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How To Get To Cabo De La Vela From Santa Marta


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Katrine Griego



Colombia is a country of diverse landscapes and natural wonders, offering visitors a multitude of breathtaking destinations to explore. One such gem is Cabo de la Vela, a remote coastal village located in the northernmost part of the Guajira Peninsula. This secluded paradise is renowned for its pristine beaches, rugged cliffs, and vibrant Wayuu indigenous culture.


Getting to Cabo de la Vela from Santa Marta may seem like a daunting task, as it involves navigating through a series of unique landscapes and crossing vast stretches of desert-like terrain. However, the journey is well worth it for those seeking an authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience.


Before embarking on your trip, it is important to familiarize yourself with the route and plan accordingly. This article will guide you through the different stages of the journey, highlighting key points of interest along the way and providing valuable tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable adventure.


In this guide, we will explore the route from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela, stopping at attractions such as the Isla de Salamanca National Park, Puerto Bolívar, and Uribia. We will delve into the unique characteristics of each destination and share practical information on transportation options, accommodations, and must-see landmarks.


So, sit back, relax, and let us take you on a virtual journey from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela, offering insights and recommendations to make your trip an unforgettable experience.


Isla de La Isla de Salamanca National Park

As you begin your journey from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela, your first stop should be the Isla de Salamanca National Park. This expansive park, located approximately 45 kilometers southwest of Santa Marta, is a haven for both wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.


The Isla de Salamanca National Park spans an impressive 562 square kilometers and showcases a diverse range of ecosystems, including mangroves, marshes, lakes, and dry forests. The park is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, making it the perfect destination for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.


Upon reaching the park, you can embark on a guided tour or explore the trails at your own pace. As you make your way through the mangrove forests, keep an eye out for the impressive array of bird species, including herons, flamingos, and pelicans. You may also encounter capuchin monkeys, deer, and caimans during your visit.


Aside from its natural beauty, the Isla de Salamanca National Park holds significant cultural value. It is a sacred site for the indigenous tribes of the region, particularly the Kankuamos and Koguis. These tribes have inhabited the area for centuries and continue to practice their traditional way of life.


To fully immerse yourself in the cultural experience, consider visiting the indigenous communities located within the park. Here, you can learn about their ancestral traditions, view handcrafted crafts, and engage in cultural exchanges. Keep in mind that it is essential to respect their customs and seek permission before taking photographs or participating in any activities.


As you conclude your visit to the Isla de Salamanca National Park, take a moment to appreciate the pristine beauty and ecological importance of this remarkable natural reserve. It serves as a reminder of Colombia’s commitment to preserving its biodiversity and valuing the cultural heritage of its indigenous communities.


Puerto Bolívar

Continuing on your journey from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela, the next stop to include in your itinerary is Puerto Bolívar. Situated approximately 180 kilometers north of Santa Marta, this small fishing village serves as a crucial hub for the region’s maritime activities.


Upon arriving in Puerto Bolívar, you’ll be greeted by the picturesque sight of colorful fishing boats dotting the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. This village is renowned for its bustling fish market, where local fishermen bring in their fresh catches of the day.


Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere by wandering through the market and observing the array of fish and seafood available. You may even have the opportunity to sample some of the region’s delicious and freshly prepared seafood dishes, such as ceviche or fried fish.


In addition to its fishing industry, Puerto Bolívar is also a vital transportation hub. It serves as the main departure point for boats and ferries heading to the remote La Guajira region, including Cabo de la Vela.


If you’re not in a rush to reach Cabo de la Vela, consider spending some time exploring Puerto Bolívar’s beautiful beaches and enjoying the laid-back coastal ambiance. Playa Bolívar and Playa de los Pescadores are two popular spots where you can relax, swim, and soak up the sun.


For those interested in the local culture, Puerto Bolívar offers an opportunity to interact with the Wayuu indigenous community. The Wayuu are known for their vibrant and intricate handicrafts, including colorful mochilas (shoulder bags), hammocks, and hats. Take some time to visit the local artisan shops, where you can support the community by purchasing their unique handmade crafts.


Before bidding farewell to Puerto Bolívar, be sure to capture the stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and the surrounding landscapes. The village’s tranquil and idyllic setting is a reminder of the natural beauty that awaits you as you continue your journey to Cabo de la Vela.



As you venture further on your trip from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela, the next stop along the way is Uribia. Located approximately 70 kilometers south of Puerto Bolívar, Uribia is the capital of the La Guajira department and serves as a gateway to the Guajira Peninsula.


