Let’s face it – Santa Marta is a bit of a shit hole and once you’ve partied at La Brisa Loca for a couple of nights, drunk your fill of fresh juices and wandered around the market – you should really be thinking about an escape plan. After all it is insanely hot, insanely busy and paradise lies just outside of its hectic borders.
I spent about three months bumming around this area because I just couldn’t bring myself to leave. Over the next few days, I’m going to write about the best spots in the surrounding area so you know how to make the most of your time on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
I genuinely believe this to be my favourite place on earth. I was lured up to this spot in the Sierra Nevada Mountains by an American yoga instructor who informed me that I needed to see it for myself and from the minute I arrived I knew that I never wanted to leave. In fact, I ended up staying 6 weeks…and that was only partly due to the fact they had PG Tips teabags.
Let’s get this straight – Casa Elemento is a playground for adults. There is a treehouse (which you can sleep in), a giant hammock suspended over the jungle which can house up to 15 people, a clean swimming pool, a slack line (never mastered it) and a fully stocked bar. You are also slap bang in the middle of the jungle so the sights and sounds around you are incredible. I’ve woken to the sound of Howler Monkeys playing in the jungle below, I have watched a disco of fireflies lighting up the jungle after a rainstorm, I’ve seen toucans dive-bombing the pool when no-one is around. You are right there in the jungle, above the clouds. It’s insane. I miss it every single minute (*sob*).
Casa Elemento is a place where you will immediately feel at home. Jack, Jean, Ed and Andrew make sure that you feel welcome and that you are fed, watered and entertained at all times. They will become your friends, whether you like it or not!
What is there to do?
This is a place to chill out, laze in a hammock, read a book and just take a load off whilst eating well and hanging out with cool people. It is the perfect place to do nothing. However, should you like to be entertained…
- Canyon tour. Ask one of the staff to take you down into the canyon directly below the hostel. They run regular trips and it’s only around an hour long so wont cut into your chill out time too much. Risk your neck on the jungle swing, forage for fruit (which they might just bake in a cake for you if you ask nicely), meet some of the native wildlife, scramble and slide down waterfalls. It’s cool to get amongst it.
- Hike – there is a range of great hikes that you can do from Casa Elemento and any of the staff will be happy to draw you a map and send you on your way. Get up early and go and see the snow peaks, hike through the jungle down to the waterfalls, visit a nearby coffee farm, whatever takes your fancy! There is something in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for all abilities and energy levels.
- Waterfall rappelling – if you’ve got the balls you can rappel down two different waterfalls. One’s around 50m and the other 20m. Both are awesome.
- Help around the hostel. This might sound rubbish but if you want to help, the guys will love it. Whilst I was there I painted a giant board game, painted a mural and baked cakes (Aside from obviously manning the bar like a pro). I saw others build a pig pen, help plumb in the new toilet block, build a garage…it’s fun to get involved and to enjoy that sense of achievement at the end of the day.
There is also a chance to do yoga, go on survival tours where you make your own arrows and shoot them at stuff (SWEET), Senor Cervesa’s tour…the list goes on
I went for 1 night, then delayed my flights back to the UK and stayed for 6 weeks. Casa Elemento is a special place run by incredible people with a big vision for what they want it to become. It is a paradise above the clouds. My Colombian home. I’m not the only person to think this – it’s special, it’s different and you won’t ever regret going but you’re sure to regret leaving…trust me.
How to get there:
You can take a bus from Carrera 11 in Santa Marta but they don’t come that often so you can always catch a taxi (or bus) to Yucal for COP 5000-8000 (£2) and then grab a moto taxi all the way to Casa Elemento for 15000-20000 (£5-6). Alternatively, let them know that you are coming and if you are lucky they might be in town picking up supplies and will give you a ride.