Cartagena’s most popular beaches, Bocagrande, Castillogrande and La Boquilla might not match up to the powdery white sands and aquamarine waters of the Rosario Islands, but the trio are certainly crowd pleasers.
If we’re honest, Bocagrande beach is far from the Caribbean picture postcard beaches you might imagine when arriving in Cartagena, but that doesn't stop it from 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 or you missed the boat to the islands.
The promenade is easy to reach, and if you don’t mind the rough-and-ready looking sands, it makes for a cheap and cheerful day out.
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.
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. It can be harder to find restaurants on this end of town, so we suggest packing a lunch like the locals do.
If you prefer to keep off the tourist tracks and immerse yourself in the local vibe, then the boisterous locals, bottles of aguardiente and makeshift picnic tables dotted the shoreline in La Boquilla will most definitely tickle your fancy.
In terms of activities, you’ve got more than enough to keep yourself distracted from the clean, but slightly muddy looking waters. There are plenty of kitesurfing shacks knocking about the beach and you can fuel up on the freshest fish you’ll ever taste in one of the beach hut restaurants afterwards.
If you’re more flash packer than backpacker, stick to the Los Morros wedge of the strip. There you’ll find Miami-style condominiums with exclusive beach and space club options that boast five-star facilities and great restaurants.
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