I’ve always wanted to learn to dive, but the timing has never seemed right. Finally, I recently decided that as a birthday present to myself, I would book myself into a PADI diving course and finally fulfill my dream to become a certified diver. After a lot of research, I decided to do so in Santa Marta, Colombia, and turn it into a holiday at the same time. After a week, I came away not only a certified diver, but also a big fan of Santa Marta.
Santa Marta is the oldest city in Colombia, having been the first settlement to be established by the Spanish. As soon as I arrived in the city, I was in love. It’s surrounded by beautiful beaches on one side, as well as wild jungle on the other. That’s another thing I love about diving – there’s always another place to explore, fish to see, coral to spot. With 70% of the world covered in ocean, there’s so much of the world you miss out on if you keep your feet on solid ground.
Not only is Santa Marta one of the most affordable places to learn to dive, but it’s also one of the best. Not only is the diving excellent and the standard of teaching second-to-none, but the city itself also offers a wonderful selection of things to do in your downtime. As Colombia’s oldest city, it’s brimming with history and culture, while its popularity as a vacation hotspot means it has lots of great bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
One of the good things about the way the course was set out was that it left time for me to explore the other wonders and attractions in Santa Marta. Here are some of the other things I did when I wasn’t diving!
Santa Marta is famously known as the gateway to the Tayrona National Park, an unspoiled area that boasts some of South America’s most gorgeous beaches. They were seriously jaw dropping – with clear waters with long strips of white sand and palm trees.
Santa Marta is a busy place, so when someone mentioned quiet Playa Blanca, I wanted to check it out. I certainly found it with this pretty, out of the way beach, which has several locally run cafés and restaurants but way fewer people.
There is a lot of fascinating history in Santa Maria, and one of the most well known historical sites is the beautiful old colonial home known as Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. Not only are the home and surrounding grounds very beautiful, but it’s also famously where Simon Bolivar, a sometimes-controversial politician and Venezuelan figure, died.
All in all, I had an amazing time learning to dive and checking out the other main sights in Santa Maria. Not only is it an affordable place to become PADI certified, but it’s an all-round fantastic travel destination.