Costeño Beach: Colombia’s Caribbean Paradise (without the crowds)

No guide to one week in Colombia travel would be complete without plugging a beach trip.

Colombia’s Caribbean coast has it all — long stretches of soft sand, turquoise sea, swaying palms, rum drinks served in coconuts. It’s a great place to get away from the urban bustle of Santa Marta or to recoup after trekking to the Lost City. The most popular destination is Tayrona National Park, where you can hike to a remote beach and spend the night in a hammock. But Tayrona is also crowded and expensive. The best alternative to escape the crowds is the magical Costeño Beach.


Costeño Beach is right outside Tayrona National Park. In fact, it’s basically the same beach as the famous Cabo San Juan within the park — just a couple kilometers further down. It’s nothing more than a small collection of hostels and guesthouses, each with their own stretch of sand. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more relaxing place in all of South America.


Sound like your kind of vacation? Read on to learn how to make it happen!


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Why Costeño?


Tayrona National Park may be the most popular of the Colombia beaches, but it's crowded -- unlike Costeño.
Skip the crowds at PNN Tayrona and head for this little beach community instead.


The beach at Costeño is about as perfect as it gets as far as Colombia beaches go. You have a couple miles of golden sand, lined with hammocks, beach chairs, and swaying palms.


Colombia’s Caribbean coast isn’t the best place for swimming — the waves are pretty intense, and the current can pull you out to sea if you’re not careful. But this is true for the beaches in PNN Tayrona as well. At Costeño Beach, you can wade in up to your waist, and if conditions are right you can swim out further. Signs on the beach indicate the danger each day.


Perhaps the best part of staying at Playa Costeño instead of going into Tayrona National Park is that the beach is nearly empty, save for the folks staying at the collection of hostels here. You can find totally untouched places to lay out a towel — and even at the more “crowded” areas, you’ll share the beach with just a handful of other backpackers.


Costeño Beach attracts a backpacker crowd, including a lot of long-term travelers. The vibe is super laid-back — some people stay for weeks. You won’t find many families or even many couples here, and you’ll have no trouble meeting other travelers. Some folks are definitely here to party, but the parties are low-key.


What to do at Costeño Beach


Costeño Beach Tayrona may not have tons of activities, but it's a great place to relax.
Sunset walks on the beach are one of the best activities.


The main reason to come to this part of Colombia is to relax! You’ll spend most of your time lying in hammocks, reading books, and chatting with other backpackers. Part of the appeal is that there isn’t much else to do here.

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If you’re looking for something a bit more active, consider taking surf lessons. Costeño Beach Hostel and Surf Camp offers them for 50 pesos, or you can rent a board the day for less. I heard from a few of the surfers that it isn’t the ideal place to learn though.


The surf camp also offers daily yoga classes right on the beach. These cost 15,000 COP and usually happen in the mornings.


The beach has a few volleyball nets, and the hostels all have balls you can borrow for a game of pickup beach volleyball. These get going in the evenings after the worst heat of the day dies down. They’re totally free!


Finally, you can do a day trip into PNN Tayrona from Costeño Beach. Go by bus or by motorbike, pay your 54,500 COP entrance fee, and hike through the jungle for a couple hours to get to Cabo San Juan. Then hike back in the late afternoon and catch a bus back to your hostel. It’s not the cheapest day trip, but the beaches are stunning.


Accommodation: Hostels and Glamping at Playa Costeño


This beach community may be small, but it has two outstanding places to stay (and a few other less-appealing options if those are booked up). Whether you want an uber-social hostel or a quiet private bungalow, you can find it here.


(Note: I’m recommending these accommodation options because I loved them. I paid my own way 100% — I never accept freebies for this blog. Your trust in my unfiltered reviews is more important to me than a free night’s stay.)


Tayrona Tented Lodge


Tayrona Tented Lodge is simply amazing. Stay in a canvass bungalow and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.
Falling coconuts are the biggest nuisance at the amazing Tayrona Tented Lodge.


My top choice for Costeño Beach accommodation is this great little glamping spot on the far end of the beach. You know it’s going to be good when the signs lining the path to your permanent tent say “watch out for falling coconuts.” This is the kind of place where you feel the stress melt away the second you step onto the property.


Tayrona Tented Lodge is a family-run operation with about 10 private canvass bungalows. Each one has a private bathroom, an outlet where you can charge small electronics, a fan, and your own private porch. It’s completely eco-friendly — because it’s solar powered, the electricity only works in the evenings and you won’t have WiFi. That makes it the perfect place to disconnect from everyday life. (And if you’re desperate, you can get online at the restaurant next door.)

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The lodge has a few hammocks set up around palm trees near the beach, and some beach chairs by the sea. You can often swim here if you’re careful.


In addition, the room rate at Tayrona Tented Lodge includes full board — three simple but delicious meals a day. They can easily accommodate vegetarians and vegans (the veggie dishes were awesome). You can purchase beer, wine, soda and cold water for reasonable prices from the front desk.


Prices for a canvass tent start at $69 a night, all-inclusive. You can pay with credit card. You absolutely must book in advance — make your reservation here.


Costeño Beach Hostel and Surf Camp


Costeno Beach Hostel is the cheapest option in the area -- and a great choice for people backpacking Colombia on a budget.
Costeño Beach Surf Camp has tons of hammocks and other common areas for you to hang out in.


If you don’t have the budget or can’t get into Tayrona Tented Lodge, don’t worry — the other top option is nearly as amazing. Costeño Surf Camp is one of the best hostels in Colombia and a classic hippie-beach-hangout.


