La Santa María fu la più grande delle tre navi utilizzate da Cristoforo Colombo nel suo primo viaggio attraverso l'oceano Atlantico nel 1492. Era di proprietà di Juan de la Cosa, il pilota di Colombo. Era la nave ammiraglia della spedizione. Era lunga circa 27 m con un ponte e tre alberi, dei quali quelli di maestra e trinchetto a vele quadre e quello di mezzana a vela latina, una vela di civada sul bompresso; un ponte di coperta, castello di prora e un cassero rialzato di poppa con l'alloggio del capitano. Il timone, come per le navi dell'epoca, era privo di ruota di comando e si trasmetteva il movimento al timone stesso per mezzo di due corde. Era la più lenta dei vascelli di Colombo. Portava alcuni cannoni sul ponte inferiore, ed alcuni cannoncini girevoli posti sul castello di prua e su quello di poppa.
Viene solitamente ritenuta una caravella, come le altre due navi della spedizione, ma qualcuno ha ipotizzato fosse piuttosto una nao, affine alla caracca.
Il suo nome originale era La Gallega ("La Galiziana"), probabilmente perché venne costruita in Galizia (ma era anche modo di dire eufemistico per indicare laprostituzione). Pare che i suoi marinai la chiamassero Marigalante. Bartolomeo de Las Casas non usò mai i nomi La Gallega, Marigalante o Santa María nei suoi scritti, indicandola come la Capitana o La Nao (la nave).
Il 25 dicembre 1492 durante una notte calmissima, durante la quale tutto l'equipaggio era andato a dormire meno un giovanissimo mozzo cui era stata affidata la barra del timone, si incagliò su una barriera corallina di Haiti, inclinandosi e sfasciandosi.
Una sua replica è stata costruita a Columbus ed è ormeggiata sul fiume Scioto.
Un'altra replica venne costruita nel 1998 da Robert Wijntjie. Salpa, a pagamento, con visitatori da tutto il mondo per avvistare balene e delfini.
La Santa María, English "The Saint Mary," alternatively La Gallega, was the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, the others being the Niña and the Pinta. Her master and owner was Juan de la Cosa, a man of Basque ethnicity from Santoña, Cantabria (at the time of his birth part of Biscay), operating in south Spanish waters. Requisitioned by order of Queen Isabella and by contract with Christopher Columbus, whom de la Cosa knew previously, the Santa Maria became Columbus' flagship on the voyage as long as it was afloat. Having gone aground on Christmas Day, 1492, on the shores of Haiti, through inexperience of the helmsman, it was partially dismantled to obtain timbers for Fort Navidad, "Christmas Fort," placed in a native Taínovillage. The fort was the first Spanish settlement in the New World, which Columbus had claimed for Spain. He thus regarded the wreck as providential. The hull remained where it was, the subject of much modern wreck-hunting without successful conclusion.
On its return to Spain, the expedition was instantly an international success story. Columbus and his crews paraded the streets of Barcelona, on the way to be received by the queen, in the company of natives in gala native dress (mostly body paint) wearing ornaments of gold, now crown property. All the peccadillos of the formerly mutinous crews were forgiven and forgotten, except for obscure journal entries. As soon as was feasible the Queen launched an armada of 17 ships with settlers and troops for the relief of Fort Christmas and further solidification of Spanish power there. The Niña and the Pinta sailed again. Columbus acquired a new flagship, believed, in the majority view, also to have been named the Santa Maria, but the sources give a few variants, such as the early Italian form, Marigalante. Juan de la Cosa was certainly on the second voyage although his status is somewhat uncertain. The majority view is that he had reconciled to Columbus and served again as the master of the Santa Maria, although perhaps not for the entire voyage. This time there was no grumbling and no mutinous talk or actions, as Columbus had at his command what were effectively royal marines.
The second expedition arrived at Fort Christmas, anchoring carefully away from the sandbar. They found the fort burned and abandoned. A few corpses of Europeans lay nearby. The chief of the Taino admitted the colonists were all dead, slain by the Taino natives. The chief denied complicity, claiming a wound inflicted in their defense. Subsequent investigation failed to clear him. The shock altered Columbus' perception of his mission. Formerly he had respected the natives, even the ones taken into custody. Now he disrespected them, against the express orders of the queen. The sad outcome was a policy of enslavement and genocide, for which he was ultimately courtmartialed, convicted, and enjoined from further "colonial" activities, including removal from his hereditary offices.