Find the best information about Cartagena to create the perfect Colombia itinerary

40 Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia (2020): What travelers love

The first time I went to Cartagena, I didn’t like the city. I didn’t know the things to do in Cartagena. I was only expecting to have my feet in the water and a Caribbean-flavoured cocktail in my hand.

What a mistake! In Cartagena, you can forget about walking on the beach in a bathing suit. With no plan B and a small budget, I got bored quickly.

However, there are many tours to enjoy the city if you organize yourself a little bit in advance. Moreover, it is also possible to escape for one or more days to the islands of Rosarios.

To help you create your itinerary, I have just written a very complete list of things to do in Cartagena. Take a look at all the activities that interest you to find out how long you should stay there.

Many booking links are to reliable local companies. Don’t hesitate to bookmark this page for your trip to Colombia 😉

There is also a list of events for each day of the week at the end of this article. Read it all the way through!

Must read: Our top-notch Cartagena travel guide

Table of contents: What to do in Cartagena

  1. Entertainment (easy to do)
  2. Museums
  3. Free Walking Tours
  4. Paid Cultural tours
  5. Bikini trips on Rosario Islands
  6. More day trips from Cartagena
  7. Where to escape for a few days?
  8. Things to do during the week
  9. Our guidebook to create your itinerary
  10. Relax while we organize your Colombia adventure

Things to do inside Cartagena

With its many gastronomic restaurants and colorful alleys, Cartagena is the ideal city for lovers who wish to make a comfortable stopover during their stay in Colombia.

However, it is one of the most expensive cities to visit in the country. You’ll need to dip into your pockets if you want to make the most of it.

My little piece of advice, avoid going there during the tourist season.

Let see the best things to do in Cartagena.

Fun and easy things to do in Cartagena

The tourist sites are concentrated in two-quarters of the city, the old town center, and Getsemani. They are only separated by a hundred meters. You can get around on foot. No need for a taxi!

1# Pick the best ice cream in Cartagena

Ice cream cartagena

Let’s start with the most important thing, food! In Cartagena, it can be very hot and there is nothing better than devouring some ice cream to cool down. 3 establishments have a good reputation. It’s up to you to decide between them!

Where to eat ice cream (+)

  • Where: The old town center
  • Duration: Depends on the number of ice creams ingested.
  • Price $
  • More information: Paradiso | Paletteria | Tramonti

2# Book a table for a romantic dinner in Cartagena

Diner romantique que faire à Carthagène

Imagine gourmet dishes served away from prying eyes in a charming patio lit by a subdued light. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? A great opportunity to celebrate your trip. It’s a delicious thing to do in Cartagena.

Best restaurants in Cartagena (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: Depends on you
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Service is often slow on the Caribbean coast, so be patient. Book in advance.
  • More information: Alma | Restaurant 1621 | Carmen

VIP Experience: Dinner in Cartagena’s Bay

3# Taste the flavours of the Caribbean

Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Caribbean meals things to do in Cartagena

In Cartagena, many renowned chefs use traditional recipes to prepare dishes that make Gordon Ramsay blush. What will be your favorite dishes?

Cartagena's specialities (+)

  • Where: The old center and Getsemani
  • Duration: Depends on you
  • Price: $$
  • Dishes you should order: Ceviche, Posta Negra, Cazuela de Mariscos
  • More information: Eater

4# Sipping delicious cocktails in Cartagena

Cocktail que faire à Carthagène

With this warmth and holiday atmosphere, I advise you to start the evening with a nice cocktail. Some establishments are not lacking in ingenuity to surprise your taste buds. Count 10 Euros for a good cocktail.

Favorite Cartagena's bars (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: Before dinner
  • Price: $
  • Tips: The Alquimíco rooftop and Town House are top-notch
  • More information: Alquímico | La Baron | Town House

5# Admire the sunset in the ocean

Coucher de soleil que faire à Carthagène

If for you, the view of the sunset takes precedence over the quality of your cocktail, then go to the city wall facing the sea. There you can buy beers on the sly or order a bottle of white wine from the Cafe del Mar. An easy thing to do in Cartagena.

Best sunset experiences (+)

  • Where: On the wall, near the Cafe del Mar
  • Duration: For the sunset
  • Price: Free – $$
  • Tips: Arrive at least 30 minutes early if you want to sit down at Cafe del Mar. Another good plan is to enjoy the rooftop of the Movitch. The view of the old town is breathtaking.
  • More information: Cafe del Mar | Movitch

We love: Enjoy the sunset from a Catamaran!

6# So we’re dancing… the Salsa

Things to do in Cartagena

We suggest it for every major city in Colombia. If you come here, you have to learn some salsa steps. It’s MANDATORY. You can take some private or group lessons. Don’t forget to head to Cali if you’re a salsa fan.

Where to learn salsa (+)

  • Where: Crazy Salsa School | The old center
  • Duration: 1h
  • Price: $
  • Tips: Beginners group is at 10:00. It’s perfect to start the day on the right foot. Closed on Sundays. Take a trip to Quiebra Canto if you’d rather watch people dance.
  • More information: Crazy Salsa

Experience: Follow La Guia Cartagenera in a fiery salsa party

7# Or Champeta (but it’s even harder)

Champeta things to do in Cartagena
@ Fundacion Gabo

Champeta is a musical style invented on the Caribbean coast and strongly influenced by African culture. Cartagena was a slave port of great importance. Champeta can be danced alone or in pairs. Expect to sweat a lot!

Where to dance champeta (+)

  • Where: Bazurto Social Club | Getsemani
  • Duration: Evening
  • Price: $
  • Tips: Free lessons (but cover) at 10:30 pm from Wednesday to Saturday.
  • More information: Bazurto

8# Show of traditional African dances

Danse sur Plaza Bolivar
@ Young Shanahan

If you think the sunset is not going to be great because of the clouds, change your plans and head for Bolivar Square. Every night, a group of musicians and dancers come to perform for about fifteen minutes. It’s very nice! This is a simple and pleasant thing to do in Cartagena.

More about this activity (+)

  • Where: Place Bolivar | Old city center | Google Map
  • Duration: 15 min
  • Price: Free, but leave a tip 🙂
  • Tips: It’s just before sunset.

9# Enjoy the bohemian atmosphere of Getsemani

Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Trinidad Square Cartagena
@Joe Ross

The old center is beautiful but not representative of Colombia. Stroll through the colorful streets of Getsemani if you want to escape the hordes of tourists arriving from the cruises. There is a lot of graffiti to admire and the early evening festive atmosphere is entertaining. It’s a free thing to do in Cartagena.

More about Getsemani (+)

  • Where: Getsemani
  • Duration: 1 – 2 h (or all night)
  • Tips: There are artists dancing in Trinidad Square from 7:00 p.m. Pass by Café Mural.

10# Take colourful pictures of the old city

Photo vieux centre que faire à Carthagène

Visit the old center! It’s a must in the things to do in Cartagena. It’s the must-see of Cartagena. The problem is that everyone does the same thing. A cute alley with 195 people, that’s 194 people too many. Don’t despair, nothing is lost. If you want to take nice pictures, without having pieces of legs lying around, just get up early!

More about this experience (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: 1 – 2h
  • Price: Free
  • Tips: Be in the old center around 7:00 am and then have breakfast at La Brioche. The streets of the San Diego neighborhood are even more photogenic.

Be a star: Ideal activity for a group of friends or on honeymoon

11# Look for the monkeys in Centenario Park

Centenario Park is located between Getsemani and the old center. It is small and not very well laid out. On the other hand, there is a small colony of monkeys that settled there a few years ago. Probably capuchin explorers and chip lovers.

