5 hours 0 minutes
hiking, Caribbean beach, trekking, Lost City, Minca
Maximum comfort or class
10 Departures Daily
Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.
All about the bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta
There’s just no denying it: riding a bus across Colombia is the number one way to experience this country’s storied landscape; revealing a tale that is paralleled only by its diversity.
If that sounds ideal to you, why not use the Reserve Now button above to book your bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta?
But if you want to find out more first, no problem! We’ve created this article as an all-encompassing “Cartagena to Santa Marta Bus Journey Guide”.
What are the buses in Colombia like?
The short answer: It varies a lot. The long answer? You get what you pay for. You see, the level of service, comfort, and reliability provided when riding a bus through Colombia is considerably inconsistent.
For example, if you take one of the cheapest buses, basically the local bus service, brace yourself for a mostly uncomfortable journey. Seats will be basic and that's it if you get any seating at all. That's because, with local buses, the number of passengers often exceeds the number of seats! More often than not, you will not get any amenities like AC, onboard toilet, or entertainment.
Of course, you’ll still live the experience of riding a bus through South America, with an incredible view of the landscape unfolding out beneath your window, complete with cheery vallenato music played over the loudspeakers. If this sounds great to you, then you're more than ready to hop on board.
Moreover, you will be glad to hear that despite living up to their name, “luxury buses” are exceptionally cheap in Colombia. You can easily ride in a luxury bus that features reclining (and reserved!) seats, AC, onboard toilet, and entertainment facilities, for not much extra. We’ll give you more details on that later!
How long is the bus ride?
From Cartagena to Santa Marta is a 240km (149 miles) ride in total, giving you a journey that should take just 5 hours to complete.
All in all, this is an entirely feasible length of time; one that allows you to avoid both an uncomfortable early morning start and a late-night arrival. And we want to hammer home that the journey itself is an experience
Between Cartagena and Santa Marta, you’ll go through coastal rainforests and the beaches where famous Caribbean pirates commandeered ages ago, and get to taste the unique Colombian snacks that vendors come on board every now and then get on the bus to sell.
You’ll pass through colorful little Caribe towns and villages, where buildings’ exteriors are decorated in every color of the rainbow.
What is the cost of traveling by bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta?
Generally speaking, the bus ride between Cartagena and Santa Marta will cost between $14 - $40 (51,000 - 146,000 COP). Here below are some of the reasons of the variety of prices
When you should go
Generally speaking with regards to bus travel, weekends and holidays are a little more expensive. In the case of bus tickets between Cartagena and Santa Marta (both popular with tourists and Colombian weekenders alike), Fridays and Sundays are the weekdays that tend to be slightly more expensive, but not much more.
When you should book
If you book these tickets in advance, they’ll be a little bit cheaper. If you’ve already decided when you will be going, save a few bucks and book your bus tickets in advance.
Which Bus Carrier you should Choose
As previously mentioned, there’s substantial differentiation between the quality of buses in Colombia. Most of the time, the more you pay, the cushier a journey you’ll end up having. If you’re seeking a more luxurious experience - think aircon, reclining seats, toilets & more - you’ll need to dish out a little extra (but not loads).
What are the bus schedules from Cartagena to Santa Marta?
As seasoned travelers, we at AndesTransit know that although Latin American bus systems have improved significantly over the last decade, the bus schedules can still be subject to unforeseen change.
In addition to this, not every online booking system has schedules that are up to date; sometimes even the bus carriers' websites reflect inaccurate schedules!
However, when using AndesTransit, this won’t be a problem that you’re likely to encounter. That’s because we pride ourselves on always keeping our ear to the ground with bus companies and their operators to get the latest news and updates! We do the grunt work so that you don’t have to.
Where can I book bus tickets from Cartagena to Santa Marta?
There are two ways you can go about doing this:
This is definitely the quickest, lowest overall cost, and most reliable way to book a bus ticket these days - kind of a no-brainer, right?
If you want to book yourself a ticket from Cartagena to Santa Marta, it’s easy to use our booking section to do that - where you’ll get the best seats at a great price. Just click the Reserve Now button at the top of this page to get started!
If truth be told, we don’t really recommend this. Yes, it’s possible, but it’s also possible to go all the way down to the bus office only to find out that the precise time you wanted to leave isn't available. And the bus stations in both Cartagena and Santa Marta are on the exact opposite sides of the city than where you want to be spending your time.
Moreover, unless you intend to leave it to the last minute to check the availability of your preferred time, you’ll have to get to the bus office twice, once to buy your tickets and again on the day your bus leaves.
Why book with AndesTransit?
At AndesTransit we separate ourselves from the pack by providing fantastic customer service and are fluent in both English and Spanish (not just the language, but the communication styles and customs).
That’s why, unlike so many other bus booking companies, we provide you better insight, better personal attention, and better preparation, while still offering tickets at prices you'll love.
