Rodadero is a beach resort beautifully situated on the shores of the Caribbean Sea near the city of Santa Marta. Blessed with several beautiful beaches and close proximity to Tayrona National Park, there are plenty of fun things to do in Rodadero with kids.
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We visited Rodadero, Santa Marta with kids in mid-December and the weather was perfect. Our visit was actually split into two parts; just before and just after our 6-day Lost City tour with kids. We stayed in a different location each time, allowing us to see a few different areas of Rodadero.
Things to do in Rodadero with Kids
We first saw Playa Salguero from the balcony of our first Airbnb. It was a Sunday afternoon and the beach was packed with people playing in the waves. We visited the beach on the following Monday morning, and it was a much calmer scene.
Salguero Beach is a long stretch of black sand which glistens in the sun. Considering Playa Salguero has no resort hotels behind it (which usually perform beach cleanup duties), this was one of the cleanest public beaches we’ve visited. There was still a little beach glass (smoothed over by the waves and sand), but there was very little garbage anywhere. The locals seem to take really good care of this place.
The water was comfortably warm, and the bottom was sandy except for a small stretch of rocks just under where the waves crash. Once you get past this patch of rocks, it becomes mostly sandy again. If you have tender city feet (like mine), you may wish to bring water shoes.
There were very few vendors working on this beach, which was a nice change. Seabirds crashing into the water to feed on fish provide great entertainment. The beach faces west, which means the sun is behind you in the morning and facing you in the late afternoon. If the sky has wispy clouds, the sunsets here will be beautiful as the sun dips below the ocean.
Playa El Rodadero
Playa El Rodadero is the main tourist beach in Rodadero. It’s near the town centre, making it significantly busier than Playa Salguero. Echoing the above comments, this beach is remarkably clean, especially considering how busy it is.
The soft sand at Rodadero Beach is black with gold specs; a fun combination to look at when the sun is shining down on it. (To really see this effect, put some sand and water in a sand pail and look at it in the sun).
Playa El Rodadero is roughly a half a mile (~1km) long, with lines of tall condo buildings behind. The buildings don’t cast shadows though as the beach faces west, meaning the sun is on your left or in front of you almost all day long.
There is so much action at this beach, it’s not for anyone looking to have a relaxing day at the beach. There are ocean activities galore, such as jet skis, banana boats, paddle boats, inflatable alligators and unicorns.
On land, you won’t have much alone time as a steady stream of vendors will walk past offering drinks, churros, ceviche, ice cream, hair braids, sunglasses, etc.
Playa El Rodadero is a very beautiful beach which is very popular with Colombian families. We appeared to be the only gringos on the whole beach both times we were there. This is an excellent place to bring your kids and let them play with the locals. Beach play is a universal language and they’ll make new friends in no time – ours did!
Tayrona National Park
Rodadero is located very close to Tayrona National Park, one of Colombia’s national treasures. Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona rests on Colombia’s northern coast, along the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, with the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains looming to the south.
Tayrona National Park is famous for its dense jungle and spectacular Caribbean beaches. There are a variety of jungle hiking trails to beaches, or if you’d prefer to avoid the physical effort, boat trips into the park are available as well.
We spent our third full day in Rodadero on a day trip to Tayrona. Read our blog post Cabo San Juan, Tayrona National Park with Kids for full details of our hike and time on the beautiful beach.
3 Day Rodadero Itinerary with Kids
We spent our three days in Rodadero enjoying all of its natural wonders:
Day 1: Playa Salguero
Intermission: We did a 6-day hike to Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) with the kids.
Day 2: Playa El Rodadero
Day 3: Tayrona National Park – Cabo San Juan
Getting into Rodadero with Kids
We took a taxi from the Simon Bolivar International Airport to our Airbnb. For safety, we had the kids in the travel-friendly mifold seats in lieu of child seats (see notes on mifold international usage). It was a quick and easy 20-minute drive which cost us 25,000 COP (~$7.50USD).
If you are coming from Cartagena, you have several choices: Taking the bus is the cheapest, but most inconvenient. A more expensive option, but way more convenient, is to arrange a private car with door-to-door service.
Note, our Airbnb host was able to arrange a private transfer for us for about 25% cheaper than the online cost. If you don’t mind the uncertainty, you can probably do better on price when you are there, but if you prefer peace of mind by having a reservation in advance, booking your private transfer online is a good option.
For more thoughts on bringing car seats, read our Traveling with Car Seats post.