More about this experience (+)

  • Where: Park Centenario | Between Getsemani and the old center
  • Price: Free
  • Tips: Ask the vendors in the park where to find them
  • Information: Google Map

12# Admire Cartagena from La Popa

La popa things to do in Cartagena
@Manuel Castro

This convent is nicknamed “La Popa” because it is located on a hill that looks like the stern of a boat. It is the best place to admire the city of Cartagena.

How to get to la Popa (+)

  • Where: Convento la Popa | 15 min by taxi from the old center
  • Duration: 1 h
  • Price: $$ (Taxi + entrance)
  • Tips: Ask a taxi to take you up to the “Convento” and then wait for you to come down.
  • More information: Lonely Planet

We recommend: Get a ride to different Cartagena places

13# Do a bit of shopping

Shopping que faire à Carthagène
@Alex W

The old center is full of small shops selling colorful swimwear or handicrafts that will fit perfectly into your living room. Make sure you leave some room in your suitcase! Yes, shopping is also one of the things to do in Cartagena.

Best Cartagena's shops (+)

  • Where: The old city center
  • Tips: There are some great cigars at the cava del Puro, delicious sweet pancakes under the arcades in front of the Puerta del Reloj, or OndadeMar for a bikini.
  • More information: Shopping in Cartagena

Museums to visit

Things to do in Cartagena

Don’t come to Cartagena to visit museums. You’ll find a few explanations and all of them in Spanish. There are still two places to visit if you are a fan of history (y que hablas Español).

14# Learn the history of Cartagena at the Naval Museum

Museo Naval que faire à Carthagène
@Joe Ross

During the time of colonialization, pirates have always loved Cartagena. In fact, a large majority of the assaults were ordered by other countries such as France or England (privateers). Discover the defeats and victories of this fortified city.

More about the Museo Naval (+)

  • Where: Museo Naval del Caribe | Old city center
  • Duration: 1 – 2 h
  • Price: $
  • Tips: 9 – 17h. You can pay for a guided tour
  • More information: On their Facebook page

15# Attacking Fort San Felipe

Castillo San Felipe things to do in Cartagena
@JD Lasica

Always with the idea of protecting itself from attackers, Cartagena built many forts, the most imposing being San Felipe. The walk around the fort is nice, but there are better things to do in Cartagena. It might interest you if you have never visited this type of monument before.

More about San Felipe (+)

  • Where: Castillo San Felipe | 5 min by taxi from Getsemani
  • Duration: 1 -2 h
  • Price: $
  • Tips: It’s better in the morning.
  • More information: Explanations

Free walking tours we love

Things to do in Cartagena

Free walking tours are organized by local agencies to help travelers discover their city when they come to visit. These tours are free of charge, however, it is strongly encouraged to leave a tip. There are also some in Medellin and Bogota.

16# Follow the colorful umbrellas in the historic center

Centre historique Carthagène

There are two companies known for doing free walking tours of the historical center of Cartagena. This is a good way to get to know some good tips and discover the history of the city. It’s up to you to see if you prefer yellow or red.

Free walking tours in Cartagena (+)

  • Where: The old center
  • Duration: 2 h
  • Price: Free, but leave a tip:)
  • Tips: Grab a hat! Do it in the morning so you don’t miss the sunset. You have to book online.
  • More information: Beyond Colombia | Free Cartagena

17# Follow the colourful umbrellas in Getsemani

Another option to discover the cultural heritage of Cartagena is a visit to the Getsemani district. Getsemani was at the time a notoriously bad neighborhood of workers and prostitutes, then it gradually turned into a bohemian and artistic district. There is a lot of graffiti to admire.

Tours in Getsemani (+)

  • Where: Getsemani
  • Duration: 2h
  • Price: Free, but leave a tip 🙂
  • Tips: Grab a hat! Do it in the morning so you don’t miss the sunset. You have to book online.
  • More information: Beyond Colombia | Free Cartagena

The best tours & activities

Things to do in Cartagena

Being the most visited city in Colombia, there are plenty of tours and activities to do in Cartagena. Some of them can be quite expensive. Make your choice according to your budget and your desires.

Enjoy your weekend while we plan your itinerary

18# A private tour in the city of Cartagena

Tour privé que faire à Carthagène

It’s nicer not to share the guide with other tourists. You go at your own pace, you choose what interests you and you can exchange more easily and freely. Contact Beyond Colombia directly if you want to visit the historical center of Cartagena and Getsemani. The tours are only in English or Spanish.

Our favorite private tours (+)

  • Where: Getsemani and the old town
  • Duration: 2 h
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: It’s more pleasant early in the morning.
  • More information: Beyond Colombia

VIP and French Experience: Sion Tour will take care of you

19# Soak up Bazurto’s open market

Food Bazurto Cartagena

For an experience rich in color and flavor, visit at least one market in Colombia. With Cartagena Insider, discover the different facets of the Bazurto market, from the creation of posters, medicinal plants, fresh fruit juices, and a delicious meal. This is one of the great things to do in Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Bazurto Market | 10 min by car
  • Duration: 4 h
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Save room for lunch. It’s delicious.

We recommend: Add Bazurto Market to your itinerary (Free cancellation)

20# Bring a recipe home

Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia

Cooking lovers, I have just the thing for you. Depending on your budget, you can choose the number of dishes you wish to prepare (and eat). You can even go shopping at the market with your chef. It’s a unique opportunity to share a moment with the locals.

Our favorite experiences (+)

  • Where: depends on the chosen experience
  • Duration: 2 – 5 h
  • Price: $$ – $$$$
  • More information: Cartagena Connection has a list with several proposals for cooking classes.

VIP Experience: Ask Duran Duran to impress you

21# Crabs, mangroves and net throwing in La Boquilla

La boquilla que faire à Carthagène

La Boquilla is a fishing village surrounded by the city of Cartagena. In a small canoe, your fishing guide will take you into the mangroves with a long pole. The atmosphere there is both peaceful and pleasant. Your guide will teach you the local fishing techniques to catch fish and crabs in this natural environment. Trapping and netting is an art!

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: La Boquilla | 20 min by car from the old center
  • Duration: 3 h
  • Price: $$$
  • Tips: Take things you’re not afraid to get wet.

Add La Boquilla to your itinerary in Colombia (free cancellation)

22# How do you like your coffee?

Coffee tasting things to do in Cartagena

Colombian coffee is known worldwide for its balance and its acid and sweet notes. Participate in a tasting workshop to discover the characteristics of Colombian coffee. Also, find out how the different preparation methods impact the final flavors in the cup. An easy thing to do in Cartagena!

Where to drink your coffee (+)

23# Do you know Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

Things to do in Cartagena

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Marquez is a famous Colombian novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, rewarding a singular writing style, a mixture of realism, and a skillful touch of surreality. The writer is much inspired by the Caribbean coast for his books. Discover his story as you wander through the alleys of Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: The old city center
  • Duration: 3h
  • Price: $$$

Ask Duran Duran to save you a spot on this tour

24# Cycling and eating (but not both at the same time)

Bike tour Cartagena

You burn calories, then you get them back, then you burn them again while having your hair in the wind. Free bike Tour organizes this appetizing activity to make you discover the city of Cartagena and its “street food”! A simple, interesting and delicious experience to do in Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Getsemani and the old city center
  • Duration: 4 h
  • Price: $$

Ask Free bike tour to save you a seat!

25# Where to ride a bike and look for film locations?

