Santa Marta is the place where South American hero Simón Bolívar died, and not surprisingly, it's airport is named after him. Although smaller in size and receiving way less traffic than the international airports of nearby Cartagena and Barranquilla, Santa Marta airport is known for its good views.
Simón Bolívar airport has a single north south runway, and both thresholds are pointing to the Caribbean Sea. To the south and south east of the airfield, a huge coal mining operation prohibits access. The airport entry road goes around the 19 threshold with a low approach over the beach. It is here that an Aerorepublica ERJ190 nosedived in the water after skidding off the runway in July 2007.
The airport is situated about 16km south of the city, bordering the Caribbean Sea. From Santa Marta take road no.90 south to Cienaga and Barranquilla, and the airport can be found on your right, about 10km south of El Rodadero. From Barranquilla, take road no.90 north to Santa Marta. From road no.90, the airport is well signposted.
Around the Airport
1Apron - north west side
Spot 1 to 3 are all within walking distance of the terminal, which is good to know if you arrive by plane and proceed by public transport. Some views can be had from the restaurant in the terminal. Alternatively, leave the parking lot to the north. At the end of the apron you will find a gate, which gives a good view of the entire apron and the storage area to the south of it. Your pictures will be back-lit though, whatever time of the day you make them.
2Taxiway & runway - west side
From spot 1, just keep walking the sidewalk to the north. After a few hundred meters, you will find a few gaps in the bushes permitting views of the runway and the taxiway. Photography is best here late in the afternoon.
Proceed to the north, the 19 threshold is only a 15 minutes walk from the terminal. You will find more suitable spots along the way to spot 3. The road rounds the threshold here and views of aircraft, whether runway 19 or 01 is in use, are simply great. If runway 01 is used, large aircraft have to turn at the 19 threshold anyway. This spot is almost like St.Maarten's Maho Beach: very close to the sea and people are often blown away by jet blast. Just position yourself somewhere along the road, depending on the time of the day and the runway in use.
419 Approach - Villas Canarias
If you have a car, or simply have more time to spend, this spot may be worthwile. Heading to Santa Marta on road 90 turn left at the first paved road, which lead back south and crosses the railroad. You can either enter the beach at the small resort of Villas Canarias or go to the public beach just north of it. Either way, this spot is best in the morning to photograph the aircraft approaching runway 19.
501 Approach - Costa Azul
The 01 approach is a bit of a pain, due to the presence of the coal mining operation bordering the airport. The best views of the southern approach can be had at the Costa Azul resort and its beaches. If you head south to Cienega, this is the first exit off road no.90 on your right, past the mining entrances. The resort is guarded but you may be able to buy a day ticket for the beach. The aircraft are about 600 meters from you when approaching runway 01. This spot is also best in the morning.
Taken from spot 1, in this case the restaurant in the terminal is this Fokker 100 approaching runway 01. Fred Streep.
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