A helpful list of Cartagena’s best beaches with their pros and cons and my tips for enjoying them—I’ve visited most them all.
🛑 Imagine lounging on the beach of your dreams with a cocktail in hand, facing the turquoise sea. It’s a simple wish, and yet many travelers are disappointed—this won’t be your case.
On my first visit, I was very disappointed by Cartagena’s beaches. I imagined huge expanses of fine beach sand and palm trees. That’s the Caribbean, isn’t it?
Relax. You can find little corners of paradise, but they aren’t near the walled city.
After more than two months between the Rosario islands and Cartagena, I’ve gathered enough information to write the perfect beach list.
Here is what you’ll get:
- My 2 favorite beach clubs.
- Why I don’t like the most famous Cartagena beach.
- My 5 must-know tips to enjoy the beaches.
- What’s my favorite Cartagena island?
- The best private beach restaurants.
- What are the best beach hotels?
Since 2015, Adrien, Alejandra, and I (Tom) have been helping travelers explore Colombia. Here, you will find everything you need to fall in love with this beautiful country easily.
Pick your beach in 2 min
🥇 The best Cartagena beaches are on the Rosario islands:
- Playa Blanca, while beautiful, is too crowded to enjoy.
- If your goal is to relax on a pretty beach for the day, you can buy a day pass at one of the many hotels on Isla Baru or Isla Grande.
- I liked my experience at Islabela.
- Pa’ue is another excellent option.
- Count 1-h boat to reach these private beaches.
- If you fancy adding a little action to your beach day, you can hire a boat for the day. Prices start from 400 USD for 8-10 people. You’ll choose where to stop.
- If you really want a seaside break where all you can think about is your future cocktail, you’ll need to include 2 nights on the Rosario Islands (instead of sleeping in Cartagena). The most luxurious hotels are on Isla Baru, while those on Isla Grande have more of an eco-hotel feel on an island paradise.
🎉 If you feel like partying:
- I recommend the beach clubs on Tierra Bomba—an island 20 minutes from Cartagena—such as Amare or Blue Apple. The beaches aren’t heavenly, but these beach clubs offer the best price/quality ratios.
- Another option is to check out the party island of Isla Cholon, but you’ll need to rent a private boat with your friends for that.
🏙️ Nearest Cartagena popular beaches:
- I am not a fan of the closest beaches to Cartagena—they are not worth spending a whole day on. Their only advantage is that it’s easy to get there for a few hours.
- Avoid the crowded Bocagrande beach and opt instead for Castillogrande or Laguito.
- Or opt for one of the big resorts in Manzanillo.
Can’t miss: our exciting series on the best things to do in Cartagena. Read it to find out all our little exciting secrets.
More than 300 travelers have trusted us to book their boats with Aymeric. He works only with the best local captains and will help you find the best beaches around Cartagena.
I found Eco Hotel Islabela to be a great beach hotel. Nestled among lush greenery, its bungalows offer a serene escape, each facing a charming private beach.
Sofitel Baru Calablanca is a breathtaking retreat boasting a beautiful beach and luxurious rooms. Its serene ambiance, top-notch facilities, and friendly staff make it perfect for couples seeking tranquility.
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Best ways to enjoy Cartagena beaches
- Timing: Try to avoid weekends and Colombian public holidays for a less crowded experience.
- Beware of Price Gouging: Always inquire about prices before buying anything. Some locals like to raise prices dramatically once the bill arrives.
- Consider Overnight Stays: Staying overnight will allow you to enjoy the beach to yourself before the day-trippers arrive.
- Sun Protection: The sun near the equator is strong. Use sunblock, wear hats, and stay hydrated.
- Seasonal Winds: From December to April, expect windy conditions. The sea will be rough in the afternoon, leading to bumpy boat rides back.
Best months to enjoy the Cartagena beaches
There are two types of weather in Cartagena: A day with or without rain—yep, temperatures are more or less the same all year long.
But you shouldn’t be worried about it. Even on 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.
The best months in Cartagena are:
- The sunniest months: December to March; July & August
- The rainiest months: April, May, September, October
- The weather is always hot in Cartagena, but it’s a bit more pleasant from December to February. Unfortunately, it’s also the tourist season. Prices increase by 2, and annoying tourists invade the beaches.
Best Cartagena Beaches
Let’s start with my favorite Cartagena beaches.
Rosario Islands beaches
If I want to enjoy the beach when I’m in Cartagena, I always head for the Rosario Islands. It’s a National Park with sublime turquoise water and white sand beaches. First, you’ll have to choose which island.
Isla Grande’s Magnificent Beaches
Isla Grande is my favorite island because you can easily walk along the shady paths to find the perfect spot for sunbathing—but beware, most of the beaches are private. If your schedule allows it, I recommend you spend 2 nights there.
