If you’re traveling to Colombia, chances are both Cartagena and Santa Marta are on your bucket list—as they should be! Both cities are must-visit destinations in Colombia revered for their crystal-clear turquoise waters, dreamy beaches, and colorful old towns. But while the two Colombian cities have their similarities, both are unique in their cultural flair and the attractions they offer to visitors. So if you’re going to visit both spots, the next question becomes: What’s the easiest way to travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta? 

How to travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta while in Colombia

How To Travel From Cartagena to Santa Marta

Most visitors start their exploration of Colombia’s Caribbean coastline in Cartagena. The city has an international airport and is a more popular tourist destination than Santa Marta, making it a natural jumping-off spot. For the cheapest airline tickets, we always first check for extra promo codes with booking engines like CheapOAir.

After exploring Cartagena, you have a few options to arrive at Santa Marta. 

By Minivan: 

This is an excellent option for travelers on a budget who also don’t want to waste precious travel time on a bus. For as low as $19, you can travel between Cartagena to Santa Marta in an A/C minivan. The trip takes about 4 ½ to 5 hours, and there are around 17 departures per day. Book your tickets for route Cartagena to Santa Marta here.

By Private Car:

Ideal for those travelers who want utmost flexibility, or for a small group of travelers that can share the cost. Rates typically start at $145. This is the fastest way to get from Cartagena to Santa Marta

By Public Bus: 

The public bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta takes at least five hours—but plan for closer to six hours. The bus will first go to Barranquilla and then continue to Santa Marta. If you’re visiting around Carnival time, don’t miss the massive festival in Barranquilla! Otherwise, there’s not much to see in this port city, so continue to go straight to Santa Marta.


What To Do In Santa Marta

Now that you’ve arrived in Santa Marta, it’s time to explore the highlights of this idyllic beach location! One of the best parts of Santa Marta is how much there is to do in the surrounding area. Here are a few of the region’s top attractions:

Tayrona National Park

Perhaps Santa Marta’s most sought-after destination, Tayrona National Park, is a sandy beach with a lush jungle backdrop. Snorkel, hike, look for wildlife or simply relax. 


Minca is the gateway to trekking The Lost City, but there’s plenty to explore in the small, sleepy town of Minca itself. Once unsafe due to paramilitary presence, today, Minca offers tourists a scenic base from which to hike, explore waterfalls and sip local coffee. 

Trek to The Lost City

Adventure travelers won’t want to miss the opportunity to take a five-day trek to La Ciudad Perdida. The jungle trek is challenging, but the unique opportunity to visit The Lost City is well worth it. 

El Rodadero

Do as the locals and head to the beaches of El Rodadero to drink and dance the day away. When the sun sets, numerous beach bars keep the party going all night long. 


Taganga is a quiet fishing village primarily known for its world-class scuba diving. While it’s no longer the well-kept secret it once was, it remains a charming gem of a beach town worth exploring. 

Once you’ve finished exploring Santa Marta, you can head back to Cartagena by the same transportation mode with which you arrived. 

Have you been to Cartagena or Santa Marta? What were your favorite parts?