A beach without a village, Costeño is a resort-type experience for the sort of backpacker that would normally avoid staying at, well, resorts.
Accessed by a sandy pot-holed road from the highway, this collection of hostels and beach huts is growing rapidly, catering to those worn-down by the increasingly popular Palomino or looking for a great jumping off point from which to access Tayrona National Park.
It is, at it’s core, a place to relax.
Somewhere to swing in a hammock and watch the waves break, spend a lazy afternoon on the sand (there’s 4 km of it, and you’ll never struggle to find your own spot), recover from the Lost City Trek, plan the next part of your trip, or just hang out with other travellers and do nothing very much at all.
Here’s our short guide to Costeño Beach in Colombia.
Things to do in Costeño
So, in our standard guides, this is where we would normally tell you all the wonderful things that you can do in a place; with Costeño however, there really isn’t very much.
This is the sort of place you come to before or after Tayrona National Park, hang out for a couple of days and then continue your journey eastward or westward along the coast. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t visit. In fact, if you’re looking for somewhere where you can say you’ve had a successful day simply by getting up, moving to the beach then slinking off to a bar to have a few beers as the sun sets, then Costeño is the place to do it!
For those of you that love a good list (or can’t sit still), here’s what else there is to do in the sleepy backpacker spot.
Take a Surf Lesson
Whilst it is strongly recommended NOT to swim in the ocean here (those currents can be pretty gnarly), heading out for a surf is quite common. For all things surf related you need to head to Costeño Beach Hostel and Surf Camp, where a two hour board rental costs 20,000 COP (£4.7 / $6) or you can take a surf lesson for 50,000 COP (£12 / $15.5)
Do note that when it is windy (which it was for the duration of our stay), the waves here are really not good for beginners.
An Early Morning Yoga Session
Provided you’re hangover free (definitely not a given here!), an early morning yoga lesson is the perfect way to indulge in the go-slow mentality of Costeño. These are held daily at Costeño Beach Hostel, facing the ocean - if you’re not staying there, just check the night before regarding availability.
Lessons cost 20,000 COP (£4.7 / $6) per person and last an hour.
Take a Day Trip to Tayrona
Whilst we believe that you need at least a night in Tayrona, we know that visiting as part of a day trip is definitely a popular choice for those on a little more of a tight schedule. As Costeño is only a 15 minute mototaxi ride away from the main Park entrance, it makes an ideal location ratter than travelling for an hour from Santa Marta.
If you’re opting for one night or longer in the park, then simply store your backpacks at the free luggage storage offered by every accommodation in Costeño, and pick it up once you’re done.
For more information on Tayrona, and how to decide whether one day is really enough, check out our ‘Tayrona National Park Guide’.
Where to Stay In Costeño
We made the decision about exactly when to visit Costeño Beach at relatively short notice, so although we’d previously researched the accommodation options, we didn’t make the reservation until about four days before we planned to arrive.
Pretty much every place was fully booked - and this wasn’t even a public holiday.
So, moral of the story? If you have your heart set on a particular accommodation in Costeño, try and book as far in advance as possible, especially if you’re looking for private rooms which seem to sell out even quicker. And remember, as there isn’t any village or town at this beach, where you end up staying in Costeño is really important.
Tayrona Tented Lodge | This is where we wanted to stay. After five days on the Lost City Trek we felt we deserved a little luxury, and, in the confines of Costeño Beach, the Tented Lodge offered it. Unfortunately, it seems everybody else had similar ideas and it got booked up really fast. With a sustainability ethos at its core, this small collection of permanent eco-tents offer ocean views set amongst the jungle. And, with all food being included in the the room fee, it actually works out pretty good value for money. To check prices and availability, click here.
Costeño Beach Hostel | If you’re planning on surfing whilst you’re in Costeño, this is where you want to be! The only official surf camp in town, they offer daily lessons as well as surf board rental. You can even opt for a yoga class first thing to stretch out those board-sore muscles. Accommodation options are varied, but pleasantly beach-shack basic and they have an on-site restaurant and big social area. This was our second-pick - to check prices and availability, click here.
