This guide is to help you choose among the most beautiful Colombian islands. From the indomitable Amazon River to the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, you will discover incredible places to add to your next vacation.
Since 2015, I (Tom) have been exploring Colombia to help travelers organize their trips to this beautiful country.
In this list, you will find my favorite activities and accommodations for each island in Colombia.
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Colombia islands: The Map
- San Andrés
- Santa Catalina
- Isla Barú
- Isla Cholón
- Isla Grande
- Tierra Bomba
- Isla Múcura
- Isla Tintipán
- Santa cruz del islote
- Isla Palma
- Isla Fuerte
- Isla Gorgona
- Isla Malpelo
- Isla de los Micos
- Isla Corota
Colombian Islands Near Nicaragua
Below are the paradise islands you can find off the coast of Nicaragua.
1. San Andrés Island, Famous Tourist Destination
San Andrés was chosen the world’s top Sun and Beach destination in 2014, 2015, and 2019 at the World Travel Awards. This island is a mass tourism destination, and for a good reason. Visitors will find natural beauty wherever they are on this island.
Unfortunately, her beauty is also detrimental to her: too many travelers show up during the high season.
San Andrés is located around 230 kilometers east of Nicaragua.
How to Get to San Andrés:
You have a few options to travel to San Andres. You will first need to book a flight to Colombia, Panama, or Miami. Then you will be able to fly straight to San Andrés.
Where to Stay in San Andrés:
Top 3 Experiences in San Andrés
- Scuba Diving: San Andrés is home to beautiful coral reefs and various marine life. The majority of tourists visit San Andrés for the opportunity to scuba dive in its warm waters. You can book multiple dives, including shore dives, wreck dives, and night dives.
- Day Trips: There are several smaller islands nearby San Andrés that you can visit. Haynes Cay offers a more secluded island experience. Cayo Bolivar is a wonderful snorkeling spot. Johnny Cay has white beaches and performances by local bands.
- Hire a Golf Cart: If you prefer having freedom in your daily plans, hiring a golf cart gives you the chance to explore San Andres at your own pace. You’re more likely to discover less touristy attractions with a golf cart.
2. Providencia Island, a Hidden Paradise
Similar to what San Andrés was before (although more mountainous), Providencia has beautiful scenery, sandy beaches, and plenty of spots to go scuba diving. If you don’t mind a bit of hiking, Providencia also offers some unforgettable views.
That’s also one of the reasons why Colombia is becoming so well known among travelers.
Providencia is located 92 kilometers north of San Andres in the Caribbean Sea and is one of the best islands in Colombia.
How To Get To Providencia:
- You can get to Providencia with a short flight from San Andrés, or you can take a longer catamaran ride if you’d like to enjoy the blue waters. The plane ride will take around twenty minutes, while the boat ride can be anywhere between three to five hours long.
Top 3 Experiences in Providencia
- Diving: This island has a wealth of marine life to explore, making diving a top option for visitors. If you are interested in seeing coral formations and sea creatures, Felipe’s Place is ideal. The Spiral offers the most biodiversity in the region, another great spot to check out.
- Cayo Cangrejo: Also known as Crab Cay, Cayo Cangrejo is a small island just off the main island of Providencia. It makes a perfect activity for a couple of hours —the time to swim around the island.
- El Pico: To find some of the best views on the island, a little elbow grease is necessary. Take a hike up to El Pico, the island’s highest point, to get swoon-worthy photos of your visit. The hike is about a three-hour round-trip, and it is recommended to begin the hike in the morning to avoid walking under the hot sun all day.
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3. Santa Catalina, Accessible By the Lovers’ Bridge
The smallest Colombian island near Nicaragua, Santa Catalina, is no less beautiful than its larger neighbors. Visiting here is an excellent option if you’re looking for a more secluded getaway. There are only a handful of inhabitants, 2-3 restaurants hidden among the palm trees, and a path leading to Captain Morgan’s head.
Santa Catalina is located next to Providencia, just north of the slightly larger island.
How to Get to San Catalina
Getting to Santa Catalina is easy if you’re already in Providencia; all you have to do is cross the Lover’s Bridge or Puente De Los Enamorados, located in downtown Providencia.
Colombian Islands near the Caribbean Coast
Below are the beautiful islands you can find near the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.
4. Isla Barú, the Most Famous Cartagena Island
Isla Barú is the most famous Cartagena island and belongs to The Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park. If the beach gets too crowded for your liking, the island is also home to the National Aviary of Colombia.
Isla Barú is located on a peninsula in northern Colombia. It is south of the city of Cartagena and is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.
How to Get to Isla Barú
You can get to Isla Barú by land or sea. It takes between 1h and 1h30.
