Comb through our hand-picked selection of alluring Caribbean swathes with the ultimate beach bum guide to the islands.
Blessed with an average temperature of 27.7ºC and 2,500 hours of brilliant Caribbean sunshine a year, pretty much every day is a good day to go to the beach in Cartagena.
Boasting a total of 19 km of beaches in the metropolitan area, nearly another 100 km of beaches heading north to Barranquilla and the 43-island archipelago, Islas del Rosario there are plenty of options for those looking to catch some sea and sun.
Each swathe of Caribbean sand comes with its own vibe. Tourists normally first clap eyes on Bocagrande, the longest of the city’s beaches, ablaze with tourists and somewhat nostalgic Miami Vice backdrop and write the rest of the city beaches off.
Don’t. Whether it’s the laid-back family feel of Castillogrande, the myriad watersports options on offer in Laguito, or the beach clubs and resorts popping up in Tierrabomba, La Boquilla or Manzanillo del Mar, there’s a host of fun, sun and sea options for everyone.
If only platinum sands and aquamarine waters will do for your and your crew, nothing beats the alluring elegance of the Rosario Islands, the most picturesque of the beach bunch.
If you’re looking to do some stellar stargazing we’ve got some top liner private island retreats to choose from as well.
For those looking to max out their R&R, we strongly suggest you avoid the touts, tourists and stress that comes with one of the cheap but not so cheerful boat trips by getting yourself onto one of the more upscale day passes to the Rosario Islands.
For group’s of more than four, it often works out cheaper to rent your own boat and sidestep the tin can feel of a shared chalupa to Playa Blanca. Whatever your preference, this guide will help you find your ultimate strip of sand.
From beach bums on a tight schedule, environmentalists that want to clean up the world's oceans and island darlings that want to stray as far as the eye can see, we’ve got the perfect beach plan to suit your beachy desires.
Let’s start with the fairest of them all, the Rosario Islands. Dotted around like mother pearls along the Caribbean, Colombia’s most popular national park, the Rosario Islands archipelago, some 45 minutes away from the city is brimming with great beach options.
Essentially the Cannes of the Caribbean, many of the islands have been snapped up by Colombia’s richest families making this one of Cartagena’s more exclusive corners. Not to worry even if you don’t have friends in the highest places there’s no need to feel left out of Cartagena’s best beach vibe.
A few of the top private beaches in the islands have been converted into boutique beach retreats by their owners so that you can tick all your Caribbean beach boxes.
Steer clear of some of the tacky destinations blighting the landscape and head for Isla Grande for a day in paradise that won’t cost the earth.
Larger groups, or couples wanting to sail footloose and fancy free from one cove to another might want to rent their own private speedboat, sailboat or yacht.
Not only are you able to explore more of the islands and drop anchor where you desire, but you also get the comfort of having your own crew and concierge on hand to help find the best spots to snorkel and socialize. Yacht you waiting for? Your island paradise awaits.
If you're looking to stay overnight then drop anchor in Baru's beautiful beach resort, Las Islas Hotel, on the way home.Rent Your Own Boat Rosario Islands Day Trip
With the exception of Playa Blanca, the most prized and expansive of Baru’s beaches, the beaches on Cartagena’s biggest island are small, intimate and often lined with mangroves.
Ever since a bridge was opened linking Baru to the mainland and Cartagena in 2017, this lengthy promontory has become a luxury enclave for the summer homes of Colombia's richest families.
Hoteliers have gotten in on the act and are adding a new dimension to Cartagena's beach stay options. Already complete is Las Islas, a sophisticated, environmentally-conscious retreat with 54 luxury tree houses and sea-level bungalows.
This lush, tropical paradise is perfect for honeymooners looking to add two-days of seaside sweet nothings to their Colombian vacation.
If you’re craving something a little more petite, there’s some lovely beach front properties and private islands that have been converted from second homes for Colombia’s moneyed classes to boutique hotels.
The island’s biggest meeting point is the protected cove of Cholon, where beach revelers let rip with some water bound tail-gating on private boats equipped with blaring sound systems.
