December for most people means holidays, fiestas and celebrations. And if you’re really fortunate, it means heading to Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

If you’re planning a beach holiday this December, why not try something different than just roasting lazily on the packed beaches of El Rodadero or trekking through the jungle to reach Cabo San Juan? There are many activities unique to this part of Colombia, and these five places that you need to visit will make your holiday all the more rewarding and memorable.

Quebrada de Valencia Santa Marta
Quebrada Valencia features dozens of pools and cascading water.

Quebrada Valencia Falls (Magdalena)

Spending a day splashing about in fresh water is an invigorating change from the typical salty and sticky beach day.

Quebrada Valencia is about 40 minutes from Santa Marta, just 15 minutes past the main entrance of Tayrona National Park.

After a pleasant short walk through the jungle, you will find yourself staring at a picturesque waterfall surrounded by the Caribbean natural tropical beauty.

Pass the heat of the afternoon in spectacular scenery. Jump off rocks into cool mountain pools. Choose from dozens of different step-like swimming ponds to frolic in, and climb the 100m to the top.

Pilon de Azucar
The view from the Pilon de Azucar stretches for miles of desert beach on Colombia’s north coast. (Ed Buckley)

Pilón de Azúcar (Guajira)

Do you like the silence and peace of mind that occupies wide-open spaces? Or taking a walk through vast nothingness to reach a remote beach overlooking a blue sea?

If yes, why not take a trip to one of the most striking beaches along the northern coast of Colombia. Just an hour’s walk from the tiny fishing village of Cabo de la Vela in La Guajira, lies Pilón de Azúcar, a small secluded beach surrounded by rocks on either side.

The red sand, the refreshing water and the stillness of the wild desert behind you make this beach experience extremely unique. Climb Pilón de Azúcar for an amazing view of the coastline as it twists and turns making its way to Venezuela.

Aracataca is the birthplace of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and an inspiration for his Macondo. (Armando Calderon/Creative Commons)

Aracataca (Magdalena)

Just 90 minutes inland from Santa Marta is a place of legend surrounded by mountains. It is here, in this pueblito that Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez was born.

Visit the house where he spent most of his childhood hearing fantastic tales from his grandfather and lunatic aunts which he later turned into the amazing stories we all know and cherish. The Gabriel García Márquez House Museum is the perfect place to appreciate how his early years had an immense influence on his writing, and to see how magic realism became a part of his life.

Take a walk around town and feel yourself walking around Macondo, the fictional town from Gabriel García Márquez’s epic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’

Rivers meet the Caribbean at the Playa de Mendihuaca . (Marcela Escalante/Creative Commons)

Mendihuaca (Magdalena)

Beaches are fantastic, but sometimes a bit of fresh water can add an interesting twist to your beach day. There are several places along the coast, where rivers meet their fate and offer the beachgoer something else to do rather than just swim and tan.

If action sports is your thing, why not try a bit of surfing? Costeño Beach rents surfboards and it’s a short walk to Rio Mendihuaca where the connection between river and sea creates friendly waves perfect for beginners.

Or opt for a day of relaxing and head to the charming village of Palomino, rent an inflatable tube and gently float down Rio Palomino until you reach the sea.

The Volcan de Totumo
Bathers cover themselves with mud in the Totumo volcano. (Jack Zalium/Creative Commons)

Volcán del Totumo (Atlantico)

For the somewhat more extravagant, take on bodily exfoliation and bathing at the Volcán del Totumo, half way between Cartagena and Barranquilla.

Legend has it that the volcano used to spit fire, lava and ash but a local priest, believing it to be the devil’s work, sprinkled holy water into the volcano, turning it into mud and expelling the devil.

The 15 meter high volcano reaches below to a depth of 2,500 meters but you won’t sink as the mud is incredibly dense. Spend a morning relaxing in the mud, enjoying nature at its best. Don’t forget to ask for a full body massage, it’s worth it.