Where to Stay in Isla Barú
Top 3 Experiences in Isla Barú
- Playa Blanca: This is the white sandy beach destination that travelers love. Since Isla Barú is more accessible than other islands, and the beach and water are stunning, it is a popular spot for many visitors. If you plan to spend most of your time here, it’s recommended to go early in the morning to avoid massive crowds.
- Stay in the South of Barú: While many visitors plan their vacation for the beach, others may prefer an authentic Colombian island experience. If you stay to the south of Barú, the tourist attractions are not as prevalent. You can enjoy the beauty of the island relatively uninterrupted.
- National Aviary of Colombia: Bird fanatics will love to hear that Isla Barú is home to the National Aviary of Colombia. With over 1,700 birds and 170 species, the aviary is a fun and educational adventure for anyone visiting. Ask Cathy to plan this beautiful Cartagena day trip.
5. Isla Cholón, The Party Island in the Caribbean Sea
Nicknamed “The Island of Young Travelers,” Isla Cholón is a popular place to party in a bathing suit among dozens of yachts and speedboats. On-site, locals pass among the visitors to offer seafood and bottles of alcohol. The place is beautiful but somewhat chaotic – due to the back and forth of boats and decibel contests.
Isla Cholón is located just off the northern coast of Barú.
How to Get to Isla Cholón
To enjoy Isla Cholón, you must book a yacht or speedboat in Cartagena. It will take 45 min to get there. Ask Aymeric, our boat expert, to organize this trip.
6. Isla Grande, One of My Favorite Caribbean Islands
Isla Grande is an island that can be explored on foot and is set away from the typical tourist destinations. Most travel companies suggest only making Isla Grande a day trip on your Colombia itinerary, but it’s way better to stay a couple of days.
Isla Grande is located northwest of Isla Barú and is part of the Rosario Archipelago.
How to Get to Isla Grande
Daily departures around 9:00 am from “El Muelle,” Cartagena’s tourist port. If you are staying at a well-known hotel, they will most likely provide a private boat for you to use. Otherwise, you can rent a private boat and ask the captain to drop you off at your hotel.
Where to Stay on Isla Grande
Top 3 Experiences in Isla Grande
- Romantic Ecolodge: There are great options to make a romantic getaway on Isla Grande. At Coralina Island and Islabela, there are beachside bungalows that provide private beach areas, restaurants, and activities like snorkeling or boat tours.
- Bioluminescent Plankton: After sunset, you can experience the phenomenon of bioluminescent plankton in the Laguna Encantada. The tiny plankton living in the lagoon will light up underwater when disturbed. Seeing this during a new moon when the sky is completely dark is an unforgettable experience.
- Mangrove Tour: Take a relaxing canoe ride through the lagoons and tunnels formed by mangroves on Isla Grande. This activity is best done early in the morning for ultimate relaxation, so plan on staying a night or two to take a mangrove tour.
7. Book Your Private Rosario Island
If you want an exclusive vacation with your group, you can rent your own private Rosario island. These private islands are small coral islands with houses built atop them. Renting an island can also include a chef that will prepare delicious meals for you and your band.
These private islands are located all around the Isla Grande. There are many options to choose from. Some have the basic necessities, while others are slightly larger and offer extra amenities.
To get to your private island, you must rent a boat.
3 Favorite Private Islands
- Isla Pelicano: This private island is 50 minutes from Cartagena de Indias. It offers a beautiful house, multiple sunbathing spots, and a professional chef with a specialized menu for your stay.
- Isla Rosa: A tiny but charming private island perfect for a weekend getaway. Known as the Pink Island, the house is painted a fun shade of pink, and the furniture is absolutely Instagram-worthy.
- Isla Matamba: If you’re traveling with a large group, Isla Matamba allows a maximum of sixty people on their private island. The house is full of rooms with waterfront views, and you can choose to visit for just the day or stay overnight. They’ve even held weddings and corporate functions on this private island.
8. Tierra Bomba Island, Beach Clubs, and Cocktails
This larger island makes for a good day trip, but it shouldn’t be your first choice if you’re dreaming of paradisical beaches — Due to its proximity to Cartagena, the water won’t be turquoise blue. However, there is plenty to do on Tierra Bomba to fill your itinerary for the day, like dancing all day in a beach club or exploring the island on a mountain bike.
Tierra Bomba is located just off the coast of Cartagena and has forty-three kilometers of coastline.
How to Get to Tierra Bomba
A fifteen-minute boat ride from the beach in front of the Bocagrande hospital can quickly get you to Tierra Bomba for the day.
Where to stay in Tierra Bomba
Top 3 Experiences in Tierra Bomba
- Party in a Blue Apple: If you’re looking to do some partying on your vacation, you should absolutely check out Blue Apple Beach on Tierra Bomba. The best way to give you an idea of their vibe is to quote from their home page: “We can be romantic, but hey, we like to party.”
