Visit the Caribbean Coast, the paradisiac gem of Colombia!
If exploring colourful colonial cities, relaxing on paradisiac beaches and wandering around stunning landscapes is your type of holidays, then the Caribbean Coast is the perfect place for you!
The Caribbean region is home to some of the best beaches in the country, the beautiful colonial city of Cartagena and the highest coastal mountain in the world, the Sierra Nevada. This region along the Caribbean Sea covers a range of different ecosystems from the jungle of the Darien in the border with Panama to the desert of La Guajira near Venezuela, as well as the spectacular San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands.
These varieties of landscapes offer plenty of alternatives to choose from when travelling around this region like ecotourism, bird watching, nautical sports or just relaxing. Unique experiences, gorgeous views and tropical culture, the Caribbean Coast has everything you need for your perfect holidays!
Top places to visit in the Caribbean Coast
Tayrona National Park: Home of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, its scenery varies from paradisiac sandy beaches to lush rainforest. Tayrona Park has many beaches, but the most popular and best-known beach is Cabo San Juan. Full of biodiversity and unique animal species, it is not unusual to see tamarins, howler monkey or blue-tailed skink. Beware that the park is usually closed in February.
Cartagena: One of the most fascinating colonial cities in Latin America, Cartagena was declared a world cultural heritage site by the UNESCO in 1984. It boasts an incredibly unique atmosphere that combines the historical elements of the colonial walls, architecture, and museums with the new and modern restaurants and boutiques scattered throughout the area.
Santa Marta: The oldest colonial city in Colombia, Santa Marta has a tumultuous history full of legends and pirate attacks. The contrast between yellow sand, turquoise water and snow-capped mountains make it a must-see destination of the Caribbean Coast. Its also the perfect starting point for day hikes and treks.
The Lost City in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park: This ancient abandoned town was built by the Tayrona people around 800 AD 650 years before Peru's Machu Picchu. The only way to get there is by a 4-day hike in the middle of the jungle and requires a good level of fitness. Although it is not exactly a walk in the park, this once in a lifetime experience is highly rewarding.
Cabo de la Vela in La Guajira: One of the most beautiful spots in Colombia. The cape, as it is called, is full of rocky cliffs above and sandy beaches below, accompanied by the stunning colours of the desert landscape. Don't forget to climb Pilon de Azucar to enjoy a panoramic view.
Mompox: A beautiful town known as the setting for Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Mompox was declared a world cultural heritage site by the UNESCO in 1995 and looks pretty much as it used to during colonial times. This frozen in time town is the perfect place to learn more about Colombia history.
Best things to do in the Caribbean Coast
- Historic Tour Cartagena: Cartagena is flush with historic charm. Learn about the colourful colonial buildings, fascinating churches and the massive fort that served as protection during a historical tour. You'll feel like you're walking through a different period. The tropical ambience and warm people make visitors feel welcomed in this romantic coastal city.
- Explore Isla Fuerte: This Island is much less touristic than other Caribbean Islands of Colombia and can be almost empty during low season. You can rent a bike or walk around the Island in a few hours and enjoy paradisiac beaches and luxuriant vegetation.
- Cool down in Minca: Situated in the Sierra Nevada, Minca offers a refreshing escape from the typical heat of the Caribbean Coast. If you're a nature lover, there are plenty of things to do there: birding, hiking, swimming in impressive waterfalls, visit coffee or cacao farms etc.
- Visit Rosario Islands: Located about 35 km off the coast of Cartagena, Islas del Rosario consists of approximately 27 small islands which are surrounded by coral reefs. The whole area has been declared a natural park to preserve and protect the coral reefs.
- Relax in Capurgana and Sapzurro: To access these tiny towns, you will have to travel by boat. But you won't regret it as it's one of the most scenic areas of Colombia. Make sure to try their delicious fresh fish, go snorkelling or diving and hike from a village to the other one. If you can, visit Acandi, a town nearby during summer to spot leatherback turtles laying their eggs.
- Spend a day in a traditional fishing village: If you take a tour to La Boquilla, you will spend some time with locals from the small village of La Boquilla. You will take a trip in a wooden canoe through the mangrove forest and they will teach you some ancestral fishing technics.
The Caribbean Coast Travel Information
When is the best time to visit the Caribbean Region?
- The areas that run along Colombia's Caribbean coast, such as Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Tayrona Park, are hot and humid.
- The average temperature hovers around 30°C. The temperature in the desert of La Guajira can reach more than 40°C at midday.
