A Travel Price Comparison for Colombia Santa Marta vs. Cartagena for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Santa Marta or Cartagena?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Santa Marta and Cartagena can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Where Should I go: Santa Marta or Cartagena?

Santa Marta

Santa Marta is a city in the Magdalena Department of Colombia's Costa Norte. Over the last decade, security has steadily been replacing the shadow of the Colombia's violent past. One destination in Colombia's northeast region is now attracting more international visitors: the coastal Caribbean area of Santa Marta. Established in 1525 by the Spanish as a base of conquest, Santa Marta sits at the foot of the world's highest coastal mountain range, the towering Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It is South America's oldest European-founded town and the second most important colonial city on Colombia's Caribbean coast. While many travelers complain about Santa Marta's horrible traffic and unsightly urban sprawl, the city holds a numerous amounts of great hotels, bars and restaurants and holds a few fantastic destinations nearby to which you can go during the daytime.


The capital of the Bolivar Department of Colombia, Cartagena is one of the most visited cities in the country. It sits on Colombia's northern coast by the Caribbean Sea. It's a port city with a population of almost 900,000, making it the fifth largest city in Colombia. The city has a rich history and was the first Spanish colony on the American continent. It was also one of the first sanctuaries for freed African slaves in the Americas.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Eco Tours in Colombia, The Best Food and Culinary Tours in Colombia, The Best Luxury Tours to Colombia, and The Best G Adventures Tours to Colombia.

Which place is cheaper, Cartagena or Santa Marta?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Santa Marta is $32, while the average daily cost in Cartagena is $48. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Santa Marta and Cartagena in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Santa Marta $14
    Cartagena $27
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Santa Marta $28
    Cartagena $54
Compare Hotels in Santa Marta and Cartagena

Looking for a hotel in Santa Marta or Cartagena? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Santa Marta

Hotels in Cartagena

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.

Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Santa Marta Hotel Prices and Cartagena Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Santa Marta $5.27
    Cartagena $7.64
Typical Local Transportation Prices in Santa Marta

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for transportation costs in Santa Marta:

  • Gas

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Marta

Also for Santa Marta, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • 1.Transfer to TAYRONA park from Cartagena Private or Viceversa.: $256
  • Arrival or Departure Transfer: Simón Bolívar Airport: $14
  • Barranquilla / Santa Marta Transfer: $245
  • Cartagena / Santa Marta Transfer: $340
  • Cartagena to or from Santa Marta Private Transfer: $146
  • Exclusive transfer Santa Marta - Cartagena: $229
  • Exclusive transfer Santa Marta Airport - Tayrona Park Sector: $64
  • Private Airport Transfer: From Santa Marta Airport to Hotel in Santa Marta: $25
  • Private Arrival or Departure Transfer: Simon Bolivar Airport (One Way): $12
  • Private Transfer Santa Marta to Palomino (or vice versa): $121
  • Private Transfer from Santa Marta Cruise Port to Cartagena hotels: $76
  • Private Transfer from Santa Marta Cruise Port to Cartagena hotels: $68

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Cartagena

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Cartagena:

  • Walking Tour with Transfers - Gabriel García Márquez & Cartagena Walled City: $110
  • Try find your better than us! Airport transfer service in Cartagena HTL-APT(CTG): $17
  • Transportation / Transfers: $27
  • Transfer service in Cartagena: $53
  • Transfer in Private Vehicle from Manzanillo del Mar - Cartagena Airport (CTG): $23
  • Transfer in Private Vehicle from Cartagena Airport (CTG) - Manzanillo del Mar: $23
  • Transfer in Private Vehicle from Cartagena Airport (CTG) - City Center: $13
  • Transfer in Private Minivan from Manzanillo del Mar - Cartagena Airport (CTG): $29
  • Transfer in Private Minivan from City Center - Cartagena Airport (CTG): $20
  • Transfer in Private Minivan from Cartagena Airport (CTG) - City Center: $20
  • Transfer in Private Minivan Cartagena Airport (CTG) - Manzanillo del Mar: $18
  • Transfer from the airport to hotels in Boquilla: $13

Is it cheaper to fly into Santa Marta or Cartagena?

