As my trip to Colombia took me to the Caribbean coast, I spent a couple of nights at the AC Hotel Santa Marta. I used the city as a base for the Lost City Trek, with one night at the hotel before and after my jungle adventure.
In This Post
- Guest Room
- Larger Guest Room with Sea View
- Other Facilities
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Booking
As I planned my trip, cash rates at the time of my stay were around $100, so I opted to go that route instead. Due to the ongoing double Elite Qualifying Nights promotion, I figured it would be advantageous to capitalize on cash stays at cheaper properties, even with the value of an award redemption being on par with our Points Valuations.
I booked at a rate of US$85 per night, originally for one night before my jungle trek, plus a separate three-night stay as a placeholder until I firmed up my coastal itinerary after the hike.
I ended up cancelling the second reservation entirely, only to end up booking a single night as a walk-in after I had missed the last bus out of town that day. Using the Marriott Bonvoy app as I sat in the lobby, I got a member rate of US$64.
I would never have expected the same-day rate to be cheaper than planning in advance! I suppose it never hurts to check, although I wouldn’t rely on planning an entire trip this way.
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AC Hotel Santa Marta – Location
The AC Hotel Santa Marta is a block from the ocean, near the local beaches. It’s right on the edge of the city’s central historic neighbourhood, a dense and lively quarter packed with restaurants, bars, boutique hotels and hostels, shops, plazas and parks, and tour outfitters.
The hotel is about a 10-minute ride from the bus terminal, or a 20-minute ride from the airport. If arriving by plane, don’t let your taxi driver confuse it with the Marriott Resort at Playa Dormida, which is outside the city centre and much closer to the airport.
I found Santa Marta to be quite a bit more fun and interesting than I expected. It’s a chaotic, greasy port town in the best way possible. However, there isn’t much there that would attract me as a primary destination, and it doesn’t offer much that you can’t find elsewhere.
Instead, it serves as a very functional homebase for the region. You can easily make day trips to Tayrona National Park or the town of Minca should you choose not to overnight at those locations. You can also use the city as a jumping-off point for the multi-night Lost City Trek (as I did), or to go further up the coast to Punta Gallinas (as I plan to do next time).
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Check-in
My first impressions of the AC Hotel brand were very… normal. While hardly dull, it reminded me of a Delta hotel but without any distinctive features.
The lobby is an expansive multipurpose space, with a café and bar, some desk space set up as a stripped-down business centre, and sufficient varied seating.
As I came and went, often I found the lobby to be quite crowded, with a few large groups staying at the hotel during my time there.
The front desk is small but gets the job done. Service was good (as I’ll expand on below), with the staff quite capable in English or Spanish.
Upon check-in, I was offered a choice between 500 Bonvoy points or a US$10 food and beverage credit. The points are per stay whereas the food and beverage credit is per day, which can really add up on longer stays.
I opted for the dining credit for my first one-night stay and points for my second one-night stay, based on whether I planned to use the dining credit.
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Guest Room
There are no suites in the hotel. For my first stay, I was assigned to Room 1806, a standard room on one of the highest floors reserved for Marriott Bonvoy Elite members.
Immediately upon entering, I noticed how compact the space is, with a “galley bathroom” concept. To the left of the entrance, the sink is open to the bedroom.
On the back wall of the sink area, you’ll find an open-air closet with an ironing board, a mini-fridge, and a coffee station.
To the right of the entrance, there are stylish glass doors to the toilet and shower.
The layout worked well for a small room. However, I found it difficult to keep the floor dry as I exited the shower.
Also, the design of the sink is peculiar. The faucet is angled directly towards the bulbous drain plug. The strong stream would scatter and spray up and out of the sink, an unwelcome surprise which exacerbated my wet floor challenges. I found this to be quite inconvenient, as I had a lot of my belongings strewn about as I repacked in preparation for my jungle trek.
The main part of the room is centred around the king bed.
Across from the bed, there’s a wall-mounted TV above a desk, with a bench to the side for additional seating or storage.
The standard Guest Room faces north, towards the harbour and city centre, with mountains behind the city.
On the 18th floor, there was a bit of noise from the animated town square on a Friday night, and quite a bit of audible wind against the exposed building.
The air conditioning worked well, a big relief as Santa Marta was my first stop on the hot and humid coast after spending the first 11 days of my trip in more temperate mountainous climates.
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Larger Guest Room with Sea View
For my second stay, I was given a choice between a high-floor city view room, or a lower floor with a balcony. This time, I selected the balcony, for some variety.
I was put in Room 805, on the south side of the building. All rooms on this side are a bit larger and have a balcony.
The larger room has a proper bathroom: the shower is nested inside, not open directly to the bedroom. The sink was afflicted by the same physics of scattering water, although fortunately this problem was confined to the bathroom and didn’t get the bedroom wet.
From the balcony, you can watch the sunset over the Caribbean Sea to the west.
