I’ve just returned from a perfect winter retreat at Merecumbe Hotel, one of the nicest places I’ve ever visited. (I’ve traveled a lot.) The family that owns and runs it is delightful, the independent lodgings inviting, the food delicious and varied, the wines tasty, and the overall mood extremely conducive to romance, rest, and roaming Colombia’s Magdalena coastal area. (Note: Google Maps hasn’t a clue about this place.)
My companion and I spent a week in a round “hut“ that was spacious, comfortable, imaginatively designed, and swiftly cleaned during each day’s breakfast session by a very considerate team of housekeepers. The “outdoor” bathrooms are gleaming, well-appointed spaces; what makes them outdoors is that fresh air and insects can flow through them, necessitating a screened door between bathroom and bedroom. The cold water shower always seemed warm enough. Photos cannot do justice to these rooms. (I tried.)
Amid so much talk about the Atlantic Coast’s unswimmable beaches, I was surprised and delighted to find that I (and other guests) could swim every day in hospitably tempered waters at Merecumbe. The hotel is located at the apex of a bowl formation in a huge cove that stretches from Buritaca village into Tayrona Park, so the sea tends to press fairly gently to the west. Near shore, the water contains bits of leaves and wood from the Buritaca River that flows all the way to the coast from Ciudad Perdida (the 12-centuries-old native city discovered by the authorities in 1972). I found that going about 30 meters (100 feet) from shore brought me cleaner water without feeling risky. Waves varied from gentle to noisy; our final days brought some small breakers. For a few days, the beach was rocky and I found my swimming shoes very useful; rougher seas eventually made the beach far sandier, though I can’t explain why. Evidently, there are times when swimming isn’t possible, but I was thrilled.
My companion and I enjoyed strolling the beach every day. To the east, we came upon a picturesque swamp that hosts a wealth of birds. (Colombia boasts the world’s greatest avian variety.) Around the horn from these wetlands we found the village of Buritaca, a bustling, rootsy community with a big campground and many beach bars for domestic visitors who arrive via tour buses from Santa Marta.
West of Merecumbe, we walked on several occasions in the direction of Tayrona Park. Depending on recent rainfall levels, little rivers meet the sea, necessitating footgear adjustments, or they stop just short of it at natural sand berms.
The farthest river we reached is one that flows to the sea from Quebrada Valencia, an irresistible set of waterfalls that draws tour buses. It’s easy to walk along the highway to the entrance (admission costs several U.S. dollars), then walk to and from the cataracts along a lovely stream, crossing it many times. (Swimming shoes are useful.) Once there, visitors collect at ground level, but it’s possible to climb a couple of natural terraces, provided most rocks are dry. (I wouldn’t do this just after a rainfall.) The higher you go, the fewer the people. The waters are cold, bracing, gorgeous. Birds and butterflies abound. The visitors, pleasant and friendly, tended to clear out early in the afternoon, leaving us in paradise.
We spent a week at Merecumbe and never got bored with the kitchen’s offerings, which ranged from tasty to great and has evidently expanded greatly in scope this year. On the last day, we rushed to sample treats we hadn’t yet touched: that tomato soup, for one! And those fresh fruit drinks: Try “Anita “fast.
The staff is sweet and helpful. We were fortunate to meet up with Sam, the eldest son, who was working the dining room on a break from college. He speaks great English and is funny and helpful.
Oh yeah, Tayrona Park! We went there one day, marching all the way to Cabo San Juan. Tayrona sparked my initial interest in Merecumbe because accommodations are dismal in the areas I’d like to sleep in and Merecumbe is so much better than Eco-Habs, which would still require a serious walk to reach my places of interest. I liked Tayrona—but when I come back, Merecumbe will be the draw. Please say hello to this sweet hotel for us!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- For those who want quiet vacations in the beach ::: Merecumbe is a magical and green place to "unplug" yourself from daily life.Located in the lonely beaches of the Sierra Nevada in Santa Marta, there's an amazing landscape and lots of places to visit! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Merecumbe Hotel Colombia/Buritaca