its historical center, you can see Spanish colonial architecture, such as the one in the Cathedral of Santa Marta, the oldest in the country. This is where Simón Bolívar, one of the main figures South America's Independence fight, was buried in 1830. You can visit El Rodadero, a beach right in the city where you can enjoy the sun and some Vallenato, the authentic Colombian music, typical of the Caribbean coast. It is performed live by various groups, especially at nights. From El Rodadero, it is possible to take a boat ride of around thirty minutes to Playa Blanca, one of the greatest beaches in Santa Marta.


Taganga is a tiny, tranquil and quaint fisherman's township with less crowded beaches. Here you find cool bars and restaurants in front of the beach. It is located only twenty minutes away from Santa Marta by car, and the accommodation options vary, offering great views of nature. There is a beautiful ecological twenty-minutes trail that you can hike: it starts from Taganga's central area and leads to Playa Grande, a more secluded beach with clear blue water, white sand, and views to the mountains.

© iStock/peffan


In Colombia, the Association of Diving Companies of Santa Marta, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the District Institute of Tourism (Indetur), and the Mayoralty of Santa Marta got together to work on the campaign to officially make Santa Marta the National Diving Capital. There are around thirty specified places to dive in depths ranging from 0 meters to 40 meters. There is an amazing diversity of soft and stony coral reefs,  remains of sunken statues and ships, a wide variety of colorful fish of different shapes and sizes, and some caves. It is said as well that in these waters, it is possible to find the largest coral heads in the world. 

© Istock/ Jag_cz

Nowadays, there are around twenty-four specialized diving schools with professionals who teach from half-day mini-courses for beginners to more complete and professional courses that provide PADI accredited diver certification. The latter are more demanding and require more time invested, as some of them include dives at greater depth. These schools can be found in the historic center of the city, and also in El Rodadero and Taganga


If you want to explore the lessen deep water of the Atlantic Ocean because you are not able to dive or if diving is not your thing, snorkeling is definitely a good option. You still get to see a lot of marine life with less effort, preparation, and equipment. Most of the places that offer diving plans would have this alternative as well, and it could also be a preparation activity before jumping straight into diving. Playa Blanca is a good spot in the Santa Marta area to practice this pleasant activity. 


© / Unknown

Santa Marta has lately become a more popular surfing destination, and this activity in the area keeps on getting more popular, with the help and support of the surfing community. Compared to the beaches on the pacific side, these ones have waves and a tide suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers.  

Some places offer board rental services and others all-inclusive surf camps with individual or group lessons. The main ones are Costeño Beach, owned by two Canadian brothers who started the project a bit over six years ago. Another one is Casagrande with an adjacent beach considered one of the best ones for surfing: that one has hosted numerous championships on the Colombian surf circuit.

Santa Marta with its terrestrial and marine flora and fauna, beautiful beaches, and great offer of water sports such as surfing, scuba diving, and paddleboard, should be added to your bucket list. Its incredible landscapes, history, and ancient culture, as well as its convenient location, make Santa Marta a must-visit destination in South America. We look forward to having you here soon, adventure awaits!

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