On the Colombian Coast, Natural Beauty, Gritty Charm
Published: September 15, 2010
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The city’s reputation as an up-and-coming party spot is also growing, with bars and clubs of all stripes seeming to open weekly. On a late-night jaunt through downtown, one is as likely to hear European techno as the native rhythms of cumbia or vallenato music.
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That Latin flavor is evident at LaPuerta (the Door), a chic dive bar with retro iconography plastered across its walls of red, yellow and blue (the national colors), where the floor fills with dancers gyrating to the sounds of Colombian rap and reggaetón.
Santa Marta also benefits from the bounty of virgin tropical forests just miles from the city center. For a relaxing getaway, grab a taxi or mini-bus to Taganga, a laid-back oceanside hamlet ringed by a horseshoe-shaped canopy of lush green hills. The strip of sand in town feels more like a dirt driveway than a tropical beach. But the sunsets are breathtaking, especially from the rooftop bar of the Mirador de Taganga Hotel along the town’ssouthern fringe. The Caribbean waters there are also perfect for scuba diving.
On the other side of Santa Marta lies El Rodadero, a Cancún-like strip of stylish restaurants, open-air markets and high-rise hotels along beaches that fill with well-to-do locals on weekends.
But aside from the protected shores of Tayrona National Park, the beaches around Santa Marta are not always the best places to relax. There is the occasional whiff of sewage, and vendors who can bombard tourists with offers of chairs, massages and — yes — drugs.
Though Santa Marta is no longer plagued by the kidnappings and killings that kept tourists away for decades, petty crime remains [continua]

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