We honestly feel that slow travel equals meaningful travel, after all, the stories you get to tell of the real Colombia will only be found in the places you see in between the big tourist cities. When it comes to traversing the breathtaking back roads of Colombia, this is especially the case. Trust us on that one.
That’s why we only show bus carriers whom we know we can vouch for; ones that’ll make your journey a truly special one.
What is the best bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta?
There’s a fair number of bus carriers that run between Santa Marta and Cartagena, but if you’re looking for the most comfortable and without a doubt the best value for money, the choice is obvious:
Atlantic Shared Shuttle. This isn’t actually a bus, but a shared mini-van that’s able to take up to fifteen passengers. Despite the wagon being modernized and having air-con, it’s just $40 for a seat, which is infinitely less than you would ever pay for a taxi or Uber running this service. Get ready to travel in uncrowded, aircon-refreshed, ultra-comfortable bliss, and meet some new friends to pass the time!
What to see in Santa Marta
Founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish Conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas, Santa Marta was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, its oldest surviving city and second oldest in all of South America.
Located on the tropical Santa Marta Bay of the Caribbean Sea in the province of Magdalena, it’s well known for the incredible surrounding natural landscape such as Tayrona National Park and Minca...as well as for being a jostling seaside party city.
There are so many things to do there, it made choosing a few of our favorites difficult, but here goes:
#1 - Visit Tayrona National Park
34km out of the city center of Santa Marta lies Tayrona National Park, which presents rich biodiversity endemic to Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range that the park lies at the foot of. It is said that Tayrona is becoming one of the three things in South America that you have to see before you die (the other two being Machu Picchu and Foz do Iguazu falls).
With some of the best and most pristine beaches in Colombia, the park's stunning geography varies from arid sea level to hills roughly 900m above sea level, stretching a total area of 150 square kilometers across maritime and land.
With an extensive range of species including the mantled howler monkey, the northern tiger cat, deer, over 70 species of bat and over 300 species of birds (!), as well as reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, coral, mollusks, sponges, and both river and saltwater fish, it’s a nature lover's paradise. There are also countless plant species.
But that’s not the only reason to go. Because of the lack of infrastructure, resulting in minimal light pollution, the night skies over Tayrona National Park are spectacularly beautiful.
It’s possible to stay in a basic hammock and hut accommodation here, so you can witness this amazing park for as many nights as you choose to stay.
Honestly, the pace of life at Tayrona National Park is slow, perfect for lazing about on some of the most unspoiled beaches in the country, with dazzling mountainous rainforests as a backdrop behind you.
There’s also great snorkeling to be had, and a trek throughout the entire park that can easily be completed in half a day. At dusk, listen for howler monkeys - they’ll be hard to miss!
#2 - Stay in Minca
Minca is a tranquil little village in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains overlooking Santa Marta.
Here, you’ll feel as if you are one with nature, reinforced by the fact that in every direction you look, what greets you is the forest, tropical birds, and giant iguanas.
Life is slow in Minca, but never dull. There are waterfalls to be conquered, coffee, and chocolate plantations to be toured, tropical bird walks to be embarked upon, and trails to be climbed.
The most challenging trek is the 27km haul from Minca to the 3100m high Cerro Kennedy; the tallest point of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range you can venture to before further access is blocked by the military to protect the privacy of the indigenous tribes living beyond this point.
It will take two grueling days and a night, with only basic accommodation to stay in at the top. You’ll also definitely want to set off early both days to avoid the hottest part of each and the torrential downpour that normally comes around mid-afternoon.
However, trust us when we say that you won't regret the hike when you witness the mind-blowing views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountain range that juts up from a belt of the jungle. Cerro Kennedy is without a doubt the best viewpoint for this true marvel.
Don’t be thrown when you meet westerners who went to Minca for a few days - and are still living there years later!
#3 - Embark upon the Lost City Trek
If you’re physically fit, love ancient history, and seek an adventure of a lifetime, you can’t miss a trek to Ciudad Perdida, literally translated as "the lost city"!
Only rediscovered in the 1970s, Ciudad Perdida predates the Incas by over a thousand years and is the remains of a mysterious civilization that once made the city their home, tucked into the mountainous jungle southeast of Santa Marta.
It’s a serious 4 - 6-day trek (you can choose the length!) over harsh terrain that rises as steeply as it falls. You’ll also have to book and go with a tour company. No independent and unguided trekkers are allowed.
Sure, you’ll be attacked by mosquitos, drenched by rainforest downpours, and lose a lot of weight from sweating as you struggle through the humid jungle. But it’ll all be worth it!
For some, the highlight is getting to the lost city, which one must ascend up a long winding staircase of chipped ancient stone steps because the long-forgotten settlement sits high above a river. But once you're there, the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains are like looking out at the world as it existed thousands of years ago.
For others, the magic is every step of the way they took to get there, throughout which you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the cloud forest and several authentic indigenous villages along the way.
If you are tough and physically fit, and seek to discover a side of Colombia that has been forgotten to all but a few - do not miss the lost city trek!