Movie and bike tour

Every year there is the Cartagena Film Festival (in March). The city has regularly been in the spotlight with films such as “Cartagena ou l’homme de chevet” and “El amor en los tiempos del Colera”. A sporting apprenticeship 🙂

Our favorite tour (+)

Ask Gerardo to save you a bike!

26# Make your own chocolate and take it away

Things to do in Cartagena

Museo del chocolate

If you’re looking for a gourmet experience to do in Cartagena, this is for you. Chocolate is like a toothbrush, it can’t be shared, except maybe with your favorite granny. In Cartagena, there’s the Chocolate Museum for family fun. Let’s go, put on your apron!

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: The historic center
  • Duration: 2 h
  • Price: $$
  • More information: Choco Museo

27# With a bit of rum, it’s even better

Rhum dégustation Que faire à Carthagène

Luckily there is a rum for Colombians who don’t like Aguardiente, a local alcoholic beverage that is drunk in shots between two sips of beer to get it through. There are five known rums in Colombia, and one of them has received many awards. So, any ideas?

Rum tasting (+)

  • Where: El Arsenal | Getsemani
  • Duration: 1 – 2h
  • Price: $$$
  • Tips: The food is also very good!
  • More information: El Arsenal Rumbox

28# Like Cousteau before you, visit the seabed

Scuba diving

The advantage of diving in the Caribbean Sea is that it’s warm enough to avoid putting on a full suit. Many boats have been sunk off Cartagena. It’s perfect for playing hide-and-seek with sharks.

Our favorite tour (+)

29# Like our friends the birds, fly over Cartagena

Cartagena view from the sky

Climb aboard a paratrike – a kind of three-wheeled motorcycle with a sail and a propeller – to admire the city of Cartagena and the Caribbean coast. Surprisingly, it flies very well :D.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Nearby La Boquilla | 20 min by taxi from the old center
  • Duration: 15 min
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: There’s also skydiving if you’re looking for more adrenaline.

Ask Fly Cartagena to save you a seat!

Things to do outside of Cartagena

Unlike Santa Marta, there is not much to do around Cartagena, apart from sunbathing on the paradise islands of San Bernardo or Rosario.

Venturing on the islas of Rosario

Things to do in Cartagena

The vast majority of the Rosario Islands are only 1 hour from Cartagena and it can be an interesting expedition if you don’t plan to visit the rest of the Caribbean coast in your Colombian itinerary.

The problem with these islands is that they can be invaded by tourists. Avoid going there on weekends and choose your tour carefully.

Let’s take a closer look.

30# The most famous beach is Isla Baru (Playa Blanca)

Isla Baru is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It is therefore possible (and recommended) to get there by road! The beach is beautiful, but there are too many people. Don’t book a tour, walk to the end of the beach and spend the night in a small hut so you can enjoy Playa Blanca at the end of the day with fewer people.

How to get to Playa Blanca (+)

  • Where: Playa Blanca | 45 min by car
  • Duration: 1 – 2 days
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Take the shuttle that leaves from Mamallena.

32# You can also sail around the islands on a sailboat

Catamaran things to do in Cartagena

It’s a simple and pleasant way to avoid tourists. The crew of the catamaran is taking care of its guests and offers juice at will. It’s the perfect plan to take a break between two snorkeling sessions. Lunch is included, but don’t eat too much as you risk sinking.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: Las Islas de Rosario |Departure from the port near the old center
  • Duration: 8 h
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: Tee shirt, cap, and bikini!

Reserve your place to be aboard the catamaran (limited places)!

33# It’s even better if you rent your own boat

Location Bateau que faire à Carthagène

This is THE thing to do in Cartagena if you are traveling with a group of friends or family. Rent a boat (with captain) to explore the islands. Don’t forget to have some cold beers!

How to rent your boat (+)

  • Where: The boat’s waiting for you at the port, near the old town.
  • Duration: 8 h
  • Price: $$$$
  • Tips: go party on Isla Cholon for a little while if it’s the weekend.

34# Drink cocktails at a beach club

Things to do en Cartagena, Colombia

Beach club things to do in Cartagena

There are many resort hotels that organize “day passes” for those who wish to rest on a paradise island and do nothing during the day. It’s not very exciting but the scenery is splendid.

Our favorite beach clubs (+)

  • Where: On the Rosarios Islands, an average of 1 hour by boat
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$$
  • Tips: Avoid weekends and high season
  • More information: Carolina Island | Isla del Pirata | Gente de Mar

35# Leave for a few days on Isla Grande

Isla Grande que faire à Carthagène

I’m all for doing it right. Spend several days on the islands to really enjoy the atmosphere there. There are some beautiful (and expensive) establishments to fully appreciate the Rosarios Islands.

Where to stay on Isla Grande (+)

36# Tierra Bomba, it’s just 20 minutes away

Tierra bomba things to do in Cartagena

Well, technically, the island of Tierra Bomba is not part of the Rosario Reserve. Because of its proximity to the coast, the sea is more turbid than turquoise around this island. This is still a good option if you want to relax on your deckchair listening to good music.

Our favorite beach club (+)

  • Where: Tierra Bomba – Blue Apple Beach | 20 min by boat
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$$
  • More information: Blue Apple beach

Things to do without bathing suits

Things to do in Cartagena

You can organize 2 tours that are a bit out of the ordinary to observe nature or to learn more about the African-Colombian mix.

37# San Basilio de Palenque, America’s first free slave village

Cartagena was an important slave port. Thousands of slaves passed through the city. Some – including the African king Benkos – escaped and built San Basilio de Palenque. Even today, African culture is still very much present there. It’s a very interesting cultural tour to do in Cartagena.

Our favorite tour (+)

  • Where: San Basilio de Palenque | 2h by car
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$$$
  • Tips: There is the festival in Palenque every year in October. A strong and authentic cultural moment.
  • More information: Website

Add the tour of Palenque to your itinerary in Colombia (free cancellation)

38# Thousands of birds on Isla Baru

Hummingbirds Valle de Cocora Salento

The Avario Nacional de Colombia is a huge aviary with more than 2,000 birds and 135 different species.

How to get there (+)

  • Where: Avario Nacional de Colombia | 1h30 by car
  • Duration: Full day
  • Price: $$
  • Tips: There’s a daily shuttle to get there | Don’t miss the 11:30 or 15:30 show
  • More informationAviary’s website

Escape to a secluded beach/island

Trips from Cartagena

If you’re feeling a little adventurous, I know two places that are worth a visit.

39# The paradise islands of San Bernardo

San Bernardo islands colombia

The islands of San Bernardo are beginning to be well-known but there are still fewer people than on the Rosario Islands. Choose between Isla Mucura and Isla Tintipan to feed yourself with coconuts and fresh fish with your feet in the water.

How to get to San Bernardo (+)

40# Rincon del Mar, a little piece of paradise

Rincon del Mar (1)

Colorful little houses on the beach, sparkling blue sea, and fresh lobsters. Once in Rincon del Mar, it is difficult to leave. This is one of our favorites on the coast.

How to get to Rincon (+)

Going out in Cartagena

Except during the high season, there are few events at the beginning of the week (Monday and Tuesday).

I’m putting together a little list of our favorite events in Cartagena. Don’t forget to check on the social networks before going there 😉

Download our Travel Guide (free) for a complete list of events in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Cartagena.