Join the party if you really want to know what a regatta looks like, have a little fun before slipping off into the mangroves to find a secluded spot to spend the rest of the day.Island Stays in Baru Hire a Boat
Playa Blanca is still the best budget option for the nicest beach and the only one where you can really see locals hanging out.
Accessible by land and sea, Playa Blanca’s powdery sands and turquoise waters are truly heavenly, and at a short distance from Cartagena, super convenient for travelers of every budget.
One fun way to visit overland, that's popular with families and nature lovers alike, is to visit to the stunning collection of Colombian birds at the Baru bird sanctuary on the way to the beach.
Take in more than 100 different species on an hour-long adventure then head to Playa Blanca for lunch and a refreshing dip in the warm waters of the Colombian Caribbean.
It’s well worth the visit, but the weekends and high season do mean sharing tanning space with crowds, speedboats and street venders in their droves.
There are days when you can’t see where the sand stops and the sea starts for the masses, so we’d recommend renting a boat so you can make a pit stop here, dive in to the aquamarine waters before the crowds turn up on the ferries from hell.
When they do skip away to the Rosario Islands or Baru.
To see it a more original state staying overnight is a good option. Most of the bridge and tunnel crowd head back to the city around 16:00, so you pretty much have the beach to yourself for around USD$10-USD$15 a night, sleeping in a hammock or no-thrills cabin with a wicked sea view.
If staying overnight take repellent, the mosquitos are fierce around dusk.Rent a Boat and Explore Birds & Beach Trip
Just seven minutes from Castillogrande, the white sandy beaches of Punta Arena on the eastern side of the large island of Tierra Bomba is one of the best kept secrets of Cartagena.
‘Los Nativos’ or the Tierra Bomba locals are proud Spanish slave descendants hungry to make a living from their newfound beach goldmine.
They’ll take good care of you and cook you traditional seafood dishes and serve up all the drinks you need to pass the day.
There’s also a flurry of new beach clubs being built for late-risers that can’t be bothered to make the trek to the Rosario Islands.
Some of the island's high-end escapes offer a new breed of Caribbean beach club chic, which infuse European airs with Colombian flavours.
The extravagant restaurant menu, lively bar and the poolside DJ at the very tasty beach club, Blue Apple Beach House, has proven to be a winning formula for well-heeled locals and foreigners alike.
As well as offering a great day trip, Blue Apple Beach House has 10 well-pointed cabañas for rent for a romantic beach escape from the Caribbean hustle and bustle of Cartagena.
Bigger groups looking for a 'Burning Man' festival vibe should spread their wings at Fenix Beach Club, a beach club that's popular with a Bogota celebrity crowd and full of musical surprises.
Stay overnight at this rhythmic beach retreat and you can look back smugly at the towers of Castillogrande from the comfort of your own boho beachfront bungalow.Blue Apple Day Pass Fenix Beach Club Day Pass
Two hours to the south of Cartagena, you'll find the lesser known Caribbean cousins of the Rosario Islands, the island archipelago of San Bernardo.
This string of nine coastal islands and a host of artificial islets, sits just off the mainland, to the north of Tolu in the department of Cordoba, but is governed by the district of Cartagena de Indias.
They're a wonderful collection of truly authentic Caribbean island experiences that range from untouched islands like Isla Fuerte to posh beach retreats like Punta Faro on Isla Mucura and the most densely populated island on earth, Santa Cruz del Islote - a tiny dot on the Caribbean landscape with 1,200 inhabitants.
Our favourite of the archipelago is Tintipan, the largest, which has a wonderful lagoon sitting in its heart that's perfect for dropping anchor for a few days and adventuring around the archipelago on kayaks or stand up paddle boards.
To do this in style rent a sailboat for you and your crew, stock it up with some luxury rations and give yourself a week to explore.
If you don't have a week to spend in paradise, you can take in the Rosario Islands and San Bernardo with a five-day trip from Cartagena that will give you plenty of time to enjoy the idyllic scenery and crystal clear waters.Sail to San Bernardo Stay at Punta Faro
Let’s be honest, the beach isn’t the best but that doesn’t stop it being the busiest during high season and at weekends.
