After Bogota, Mike and I took a short 1-hour flight up to the city of Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast-line. While we were curious to see Santa Marta, the real reason we were heading there was because of it’s proximity to Tayrona National Park and the Sierra Nevada mountains, where we’d be heading next.
Santa Marta, Colombia
Truthfully, the city of Santa Marta was not our cup of tea. The beach was crowded with an industrial Sea-Port in plain view, downtown there were so many stray-dogs that we too often witnessed them fighting with each other for territory, and the heat was stifling.
Luckily, we LOVED our hotel and decided to make it our oasis for the next couple days, venturing out only for meals and errands (atm! super-market! tour-bookings!). We stayed at Casa Amani, a stunning B&B with just 5 guest rooms. My pictures don’t do Casa Amani justice – there is so much beauty & love in this place apparent in every detail from the furnishings, artwork, and books throughout… and just wait till you see the breakfast!
We stayed in the Shanti Master Suite (above) and had a complimentary bottle of delicious Malbec waiting for us in our room, a honeymoon gift from the owners.
I think we spent even more time reading in the hotel’s peaceful courtyard than we spent in our lovely room though!
One of the reviews we had read about the hotel prior to our booking said that the included breakfast is “something you want to sit down for a long time to enjoy and savour.” We couldn’t agree more! First, the company at breakfast was fantastic. While we lingered at the breakfast table, we enjoyed meeting many of the other guests including a couple from Bogota, a Canadian couple that were in Colombia for a few days after hiking Machu Picchu, and two girls from New York that had just completed a 4-day trek to the Lost City in the Sierra Nevada.
Breakfast started with hot coffee, fresh-made juice and fruit-salad, both made from fruits that changed daily. The fruit-salad below includes Mango, Cantaloupe, Ground Cherries & Dragon Fruit. There was also yogurt, granola, and honey on the table to go with the fruit. Then for the main course, they’d bring out hot toast and cooked-to-order eggs.
While this delicious breakfast at this beautiful hotel with excellent company was magical enough on it’s own, one secret ingredient took it to the next level:
Hogao is a Colombian tomato & onion sauce that is often mixed into or added on top of scrambled eggs. The couple from Bogota suggested I spread some on my toast and I think toast + hogao may have been the best thing I ate on my honeymoon.
I had to know how to make it so I found a recipe online and in our broken Spanish, Mike and I asked Marta (the cook) how she makes it. She said the recipe I found (tip: use Google Translate) was pretty close, though she does not use the Green Onion it calls for. I can’t wait to try making this at home!
LULO Cafe & Bar de Jugos
Since Santa Marta caters to tourists, there were several fantastic restaurants in town (though plan to pay a premium when eating anywhere targeted at foreign tourists). Lulo, which I found on HappyCow.com was one of our favorites and we ate their twice.
Though there were only a few vegetarian entrees, the “Arepa Vegetariana” was a memorable meal. That heaping tower below was my arepa, topped with pinto beans, plantains, charred eggplant, and salad.
I also enjoyed trying out a few items from their lengthy juice menu, including the sweet, sour, and frosty Tamarind Slushee (Tamarindo Granizado) and a Tomate de Arbol Juice.
I first saw the Tomate de Arbol (also known as a Tamarillo) at Dona Elsa’s house since she had them growing in her courtyard. While the Tomate de Arbol looks like a Roma Tomato, it actually grows on a tree and tastes fruity! I later bought one at a supermarket in town, though I found out the hard way that the skin is incredibly bitter and is typically not eaten raw. The flesh inside was delicious though – the texture of a tomato with the flavor of a melon!
We also loved the vegetarian cafeteria, Vital, though it was almost a complete opposite of Lulo. This non-descript, inexpensive 100% vegetarian restaurant was packed with not foreign tourists but with Colombianos. Vital serves lunch starting at 11:30 and ending whenever they run out of food.
We went down the cafeteria line pointing to dishes we’d like on our plate and each wound up with huge meals for less than $5 a piece!
We both had their Grape Juice, Salad, and Fried Rice. Mike also chose a delicious Veggie Patty and Patacones (fried Plantains), whereas I opted for Beans and a Vegetable Soup.
My meal actually reminded me of the Dominican Beans recipe I made from the China Study Cookbook, which combines rice, beans, and salad:
Tayrona National Park
While in Santa Marta, we took a day-trip to Tayrona National Park, known for having some of the best beaches in Colombia. While the scenery was breath-taking, unfortunately we picked the wrong day (full of crowds for a national holiday weekend) and the wrong tour company (for starters, our guide was walking so fast ahead of us that we nearly missed a turn and one of the hikers in our group needed medical attention for chest pains).
I’m still very glad we were able to see the park though, and we got in a few good hours of hiking in the jungle!
After a day of hiking, we were so happy to return to our oasis at Casa de Amani for some more relaxation in the courtyard
I’d love to hear from you!
What’s your favorite spread for toast?
or favorite toppings for Arepas?