Going out in Cartagena on Monday

  • Cocktail party at Alquimico | historic centre

Going out in Cartagena on Tuesday

  • Take a little stroll around Trinidad Square | Getsemani

Going out in Cartagena on Wednesday

Going out in Cartagena on Thursday

Things to do in Cartagena on Friday

Things to do in Cartagena on Saturday

  • All events on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (except pool party)

Things to do in Cartagena on Sunday

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

Things to do after Cartagena

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers HERE

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

All you need to create your itinerary

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Have fun while we do the hard job

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Things to do in Cartagena (1)

Cartagena Beaches (2020): The good, the bad, and the ugly

Many people want to add Cartagena to their Colombia itinerary. The city has a tremendous reputation, there are many delicious restaurants and upscale hotels. However, you probably don’t know the truth about the Cartagena Beaches.

The Cartagena beaches nearby the city are unpleasant.

Fortunately, there are some cool alternatives to find a lovely white-sand spot. Read this post to find out where are the best beaches nearby Cartagena.

Cartagena Beaches: What you must know

Beaches within Cartagena: Boca Grande and La Boquilla are surrounded by skyscrapers, covered by plastic chairs and invaded by street sellers. Avoid them.

Tierra Bomba: It’s an island nearby where you can find some good beach clubs.

Rosario Islands: Archipelago nearby Cartagena where you will find your dreamy white-sand beach. Depending on the season, they can be overcrowded. Stay overnight if you can.

Isla Baru: The most famous Rosario island. There is a fabulous beach, but it’s always crowded. The easiest way to get there is to take a shuttle from Cartagena.

Isla Grande: Outstanding Rosario island with lots of Eco-resorts. Stay there to enjoy the most beautiful beaches. My favorites are Carolina Island and Isabella.

Day trips: Many beach tours sold in Cartagena aren’t great. You can’t be wrong with this catamaran tour if you don’t have time to spend 1 or 2 nights on the Cartagena islands.

Isla Cholon: It’s a famous party place on the weekend that you can only reach by boat.

Discover our guide on Cartagena to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to visit this beautiful city.

Read our Cartagena travel guide

Where to travel after Cartagena?

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers HERE

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

Table of Contents: Cartagena Beaches

  1. Beaches inside the city
  2. Tierra Bomba island
  3. Playa Blanca
  4. Playa Azul
  5. Isla Grande
  6. San Bernardo islands
  7. Weather in Cartagena
  8. Plan your trip step by step
  9. Use our premium service
Isla Grande Cartagena beaches
Sunset from Isla Grande

Credit: @launaart

The Beaches inside the city of Cartagena

In my opinion, you shouldn’t too much time there – Except if you’re living in Cartagena de Indias or if you’re spending the week.

Also, we wrote a post to help you to decide how long to stay in Cartagena. Read it!

A. The beaches Boca Grande and Laguito in Cartagena (+)

It’s the wealthiest district of Cartagena. With the tall skyscrapers, it looks like a little Miami. There are fancy restaurants, boring Cartagena beach resorts, and tourists living on Mac Donald’s diet. In front of the buildings, there is the beach Boca Grande. Hundreds of Plastics chairs and umbrella are waiting for the lazy tourists who refuse to walk more than 50m before getting in the water. At the end of the peninsula, there is Laguito beach – similar.

Yes, I’m not in love with the two closest Cartagena beaches.

Boca grande Cartagena beaches
Boca grande Cartagena

Credit: @ayaladelrey

B. The beach La Boquilla in Cartagena (+)

La Boquilla is a little fisherman village just after Cartagena. There is no skyscraper this time but the Boquilla beach is not pleasant, and the sea is often murky. Still, it will be less touristic, and you can book an excellent tour to go fishing with locals among the mangroves.

In restaurants, there are many seafood options. Be careful, some unscrupulous owners try to increase the bills when white tourists with blond hair are eating. A plate should cost you around 20 – 30 000 COP.

La Boquilla Cartagena Beaches
La Boquilla Cartagena


C. The beaches Manzanillo del Mar and Crespo in Cartagena (+)

The beaches Manzanillo del Mar,  Marbella, and Crespo, are between The Old City center and La Boquilla. It will be the same Colombia beaches than La Boquilla without the mangroves at the end.

Also, the currents can be dangerous around Cartagena. Don’t swim too far.

Paradisiacal beaches nearby Cartagena

Don’t stress. It’s not because I’m telling you that Cartagena beaches suck that you can’t have a great time with a cocktail in hands and your butt on a white-sand Colombia beach.

There are lovely islands nearby Cartagena. Ready to become a pirate?

Don’t forget to plan a cultural tour after a relaxing beach day. We wrote an exhaustive list of the best things to do in Cartagena!

1# The beaches in Isla Tierra Bomba

Cartagena beaches (15 min)

Blue apple beach Tierra Bomba
Tierra Bomba, Blue Apple beach Hotel | Credit: Blue Apple Beach

Tierra Bomba is an island 15 min away from Cartagena. You can take a boat by yourself in Bocagrande in front of the hospital. It’s quite big, and there are four little towns on it.

The best option is to get to Punta Arena. It’s where the loveliest beaches are. The water and the sands are still not heavenly, but you’re surrounded by trees instead of buildings. And the street vendors are less annoying :).

The other beaches are: Linda, Palmarito, Chiringuito and Marina

Tips about Tierra Bomba (+)

You can book a day trip with different hotel resorts. They can offer you some interesting packages: Boat+ Chairs + Hammocks + swimming pool + lunch. It’s a great way to spend the day.

Stay at Blue Apple beach if you like beach clubs. They also offer day-pass here.

2# Isla Baru, Playa Blanca

Cartagena beaches (1h)

Playa Blanca Isla Baru Cartagena (1)

There, the beaches are beautiful with white sand and a turquoise sea. But there is another hic. It’s a famous place. It will be crowded. However, there is always a solution to avoid people. You just have to do it differently, and you will love Playa Blanca beach.

How to get to Isla Baru (+)

There are three different ways to arrive at Playa Blanca beach.

  • Public bus + Moto-taxi.
  • A round trip with a Mamallena’s Shuttle. It’s the best solution.
  • A boat ride from the touristic dock.

Once there, you just have to find a place without too many people or jetskis. There are many cabañas near the parking entrance, but if you walk 200-300 m, it will be quieter.

How to avoid the crowd (+)

The answer is simple. You must sleep there!

The majority of the tourists (99% of them) plan a day trip to Playa Blanca. Most of the buses and speedboats go back to Cartagena around 3-4 pm.

If you’re staying overnight, you will have this Colombia beach for yourself! Ready for a crazy sunset with your coco loco and nobody around?

Also, don’t go there on the weekend and on a public holiday.

The best way is to take a shuttle with Mamallena hostel. You pay for the round trip, but you can return to Cartagena whenever you want.

It’s one of the best Cartagena beaches.

Prices on Playa Blanca beach (+)

  • Boat round trip: Around 100 000 COP + 18 500 COP dock fee in Cartagena 
  • Shuttle round trip: 50 000 COP
  • Public transportation option: Around 17 000 COP – 1 way
  • Hammock: Around 20 000 COP
  • Cabañas: Around 100 000 COP
Playa Blanca beach Isla Baru
Playa Blanca, Isla Baru

Credit: @juanibian

If you can’t stay for two days, make your life easier, and enjoy the Nena Beach Club. You can choose to go there with their boat or take the bus.

Otherwise, book your day with cocktails and seafood and then sleep in one of the cabins nearby. Just take your coupon on GetYourGuide. Cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.

3# Playa Azul, Isla Cholon

Cartagena beaches (1h)

Cholon, Rosario islands
Cholon, Rosario islands Credit: @ruedaniel

Lovely Cartagena beach a little further than Playa Blanca beach. You can book a full-day private boat tour in Cartagena or with the hotels near Cholon. There are many packages Isla Baru + PIaya Azul.

