If you’re looking for a reprieve from the bustle, the incessant traffic, and the sweltering heat of the city, perhaps it’s time to take a detour from life for a day or two. A day-trip to Playa Grande.. doctor’s orders! Just a hop, skip, and a jump.. and a short motor-boat ride from Taganga, Playa Grande offers a great opportunity to lie back and relax, and for just a fraction of the price you’d expect.
Playa Grande is a secluded bay beach on the Caribbean sea, just 10 minutes by boat from Taganga, about an hour east of Santa Marta, itself an hour and a half east of Barranquilla. The water is warm and crystal clear and the sand is clean and soft. It’s not the Riviera Maya or Turks and Caicos, but it certainly is one of the nicest beaches in the region.
The tours to the beach leave very early in the morning from Rodadero (a suburb of Santa Marta) so I recommend heading there the day before and spending the night. Berlinas offers a great bus service from Barranquilla with buses leaving on the hour up till around 10 pm for just $25,000 pesos each way, and there are tons of hotels in Rodadero for the rich and not-so-rich alike.
Note: You can book a room right now in our handy hotel app – look for the orange box either below (mobile) or to the right (desktop). We get a small % of your booking, so please, do us the favor and book from there – it helps us create great content for free.
So, once you’re in Rodadero, you’ll need to go find one of the ‘guides’ selling the tours. It shouldn’t be tough – they’re literally everywhere.. in the streets, at the restaurants, and all along the beachfront.. you can tell who they are by the plasticized tour sheets they all carry (I suppose they get a cut for bringing in clients), but if you can’t find one, every hotel can help you.
There’s little difference between the tour companies – they all go to the same place and offer the same amenities, so sign up and make sure you’re clear on the time and location you need to meet the bus the next morning. Expect to pay around $50,000 pesos for a day-trip to Playa Grande (season-depending), which includes the micro-bus from Rodadero to Taganga, and from there, a motorboat trip out to Playa Grande, a tasty lunch, and then the trip back to Rodadero at the end of the day.
The bus normally leaves Rodadero around 7 am and heads first to a small lookout just above Taganga where you can take some great photos of the ocean and the hills around. From there, it heads down to the waterfront in Taganga and almost immediately, you board a small motor-launch with ten or fifteen others. They don’t give you any time to buy things at the tienda in Taganga, so make sure you stock up on supplies first in Rodadero – things you’ll want to bring are ample water, some snacks, sunscreen, and perhaps even a towel – it’d be a good idea to bring a small backpack.
The boat-ride to Playa Grande is relatively short – they just go around the bay.. and don’t worry – everyone has to wear a life-jacket. One of the benefits of taking the morning trip is that when you arrive, the beach will be empty of tourists and you’ll have your pick of where to sit. You can plop yourself down in the sand if you like (not recommended), or for just 20,000 pesos, you can rent a chair. If you plan on swimming, I recommend getting a spot at the water’s edge towards the center of the beach – the ground under the water here is sandier and less rocky. The area where the boats come in on the right side of the beach (standing, facing the water), is pebbly under the water and not particularly pleasant to walk on.
Throughout the day, there are various activities (side trips) you can do, such as snorkeling, tubing, jet skiing, etc, and all of them cost a little extra (around 20k each). If you enjoy that sort of thing, you should bring around $100k in 5s and 10s. Otherwise, you can bring a book and waste the day away with your toes in the surf.
A day-trip to Playa Grande includes lunch as well, and it’s generally one of several types of freshly caught fish (fried) with some delicious coconut rice, fried plantain, and a simple salad. Everyone from your tour group will eat together so make sure you stay around them so you don’t miss out. Throughout the day there’s also the opportunity to buy drinks (beer, beer, and more beer, plus some soft drinks) and snacks on the beach, including some delicious arepas e’ huevo, and plenty of local sweets. Definitely bring some extra cash for the treats.
Expect to get back in the boat around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and back to Rodadero within an hour or so. If you want, you can stay another day and perhaps even head to Minca, or Palomino (more articles to come on those).
For those who would rather have a guide along with them, you can give my friend John a call – his company, Costa y Cultura offers bilingual guides for all sorts of trips throughout the region. Tell him I sent you! 🙂
If you’re still seeking adventure, perhaps a trip to the west is in the cards.. have you been to Usiacuri yet?
If you have any questions at all, feel free to leave me a message in the comments below this article. Happy trails!
To see where Playa Grande is located, take a look at our map below (use your fingers to zoom in, and tap the top left corner to see the legend):