Colombia, the bad and the good of the North coast

Hey girl hey! I’m here to share my travel experiences with you. I grew up in a small village in the south of the

Netherlands, which has always been too small for me. On my nineteenth I went London for an internship where I lived in a hostel. I was so fascinated by all the people I met who where traveling the world, I wanted to be just like them. Now -10 years later- I’ve been to over 40 countries and currently looking for a new home in South America. My biggest dream is to start my own hostel. In this blog I will tell you about my adventures on the North coast of Colombia! – XOXO Kris

Colombia, the good and the bad of the North cost

After my work in Bogotá was done, I was finally ready to travel Colombia. A colleague of mine lived in the north, so that’s were I headed first. I visited Santa Marta, Palomino, San Juan del Cesar, Barranquilla and Cartagena. Coming from Bogotá, it was so hot in the North, sweating all the time and wearing sunscreen to the max.

I first arrived in Santa Marta. The city centre is cute and has fun restaurants and bars. The rest of the city I didn’t like so much, it felt a bit sketchy. It is also not the safest city, my friend told me to watch my belongings all the time.

The beach directly at Santa Marta is awful, and because I don’t look stuff up beforehand I didn’t realize you have to take day trips to the beach. So that’s what I did! The first trip I took was to Taganga, which was only 20 minutes by bus and under $2 to get there. The beach is much better than Santa Marta and the water is nice, but nothing amazing or anything. There are a couple of beach bars to have lunch, the food it pretty decent.

The next day I went to Playa Blanca (there are two beaches with the same name in Colombia), people will tell you it is a really nice beach and it actually would be, if it wasn’t filled with tourists. The sand is great, water is amazing but it is not a fun beach, you can skip this one.

Next stop was Palomino, a tiny place off the coast. Most of the town is made for tourist and filled with hostels, bars and restaurants. We had some great food and a good time there, even though we went out a bit early and left before the parties actually started. I met some amazing people in the hostel, 2 couples from Medellin. Really good for my Spanish and they are the sweetest people ever. The beach is really rough and chances of the red flag hanging are high. As soon as you step into the water there are many rocks in the sand which is not the best combination with the rough sea. I stayed for three night and had a really good time with my new friends.

Finally, I went to visit my friend in San Juan del Cesar. This is a little further north and two hours inland. I was waiting for a bus, but a pick-up truck stopped for me and was going that way so I took it. In the pickup was a little girl with blond hair, she could have been my daughter. She sat on my lap for about and hour, adorable! Then I had to take a car from Riohacha to San Juan, which took 2 hours. The car was filled with a mom and her 4 very handsome kids.

When I arrived, I hadn’t  spoken to my friend yet. I went to a hotel and waited. There are no hostels in this town, sleeping there is pretty expensive. I stayed with Dario and his grandparents in a small, basic house, but very homey. We did have wifi, but no running water so we showered at his moms house in the same street, or in the garden with a bucket. I got there in the weekend and all the men where drinking outside. We went to his family who sat in the corner. They offered me many beers, homemade whiskey and other liquor. Loud music was playing from the parked car until the battery died. The men were very drunk, some almost got into a fight.

The next day the same thing happened: men drinking on the street. It seems like it was all they did. But this day I was sitting next to Dario’s uncle, when he suddenly grabbed my bare leg. It was very close to my thigh, so I flew up from shock and moved half a meter away from him. My friend didn’t do much, the other man said jokingly ‘ha don’t do that, we will cut your hand off’. All the guys cat-call all the time. When I told them not to do it, they said girls like it. There is a very strong machismo culture in the town, very little respect for women if you ask me. My feeling is that there is a lot of sexual abuse going on in this town. If on my second day someone grabbed me already, I fear for the young girls living there, especially because there are a lot of alcoholics.

Dario took me to some amazing places, unfortunately I couldn’t take my phone or anything with me. Guerrilla groups are active in that area and it was possible we would ran into them or other people with bad intentions. We went to one small lake with a natural rope swing, not a rope but a tree branch, so freaking amazing. No people there at all. We took some plastic bags with us to clean up the trash from other people. It was such an amazing day. One day we went to the river to do our laundry, I thought is was super cool.

I met up with my new friends from Medellin, and together we went back to Taganga. We stayed there for two nights, and on the second day we went to Playa Cristal. That was so amazing! By boat it costs around 60.000 pesos. The boat ride is really something… It takes about a hour to get there. It is some kind of speed boat, and the sea is really rough. On the way to the beach, I sat in the back where it bounces less. However, at one point I thought I would drown, because of all the water I got in my face. I was totally soaked! I felt like I could trow up at any moment and fly out of the boat. I’s like a wild rollercoaster on the sea, but actually dangerous. Once you get there the beach is so nice! At first there are a lot of people but if you walk 10 minutes it is more private. The second you get in the water, with goggles on your face, you see fish. So many fish! The first and only great beach I have seen in Colombia. There are great beaches, it just takes an effort getting there.

I went to Barranquilla to see a fried who I met in Aruba. But I have nothing good to say about the place. When I went to the museum, on a Sunday, the streets where empty, a car followed me for 15 minutes, yelling and cat calling. There is not much to do, if you don’t have al lot of time to travel don’t even bother going here.

I did love Cartagena! The old town is very touristy, but cool to walk trough. There are a lot of small shops, bars and restaurants. There is this part of town were to houses are super colorful and the streets are filled with murals. Just walking trough made me happy. You can go to the beach if you feel like having a beach day. There are a lot of vendors at the beach, one lady gave me a massage for 10 minutes while I was telling her I didn’t need one. I secretly enjoyed it a whole lot. There is not a lot of shade on the beach, unless you rent a bed. I laid near the street under the trees and walked to the water. It is just to hot to stay in the sun. The BEST thing about Cartagena is Parque Centenario. It has monkeys and my all time favorite monkey: a sloth and a baby sloth. They are high in the tree so not very visible, but for me it was amazing! I went back three times. Maybe I looked at the baby for an hour, but who is counting.

I love Colombia so much, but I really got this very strong dislike for men. The lack of respect for women annoys me so much. It’s like as soon as they turn 40yo a switch happens in their brain and they become dirty old sleezebags, with their stares and cat calling. I was so fed up with all the disgusting men, but kept my composure all the time. I don’t know what someone will do when I flip them off or call them ‘hijo de perra’. You will get a thicker skin if you spend enough time there. I bet there are many amazing, kind men out there. But the machismo culture allows (or teaches) them not to treat women with the respect we deserve.

Top 3 Activities

Playa Cristal

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Old town Cartagena 

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Plalomino beach

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Top 3 Restaurants

Restaurante palomino

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Rancho Paisa

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Pizzeria La Frontera

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Juntos Bar Resto

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Travalas Friendly        

Travalas friendly 3

Favorite travel quote

‘Never stop doing things for the first time’

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