I believe it’s a private island so I don’t know if you can hang out by yourself. But it seems lovely, and there is almost no street vendor!

We recommend: Plan a Rosario island trip on a catamaran!

4# Playa libre, Isla Grande

Cartagena beaches (1h30)

Isla Grande Rosario
Isla Grande Rosario

The Rosario Archipelago is a set of 30 islands. Many are privates or protected, but fortunately, it’s not the case for Isla Grande in Colombia.

Isla Grande is a little paradise. The tiny islands around are fantastic, and they belong to the National park and reef of Rosario. It’s the best spot for snorkeling near Cartagena! And the lush vegetation of mangroves is an idyllic habitat for many birds.

Tips about Isla Grande (+)

  • Boats leave from the tourist dock between 8 and 10 am.
  • It takes around 1h30 to arrive.
  • Be careful when buying your ticket; most of them sell Rosario island tours. I don’t recommend it. They offer you to visit an oceanarium where they keep poor animals and to swim in a natural aquarium – where there are more Colombians trying not to sink than fishes. And you won’t go on Isla Grande.
  • You’ll have to pay a dock fee
  • You can book your boat ride here to be sure.

The best Rosario beach is Playa libre. It’s also the most accessible :). Otherwise, there are many private beaches that belong to different hotels/ beach hostels like Majagua.

You should at least stay 1 night on Isla Grande. Be aware that the accommodations are more expensive as it’s a remote place.

  • Secreto Hostel is the perfect hostel with excellent outdoor facilities and activities.

If your schedule is too tight, there is an easy and fun way to discover the islands by catamaran. Book it now on the GetYourGuide website. It’s effortless. You can cancel up to 24 hours in advance and get a full refund.

Escape to the San Bernardo Islands

Cartagena beaches (2h)

Isla Mucura San Bernardo Islands
Isla Mucura San Bernardo Islands Credit: @lepetitmondedecaroline

If you’re not interested in the Cartagena beaches above, there is one last option. Grab a bottle of rum, a dead parrot, an inflatable buoy – I’ve got a preference for mermaids – and go to explore the San Bernardo Islands. 

For that, you need more than two days, but it’s worth it – It’s 2-3 hours away from Cartagena. Isla Mucura and Isla Tintipan are superb, these Colombian beaches and landscapes are better than what you can imagine.

And Casa En El Agua is loads of fun if you’re looking for parties.

Include them in a terrific Colombia itinerary.

Read our San Bernardo travel guide

Now it’s time to make a choice. Which Cartagena beaches do you choose?

About Colombia beaches (+)

Do you want to learn more about the different tours and activities around? Read a 4-day itinerary in Cartagena written by Rachel

Do you love beaches? Find out other fantastic beaches in Colombia.

Would you like more sandy information? TheDiscoverieSof wrote an article about the best beaches in Colombia

We also wrote a kick-ass Caribbean Coast itinerary if you’re a beach fan!

Weather & Cartagena’s beaches

There are two types of weather in Cartagena: A day with or without rain.

But, you shouldn’t be to worry about it. Even during a rainy day, the sun will show up.

As a rule of thumb, here is what you need to know about the weather in Cartagena.

Best months in Cartagena (+)

  • The sunniest month: December to March; July & August
  • The rainiest month: April, May, September, Octobre
  • The weather is always hot in Cartagena but it’s a bit windier from December to February.
  • Unfortunately, it’s also the tourist season. Prices increases by 2 and annoying tourists fall like rains from the sky.
  • The sea is rough from October to April. Think about it before organizing a day trip on the islands from Cartagena.

Finally, in addition to the weather, don’t forget to consult all our tips for traveling in Colombia in order to better understand this wonderful country before you leave.

Decide where and how to travel to Colombia

All you need to create your itinerary

Why bother if we do it better?

Have fun while we do the hard job

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Keep me for Later

A shell on a beach near Cartagena

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

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Best beaches around Cartagena

Rosario Islands Cartagena (2020): 5 stunning day trips

The archipelago of Rosario near Cartagena is made up of 30 beautiful Caribbean islands. Most of them are less than 1-h boat ride from Cartagena and offer an excellent opportunity for memorable day trips.

Find out all the information you need to plan a trip to the Islas de Rosario.

Rosario Islands Cartagena: What you must know

How far are the Rosario islands: It’s a 1-h boat ride from the tourist port in Cartagena, nearby the old city center.

How can you get there: You can take a Mamallena bus shuttle to get to Isla Baru or a boat from the tourist port. Most of the resorts have transportation arrangements.

The easiest day trip: 45 min private shuttle to travel to Playa Blanca – Isla Baru.

The most beautiful island: Isla Marina is next to Isla Grande. There is no public beach. You must stay at Carolina Island or Islabela.

Where to Party: Boats organize parties on Isla Cholon every weekend.

Weather on the Islas de Rosario: The rainiest month are April to May and September to November.

When to get there: Avoid going on the weekend and on a public holiday.

Private islands: There are tiny private islands that you can rent like Isla Rosa

Day Pass: You can buy a day pass in one of the many resorts. Pick cautiously.

How many days: Although you can plan a day trip, I recommend staying at least 1 night. 2 nights is even better if you don’t mind lay back on the beach.

Explore various islands in 1 day: Many beach tours sell in Cartagena aren’t great. I would recommend this one if you don’t have time to spend 1 or 2 nights on the Cartagena islands. A great catamaran experience!

Discover our guide on Cartagena to access, in a few clicks, all the practical information to visit this beautiful city.

Read our Cartagena travel guide

Where to travel after the Rosario islands

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers HERE

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

Table of contents: Trips to the Islas del Rosario

  1. Isla Baru
  2. Isla Grande and Isla Marina
  3. Private islands
  4. Isla Cholon
  5. Day-pass on the Rosario islands
  6. Tips to enjoy the Rosario islands
  7. Plan your trip step by step
  8. Use our premium service

Why plan a trip to the Rosario Islands?

The majority of the tourists stops in Cartagena when they’re exploring Colombia. Its reputation is Legend… wait for it … ary. But if I have to be honest with you guys, I should admit I was a little disappointed when I first arrived in the city.

Do you know why?

It’s because the beaches in Cartagena de Indias are unsightly. Skyscrapers, brown sands and infinite lines of plastic chairs weren’t in my imagination for describing an ideal Caribbean beach.

Fortunately, there are other ways to get a sexy tanned butt. The Rosario Islands are only 1 hour away from Cartagena. Secluded beaches, palm trees, cocktails, and crystal-blue waters will make your mind spin. 

Backpacking trips, Private islands, Private boats, tours… There are diverse options to travel to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena. Depending on your travel personality and budget, your experience will be totally different.

Map How To Travel To The Rosario Islands From Cartagena

How To Travel To the Rosario Islands
How To Travel To the Rosario Islands

1. Isla Baru And Its White-Sand Beach

Rosario Islands Day trip

Playa Blanca isla baru rosario islands from Cartagena

First, let’s resolve an essential mystery. The tours for Isla Baru and Playa Blanca are identical.

Isla Baru =  Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is a long narrow white-sand beach with palm trees that belong to Isla Baru near Cartagena. All along, cabanas and restaurants welcome hundreds of visitors who are taking a sunbath on the coast. They all set their beach towels within 2 m squares to survive to the army of street vendors. Into the Caribbean sea, kids snorkel between the speedboats and jet skis to observe dead corals and tiny fishes.

Playa Blanca beach Isla Baru

Credit: @juanibian

Playa Blanca is overcrowded (+)

It doesn’t sound like a great experience. But that is what is going to happen if you book a tour on the weekend or on a public holiday.