Prices for flights to both Cartagena and Santa Marta change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Santa Marta $10
    Cartagena $10
Typical Food Prices in Santa Marta

For Santa Marta, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:

  • Breakfast

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Marta

For Santa Marta, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Food Tour in Santa Marta Old City Half-Day : $66
  • Santa Marta Street Food Tour: $75
  • Food Tour in Santa Marta Old City: $77

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Cartagena

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Cartagena.

  • Featured in NYTimes > Arepas and Dancing: Danceable Cooking Class in Cartagena: $32
  • Cooking class of typical food at the beach and sunset view: $39
  • Taste Cartagena Food tour: $40
  • Street Food Tour in Cartagena: $42
  • Guided Street Food Tour with Tastings: $45
  • Local Flavors Food Tour with Native Chef: $50
  • Cruise by the Bay with Dinner and Wine: $55
  • Private Dinner at a Local Chef's House in Cartagena: $58
  • Cartagena Gourmet: Cooking Class with a View, Elegance & Flavor: $59
  • Street food tour: $61
  • Street Food & Local Food Tour: $67
  • Street Food Tour in Cartagena Walled City and Getsemani: $74

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Santa Marta $14
    Cartagena $22

Tours and Activities in Santa Marta

For Santa Marta, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Old Town, Harbour & Highlights Self-guided Tour: $6.28
  • Skip the Line: Santa Marta Marine World Aquarium Admission Ticket and Guide: $6.67
  • Self-Guided Audio Tour: the Pearl of America: $6.99
  • Self-Guided Audio Tour - Botanical Garden: $10
  • Self-Guided Audio Tour - Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino : $10
  • Cultural Heritage Tour Santa Marta: $16
  • Santa Marta Bike Tour: $16
  • BE RELAX TOUR - Bahia Concha: $22
  • Full Day Tour to Bahía Concha and Tayrona Park with Pickup: $25
  • Horse Riding at La Mello Adventure Lodge: $35
  • Guided Walking Food Experience: $38
  • Santa Marta Food Experience: $39

Tours and Activities in Cartagena

Here are a few actual costs in Cartagena for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Accessible sightseeing tour of Cartagena: $165
  • Eco cultural Historical Tour beyond Old City! + Pool: $98
  • Palenque Native Guide, free entrance tickets, dance show & lunch: $110
  • Playa Morena Beach Club Whith Lunch And Walking tour of fort San Fernando: $39
  • Private Beach Tour in Barú and Optional Bird Aviary: $120
  • Private Tour & the best coffee of the world in Cartagena (Also for cruisers): $250
  • Private city tour: $197
  • "Luxury Day in Tierra Bomba Exclusive Tour to the best Beach Club": $154
  • 16. Punta Arena Tour (Tierra Bomba Island): $25
  • 17. Transportation for private CITY TOURS CARTAGENA: $105
  • 2 and a half hour Chiva Disco and Rumba Tour: $14
  • 2 hrs Tour in Cartagena Bay with Sunset View: $30

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Santa Marta $6.71
    Cartagena $9.39
Typical Alcohol Prices in Santa Marta

Here are a few samples of the prices for alcohol and nightlife in Santa Marta from other travelers:

  • Beer
  • Beer

Sample the Local Flavors in Cartagena

Also in Cartagena, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Pub Crawl with Dancing and Complimentary Drinks: $18
  • Cartagena's Best Pub Crawl all included!: $20
  • Cartagena Pub Crawl: Let's Party & Matching in Getsemaní: $20
  • Pub Crawl Only Locals Have Fun In The Walled City: $35
  • Pub Crawl: $70
  • Nightlife Pub crawl in Cartagena: $73

When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Santa Marta and Cartagena, we can see that Cartagena is more expensive. And not only is Santa Marta much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Santa Marta would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Santa Marta and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Cartagena would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Cartagena than you might in Santa Marta.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Santa Marta Expensive? and Is Cartagena Expensive?.

Which is Bigger, Santa Marta or Cartagena?

Cartagena has a larger population, and is about 2 times larger than the population of Santa Marta. When comparing the sizes of Santa Marta and Cartagena, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.