La Brisa Tranquila | If you’re looking for somewhere to let your hair down, La Brisa is the spot. The bar plays loud music from mid-afternoon on, there are countless drink offers and games, the staff very much get involved. This probably explains why not much effort has gone into some of the rooms…
This is actually where we ended up staying, due to the lack of availability else where. The first night was in one of the doubles with private bathroom, which was adequate (although a little overpriced), the next was in a two-person dorm. DO NOT stay in a two-person dorm. It ranks as one of the worst accommodations we’ve ever had the misfortune to stay lay our heads in. On the plus side, they do a mean veggie breakfast burrito! To check prices and availability, click here.
Where to Eat in Costeño
This isn’t going to be a list of the lost of amazing restaurants you simply must try; more so, it’s a reminder that given the Costeño Beach set up (that is, a beach. some hostels and lodges, and little else), dining options are quite limited.
Certain accommodations like Tayrona Tented Lodge include all meals, Costeño Beach offers a daily set menu (for guests and non-guests) and La Brisa has a fixed offering irrespective of day. If you’re hoping to find somewhere to cook your own food, we’re sorry to let you know that this just isn’t going to be possible.
Additionally, veggie options are pretty darn limited, especially at dinner. They have a couple at La Brisa (although the pasta is NOT good) and Costeño Beach Hostel was able to put together something special for us, but don’t expect too much., Although, this is likely not a problem if you’re only here for a day or two.
Non-guests are able to eat at most hostel restaurants at - just wander in off the beach.
How to Get To Costeño Beach
Costeño is pretty easy to reach by bus from Santa Marta, Tayrona, and Palomino. Every option does however require you to walk the last stretch or hop onto the back of a motorbike.
From Santa Marta
Leaving from City Centre | Regular bus departures (every 15 minutes) from corner of Calle 11th and Carrera 9 - this is the Tayrona bus, but you will be staying on the bus for a further 10 minutes after the park, and should ask to be dropped off at the ‘Costeño Beach Entrance / Costeño Entrada’. Journey costs 8,000 COP (£1.9 / $2.5).
Leaving from Santa Marta Bus Terminal | This terminal is actually a 15-20 minute taxi ride outside the centre of Santa Marta, but you may be making a connection here. If that’s the case, you can just jump on any bus that’s going to Palomino and it will drop you off outside the Costeño entrance (make sure the driver knows)
Read next | Our guide on the best things to do in Santa Marta.
Take any bus passing on the main highway (Troncal del Caribe) in the direction of Santa Marta, and let the driver know you want to get off at Costeño Beach. You shouldn’t have to flag these buses, instead you should will them parked up on the side of the road (outside a large shop/pharmacy we can’t remember the name of). We paid 7,000 COP each (£1.6 / £2.3) for this 45 minute journey.
From the Costeño Beach Entrance
The entrance to the beach is actually located on the main highway, a couple of kilometres the accommodation options in Costeño; you can either walk along the well-signposted track for approximately 25 minutes, or take a mototaxi for 3,000 COP (£0.7 / $1). Note that the mototaxi drivers are able to carry both you and your big backpack on a single motorbike.
Do note that it is very difficult to turn up to Costeño WITHOUT a reservation. Before you are allowed access to the ‘resort-like’ area, you will reach a guard’s office; he will have a list of every expected arrival, at each specific hostel. If you do not have a booking, it appears that you would have to rely on the guard to phone around and check availability, rather than being able to go door-to-door as normal. So this is another reason to book ahead.
You’ll also need to take a mototaxi or walk the road when you want to leave.
Travel from Costeño to Tayrona
Lastly, if you are using Costeño as your jumping off point for Tayrona, then your hostel will be able to arrange a mototaxi to pick you up in the morning from outside the hostel entrance and take you direct to the main Tayrona entrance. Alternatively, we got the WhatsApp number from our driver and arranged it on our own.
The drivers are reliable, punctual, and quite professional. We paid 10,000 COP (£2.4 / $3) each one-way from Costeño to Tayrona, and the same on the way back (there are a bunch of of mototaxis waiting outside the exit).