Everyone knows how beautiful is Isla Baru. And they all want a sandy bite of paradise. Unfortunately, even a gorgeous place sucks when it’s crowded.

Would you like to enjoy a great trip to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena? You have to be smart and travel to Isla Baru when visitors are going back to the city.

Playa Blanca Beach

Credit: @flavia.m.f

How to avoid the crowd (+)

And I have fantastic news for you guys. The day-tours end before 4 pm because they can’t navigate by night. Hence, staying overnight is the best solution to get an unforgettable experience on Playa Blanca.

Fancy tourists from Cartagena don’t like sleeping on Playa Blanca because most of the hotels aren’t comfortable. For many, there is no running water, king-size beds nor electricity.

Where to stay on Isla Baru (+)

The easiest way is to take a day bag and walk along Playa Blanca. There are many basic Cabañas where you can stay (Hammock or private cabins, approx 100 000 COP)

Otherwise, there are two upscale options that I can recommend to you:

  • Playa Scondida is a lovely eco-lodge. It’s a bit loud on the weekend because it’s near Isla Cholon. | Book at the best price
  • Las Islas are secluded luxury cabins surrounded by crystal blue water. | Book at the best price
Cabanas on Playa Blanca

Credit: Sarakrod

How to get to Isla Baru near Cartagena without a tour

Take a private shuttle (+)

Book a shuttle with Mamallena Hostel. They sell tickets with an open date for the return.

Shuttles leave from the hostels at 08:30 / 12:00 / 17:00 | Every day

They return from Isla Baru at 10:30 / 15:00 / 20:30 | Every day

  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Price: 50 000 COP – Return

More information

Useful information: Mamallena has a deal with Hugo’s place in Playa Blanca. You will get a 20 % discount off the price of the menu. And a fair price for the accommodation.

Use the Public transportation (+)

Take the bus at Monumento India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela y Playa Pedregosa #34) to Pasacaballos: 2 200 COP

Then a moto-taxi to Isla Baru: 10 000 COP

Duration: 2 hours

How long you should stay on Isla Baru near Cartagena

If you’re staying in a basic hotel, 1 night will be maybe enough for you. If you pick one of the 2 hotels I wrote down and like to lay back hours on the beach, I’m sure you will enjoy staying 2 nights!

2. Isla Grande, A lovely Cartagena Island

Rosario Islands day trip

Aerial view Isla Rosario

With more than 200 hectares, Isla Grande is the biggest Cartagena island in the Archipelago of Rosario. Well-known for its peaceful natural setting, many agencies and resorts propose day trips from Cartagena. The speedboats leave from La MuelleThe dock – every morning and come back around 3 pm.

In doing so, the visitors miss the majority of the best things to do on Isla Grande.

They can’t explore this Colombia island with local guides to find the secluded beaches like Playa Libre and Playa Bonita. Plus, they miss the bioluminescent lagoon or a romantic tour through the mangroves.

Be smart and stay at least 1 night on Isla Grande.

Grab a mask for snorkeling around the Rosario Island and look for colorful secret reefs, chill on the beach without being stress by your watch and enjoy a pleasant bonfire while the sun is disappearing. You can also book a fun dive trip at Scuba Cartagena!

Sunset Isla grande Rosario Islands

Credit: @tuireann88

There are a few things you should know before deciding to take a trip to Isla Grande from Cartagena.

Isla Grande is expensive (+)

On an island, speedboats bring all the commodities. And, there is less competition between the hostels/hotels. Hence, it has an impact on the final prices. 

  • 20$ for a dorm. It’s overpriced but it’s the cheapest option.
  • 60-80 $ for a private room (In hostel)

A new stunning hostel has open recently on Isla Grande. You should check this out.

The night is warm, sweaty and mosquitos bands play till dawn near your hears. It’s the price to pay if you want to live in this crystal-blue paradise. 

Also, there is no ATM on this Cartagena island. Bring a lot of cash.

Basic services on Isla Grande (+)

Caribbean blood runs through the veins of the inhabitants. As Chatiliez said, life is a long quiet river. They won’t bend over backward for the customers.

Plus, the expression “Ecological hostel” is more an excuse to tell their future customers they won’t get running water and electricity 24/24h. I don’t think it’s an obstacle to enjoy the beauty of Isla Grande. If you’re more picky about comfort, you should stay in a “resort” instead.

Where to stay on Isla Grande (+)

While you shouldn’t expect a 5-star hotel on the Islas del Rosario, there are lovely eco-resorts on Isla Marina – close to Isla Grande. Each one has got its own private beach. The only issue is that you must share it with the day-trippers who bought the day-pass.

Stay on Isla Marina (+)

Isla Grande Rosario islands from Cartagena

Credit: @robertaquaranta

How to get to Isla Grande (+)

  • Take a speedboat from La Muelle La Bodegita in Cartagena
  • Speedboats leave from 8 am to 10 am
  • The resorts have private speedboats
  • Boat Cartagena – Isla Grande: Around 50 000 COP / 1 – 1h30 hour
  • Rosario island tax: 18 500 COP
  • You can book a boat ticket here

In case of bad weather, expect 2-3 hours to get to Isla Grande.

For the way back, you have to inform your hostel the day before your departure. The speedboat usually leaves at 2h30 pm

Boat Isla Rosario

How long you should stay on Isla Grande

Isla Grande is an excellent place with many activities and lovely spots. Don’t rush. Moreover, it can be exhausting to get this Colombia island.  I recommend staying 3 days on Isla Grande

We recommend: This epic experience on a Catamaran

3. Rent A Private Rosario Island

Would you like to rent an island for you and your mates? It won’t be as expensive as you think.

Locals had the genius idea to build houses on the top of tiny reefs in the Archipelago of Rosario. Some luxury wood houses include staff members, boats, air-conditioned bedrooms, and living rooms with all the necessary facilities.

Enjoy terrific sunsets, only surrounded by friends and fishes. It’s perfect for an unforgettable bachelor party. By doing so, it’s quite easy to stay 1 week around Cartagena.

Islands to rent (+)

  • Isla Mancini
  • Isla Matamba
  • Isla Rosa
  • Isla Gigi
  • Isla Pelicano
Private Island Isla Rosa

Credit: @Kaitlynn

Read our Cartagena travel guide

4. Rent a yacht and party on Isla Cholon

Rosario Islands day trip

Cholon, Rosario islands

Credit: @ruedaniel

Isla Cholon is a peninsula near Cartagena where Colombians love to meet and party. Every weekend, a little spring break is organized. In the morning, private yachts and party boats bring the visitors from Cartagena before playing loud reggaeton music all day long. Among that cacophony, everyone dances and drink into the Caribbean sea while street vendors sell cold beer, cocktails and barbecued lobsters.

Isla Cholon is expensive, but you will get an unforgettable glimpse of how Colombians like to party! Loud music, dance, more music and lots of cold beers!

We give you 40 experiences to fall in love with Cartagena.

How to get to Isla Cholon (+)

  • Ask HiCartagena to find you a party boat for the weekend
  • Rent a yacht with a bunch of friends
  • The island is located 1 hour away from Cartagena, near Playa Blanca.

When can you party on Cholon Island

Fiesta from 9 am to 4 pm | Saturday & Sunday

5. Day trips from Cartagena to Private Rosario islands 

Bendita Beach Rosario islands from Cartagena

Credit: @Carolpogian and @f_chaene – Bendita Beach

Some tiny Rosario islands belong to tourist establishments, and it could be an alternative solution if you run out of time but still want to avoid the crowd.

