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

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

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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
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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
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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
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La Boquilla Cartagena

Credit: @nanc.around.the.world

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
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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)
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

Pinterest & affiliation (+)

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A shell on a beach near Cartagena
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Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. It’s a nice gesture to thanks us for the many hours we put in Tomplanmytrip 🙂 
Best beaches around Cartagena
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I fell in love with Colombia 5 years ago. Through this website, we help every month thousands of travelers to plan their trip to this beautiful country. Use our Premium service on the site www.Colombia-insider.com if you want us to take care of everything for the organization of your trip to Colombia.

6 comments

  1. MICHAEL SIDON says:

    i AM LOOKING FOR A 1 WEEK TO 10 DAY HOLIDAY. I LOVE THE WATER AND WOULD PREFER AN ALL-INCLUSIVE 4 STAR ENVIRONMENT BUT WOULD NOT TRADE THAT FOR FILTHY WATER. CARTEGENA APPEALS TO ME AS A DESTINATION AS A TOURIST BUT IF THE WEATHER OR THE WATER IS NOT SUITABLE I WOULD CHOSE SOMEWHERE ELSE.

    • Tom says:

      Hey Michael,

      If you like 4 starts Environment + Nice water, I will advise you to stay in Rodadero (near Santa Marta) and one of the nice hotels between Tayrona And Palomino ( Like villa Maria Tayrona :)).

      But you can still organize a 2-3 days trip to Cartagena 😉

  2. Mojaelnino says:

    Hello, I’m Moroccan and I really love the beaches! Recently looking for some beautiful ones around the world to go to. These Cartagena beaches are amazing!! thanks for this helpful article!!! I will definitely use your tips!

  3. Hassan says:

    That one of best I found on the web so far and I really like the places that you visited, I also like you picture. I would really like to visit that beach and set by the ocean; Such a great fillings.

    Thank you so much for the post

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