- The ideal time of the year to visit the Caribbean region is from January to March. The weather is fantastic, warm and minimal precipitations. But you might encounter a lot of tourists. It's a price you have to pay to enjoy the outdoors without the rain and overbearing humidity.
Any time of the year is good to visit this region, but if you want to participate in one the festivals and learn more about their traditions and culture, these are some good examples:
- January: The Corralejas Feast in Sincelejo, Sucre Bullfighting festival where the public is invited to engage the bulls in the ring.
- February: Carnival in Barranquilla – The Carnival of Barranquilla is the second-largest Carnival celebration in the world. While Carnival is officially celebrated the four days before Ash Wednesday, there are pre-Carnival activities beforehand around the beginning of each new year. It features a variety of traditional dances and music.
- April: Festival of Vallenato Legend in Valledupar; Cesar One of the most important musical festival in Colombia. For five days, the streets of Valledupar are filled with music, contests, shows and parades.
- May: Wayuu Culture Festival, held in Uribia, La Guajira This festival celebrates the culture and traditions of the indigenous Wayuu. You'll find craft samples, contests, dance, theatre and gastronomic exhibitions.
- July: The Cradle of Accordions festival in Villanueva: Declared cultural and artistic heritage of Colombia, it gathers every years musicians from around the country.
- July: Fiestas del Mar in Santa Marta, Magdalena: The main activity of this festival is water sports, especially with the National and International Reign of the Sea and the National Nautical and Beach Games. But its also music, gastronomy, talks, culture and much more.
How to travel to the Caribbean Coast?
Cartagena is the perfect starting point for your trip in the Caribbean region and is very easily accessible.
- By plane You can book an international flight directly to Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG) or fly from Medellin or Bogota. The old town is only 3,5 miles away from the airport and you can reach it with a bus or taxi.
- By bus If you prefer, you can take the bus from Medellin or Bogota. The journey is quite long (Around 20 hours) but a lot of national compagnies are doing it and the prices are attractive.
- By boat It is also possible to arrive by boat from Panama City.
Is it safe to travel to the Caribbean Region?
Cartagena is one of the safest cities for tourists in Colombia but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware of your surroundings. The rest of the Caribbean region of Colombia is pretty safe too but you must avoid the regions of Southern-Bolívar and Southern-Córdoba.
For the recommended touristic areas, these are some simple tips that should keep you out of trouble:
• Don’t flash large amounts of money in public
• Look out for pickpockets on public transportation
• Call or use a smartphone app to arrange for a taxi instead of hailing it on the street
• Be aware of your surroundings
• Keep your phones and cameras out of sight
• Don’t wear flashy jewellery
• Avoid taking cards or passports out with you
The gastronomy in the Caribbean Coast is fresh and full of flavours; it's one of the best cuisines in Colombia. In general, the main ingredient is the daily catch, which can include Sea Bass, Red Snapper and shellfish served fried with plantain and coconut rice. This region is also famous for its finger food and snacks that you can find in the streets. These are some typical dishes you should try during your trip to the Caribbean region:
Bollo limpio: Cooked corn grain dough wrapped in corn husks usually served with meat.
Butifarra: Sausages made from ground beef and pork with spices. This recipe is top-rated in the Caribbean Coast and is ideal for party food.
Cazuela de Mariscos: this thick seafood stew is a mix of lobsters, shrimp, clams, fish and prawns with a rich, creamy broth.
Suero costeño: This kind of sour cream is perfect with plantain and steam cassava.
Arepa de Huevo: These arepas filled with fried egg are a fantastic afternoon snack to take with your coffee.
Get in Touch
If you are planning to visit Caribbean Coast and its surroundings and have any question about tours and activities to do in this amazing city, just get in touch we are here to help!
More travel tips to visit the Caribbean Coast
Why is Mompox so special?
Mompox is a town frozen in time. While the rest of the country has evolved and modernised, Mompox looks pretty much as it used to be during colonial times, for this reason, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1995.Read More
La Guajira: A truly off the beaten track destination
If you have a bit more time and want to explore a different landscape and have an adventure where you will be truly disconnected from modern life, La Guajira is the perfect destination.Read More
A unique experience in La Boquilla
A day-trip to La Boquilla fishing village is the perfect activity to connect with the community, appreciate the coastal nature and learn ancestral technics. You will spend some time with locals, take a trip in a wooden canoe through the mangrove forest and they will teach you how to fish as the locals do!Read More