These hotels/agencies sell day tours including transports, lunch, and access to the private beaches (+ Facilities). I’ve never be tempted by these services so I couldn’t guarantee that you are not packed like sardines. But I believe it’s not in the interest of the establishment 😉

They will pick you up at the dock in Cartagena.

We recommend: Explore the islands on a stunning Catamaran

Isla de Pirata

Credit: @Collinayoung – Isla De Pirata

The most famous Rosario Islands resorts near Cartagena (+)

  • Bendita Beach is a tiny private island 45 min away from Cartagena with a long white-sand beach where you only can spend the day.
  • Isla De Pirata is a hotel of 7500 m square with private cabañas and secluded beaches – 50 min away from Cartagena
  • Playa Azul is a private island surrounded by crystal blue waters and silence. It’s a little further than Playa Blanca.
  • Isla Del Encanto is an exclusive hotel providing great facilities and a 300m long private beach – 60 min away from Cartagena
  • Gente del mar
  • Carolina island

Best tips to enjoy the Rosario Islands

  • All the boats leave from the dock La Muelle Bodeguita (Near the old city center) from 8 to 10 am.
  • You will have to pay a tax of 18 500 COP at the dock. The majority of the tours does not include the tax in their prices
  • Street vendors can be sneaky. It’s better to book a tour through your hostel or an agency if you want to buy a day trip to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena
  • Private islands propose day tours to chill on their private beach
  • The package Isla grande + Oceanarium or Snorkeling is horrible. Don’t do it.
  • All the day tours to the Islas de Rosario from Cartagena end before 4 pm.
  • Try to spend at least 1 night if you travel to Isla Baru or Isla Grande 
  • There is no ATM on the Rosario Islands
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat
  • Bring back your rubbish
  • From November to March, the sea is rough. Your butt will be wet and painful because of the waves. You should use plastic bags to protect your belongings.
Sunset in Isla Baru Playa Blanca

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Rosario Islands from Cartagena
Day trips to Rosario Islands from Cartagena (1)

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Day trips to Rosario Islands from Cartagena

How Many Days to Visit Cartagena in Colombia? (2020)

How many days will it take you to visit Cartagena? The answer varies according to the type of traveler.

What do you like to do? What’s your budget? What’s your next destination?

The old town is beautiful and ideal for a romantic getaway or a bachelorette party. Rent a boat to explore the Rosario Islands and then dine by candlelight in the courtyard of one of Cartagena’s delicious restaurants.

There, you may also feel oppressed by the heat, the street vendors, and a large number of tourists. If that’s the case, plan to stay only 24 hours (or 0?), so you don’t accumulate too many grudges towards the sweaty travelers with sweaty foreheads who get in all your pictures.

How to maximize your stay in Cartagena? We tell you everything in this article!

Visiting Cartagena: what you must know

Where is Cartagena: On the Caribbean coast, opposite the Rosario Islands.

How to get there: in our guide about Cartagena discover all the possibilities to reach this city.

Security: You can come and visit Cartagena without any worries. As in any big city, stay watchful in the evening.

Budget: It is the most expensive destination in Colombia (with Providencia).

High season: There are many tourists all year round, especially from December to February and from July to August.

Climate: It is hot all year round with regular (but brief) downpours in May, September, and October.

The coolest activities:

Why come to Cartagena:

  • You like good restaurants, shopping, and sleeping in nice hotels.
  • You wish to rest on the Rosario Islands.
  • You’re planning more stops along the Caribbean coast.

Our favorite accommodation:

Our best advice:

  • Avoid Cartagena if you have a small travel budget.
  • Visit the Rosario Islands during the week and sleep there.
  • The majority of day trips to the Rosario Islands are not worth it.
  • Getsemani is more affordable than the old center, and the two districts are only 10 minutes away from each other.

Discover our guide on Cartagena to access, in a few clicks, all the best activities and accommodation in the city.

Read our Cartagena travel guide

Where to travel after Cartagena?

Where to stay? What to do? How to get there? Find easily the answers HERE

Get our FREE guidebook to decide where to travel to Colombia

Table of contents: Visiting Cartagena

  1. Do you have to visit Cartagena?
  2. Cartagena in 2 days
  3. Cartagena in 3 days
  4. Cartagena in 4 days
  5. Cartagena in 5 days
  6. Get our free ebook on Colombia
  7. Avoid the hassles and let us organize your trip.
Centro historico Cartagena
Centro historico

Should you visit Cartagena?

That’s the first question to ask. Should you add Cartagena to your itinerary to Colombia?

The question may seem trivial, but it is of great importance.

Everybody thinks of Cartagena when they talk about traveling to Colombia. This jewel of the Caribbean is mentioned in many newspapers and its colorful facades will surely be all over your Instagram feed.

It becomes a plain fact. If I go to Colombia, I have to visit Cartagena.

Then comes… disappointment.

Sure, Cartagena has some very good sides, but there are also a lot of downsides.

Better be aware of it now and be able to really enjoy it.

Must read: Our travel guide to discover Cartagena

You're just another tourist...

Although Colombia is popular with travelers, the country is not very visited either.

Colombians are warm by nature, and they are also very proud that people come to discover their country. They will do everything to make you feel comfortable. They like to exchange, and the encounters happen naturally.

In Cartagena, it’s different.

The city’s economy is mostly based on tourism, and there is nothing exotic about a blond head. The people who call you on the street are just salesmen. It’s normal; they have to earn a living. From that perspective, I find the atmosphere less pleasant.

And there are thousands of them

Like you, everyone wants to visit Cartagena. There are direct flights from some major cities in the United States. Colombians also set their sights on this city as soon as they have a few days of vacation.

It is not pleasant to stroll through the alleys while slaloming between the cameras.

If you don’t like crowds, you shouldn’t go during the high season:

  • Mid-December to mid-January. These are the summer holidays in Colombia.
  • Holy Week. 1 week in March or April.
  • July – August. Europeans and Americans are on vacation.
  • The first 15 days of November. They celebrate Independence Day on 11/11. The city organizes many events.

Don’t worry, there are other much less crowded places you can visit in Colombia.

It's expensive (+)

You can have a wonderful vacation in Cartagena, as long as you’re willing to pay for it.

For me, the main interest of the city is to be able to eat well, sip good cocktails, enjoy a splendid architectural setting, and stay on the Rosario Islands.

With this lifestyle, it is necessary to count a fair hundred euros per person and per day.

You can, of course, visit Cartagena for half as much. But you’ll get bored after 24 hours.

Beaches are not pleasant (+)

The water is murky, the sand is unpleasant and there are plastic chairs everywhere.

We’re nowhere near the perfect beach.

To enjoy a postcard setting, you will have to go on an excursion to the islands of San Bernardo, Rosario, or Rincon del mar.

Take this into account when you create your itinerary.

Must Read: Our travel guide to visit Rincon del Mar

Must read: Our travel guide to visit the San Bernardo Islands

Visiting Cartagena in two days

This can be sufficient in many situations:

  • You’re careful with your travel budget.
  • You’re planning cultural tours in other major cities in Colombia.
  • There are other places where you want to enjoy the beach.

In two days, you have time to appreciate the old town and the Getsemani district fully.

A 2 days itinerary in Cartagena

Since you’re not staying long, it’s best to arrive in the morning. The airport is only 15 minutes from the city center. On the other hand, it takes 45 min from the bus terminal (it is outside the city).

The next day, it will be better to leave before noon if you want to go to Santa Marta, San Bernardo, or Rincon del Mar.


