From my hostel in Cartagena, I took a bus to Santa Marta, another costal city about 3.5 hours from Cartagena. Santa Marta is South America’s oldest city and is known for its natural beauty. Situated between the Sierra Nevada and the Caribbean Sea, Santa Marta is home to some of Colombia’s most exotic beaches, wildlife, and national parks, including Parque Natural Tayrona.
I arrived in Santa Marta just before dark and found my way to the Dreamer Hostel, by recommendation of the staff at, El Viajero, my previous hostel. Outside the entrance to the Dreamer hostel, posted on the door, was one of my favorite quotes from Pablo Coelho’s The Alchemist: “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person realize his dream”. I took this as a good sign.
The hostel was fully equipped with an outdoor pool, patio area, restaurant/bar, and plenty of hammocks for lounging around. The food was quite tasty and the enormous portions definitely did not leave us hungry. The hostel was full to capacity, and to my disappointment, English was being spoken all over, as the majority of the guests were North American. If I wanted to spend all my time speaking English, I thought, I would have just stayed in the US.
Desiring something less “touristy”, I asked the front desk staff where the locals stayed when they came to Santa Marta, and they directed me to Playa del Ritmo hostel in the town of Pozos Colorado, about 10 minutes outside of Santa Marta, and 5 minutes from the town of Rodadero. A short cab ride later, I arrived at Playa del Ritmo, a quiet hostel on the beach with spacious and breezy rooms. It was by far the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. Aside from myself, and a few other travelers, the hostel was completely empty except for the staff. Situated next to Sierra Laguna Beach resort, the hostel had its own private beach, and bar/restaurant. As I sat on the beach outside the hostel with my new friends drinking mango and guanabana liquados, I knew I had made the right decision by changing hostels.
The next day, along with a few other girls I had met in the hostel, I took a bus to Tayrona. We made plans to hike through the park together and camp on the beach for a few nights. The bus dropped us off at the park entrance where we paid a small entry fee and then boarded another bus, which took us further into the park, to the start of the trail. We hiked for about 45 minutes or so until we reached the first campground, Arrrecifes. There was a beach there, but swimming was prohibited for some reason, so we kept walking. We walked along the beach, through the woods, over rocks, and up steep hills in the sweltering heat for another hour or so before reaching our final destination, Cabo San Juan del Guía. It was beautiful, the breathtaking scenery of Cabo San Juan were well worth the hike.
Tents and hammocks were scattered throughout the campsite, and surrounded by large palm trees. The ocean, just a few steps away, was a mixture of light blues and greens. The beach was natural and free of any development aside from a small restaurant in the middle of the campsite, which was basically a kitchen and some tables and chairs set up in an open-air pavilion. It was such a peaceful place, we spent our first day laying on the beach and just enjoying the view.
The second day, taking a break from beach lounging, we decided to hike further up the mountain to the ancient ruins of the town Pueblito. Situated on the top of the mountain behind Cabo San Juan, we assumed it would have spectacular views. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of information available to us as to what we might find there, or how long it would take to get there, but it was something to do, and an opportunity to do some more exploring and get some exercise.
There was a wood sign at the entrance that read “If you love your shoes, its not worth walking this”, and we soon discovered why. Unlike the mostly flat path we took to hike up to Cabo San Juan, the path to Pueblito was uphill and full of rocks and boulders we had to climb over. The sun was blazing as we made our way up the steep rocky bath, and I realized I had never sweat so much in my life. After about 2.5 hours, and many slips and near falls later, we reached our destination. To our disappointment, however, there was not a lot see aside from a few ruins and an open grass area. There were no “spectacular” views as we had hoped, and there was not a whole lot to do. We sat down to rest for a few minutes, ate some peanuts, and then headed back down the mountain.