Published: May, 2018
Book this trip

Colombia: Medellin, Jardin, Santa Marta, Tayrona, Cartegena & Providencia

— Megan Harvey
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Beach, City
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: 2-3 weeks. This trip was actually two trips for us. Our first trip consisted of a week (Ski Week) in Providencia with a two night layover in Panama. On our second trip we visited Medellin, Jardin, Tayrona National Park and Cartegena over a two week time span (Winter Break).

to & from

Avianca via San Salvador or Copa Via Panama both UAL affiliates.

Where to Stay

Medellin – Anywhere in the Poblado area. We stayed at Du Park Royal. Charlee Hotel is another good option.

Jardin – A typical Colombia Pueblo about a 3 hour bus ride from Medellin. We chose Jardin because we wanted the Colombia countryside experience but we did not have time to go to the more popular Salento area. Stay anywhere off the main square.

Santa Marta – The gateway for trip to Tayrona National Park. Skip if you can, or stay for only one night. Stay close to the centre as the outskirts can get seedy quickly, I am speaking from experience.

Tayrona – Villa Maria we LOVED. Ask for Villa #7 with an ocean view.

Cartegena – I highly recommend staying in the Getesmani area. Getesmani is vibrant and full of life with street art, live music. Less touristy. You can easily walk to the walled city. We LOVED Casa Lola, the roof top pool is a great spot to cool off and have a mojito or a Club Colombia.

Providencia – Deep Blue or rent a private house. We stayed at Hotel y Centro de Buceo Sirius which was very barebones. Happy to have an in depth conversation if you are considering booking here as best to set expectations– it is way past its prime.

Where to Eat and Drink

Medellin – Lots of options in the Parque Lleras area.

JardinCafe Europa was awesome as well as de Jardin, Consulado Vegetal. Fun to have a drink and sit and play cards in the main square but skip the restaurants here. Our favorite spots were a block or two off the main square.

Santa Marta – Live music, street performers and great people watching from any of the many options along the pedestrian walkway. Hemingway is where we ended up.

Cartegena Cafe Havana is a MUST for live music and cocktails after dinner sans kids. There are lots of great restaurants in the Getesmani area around the Plaza de la Trinidad.

What to Do


  • Real City Tours has a free walking tour of the city (we did not do this because they were closed on Christmas when were were there).
  • Medellin Bike tours was awesome. (Whatsapp +57 304-420-4846) The owner (and our guide) Dan was fantastic. We covered lots of ground and learned so much about Medellin and Colombia.
  • Another great excursion is to take the Metro to the Acevedo line then take the cable car over the barros to Parque Avi.


  • Ride in a Willy Jeep.
  • Visit a finca for a coffee tour. We went with Wilson of Wilson Coffeetour. (Whatsapp +57 301-494-2302.)
  • Hike to the waterfalls.
  • A highlight for us, especially my son, was our visit La Trucheria (trout farm). They provide rods and bait and you fish for your lunch and then they prepare it at their restaurant. My son LOVED this and my daughter happily read a book at the restaurant. Its a quick tuk tuk ride up the hill from town.

Santa Marta

  • This is a stop over town. Only stay here on night or none if possible.
  • Visit the tourist market in the centre of town by the por for all of the tourist swag.


  • Visit the National Park. Hike in and out (recommended) or take a donkey. Wear sneakers and bring flip flops for the mud and streams. Make sure to buy your tickets online.
  • Go on an excursion — either inland to the waterfalls or towards a remote beach and ride on an inner tube down the river.


  • Walk around the walled city. View the sunset from the wall.
  • Take a boat to the islands. I recommend hiring a private boat. We used the outfitter Cartegena Connections (Whatsapp +57 301-321-3533).
  • Visit the mercado de Bazurto.
  • Explore the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.


  • Hire a boat and snorkel the many reefs surrounding the small island.
  • Rent a 4 wheeler and explore the island (there are limited cars).
  • Hike to El Pico.
  • Have lunch at Roland Roots Reggae and South West Bay. Watch the sunset at South West Bay. Read in a hammock.

inside scoop


  • Night time dining options are limited with most of the beach restaurants being closed. Enjoy long late lunches at the beach.
  • There ATMs on Providencia are very limited. Be prepared as you will need to pay cash for boat trips.
  • Ask for Howard for your private boat tour. We brought our own snorkel gear and rented fins.

skip it

En route to Providencia skip San Andres.

To add a suggestion login or join