With the slogan “Santa Marta está cambiando” one of the oldest towns in the Americas has begun an ambitious renovation of its parks and roads, hoping to beautify even more a city with a colonial heart. But to rise above competition with tourism, Santa Marta has to be more than a resort town by offering visitors interactive cultural offerings, a rich gastronomy and nightlife scene, as well as outdoor recreations along its coast. So, here a sample of how Santa Marta is quickly changing.

If visiting the Colombian coast, an arepa de huevo is an obligatory morning snack and the sooner you eat them, the better, for they tend to run out fast. But if you are looking for something more “green” try the mango and banana pancakes or the homemade yoghurt with fresh fruit and granola from Carambolo (Calle 19 No.3-105 ). Seal the meal with a fruit smoothie and organic cup of coffee.

Ecape Santa Marta’s daily cacophony and pull up a chair in the secluded back patio of Café Aborigen (Callejón del Correo between Calle 15 and 16). This brunch/lunch vegetarian restaurant offers a varied food and drinks menu. The café is also perfect for a late morning latte and a Viennese afternoon coffee is also served. Try their Oreo frappe or, if you need some finger food, a yuca arepa with guacamole.

For tea lovers, there are refreshing infusions at Primero Adentro, (Calle 21 No.2A-27) a cosy café situated in a quiet street close to Parque de los Novios. The teashop also hosts a group meditation session accompanied by tibetan singing bowls every Wednesday at 7 pm.

If you are looking for stronger refreshments The Kitchen (Calle 18 No. 3 – 115) prepares “the city’s most original gin and tonics” – including a dessert made with this spirit, tonic gelatin cubes and served with lemon and caramel ice cream. Situated inside the La Casa del Farol hotel, The Kitchen blends local Caribbean with Spanish cuisine. Enjoy their spicy potatoes and cocoa – coffee beef tenderloin with a brown sugar crust. A colonial courtyard is the main dining attraction and rooftop terrace offers a beautiful view of Santa Marta, especially at sunset.

Homey south Indian has arrived in Santa Marta with Sitar Indian Cuisine (Calle 18 No.2 – 62). The menu includes curries, chicken tikka masala, and tandoori-oven fish. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and even though it is more Middle Eastern than Indian, a hookah can be shared with friends.

After basking on the beach in Rodadero or Taganga, let-off some steam in the warm Caribbean night at Lulo (Cra. 3 No.16-34, Callejón del Correo), where extra-strong mojitos do their best to quench the heat. Arrive before 9 pm to take full advantage of their happy hour and skip the traditional cocktails for a maracuya or lulo mojito. Carry on dancing the night away at the open-air bar and disco La Azotea in Parque de los Novios. Depending on which night you go, the DJ plays reggaeton, salsa, electro and hip-hop. With views of the park from the second floor balcony, La Azotea is a fun option for a night out.

For a more beach vibe, Caribbean Team next to the Marina (Calle 22 No.1) is where Santa Marta’s first-rate sunsets are best enjoyed. This gastropub offers a relaxed atmosphere and their burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs are house favorites. For a panoramic view of the bay and colonial city, have a Cuba Libre at the rooftop bar of Miko above Caribbean Team.

Looking to complement your lazy days on the beach? then, sign up for yoga classes at La Basilica Yoga Studio situated in the Plaza de La Catedral on the second floor of a centuries-old building (Calle 16 No 4-73). Specific breathing exercises and physical postures will improve your mental and physical strength, as well as alleviate those aches and pains. Classes range from beginner to advanced, so whether you can bend into action or have trouble tying your laces, the doors are always open.

Enjoy the calm open waters of Taganga bay with a standup paddle board. Originating in Hawaii as a spin-off to surfing, this sport is a great way to appreciate the breathtaking nature created by the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and coves surrounding this small fishing village. Take mask and snorkel to explore what’s below the board. They can be rented by the hour at Taganga Beach Hotel on the village beach.

If balancing on boards is not your forte, then take the plunge and try scuba diving. Floating beneath the cool waters of Tayrona National Park is a fantastic way to make peace with your big city woes. Reef Shepherd – also in Taganga– offers diving excursions from beginner to advanced, as well as night dives and underwater photography courses.

No trip to Santa Marta is complete without a walk through the last home of Simon Bolívar and you can learn the history of this 500-year old city with a “do-it-yourself” tour by downloading the app Sound Walkrs. The app includes the final resting place of the Liberator, La Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, as well as other main historical attractions in old Santa Marta.