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 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 beach 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 to island darlings that want to stray as far as the eye can see, we’ve got the perfect beach plan to suit your 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 socialise. Yacht you waiting for? Your island paradise awaits.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.
The island’s biggest meeting point is the protected cove of Cholon, where beach revellers let rip with some water bound tail-gating on private boats equipped with blaring sound systems and Join the party if you really want to know what a regatta looks like.
If you’re craving something a little more laid-back, there’s some lovely beach front property being built on Baru for Colombia’s moneyed classes.
Book yourself an overnight stay at Coconut Island or Agua Azul Beach Resort.
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.
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 a quieter spot in the islands.
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
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 quick 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 a flurry of new beach clubs being built for late-risers that can’t be bothered to make the trek to the the Rosario Islands.
Our favourite high-end escapes from the city offers a new breed of Caribbean beach club chic, which infuse European airs with Colombian flavours.
The extravagagant restaurant menu, lively bar and the poolside DJ options at our favourite tasty beach club, Blue Apple, has proven to be a winning formula for well-heeled locals and foreigners alike.
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.Blue Apple Day Pass Fenix Beach Club Day Pass
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 Family Pool Day
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.
A day or two is too few to truly relish Cartagena’s goddess sands and waters so extend your escape and broaden your horizons with a unique island experience that takes you through not one, but two, idyllic Caribbean archipelagos.
Hire own private sail boat or join some other fellow adventurers on an island odyssey that includes stopovers at pristine, secluded beaches, midnight dips in magical lagoons, stunning sundowners, fishing with the locals and an unforgettable visit to the world’s most densely populated island.
Great value, overnight or week-long sailings are available and depend on the time you have free to skip town.
If you’re got time to kill and a craving for the ultimate beach experience, extend your trip and take in the San Blas islands for a Caribbean sailing experience you and your loved ones will never forget.View Island Odyssey Experience
So many islands, so little time. Allow our beach experts to point you in the right direction.
Book a day trip with us to discover the secret swathes of sand no one else knows about.
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