It’s also the best place to snorkel and observe coral reefs and colorful fish.
1# Playa Libre
Playa Libre (playa las mantas), the only public beach there, might be small, but it’s a charming spot. When I went, I bought a fresh coconut to drink on the beach. A pretty cool moment.
If you sleep on Isla Grande, I recommend you go early in the day (around 8-9am) or late afternoon to avoid the boats that come there all day.
If you’re bringing your crew along on the boat you’ve hired, there are other, more pleasant places to have fun.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: A 20-minute walk from the town or 1 hour by boat from Cartagena.
2# Sol y Papaya
There are several beach restaurants on Isla Grande. This is a good option if you’ve come with your charter boat for the day and have no plans for lunch. If you eat there, you can enjoy their beach for free 🙂
Sol y Papaya is my favorite Cartagena beach. They have comfy yellow beds you can use, the prices are among the best in Isla Grande, and the staff does not push you to consume. Below the restaurant, there is a beautiful white sand beach that is constantly well-maintained.
How to enjoy this Cartagena Beach: Next to Playa Libre, a 15-minute walk from town.
3# Pa’ue Beach Lounge
PA’UE offers a magical beach experience with its striking blue waters and white sands. The staff, led by the owner, share fascinating local history, enhancing your visit. The place shines for its great food, drinks, and family-friendly vibe. You’ll have to pay 125,000 COP/pers, 100,000 of which can be used for food and drinks. Free paddle and kayak.
How to enjoy this Cartagena Beach: With your private boat or by taking their day pass for about 85 USD.
4# Rosario Tequendema
Most hotels in the Rosario Islands offer day passes to allow visitors to come by day from Cartagena. Departures are from the La Bodeguita dock (close to the Torre del Reloj, which is the main entrance to Cartagena’s historic center).
You can also just show up there to have lunch if you come by your own means-private boat or on foot.
Rosario Tequendema (formerly called Gente de Mar) is a hotel located on the eastern tip of Isla Grande. It has two of the loveliest beaches around Cartagena.
Visitors must consume on-site to relax at the beach. The beach facilities are great: sun loungers, trees, a bar, a restaurant, volleyball court.
For me, it’s one of the best beaches near Cartagena de Indias.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: Pay for the day pass and arrive with the hotel’s boat (290,000 COP, here), with your private boat or foot if you stay on Isla Grande.
Islabela is an eco-hotel that offers great value for money for travelers.
Day-trippers only have access to the main beach. There are many comfortable beds, with an ingenious curtain system to protect you from the sun.
I found Islabela to be one of the best-organized hotels in terms of offering day passes and handling orders on the beach. Prices were reasonable for the location. However, my margarita drink did not impress me.
If you can, I advise you to sleep there for 2 nights. The bungalows are independent, and each one has its little private beach.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: Islabela is located on Isleta, a little island 10 min away from Isla Grande. Pay for the day pass and arrive with the hotel’s boat (310,000 COP, here) or with your private boat or foot if you stay on Isla Grande.
Isla Baru’s beaches
Isla Barú, the largest island in the area, is home to some of the most stunning beaches near Cartagena, Colombia. Unfortunately, mass tourism has slightly diminished its charm for me. However, if you choose to stay at one of its luxurious beachfront hotels, you’ll likely have a more exclusive and enjoyable experience away from the crowds.
6# Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca on Isla Barú has certainly changed over the years. Once a serene pristine beach with white sand and turquoise water, it’s now bustling with thousands of people, jet skis, loud music, and street vendors.
If you’re planning a day trip there, my advice is to go early. When you arrive, walk towards the right as you face the sea. You’ll find Playa Tranquila, a slightly quieter spot where you can enjoy a bit more peace.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach:
Playa Blanca is the only beach you easily visit on your own from Cartagena without booking a tour. You can get there by taxi (about 150,000 COP, thanks to the bridge crossing over the Canal del Dique). It will take 1 hour.
You can otherwise decide to stay all day long at the Mambo Beach Club—check out this tour. But I would recommend spending the day at Tierra Bomba if you’re looking for a good beach club.
Your last option is to stay overnight. There are numerous hotels along Playa Blanca beach. Most of them are pretty basic (i.e., wooden planks and no running water), but you can still find a few acceptable options, like Soy Local Baru. It’s the only way to enjoy the beach in peace, at sunrise.
7# the Bay of Barbacoa
If you don’t like crowds, don’t go to Playa Blanca. Fortunately, there are other, less accessible beaches, mostly private, where you can better enjoy your holiday.
On the other side of Isla Baru, there is the bay of Barbacoa.
Here, there is no turquoise water, and the beach is composed in part of pebbles and bits of dead reefs — it’s best to wear beach shoes.
Not very glamorous, you might say.