Rodadero, Santa Marta Hotels
A lot of our accomodations in our 3-week Colombia itinerary involved us sleeping outside, so when we had the chance for a little pampering, we took it. Rather than book Rodadero hotels, we rented 3-bedroom oceanfront apartments. If hotels are more your style, there are plenty of great family-friendly hoteles en El Rodadero.
Airbnb #1: For our first two nights in Rodadero, we rented an Airbnb in the southern end of town. The apartment was on the 11th floor of a new condo building and featured floor-to-ceiling windows on the south and west walls, offering incredible views of the Caribbean Sea. The views were easily some of the best we’ve ever had anywhere we’ve stayed around the world.
The only downside was the location, which was a little remote. It’s nice and close to Playa Salguero, but given it’s not in the central part of town, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to restaurants and shops.
The apartment we rented is no longer offered on Airbnb. There are many beautiful beachfront Rodadero Airbnb’s to choose from.
Airbnb #2: For our final three nights in Rodadero we stayed in an Airbnb apartment in the central part of town located right on Playa El Rodadero. The view was good (not quite as nice as the first place), but when we went out on the balcony, we still enjoyed a nice view of the ocean.
The biggest benefits of this place are 1) it’s location – it’s right on Rodadero Beach and very close to town center and 2) it’s owner (who lives in the building half the year). We normally don’t bug our Airbnb hosts much, but he was so helpful to us.
He helped us arrange private transportation to Minca and then onto Cartagena at a good discount to the prices available online. He suggested restaurants and even took me out to get me a local SIM card. You won’t go wrong with this place – great location and great service!
If you are new to Airbnb, you can sign up with our link and get a nice discount towards your first stay.
Where to Eat in Rodadero
For our first night in Rodadero, Santa Marta, we wanted to grab some food for breakfast at the supermarket, so we grabbed some food at a nearby fast food place called Patacon Con Con. We were attracted by the picture of pizza on the outside, which we knew the kids would devour.
The ‘pizza’, called Patacones, was like normal pizza except the crust was made from plantains, not flour. The kids didn’t care and proceeded to devour it. Us adults filled up on arepas. Arepas are sandwiches with corn bread (in this case corn tortillas) with a filling. We had chorizo, Mexicano, hawaiiano and mixto (mixed meat) arepas and they were all quite tasy (the Mexicano with steak, cheese and jalepenos was the best).
For our second night we wanted to catch the sunset from our Airbnb balcony, so we got some takeout at Restaurante Chara De Palo Del Paisa. We hadn’t intended to go here, but most restaurants were closed at 4:45, which is when we were out looking for food. The kids had chicken nuggets and French fries (which they were indifferent about) while we split orders of pork ribs and steak. The kids were more eager to get their hands on the ribs than their chicken fingers!
Our third night in Rodadero was right after we finished the 6-day Lost City trek. The kids enjoyed the food on that tour, but it was a bit unfamiliar at times, so we wanted to reward their efforts with a big pizza feast. We went to Salvator’s Pizza, just one block off Playa el Rodadero. We ate on their patio and enjoyed the fun & crazy madness on the streets as the masses left the beach for the day. The pizza was excellent, and the kids went home with happy and full bellies.
We went to a place recommended by our Airbnb host for our fourth night called El Punto Multiple del Sabor. This seemed like a slick chain restaurant designed to please most palates. Our host recommended it and it was highly rated on Google, so we decided to give it a shot.
The food was actually quite good, although it was a bit touristy and cost double what the previous night’s meal cost. The kids enjoyed another pizza, while Celine enjoyed a large plate of fish tacos and I devoured a huge plate of spicy chicken nachos.
Our 2nd Airbnb host arranged a home cooked Colombian meal for us. While we were hiking at Tayrona National Park, his helper went grocery shopping and bought all the ingredients she needed for our meal. She cooked us Bandeja Pasia, Colombia’s national dish.
After a long day of hiking, opening the door to our apartment and smelling the home-cooked Colombian food cooking was just too good to be true.
Bandeja Paisa can come in many forms, but the version she cooked for us had chorizo, fried pork bellies, red beans cooked with pork, white rice, carne molida (ground meat), a fried egg, a fried plantain (plátano maduro), an arepa and an avocado. It was incredibly good and insanely cheap – we simply had to pay the cost of groceries and then a small surcharge of 40,000 COP (~$12USD) for the cooking.
We had a great 3 days in Rodadero with our kids. After Rodadero, we travelled to Minca, a small backpacker town nestled in the lush Santa Marta mountains, where we enjoyed a few days of hiking, waterfalls and chocolate farms.
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