- Mountain Biking: Would you instead go on a bike ride than party all day? Tierra Bomba has mountain biking trails that not only give you a workout but teach you the history of the island as well.
- Horseback Riding: So maybe you don’t want to party, but you also don’t want to do all the work of biking around the island. Blue Apple Beach also offers horseback riding as an option to explore the island.
9. Isla Múcura, Eco-resort Hotels & Palm Trees
If you’re looking for a tropical escape, this could be the perfect fit for you. Isla Múcura is a small island ideal for relaxing for a couple of days. They have multiple types of living accommodations, so finding one that fits your needs is easy.
Isla Múcura is located around forty-five kilometers south of Isla Barú and is part of the San Bernardo islands.
How to Get to Isla Múcura
You can take a boat from Tolu, Rincón del Mar, or Cartagena’s tourist harbor. The prior will take around 45 min and the former two hours.
Where to Stay in Isla Múcura
Top 3 Experiences in Isla Múcura
- Stay in a Luxury Hotel: Isla Mucura prides itself on being one of the few Colombian islands that offer a luxury experience. Punta Faro is a hotel on the island with a crystal clear sea and a white sand beach.
- Kayak & paddle: Some hotels provide kayaks and paddles for their guests to explore the calm water of the Caribbean Sea.
- Plankton Tour: Similar to Isla Grande, you can find bioluminescent plankton on Isla Mucura as well. They are easiest to see on significantly darker nights.
10. Isla Tintipán, Best White Sandy Beach
Beach lovers will love Isla Tintipán as it has the most beautiful beach – think gorgeous white sand and calming water to watch. Like Isla Múcura, if relaxation is your aim, Isla Tintipán is a prime destination if you like to chill on a beach towel.
Isla Tintipán is located just north of Isla Múcura and is part of the San Bernardo archipelago.
How to Get to Isla Tintipán
You can take a boat from Tolu, Rincon del Mar, and Cartagena.
Where to stay in Isla Tintipán
Top 3 Experiences in Isla Tintipán
- Sunbath on the Beach: As mentioned earlier, Isla Tintipán is known for its beautiful beach. Take the day to relax with a good book, a drink in hand, and lots of sunscreens.
- Mangrove Tour: Isla Tintipán also boasts mangroves you can walk through. Take some time in nature to appreciate this island’s other beautiful scenery.
- Stay in an Upscale Hotel: Like Isla Múcura, Isla Tintipan also has an upscale tourist experience with Quinta del Mar Tintipan. Play water sports, visit natural aquariums and enjoy the biodiversity and beautiful waters around this hotel.
11. Santa Cruz del Islote, The Most Densely Populated Island
Smack dab in the middle of Isla Múcura and Isla Tintipán you find Santa Cruz del Islote. The island holds 1,200 inhabitants, and the only places for visitors to stay are basic and tiny hotels. It’s an unusual island to visit and experience a tranquil way of life.
Many visitors decide to stay on a neighboring island and take a speedboat to visit Santa Cruz del Islote to explore.
12. Isla Palma, Beaches and Animals
Another small Colombian island, Isla Palma, makes for an excellent tropical retreat for someone needing a break from the real world. This beautiful island offers diverse wildlife and, of course, more beautiful beaches.
Where to Stay in Isla Palma
How to Get to Isla Palma
Isla Palma is located southeast of Isla Tintipán. You can get to this island via boat from Cartagena, Berrugas, or Tolu.
13. Isla Fuerte, an Off-The-Beaten-Path Colombia Island
Isla Fuerte is less visited than the other Colombian islands. While there are still prime places to stay and visit, you don’t get the same tourist vibe on other islands.
This island is located in front of Paso Nuevo, between Capurganá and San Bernardo.
How to Get to Isla Fuerte
You can get to Isla Fuerte with a twenty-minute boat ride from Paso Nuevo.
Where to Stay in Isla Fuerte
Top 3 Experiences in Isla Fuerte
- Diving: Explore the ocean floor by taking a boat ride around an hour out from the island. Visit coral reefs, an underwater lava volcano, and even a thirty-meter-long wreck home to sharks!
- Surfing: If you visit between November and April, you’ll be able to catch some beautiful waves if you’re into surfing. Beginners be warned though, these waves aren’t easy because the water is quite shallow!
- Sloths, Trees, and Foliage: Isla Fuerte has a plethora of wildlife to observe. Trails criss-cross throughout the island that you can explore. Most of the island is privatized and protected by fences, but that does not mean you won’t see any slow-moving sloths on your expedition.
Colombian Islands in the pacific ocean
Below are the islands you can find in front of Colombia’s Pacific coast.
