The Colombian Caribbean is famous for its beaches and stunning nature. If your goal is to share a wonderful time with family and friends while you sunbathe or swim at the beach or practice water sports, you will need several days to explore the best beaches of Cartagena de Indias. The only thing left to decide is which idyllic spots to visit while you explore the jewels of Islas del Rosario (Rosario Islands) and Tierra Bomba.
The best way to get to know the Rosario Islands is to stay in Cartagena and take a tour to the islands or to the San Bernardo Archipelago. So, book now at any of our hotels in the enigmatic city of Cartagena de Indias: Hampton by Hilton Cartagena, Hilton Cartagena Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton or Conrad Cartagena. If you want to visit Tierra Bomba, you can stay at the Cartagena Tierra Bomba Hotel Atoll.
Tierra Bomba Island is only 15 minutes away from Cartagena by boat. It is one of the most popular and visited beaches. If you do not stay there, we recommend you get up early and head to the Bodeguita Pier, the only one authorized for tourist boats to buy your day ticket to the island.
We recommend you purchase the day pass or Beach Day pass for the Bomba Beach Club, which costs approximately COP 85,000 or USD 31. This includes transportation and a welcome cocktail, as well as the use of its facilities, including hammocks and showers. You will spend a quiet and revitalizing day at Punta Arena Beach.
If you want something else to do, do not hesitate to visit San Fernando Fort. This fortification was built in the middle of the 18th century, and its name is attributed to the monarch, Fernando VI. It was designed in the shape of a horseshoe with two bulwarks, the King and the Queen, with 24 guns between the two. A peculiarity of this military structure is that it was equipped with a slope or glacis to absorb artillery bullets and as another additional line of defense. It is worth noting that, due to its isolated location, it was the prison for heroes of independence in the 19th century. You can also visit the San Rafael Angel Battery with its crescent shape and the San José Battery Fort, which is located on an islet in front of the San Fernando Fort. These last two were declared World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Islas Del Rosario
The Rosario Islands is an archipelago composed of 28 islands. It is impossible to visit them all, but we explore the most beautiful and the ones that are ideal for tourists so you can get to experience the very best they have to offer. To get there, you can hire a tour that gives you a panoramic tour of all the islands, which usually takes about 3 hours.
Aquarium or Oceanarium
Approximately one hour away is quite possibly one of the best experiences on the island of San Martin de Pajarales, where you can observe more than 100 marine species in their natural habitat, including dolphins, sharks, rays and starfish, among many others. The best part, and what will surely fascinate you, is that you can get into the water and interact and touch the dolphins, guided by a coach. The flora and fauna are found in confinements in the sea. They offer exhibits of nurse sharks, turtles, shads, reef fish and lionfish. It is worth noting it closes at 2pm, which is why the visit to the aquarium is usually complemented by a visit to a nearby beach, especially in Barú.
The Oceanarium is part of the Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo National Natural Park, and it is worth remembering any plastic items are strictly forbidden inside the National Natural Parks of Colombia.
Playa Blanca on the Isla de Barú
An interesting tidbit about Barú is that the Barú peninsula was separated from the national territory through the Canal del Dique, therefore, it could only be accessed by sea. It wasn’t until 2014 that the Barú Bridge was built, allowing access by land as well.
We suggest you get up early and prepare for one of the best experiences Cartagena has to offer. Come and visit the waters that house the famous San José galleon, sunk by the British in the Battle of Barú.
You can buy a tour pass or simply approach the Bodeguita Pier and buy a boat ticket to Playa Blanca in Barú. One thing to note, it’s cash-only at the dock and the ticket costs approximately COP 80,000, which is equivalent to about USD 26 per person. You can also arrive by land, either by renting a car or taking a bus or a taxi. Whether by sea or land, it will be a fantastic day at the beach, where the breeze and sun will leave you feeling rejuvenated. It really is a dream beach. Rent a chair and sit down to sunbathe and have a cocktail in complete relaxation.
For those who love water sports, Barú offers the possibility of riding jet skis, kitesurfing, surface diving, deep-water diving and boating, among other activities. You will find a lot of life and tranquility here. You can also take advantage and visit the National Aviary of Colombia, which has 170 bird species, 3 ecosystems and 22 exhibits. The entrance costs COP 60,000 or USD 21 and the tour lasts two and a half hours. Come and witness all the possible colors of toucans, parrots and Colombian peacocks, among others.
It has quickly become one of the most VIP beaches in the Rosario Islands. Its exclusivity is due to the costs of visiting, since a yacht rental and the price for lunch are some of the extravagances that come with this heavenly beach. If you don’t mind spending a little more, its crystal-clear waters and beach parties are worth it. Another advantage of the cost is that it isn’t as popular or crowded. Some prefer to pay extra for a little more privacy. More than 120 people at a time are not allowed in this beach for conservation purposes since it is part of the Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo National Natural Park. Its natural beauty makes it an ideal destination to dive and spend an unforgettable day.
Paradise falls short for this beach in Isla Arena. The best way to describe is that it is too good to be true. A calm sea of crystalline waters where the only thing to do is literally swim in the sea and sunbathe. It is a completely virgin beach and one of the few where you could really read a book, rest and breathe in the fresh air. It’s a bit more expensive to get to this beach than others, but it’s totally worth it.
San Bernardo Archipiélago
This archipelago consists of 10 islands in the Gulf of Morisquillo. From Cartagena, we recommend you take a boat from Muelle la Bodeguita that goes directly to Isla Múcura, a journey that takes about two and a half hours. Upon arrival, you will forget all your worries. You will also realize that it is one of those hidden gems that don’t come around that often. In other words, not many people or tourists have it on their radar and, therefore, it has not yet become popular, so this is definitely the best time to visit. The beach, view and nature on this island will captivate you and you will never want to leave.
Take Advantage of Day Passes
One of the best things to consider when making your plans is the use of day passes and what they can offer you, like access to a virgin beach of the Rosario Islands or the San Bernardo Archipelago, in addition, the use of the facilities for a day or a couple of hours. Most include round-trip transportation, food and water sports. In this regard, you can visit Isla del Pirata, Isla del Encanto, Isla Coralina, Isla Palma, Isla Tintipán, among others. We recommend Bora Bora Beach and Azul Beach. They are places with little hotel and commercial development, but with the power to revitalize you.
Finally, we remind you that most of these islands and beaches are part of the Corales del Rosario and San Bernardo National Natural Park, so keep in mind the specific rules of these areas before your arrival. Also, in order to conserve the environment, remember to pick up your trash and avoid using plastic items, including bottles or bags.
Cartagena and its islands are a destination like no other, offering you the opportunity to discover the magic, allure, culture and gastronomy of the Colombian Caribbean. From eating coconut rice and fried fish on one of the beaches of the Rosario Islands, or enjoying the variety of tropical fruits to sharing with its people and touring its beaches and streets, a trip to this unforgettable destination will make the vastness and beauty of the Colombian Caribbean stay with you forever.