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Hotel Check: Santa Marta Marriott Resort

Playa Dormida, Colombia

WHERE IS IT? Only five minutes from the airport, this beachfront hotel delivers the ultimate in convenience. Within minutes from stepping off the airplane, you could be dipping your toes in the Atlantic Ocean. The resort enjoys a spot along this popular beach, but is close to other activities including cultural visits to neighboring towns, diving in a nearby fishing village, and trekking in the rainforest.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The resort is especially popular with Colombians, but Santa Marta as a destination is slowly making its way onto the international radar screen. The Marriott Bonvoy program seems to be the big draw, but once on property the doting staff and beautiful design will keep visitors coming back. The lobby is bright and airy with lots of wood accents and local design artifacts representing the indigenous cultures of the region. There are plenty of seating areas with easy-access power outlets encouraging small get-togethers for those that want to work before they relax. Along the walls are traditional indigenous hats and bags using the fabrics and design from the region. There’s also a modern take on a traditional home in the center of the lobby wrapped with light wood. The public area design is well thought out with subtle nods to Colombia everywhere you turn. During COVID-19, impressive bio-safety protocols are in place, in conjunction with Marriott’s Commitment to Clean. Expect plastic barriers to prevent face-to-face contact, sanitizing stations everywhere, stickers to seal the doors after housekeeping pays a visit (to indicate they have been sanitized), and a mask requirement throughout the property.

ROOM FACILITIES The rooms are beautiful with floor-to-ceiling windows leading to balconies overlooking the ocean, pool and surrounding hillside. Rooms are on the sides of the building while at the front are the suites with enormous, wraparound balconies featuring whirlpool tubs and ocean views. Wooden accents abound in a nod to the beautiful mountain region just a short distance from the hotel. In the same day, travelers can be hiking the trails and swimming in the ocean. My suite featured an enormous bathroom stocked with bottled water and a glass shower with door that opened to the ocean. Super-fast wireless Internet also worked on the balcony, and I appreciated the bedside power outlets and built-in USB connectivity to the desk.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS Most guests will have all their meals here, and the dining options are varied. There’s a great mix between international and Colombian recipes on offer. At beachfront Cayeye, guests can dine with their feet in the sand or enjoy a shaded meal with traditional dishes. There are numerous types of ceviche (including a vegetarian option with mango), chaufa (a stir-fried rice dish), and all kinds of grilled meat and fresh seafood. 1524 Bistro serves three meals a day in a panoramic dining room or on the oceanfront terrace. Breakfast is an especially hearty meal with a staff-served buffet offering that runs the gamut of Colombian dishes. There’s everything from made-to-order omelets to traditional arepas with various toppings, tropical fruit, and cayeye (a plantain-based dish popular at breakfast). Like the rest of Colombia, the price of food is extremely low, and Americans can dine like royalty all while earning Marriott Bonvoy points in the process.

LEISURE FACILITIES Massage and beauty treatments are available in the spa, and a modern fitness center is available to guests.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Popular for regional meetings, the resort sports a mix of ballroom and boardroom setups with natural light and the latest audiovisual equipment. Corporate events are popular, but so are weddings and social functions. An outdoor terrace is great for receptions with the sun setting directly in front of the property.

VERDICT Santa Marta may not be a household name for most Americans, but this seaside resort town offers an uncrowded beach and bargain prices making it perfect for a relaxed vacation.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 168 rooms and suites

PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS Beautiful beachfront property with regional design and epic views

PRICE Internet rates for a traditional room start at $131

CONTACT Carrera 3 No 142-60, Bello Horizonte, Santa Marta 470006 Colombia, Phone 57-5-441-0000.