14. Gorgona Island, an Old Prison And a Scuba Diving Paradise
What was once an island with a maximum-security prison now has natural wealth and biodiversity. It is home to eco-tourism and researchers looking to learn more about its fauna, flora, coral reef, and tropical rainforest ecosystems.
Isla Gorgona is located 50km south of Colombia’s Pacific coast and it’s one of the 59 Colombia National Parks.
A private concession manages the island, and you must book your package through them.
How to Get to Gorgona Island
You can only travel to Isla Gorgona by sea from Guapi, and it takes 2 to 5 hours.
Top 3 Experiences in Gorgona Island
- Diving: Isla Gorgona is the prime island to visit for an incredible diving experience with its marine biodiversity. You can see turtles, octopuses, snappers, jack mackerels, and even whitetip sharks, to name a few species that inhabit these waters.
- Hiking: This island is known as the Science Island of Colombia, which means there is plenty to explore on land. Get to know even more fauna and flora of the island with an early morning hike.
- Whale Spotting: If you visit between July and October, you may be able to watch the arrival of humpback whales on the Pacific coast. The whales visit every year to mate and raise their young.
15. Malpelo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Beach vacations may suit some tourists, but others may prefer something more adventurous. Those looking for a unique experience will want to check out Isla Malpelo, whose waters hold one of the largest shark populations in the world.
An island so small you can’t even see it on Google Maps, Isla Malpelo is 500 kilometers west of the Colombian mainland.
The only way to get there is by liveaboard, a diving company specializing in these trips. Isla Malpelo is not an island you vacation on, but one you adventure to.
Colombian Island in the Amazon
Below is an island located in the Amazon River.
16. Isla de los Micos, a River Island
In English, this island means monkey island. It has become a tourist attraction that allows visitors to observe numerous monkeys, mainly squirrel monkeys, in their natural habitat.
I have heard good and bad things about this island. Because of tourism, monkeys would be captured as babies and placed in this natural prison. Not being able to get the facts, I preferred not to go there when I booked my Amazon tour.
Isla de Los Micos is located in the Amazon River about twenty kilometers upriver from Leticia.
You can travel to this island on a boat trip from Leticia that arrives about an hour.
Colombian Islands Inland
Below are the islands you can visit within Colombia’s land.
17. Isla de la Corota, a discreet Lake island
This island is a fantastic place to visit if you are interested in anything floral. You can find the Isla de la Corota Flora Sanctuary here, which hosts beautiful orchids that can’t be found anywhere else in the country.
Isla de la Corota is located in Laguana De La Coche, a lake found in southern Colombia about 65 kilometers from the border of Ecuador.
How to Get to Isla de la Corota
To get to Isla de la Corota, you have to make your way to Pasto. From there, you can take a two-hour ride to El Encano Town. A twenty-minute boat ride later, and you’ve made it!
Top 2 Experiences in Isla de la Corota
- Hiking: There are two main trails you can hike to take in the island’s beauty: El Quiche trail and La Totora Trail.
- Birdwatching: Birds have an important presence on this island, and there is a variety of them to observe. Sparrows, cockatoos, and blackbirds are just a few of the seventy-seven total bird species that inhabit the island.
18. Mompox, a colonial city In the Middle of The Magdalena River
If you are interested in learning about culture and art, visiting Santa Cruz de Mompox (or Mompós) is a great travel idea. Not much has changed on this island so visitors can get a good sense of the city’s traditions and laid-back way of life.
Mompox is located in northern Colombia, around 200 kilometers south of Barranquilla.
How to Get to Mompox
Getting to Mompox can seem a bit complicated. You have a few options depending on where you’re starting in your journey. You can start in San Gil, Bucaramanga, Bogota, Tolu, Covenas, and more.
Since 2022, there are also direct flights from Medellín (with Easyfly).
Where to Stay in Mompox
Top 3 Experiences in Mompox
- Canoe Tour: Not your typical canoe tour though. This one is on a motorized canoe! Observe the beauty of the river and the creatures that thrive from it.
- Handcraft Tour: If you’re interested in learning about the island’s artisans, create your tour that includes the topics you want to know. The island holds goldsmiths, cheesemakers, and ironsmiths. You can also learn more about the island’s religious heritage and local history.
- Admire the Churches: The churches in Mompox are bright and colorful, and easy to spot around town. Take your time and admire the beautiful architecture of the island’s churches.
Best Colombian islands: Bottom line
Colombia has many islands quite different from each other. The settings are often idyllic, with varied and unusual fauna and flora. Depending on the area you wish to visit and your interests as a traveler, do not hesitate to include one of them in your itinerary. The extra effort to get there will always be rewarded.
The 8 best experiences you shouldn’t miss
Visit Caño Cristales (the most beautiful river worldwide)
Explore San José del Guaviare (an off-the-beaten-path destination)