To the east, you can see more hotels and condominiums, framed by the coastal mountains.
I much preferred this room to the first one. The layout was more functional, and the view and noise facing away from the city centre was preferable. I’d recommend asking for an odd-numbered room on any floor.
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Breakfast
Breakfast is served in the AC Kitchen, the only dining facility on the property. The meal is included for Marriott Bonvoy Platinum and Titanium Elite members, which was a pleasant surprise – at an AC Hotel, I was only expecting the food and beverage credit.
The buffet consisted of standard Colombian hotel fare: fresh fruit, pastries, cereal, juice, ham and cheese, scrambled eggs, and traditional dishes such as calentado rice, beef, and fried tequeños and empanadas.
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I was a bit disappointed that the eggs were so ham-forward. On the other hand, the tequeños were dangerously delicious, and I loaded up on cheese-stuffed sticks of fried dough as I snacked my way through my hiker’s appetite.
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Dining
Lunch and dinner are also served in the AC Kitchen.
The night of my first stay, my goal was to pack for the Lost City and get a good night’s sleep, so I had no intention of foraging for a good meal in Santa Marta. I kept it simple and grabbed an easy dinner downstairs.
I ordered fettuccine with shrimp in a creamy blue cheese sauce. It was alright, and I had no complaints as it served the purpose I was seeking, but I had much better and more imaginative seafood the rest of my days on the Colombian coast.
Still a bit peckish and with a bit more dining credit to burn, I ordered waffles with ice cream for dessert. The waffles were a bit dry, but the dish was quite tasty overall.
For my second stay, I spent the evening around town with friends, so I didn’t end up eating at the AC Kitchen again. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you feel compelled to stay in for a lazy evening.
Instead, I’d suggest walking five minutes into town, where there are many great restaurant options should you choose to take the time to explore them. In particular, I ended up at Ouzo two and a half times over the course of my travels. It gets a bit of hype, but deservedly so – safe to say it’s one of the top five pizzas I’ve ever had!
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Other Facilities
There’s no Club Lounge at AC Hotels. At this property, the main lounge option is the bar in the lobby, which doesn’t exactly stand out.
On the fourth floor, there’s a pool on the rooftop terrace behind the restaurant, from which you’ll get nice sunset views over the ocean. You can use your food and beverage credit at the poolside bar.
The terrace wraps around the building, but all of the action is on the waterfront side. Towards the back, there’s a small indoor fitness centre with city views.
AC Hotel Santa Marta – Service
Prior to my arrival, I had asked about secure luggage storage. I needed a place to leave my city bag while I took a minimal backpacking kit into the jungle. Corresponding via email, the hotel manager assured me that I could use the luggage storage room for a few days, and informed me of the option of using a safe for valuables.
Indeed, it proved to be quite easy and safe to leave my bags overnight. I stashed my large suitcase at the front desk for three days with no issues, even without a stay scheduled at the hotel on the night of my luggage pick-up.
(Apparently, this is not at all unusual for the property or for other accommodations in the city, as many guests frequently use Santa Marta as a base for adventure travel.)
When I returned to pick up my bag after the Lost City Trek, I missed the last bus to my next destination that night. On the fly, I booked another night at the AC Hotel Santa Marta, and the staff didn’t miss a beat, seamlessly finding my reservation in the system and setting me up with a good room. I had no trouble getting settled, taking my first proper shower in four days, and scampering out in time for dinner and drinks with friends.
The next day, I decided to leave my big bag here once again, as my travels took me briefly to the seaside backpacker’s town of Palomino before backtracking through Santa Marta one final time. I appreciated the hotel’s flexibility in letting me use their storage facility not once, but twice, despite minimal time spent staying there.
Additionally, the hotel offers a rather pricey laundry service, charging per item. As an alternative, they had no problem recommending a local laundromat around the corner which charges by weight and was much more suitable for my post-wilderness aftermath.
My visit to Santa Marta played a supporting role as I anchored my itinerary around the Lost City. For a destination that isn’t inherently magnetic, the AC Hotel Santa Marta is a suitable place to stay if you find yourself drawn here for whatever reason.
Between a few odd features and nothing to really make it pop, I found the property to be a bit unexciting, even though it was satisfactory in meeting my expectations and needs.
The one major standout factor is the customer service. For a hotel of its understated calibre, I was quite impressed with how the staff handled my frenetic travel situation and my haphazard comings and goings as I checked and unchecked bags repeatedly. For a property with little to offer in the way of hard elite benefits such as suite upgrades or a private lounge, I was very pleased with the quality of treatment I received before, during, and after my stays.
While I’m not looking for excuses to return to Santa Marta any time soon, I could see myself passing through en route to some new attractions, and perhaps lingering for an extra couple of days to appreciate the city. I’d have no problem staying at the AC Hotel Santa Marta again, with the understanding that it is merely a utility property, and a fine one at that.