Facing outwards from the bay of Cartagena towards the Caribbean, Bocagrande is a convenient spot to grab some rays if you don’t feel like venturing beyond the touristic heartland.
Fighting off the hawkers selling everything under the sun is a common complaint but if you sit off the beaten track in the shade of the trees a little further from the sea you can avoid much of the hassle.
There are loads of hotel chain stays to pick from, but our beady beach eyes can’t get enough of Cartagena’s grand old dame, Hotel Caribe.
Hotel Caribe was the first plush beachside hotel built in the 1950s to accommodate the arrival of American oil executives, it echoes old school Hollywood glamour and a super-sized swimming pool to top your tan in.
Other new kids on the Bocagrande block include the Hyatt Cartagena which has a fine selection of pool bars and restaurants to retire to when you've had enough of the hawkers.Stay at Hotel Caribe
Cartagena’s elite have made this their exclusive Caribbean cul-de-sac. The beach is more laid-back than its unruly neighbour Bocagrande and private members’ clubs cater to the segregated needs of the city’s high-rolling beach bums.
Due to protection from the currents of the Caribbean in the form of an underwater wall, built to keep English pirates out, the waters are a little calmer than those in Bocagrande but the sea isn’t as clean as you might like thanks to the activities of the port.
Castillogrande’s high-end apartments have less gringo turnover, and therefore less tourist tat to muck through.
Join the non-pretentious vibes: pack a picnic and grab a few Aguilas to toast to the amazing sunset.
Plastic pollution of the oceans is a problem in Cartagena and Colombia every bit as much as it is across the world.
Lack of recycling methods, alongside littering and poor waste management throughout the city, creates serious pollution problems — especially noticeable in the surrounding ocean waters and local beaches.
This Is Cartagena wants to avoid contributing to the contamination of Colombia's best beaches and, as such, encourages all visitors to avoid single-use plastics on their trips to the beach.
To help achieve our goal of zero single use plastics by 2020, we encourage all clients to bring their own water bottles and offer re-fill opportunities with our partners across the city.
We can provide guests that don't have their own water bottle with one on arrival in Cartagena so they can reduce their consumption of bottled water during their trip through Colombia. All you need to do is request one from our team. Contact a member of This Is Cartagena's team.
If you would like to go a little further then our partners Domino Volunteers and Fundacion Bahia can help arrange it for you to participate in one of the regular ocean cleanups they organise with some of the hard-working foundations.
Don't have time to spare on your vacation but want to do something to help anyway? You can always make a donation to the cause at Global Giving.Volunteer with Domino Contact Us
If you're looking to double down on your beach time in Colombia, there's a host of fabulous strips of sand stretching along Colombia's Caribbean and Pacific coastlines.
Beach lovers with a little more time often enjoy combining Cartagena with a couple of nights in the Rosario Islands.
For beach bums with a little more time to play with it's well worth organising an extended trip overland to the Caribbean coast to Santa Marta to enjoy the rugged beaches of Tayrona National Park, Palomino and the Guajira.
They've been voted the best beaches in the world by leading travel publications. The stunning scenery that surrounds Colombia's oldest town definitely adds another dimension to a Colombian beach vacation.
Tayrona is a truly tropical paradise, a real-life Jurassic Park with rugged beaches, lush tropical rainforest and wildlife that make this national park a rich antidote to the stresses of modern living.
Rich in lush wildlife, rugged, untouched beaches and stunning scenery, the park is a bird watcher’s paradise and ideal for trekking and swimming.
Trips can be arranged to include an overnight stay in some special jungle lodges.
If you're short on time but want to see the spectacular mountains and have a private picnic on one of Tayrona's most remote beaches then hire a helicopter for an unforgettable day.Visit Santa Marta's Beaches Helicopter Trip to Santa Marta
So many islands, so little time. Allow one of our local beach experts to point you in the right direction.
Book a day trip with This Is Cartagena to discover the secret swathes of sand no one else knows about.
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