Uribia holds great cultural significance, as it is considered the indigenous capital of Colombia. It is primarily inhabited by the Wayuu people, one of the largest indigenous groups in the country. The town offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Wayuu traditions, cuisine, and crafts.


As you explore Uribia, you’ll be captivated by the vibrant colors and patterns of the Wayuu women’s clothing, particularly their traditional dresses known as “mawisas.” These dresses feature intricate designs and serve as a symbol of the Wayuu culture and identity.


Visiting Uribia’s bustling market is a must-do experience. Here, you’ll find a wide range of goods, including textiles, handicrafts, fruits, and vegetables. Take the time to engage with the Wayuu vendors, learn about their products, and discover the stories behind the intricately woven hammocks, bags, and bracelets. Remember to negotiate respectfully, as haggling is common practice in the market.


Uribia also provides an opportunity to taste some of the traditional Wayuu cuisine. Try the local delicacies, such as “arepas de chicharrón” (maize cakes stuffed with seasoned pork) or “friche” (a typical Wayuu dish made with goat meat, cooked over an open fire).


Additionally, Uribia serves as a base for organizing excursions to nearby natural attractions, such as the Taroa Dunes. These awe-inspiring sand dunes stretch as far as the eye can see and offer the perfect backdrop for stunning photographs. Don’t forget to bring sun protection and plenty of water, as the desert heat can be intense.


Before leaving Uribia, take a moment to appreciate the rich cultural heritage of the Wayuu people and the importance of their traditions in shaping the identity of La Guajira. Uribia is a testament to the resilience and vibrancy of indigenous communities in Colombia.


Journey to Cabo de la Vela

After exploring Uribia, it’s time to embark on the final leg of your journey from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela. This part of the trip will take you through the vast and rugged landscapes of the Guajira Peninsula, providing a truly unique and unforgettable experience.


The route to Cabo de la Vela offers a glimpse into the untouched beauty of the desert-like terrain and serves as a testament to the resilient Wayuu communities that call this area home. As you travel through dusty roads, you’ll be surrounded by barren landscapes, dotted with cacti and occasional shrubs.


While it’s possible to reach Cabo de la Vela by car, many visitors opt to hire a local guide who can navigate the challenging terrain and provide insight into the region’s culture and history. These guides are often members of the Wayuu community and can offer a truly authentic experience.


As you approach Cabo de la Vela, the scenery transforms into majestic cliffs overlooking the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. This remote and isolated destination is known for its pristine beaches, such as Playa Pilón and Playa Ojo de Agua. Take the time to relax on the soft sand, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and witness breathtaking sunsets over the horizon.


While in Cabo de la Vela, make sure to immerse yourself in the fascinating Wayuu culture. Engage with the locals, learn about their traditions and customs, and sample their traditional dishes, such as “sancocho guajiro” (a hearty soup made with meat and root vegetables).


For the adventurous souls, Cabo de la Vela offers the opportunity to explore nearby natural wonders. Visit the famous “Pilón de Azúcar” (Sugar Loaf) rock formation or take a boat trip to the stunning Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of South America.


As you conclude your journey to Cabo de la Vela, you’ll leave with a deeper understanding of the Wayuu culture, the immense beauty of the Guajira Peninsula, and the sense of tranquility that this remote destination offers.



Embarking on a journey from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela is a truly immersive experience that allows you to witness the stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich traditions of the Guajira Peninsula. From the enchanting Isla de Salamanca National Park to the bustling village of Puerto Bolívar, and the cultural hub of Uribia, each stop along the way offers its own unique charm and insights into the region.


As you traverse through the winding roads and desert-like terrains, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with the indigenous Wayuu community, whose rich heritage and traditions are deeply intertwined with the land they call home. The warm hospitality, vibrant handicrafts, and flavorful cuisine of the Wayuu people will leave a lasting impression on your journey.


Reaching Cabo de la Vela, with its picturesque beaches and breathtaking sunsets, will make you feel like you’ve discovered a hidden paradise. Immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of this remote coastal village, and take the time to relax, unwind, and soak in the natural surroundings.


Whether you choose to explore the Isla de Salamanca National Park, wander through the vibrant markets of Puerto Bolívar, or delve into the cultural richness of Uribia, each stage of the journey from Santa Marta to Cabo de la Vela offers a unique and authentic experience. The memories you create and the connections you make with the local communities will stay with you long after your trip.


So, pack your bags, embark on this adventure, and let the beauty of the Guajira Peninsula unfold before your eyes. Allow yourself to be captivated by the stunning landscapes, immerse in the rich cultural tapestry, and experience the true essence of Colombia’s northernmost region.