Over the past four years Santa Marta has transformed from a stay-indoors-after-dark city to a vibrant place which attracts people from all over the world. While it used to be normal to walk down dimly-lit and empty streets, it is now common to see people enjoying weekend evenings, sipping cocktails and buying beers from street vendors. The rise in the number of restaurants and café’s proves that Santa Marta is a trendy place on the Caribbean.

If you can only spend a weekend in this bubbly city, you can easily enjoy your days with a satisfied stomach, a happy head and a spring in your step. A good way to start your weekend is to head to the Parque de Los Novios and the Mediterranean-themed restaurant Ouzo. I consider this to be the GPS coordinates of the best wood-fired pizzas in town and it caters to both vegetarians and carnivores alike. Try the flavorsome pizzas Primavera or Amantes de la carne. The mojitos have the right rum-to-soda ratio and the fresh fruit juices won’t disappoint either. You can choose to sit outside and people-watch, or inside for a private, romantic ambiance. After dinner, stop off at the cultural café La Canoa (Calle 18 No 3-75) and enjoy an éclair and espresso whilst listening to live music. This café specializes in coffee and French-style pastries.

The early mornings are an excellent time for a stroll; the air is cool and the city’s mood unruffled. On Calle 15, close to the banks, you will find José, who sells the sweetest pineapples you will ever taste. Park yourself on a bench nearby and with sticky face and hands contemplate how life can be so simple if only you give it a chance. If you desire some more fresh fruit, head towards the main market.

Never judge a book by its cover and never judge a restaurant by the street. The notorious Calle 10, famed for shady nighttime deals and female frolicking, has in its possession one of the best seafood restaurants in town. Merkabar/ Welcome Restaurant (Calle 10 No. 2-11) is run by an overfriendly costeño who learned how to speak Hebrew on his own and treats every customer like his brother. His menu has something for

everyone, however, I recommend the cazuela de mariscos, excellent in value and price, and the filete con verduras: A tasty and healthy choice. You can choose between french fries or patacones. Wash it down with a lemon or watermelon granizado. If street food is what you are after, I recommend the corner of Calle 27 and 1C. Here you will find Emanuel selling the best cerviche de camaron. Service is friendly and fast, and Emanuel will not let you down. After devouring the aquatic feast, head to Carambolo (Calle 19 No. 3) for a hit of frozen yoghurt. Try kiwi and corozo sauce or chocolate chips and watermelon combinations for an afternoon pick me-up.

After your afternoon siesta, there’s Radio Burger situated in Parque de los Novios. The menu is reasonably-priced and the blue cheese salsa will keep you chomping on those fries right to the end. If you are looking for a romantic place continue your night at Burukuka. This trendy club and bar perched on a hillside overlooking El Rodadero will win you brownie points. It’s upmarket, but a shared bottle of wine works out to be a good option. If you prefer to wine and dine in the old colonial quarters, Made is Spain, is an elegant venue for Spanish cuisine. El Bistro is a French bistro/restaurant with an Argentine twist. For those who enjoy a succulent ribeye with a handcrafted mojito, El Bistro will not disappoint. It also has a very comprehensive wine list and reasonably-priced. Having opened its doors recently, La12 is quickly becoming the talk of the town with its oven-baked panzerottis accompanied with refreshing lemonade and lulo juice. A fresh approach to Mediterranean cuisine on the evolving Calle 12.

The city almost shuts down on Sundays, but a few restaurants are open for business. Lulo is a juice bar highly-recommended for healthy gastronomy her in a relaxed atmosphere with good and reliable service. The local ingredients mixed with an international attitude offer a zest that will tantalize your taste buds, to return again. Dishes include a healthy choice between panini’s, wraps, pitas or arepa gourmet. Order a Vegetariano arepa or wrap filled with fresh vegetables, frijoles and a side of plantain chips. You can ask for a shot of rum to be added to your fresh fruit juice to achieve an “adult juice,” which will give your afternoon a happy twirl. All the dishes will leave you content and energized and you can complete your meal with a cup of locally grown organic coffee.

Santa Marta is rapidly gaining different dining options from local to international cuisine. Vegetarianism is no longer a concern and the days of “I’ll just eat the rice and salad” are over. And the steady increase in visitors has turned what used to be a shabby centro into an exciting gastro hub of the coast.