The night begins around 6 pm in Colombia and most of the small buses and motorcycle taxis stop circulating at this time.

Finally, by staying only two days in Cartagena, you will only enjoy it for 24 hours.

Choose accommodation in the old town center or in Getsemani to be close to the various highlights.

There are many very nice hotels and hostels. We have compiled the best of them in our guide to Cartagena.

1# Visit of the city (+)

I love to learn anecdotes about every place I visit. The city of Cartagena has been attacked many times by corsairs. Plus, Cartagena has two independence dates. In short, story lovers will be over the moon.

Depending on your budget, you can book a Free walking tour (Beyond Colombia, Free Cartagena) or choose to visit the different areas with a private tour.
The local agency Sion Tour is doing a very good job.

Use it for:

  • Explore the old town center
  • Photographing Getsemani’s beautiful graffiti
  • Admire the plunging view of Cartagena from “la Popa.”

Book your private tour to visit Cartagena (free cancellation)

2# Sunset from the walls (+)

Try to finish your tour around 5 pm and then settle down on the city walls. The sun is setting in the Caribbean Sea.

Many travelers go to Cafe del Mar. Their playlist is enjoyable, and the spot is ideal for drinking a bottle of fresh wine of rosé (or other).

3# A nice candlelight dinner (+)

There are some very good restaurants in Cartagena. It’d be a shame not to have them!

We’ve added quite a few of them on our Mapstr “Colombia Insider” map. Download it, it’s free!

It’s up to you whether you prefer the romantic atmosphere of the old town or the more relaxed and festive atmosphere of Getsemani.

A piece of advice, book a few hours in advance if it’s a gourmet restaurant.

4# Getting up early to take pictures

Around 7:00 in the morning, there are few people in the alleys of Cartagena. It is, however, the best time to go for a walk.

The air is not yet too overpowering because of the heat, and a soft light begins to illuminate the colorful facades and flowery balconies.

You then have the whole morning to revisit the small corners you enjoyed, take a break in some great cafes and eat 1kg of home-made ice cream. You’ll need this to taste all the flavors!

We have written a very complete article to discover the best things to do in Cartagena. You will find many ideas!

Visiting Cartagena in 3 days

Visiting Cartagena in 3 days allows you to be “tranquilo” as Colombians like to say.

In addition to the suggestions made in the previous section, it is possible to:

  • Take a boat trip to the Rosario Islands
  • Book a cultural tour specific to this region
  • Enjoy the nightlife of Cartagena.

Must read: Our travel guide to discover Cartagena

A 3-day itinerary in Cartagena

If you stay 3 days in Cartagena, I advise you to book the 2nd day to organize the most prolonged activity. This avoids being stressed by the departure time of your bus or plane.

Here is an idea of a practical itinerary:

  • Day 1: City tour + sunset
  • Day 2: Morning photos + Activity or cultural tour + Restaurant and/or Fiesta
  • Day 3: lazy morning + walk

1# Stay overnight on Isla Baru (+)

I know that everyone tells you about Playa Blanca and Isla Baru, which are located 1 hour from Cartagena. It’s a white sand beach, with wooden huts built all along.

It was fun.

There are now far too many people.

I do, however, have a secret to making the most of it. All you have to do is sleep on the spot. Well, the cabins are basic, expensive and mostly without electricity. But that’s the price you pay for having no one there in the morning.

There’s a bus that leaves four times a day from the Mamallena hostel. It’s the best way to get there.

2# Day trip on a catamaran (+)

There are dozens of different tours to visit the Rosario Islands.

Most of them are disappointing.

The companies squeeze as many people as possible into a boat, and then they take you snorkeling. The only problem, EVERYONE goes to the same place! The tours never stop at one of the beaches. Basically, it’s no fun at all.

Luckily, you can find nicer trips.

In this tour, you take the time to move between the islands and the catamaran stops in beautiful places. The activity is a little more expensive than the tours sold on the sly, but the experience is much better and lasts all day long!

Book your Catamaran tour in advance to make sure you have room.

3# Or opt for a cultural tour! (+)

If you’re not the type to chill out on a boat, there are other activities to occupy your day.

We have selected the best cultural tours in this article. Take a look at them.

I give you my two preferences:

An atypical visit of the “Mercardo de Bazurto”: a local guide will show you the different facets of this large open-air market. Taste many flavors, learn to concoct a medicinal potion, chat with an artist who creates posters with spray paint cans… Many encounters that would not be possible without the help of Cartagena Insider.
Reserve your place now.

Crab hunting in the mangroves: La Boquilla is a small fishing village about 20 minutes from the town center. Cartagena has grown so much that the village has been surrounded by buildings. From La Boquilla, a local guide will take you in a small wooden boat to travel between the mangroves. Each fisherman has his own technique for casting nets and setting crab traps. The place is so peaceful that you forget even Cartagena.
Try it with them and book your place now.

4# Cartagena's nightlife (+)

The beginning of the week is not very busy in Cartagena (except during the high season). It is not until Wednesday that clubs and other trendy bars start to open.

The nocturnal atmosphere in the old town is rather posh while the one in Getsemani is more relaxed.

Cartagena is a big city, follow some simple safety rules to have a smooth trip.

Here is a short list of nice places to go out and/or drink:

  • La plaza trinidad (Getsemani)
  • Mister Babilla (Getsemani)
  • Bazurto Social Club (Getsemani)
  • Quiebra Canto (Getsemani)
  • Alquimico (Old town)
  • Bar tu Candela (Old town)

We’ve added quite a few of them on our Mapstr “Colombia Insider” map. Download it, it’s free!

Visiting Cartagena in 4 days

It is not enough to visit Cartagena and stay on the Rosario Islands (unless you are willing to sleep in one of the cabins on Isla Baru).

In addition to the suggestions made in the previous section, you can book an extra cultural activity or go to Tierra Bomba for a night’s sleep. This island is 20 min away by boat. I recommend the Blue Apple Beach Hotel.

Visiting Cartagena in 5 days

You need 5 days to enjoy Cartagena and the Rosario Islands. Depending on the means of transport used, the chosen island, and the conditions at sea, it takes about 1h30 to reach your destination.

A 5-day itinerary in Cartagena

With only an hour and a half of travel time, you may be tempted to spend only one night on the Rosario Islands.

Don’t do it!

It’s hard to have peace of mind when you only stay in a place for one night. And the check-out is always in the late morning. The purpose of a stay on the Rosario Islands is to relax. Sleep there for two nights.

You don’t need to worry about the weather.

Here is an idea of a practical itinerary:

  • Day 1: City tour + sunset.
  • Day 2: Departure to the Rosario Islands.
  • Day 3: Rest in paradise.
  • Day 4: Return to Cartagena in the middle of the day.
  • Day 5: Morning photos + departure to your next destination.

See the previous sections for more information or consult our article for more possibilities of experiences in Cartagena.

1# Which island to go to? (+)

There are different options depending on your budget and your tastes:

Find even more information in our article on the Rosario Islands.

2# What you need to know (+)

  • The Rosario Islands are very popular. Avoid going there on weekends or in high season!
  • Many eco-lodges sell day passes and sometimes you find yourself sharing the beach with other tourists.
  • On weekends, it’s party time on Isla Cholon, and music can be heard from the hotels on Isla Baru.
  • The sea is rough from December to April.
  • The quality/price ratio is not excellent. You pay more because of the setting and the popularity of the islands.
  • You are on an island in the Caribbean. Smile, relax and everything will be fine 😉

Visit the San Bernardo Islands instead of the Rosario Islands

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How many days to visit Cartagena