You can choose from private rooms, a private tent, or one of several dorm rooms — with prices starting at $14 (43,000 pesos). I stayed in the open-air dorm. Even though it had 32 beds, it was reasonably quiet and comfortable. The bathrooms were remarkably clean considering how many guests stayed there. The only downside was it was pretty hot at night, with no A/C and only a few fans for the whole room. Bring your own lock (small padlocks are best) for the lockers.


The hostel has common areas galore — giant pillows/bean bags on platforms above the beach, hammocks, communal dining spaces, and more. You’re sure to find the perfect spot to laze away an afternoon. Beach bonfires are common in the evenings.


While meals aren’t included like they are at Tayrona Tented Lodge, they’re affordable — under 20,000 pesos for dinner, with cheaper breakfast and lunch — and tasty. You get three or more options, always including at least one veggie choice. Coffee and tea are always available, drinks are super-cheap at happy hour, and you can get unlimited filtered water for 2,000 pesos a day (yay for not contributing to plastic waste!). You eat with all the other guests at big communal tables and you pay your whole tab on check-out (bring cash).


Even though it’s busier than Tayrona Tented Lodge, I’d still recommend booking Costeño Beach Hostel and Surf Camp in advance, especially in high season. If you arrive without a reservation and it’s full, you won’t find anything else at the same price point in the area.


How to get to Costeño Beach


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Costeno Beach Surf Camp is just an hour outside Santa Marta.
You can reach Costeño by bus, shuttle, motorbike or taxi.


Even though it’s remote, you can easily reach Costeño Beach by public transportation, shuttle, motorbike, or taxi. If you’re doing the Lost City trek with Expotur, you can even ask to be dropped off there after your trek.


By Bus


If you want to take the bus to Costeño Beach from Santa Marta, the first step is to get to El mercado de Santa Marta at the intersection of Carrera 11 and Calle 12. Buses down the coast leave every 20 minutes and cost 8,000 COP. The trip takes about an hour — you’ll first pass the entrance to Tayrona National Park, from where it’s less than ten minutes more. Tell the driver’s assistant you’re going to Costeño and they’ll tell you when to get off.


The bus will drop you on the main road, beside a small food stall. You can arrange a motorbike down the dirt path to the beach/hostels for 3,000 pesos, or it’s a 20-minute walk. You’ll pass a guard station, where you’ll need to give them the name of your hostel.


By Shuttle


You can get a direct ride to Costeno Beach from Cartagena, any of the regional airports, or Santa Marta using the shuttle service Marsol. This is more expensive than the bus, but you don’t have to change vehicles. You must book in advance — either call them yourself or have your guesthouse call for you.


The shuttle is direct-ish, although you’ll stop along the way to let other passengers off at their accommodation. It costs 60,000 pesos from Cartagena.


By motorbike or taxi


Short on time but good on cash? Arrange a private ride to the beach. This is as simple as arranging it through your accommodation, and can be reasonable if you’re in a big group.


From Santa Marta, a taxi or van is the best option. This costs around 100,000 pesos. You can arrange a cheaper motorbike if you’re coming from Parque Tayrona — this costs under 15,000 pesos (exact price depends on your bargaining skills).


Costeño Beach is the kind of place I could imagine returning to again and again. It’s super-chill, the accommodation and food are great, and the beach is beautiful and uncrowded. This little remote beach community is making its way onto the travel map fast — so go now, before it’s totally overrun by tourists!


What’s your favorite remote beach getaway? Leave a comment and tell me about it!


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Looking for the perfect Caribbean vacation? Costeño Beach is one of the best beaches in Colombia and the PERFECT place to get away from it all. #colombia #caribbean #beaches


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4 years ago

Beautiful and informative post. I hadn’t really thought of this area as being part of the Caribbean, but “Wow”, look at those beaches! Sounds like this is the best bet if you want quiet beaches without tourist crowds!

4 years ago

I was at Tayrona NP last year and agree it is crowded. I haven’t heard of Costeno Beach but it looks beautiful and would agree it is better without the crowds.

4 years ago

Despite having lived in Colombia for a year, I have never made it to Tayrona, but I was a bit put off by the crowds anyway. So nice to see there are still hidden gems.

LDH Is TravelAtWill
4 years ago

We have only had a small taste of Columbia. But always wanted to to back. I would certainly be tempted by something you call a Caribbean paradise. We love to find spots like Costeño Beach where we can escape the busy tourist spots. Beach and hammocks sounds ideal. But thanks for the warning about the swimming conditions. I am not sure about camping but glamping may be my style! I am sure I could live with no wifi for a few days of relaxing. Thanks for this great suggestion!

Stevo Joslin
4 years ago

This looks like a slice of heaven. I love finding unspoiled beaches and staying right on the water. I’d love the chance to disconnect and just read a book in a hammock. At least for a few days! The colors of the photos are absolutely stunning! I’ll have to go soon to beat the crowds. Thanks for the inspiration!

Carol Colborn
4 years ago

Sounds like a perfect place to relax…just a collection of beach houses each with a piece of sand just beside the national park!

4 years ago

Lying in a hammock with a relaxing beach front view while reading books you say? Absolutely my type of vacation! I love that there isn’t much to do at Costeño Beach as if you have no other choice but to relax and unwind. I love hidden beaches like this so it is a must visit for me! Maybe I’ll try staying for a week. Thank you for sharing this Carrie!

Fiona Maclean
4 years ago

Costeño Beach looks lovely – since I haven’t been to Colombia at all, I can’t really compare – but nothing beats a deserted beach IMO. The accommodation perhaps isn’t for me – I’m not sure about camping or glamping, though the tented lodge does sound possible. I surprise myself sometimes when I try – the best place I stay in Zadar was a hostel – I’m just cautious!


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