A few weekends ago we spent the weekend in Santa Marta, Magdalena for a friend’s birthday. Santa Marta is known as a very popular destination on the Caribbean coast, both for foreigners as well as Colombians from the interior, and is a mere 2.5 hours from Barranquilla. While the city of Santa Marta is small compared to other Colombian cities, it has a lot of charm and history, and it’s also a wonderful springboard for reaching some of the most beautiful and coveted beaches in Colombia.
Today, I want to introduce you to Bahía Concha (Shell Bay), a true treasure of a beach tucked away in the rippled coastline of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. To get to Bahía Concha, we hailed a taxi from Rodadero (a beach community outside Santa Marta) for 30.000 COP. After about 45 minutes on backroads and dirt roads, we arrived to the entrance gates of Bahía Concha. We quickly paid the 5.000 COP entrance fee, declined an overpriced “packed delivery” lunch, and continued in our taxi to the actual beach area.
Upon exiting the taxi, we weren’t able to see the majesty of Bahía Concha in its entirety. However, after walking up the slight sandhill that separates the makeshift parking lot from the beach, it was impossible not to pause for a few minutes to take in the sheer awesomeness of the half-moon jewel before our eyes. While Bahía Concha is technically a bay, it’s waters are the most beautiful bay waters I’ve ever seen. The water begins as an almost translucent crystal color that slowly fades into a darker turquoise color. The waves are kept to a minimum, if at all existing, and the tiny flecks of gold floating through the water are the perfect “last touch” to this hidden paradise.
Golden Flecks in the Water
That being said, Bahía Concha was the perfect place to have a relaxing day at the beach. Because it is still a bit off the tourist radar, the amount of people and vendors at Bahía Concha is at a minimum compared to that of the popular beaches of Bocagrande in Cartagena and Rodadero in Santa Marta, meaning you won’t have to worry about having “space” or being bothered by rambunctious neighbors. This only adds to the tranquil and sublime nature of this beach paradise.
Traditional Caribbean Sweets sold in Bahía Concha
While Bahía Concha is not the easiest of beaches to reach, it is without a doubt one of the best hidden jewels of the Colombian Caribbean coast. You would be crazy to not add it to your list of places to see when exploring this region of Colombia.
I’ll leave you with some tips should you decide to visit this majestic gem.
Tips for traveling to Bahía Concha:
- Pack a lunch and take your own beverages and water–while you can buy a typical lunch (fish, coconut rice, and plantains) and drinks from the local restaurant operating on the beach, you’ll save a hefty chunk of cash if you pack your own goodies. Even so, you’ll probably want to indulge in buying some of the homemade sweets sold on the beach.
- Go as a group–the more people you have in your group, the cheaper your transport will be, at least if you take taxis. There is also the option of catching a chiva (traditional bus) from Rodadero. If you’re interested in that mode of transport, you’ll have to ask around to find out what the pick-up and drop-off points are. In chivas, though, you’ll pay per person, whereas in a taxi, you’ll get a single fee that you can split between all the passengers (most taxis will take a maximum of 5 people, fyi).
- Go early in the day–the “tourist infrastructure” (restauraunt employees, transportation, etc…) of Bahía Concha disappears around 4pm. So, to get the most out of your time there, it’s best to try and arrive around 8:30am/9am.
- Arrange your return transport upon arrival–While it will be easy to find a taxi or chiva to Bahía Concha, you’ll need to either reserve a space on the chiva to return to Santa Marta or arrange with a private driver in Bahía Concha to take you back to the main road, where you will catch a taxi back to Santa Marta. Ask the beach employees upon arrival–they’ll help you with this!
- Take cash–there are no ATMs close to Bahía Concha and only cash is received.