- 3 Weeks
This is the ultimate beach adventure; Colombia's northern coast and islands serve up slices of luminous Caribbean waters backed by an astonishing variety of landscapes.
Start out east of Santa Marta with a few days at Cabo de la Vela on La Guajira Peninsula, a striking panorama where the desert meets the sea at the top of the continent. Don't skip South America's northernmost tip, Punta Gallinas, where you can sleep in a hammock and feast on local lobster near towering dunes somersaulting into remote beaches.
Heading southwest, make your way to lovely Palomino, where you'll find a crystal-clear river running down from the majestic Sierra Nevada to a wild palm-studded beach. A short drive away is Parque Nacional Natural (PNN) Tayrona, very popular among aspiring beach bums and fancier travellers alike. Giant boulders frame pretty coves and you can ride horses through the jungle and climb up to the ruins of a pre-Hispanic settlement in the foothills. Spend a couple of days around here, then pass through Santa Marta and take a break from the heat with a short side-trip to the charming mountain town of Minca.
Next spend a leisurely couple of days exploring the colonial city of Cartagena before getting your tanning plans back on track with a trip to Playa Blanca. Hit the road again and make your way to Tolú, where you can take a trip in the mangroves before boarding a boat to the Islas de San Bernardo for three days of white sands, crystalline waters and tiny fishing communities.
Suitably relaxed, take a bus-boat combo southwest via Necocli to spend a few days in Capurganá and Sapzurro, two wonderfully remote beachside neighbors surrounded by jungle right on the border with Panama, which offer excellent diving.
If you're hungry for more, take a flight via Medellín to quirky San Andrés to experience Raizal culture, with its British Caribbean roots. The next day, take the tiny plane or bumpy catamaran to truly remote Providencia to soak up the tranquility as well as a few coco locos, while reclining beside some of Colombia's most idyllic stretches of sand.