50 minutes from Santa Marta's National airport, Colombia
If you want to really get away from it all and go natural, but still have designer digs in the process, this holistic and trendy retreat could be just what you are seeking. Koralia is for the discerning visitor who wants to try eco-friendly Colombia in style on the Caribbean coast.
Located a mere 50 minutes from Santa Marta on the Caribbean Sea, the Playa Koralia has been created in a fusion of simplicity and luxury. It combines an unrivalled location close to the pristine beaches of the famed Tayrona National Park with access to crystalline waterfalls of snowmelt from the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains behind.
The first thing you will notice upon arrival is the space between each cabana ensuring privacy and tranquillity - Koralia is growing in popularity with Colombian celebrities for just this reason. Tired of being paparazzi-fodder, the likes of Shakira have booked in here for true isolation and pampering, with plenty of natural growth around cabanas but a spa on site.
Jose Luis Nieto the owner is quick to mention that he is in no rush to clear vast swathes of palm trees to accommodate further accommodation, as he is happy with the hotel as it is. It is a comforting thought that the Koralia will get no bigger and will preserve its style. In fact Nieto boasts that he really did not cut down any trees in creating the hotel as he decided to place each cabana where there already existed a natural space. It is this attention to nature and the natural surroundings that makes the Playa Koralia something special and in turn has afforded each cabana the feel of a private bungalow. Privacy is everything.
Each of the 17 cabins has its own theme, which strives to maintain a connection with some deity or inspiration to the owners. Don't be surprised to be housed in a cabana named Shanghai, Nirvana or Ganesh. These fine spacious accommodations come equipped with everything you should need, mosquito net, fan and hammock for those lazy afternoons on your front porch. The bathrooms are self contained and roofless so that while in the shower you are looking up at the verdant canopy of tropical flora and fauna and your modesty is protected by walls of colourful mosaics. Each cabana is worthy of a fashion magazine spread, especially at night with all the candles casting their glow.
This may be the only place in the world where you can wander onto the beach, swim in warm tropical water, and then in a 180-degree turn see snow on the mountain behind measuring 5,700 meters above sea level. Of course all of this comes at a price, not so much financial as the Playa Koralia's tariffs are quite reasonable. But more difficult is the personal cost of trying to leave the 21st century at the turn off at the highway, including your credit cards. (You must pay for everything with cash.) There is no Internet access and cell phones have no reception here either. The owners prefer you not to use toilet paper…the emphasis as mentioned before is on the natural.
But there is no better place for downtime in this region than at the Playa Koralia. Give in to your inner hippy, embrace the Asian and Latin American ethnicity, enjoy a cocktail in the beach bar, book a massage in the spa, and feast on the locally sourced seafood provided at mealtimes. And if this is too much relaxation the owners can arrange hikes for you to surrounding points of interest, into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to Arawak villages and on bird-watching walks.
Review by Richard McColl, photos courtesy of Hotel Playa Koralia