There is, however, one important advantage over Playa Blanca.
There is nobody!
Travelers exploring Isla Barú by private transport for the day can make a stop at Playa Tortuga (it’s a nice sandy beach with a good restaurant). Don’t forget to add a stop at the National Aviary.
Otherwise, you can decide to stay in Playa Manglares. The food is delicious, and you’ll love to read a good book by the sea under the trees’ shadow.
How to enjoy these Cartagena Beaches: 1-h drive by taxi from Cartagena.
8# The luxury beach resort of Sofitel
Sofitel recently opened a hotel on Isla Baru. It’s the best there is in terms of infrastructure, infinity pools, and a long private beach. On the other hand, they don’t offer day passes, and the nightly rate is expensive.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: You’ll have to stay overnight. Count 1-h drive from Cartagena. The last section is on a bumpy dirt road.
Acasi, a serene private beach exclusively for guests of the 5-star Casa San Agustin, offers a beautiful escape from the bustling city. The beach is known for its attentive staff, great facilities, and an amazing lunch. It’s a special spot where you can kayak, relax in hammocks, or just enjoy the peaceful beach setting. Everything from transportation to meals is taken care of, making it an ideal, stress-free getaway, especially for those seeking some tranquility after a busy time like a wedding.
How to enjoy this Cartagena Beach: You must spend the night in Casa San Agustin and book this day tour through them.
SABAI offers a serene beach day, starting with a welcoming boat ride to their natural beach. You’ll find comfortable beach beds, a large freshwater pool, and free kayaks for some fun. The place is exclusive and peaceful, with top-notch food and drinks. It’s a bit out of the way and pricier, but for a luxurious, crowd-free beach experience, it can be an interesting option. Just note, the beach itself might not be ideal for swimming due to seaweed and rocks.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: Buy their daypass for about 400,000 COP or come with your private boat—you’ll still have to pay 120,000 to use the hotel’s facilities. 1h boat ride from Cartagena.
11# Isla del Encanto
Isla del Encanto is a great choice for families seeking a peaceful beach getaway. The resort, nestled near Baru, offers a private beach with clear, shallow waters ideal for swimming. While there’s only one restaurant, the food is mostly fresh and tasty, focusing on healthy options. The weekends can get a bit loud due to music from nearby Baru, but it’s generally a quiet spot. The rooms are stylish and comfortable, and there are free activities like kayaking. However, the beach is somewhat small, and water clarity can vary. Overall, it’s a lovely spot to disconnect and enjoy nature.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: You can stay overnight or buy the day-pass for 313,000 COP (here). It takes 1h by boat and 1h30 by car.
12# Las Islas and Isleta
Las Islas, one of Isla Baru’s most luxurious hotels, nestles among the mangroves, offering a blend of luxury and nature. While the hotel’s beach is nice but modest in size, they offer a boat ride to their private island, Isleta, which is a stunning getaway. Isleta boasts a beautiful, serene beach with comfy chairs, a great pool, a full bar, and is perfect for enjoying a breathtaking sunset. The beachside cabins at Las Islas are secluded and charming, and the hotel’s spacious grounds provide various beach spots for relaxation, swimming, and enjoying a cocktail
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: You’ll have to stay overnight. It takes 1-h by boat from Cartagena to get there.
Aura Hotel in Baru offers a splendid beach experience with its beautiful, private beach. Ideal for a day out, you can relax in this serene setting and enjoy top-notch services. The day pass lets you indulge in their delicious cuisine and take part in fun activities like paddle boarding, though more boards might be a nice addition. The cocktails are a bit mild, but they don’t detract from the overall relaxing vibe. It’s a perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the sun, sand, and sea in a tranquil, natural setting.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: You can stay overnight, come with your private boat or buy their day pass here—it takes 1h30 to get there with their van from Cartagena de Indias.
14# Agua Azul
This lovely Cartagena beach is less visited than Playa Blanca because you need a private boat to get there.
However, I don’t recommend you stop there because they love ripping off foreign tourists on prices.
15# The beach of Isla Cholón
Isla Cholón is known for one thing: partying.
Every day, yacht and speedboat crews meet to drink and dance in the Caribbean Sea. The organization is rather chaotic, and each boat plays its music as loud as possible.
I’m not necessarily a fan, but it’s something to experience if you are with a group of friends.
You won’t find white beach sand here, but the water is shallow and you can easily stand up while drinking your overpriced cocktails.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: Rent a private boat and come with your friends. 45 min away from Cartagena.
Isla Tierra Bomba and its Beach clubs
Tierra Bomba is an island just 15 minutes from Cartagena. Here you won’t find white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. But if you want to enjoy a beach club at a more reasonable price than the Rosario Islands, this is the place to be.
Playa Linda Beach
Playa Linda is quite wide, with few motorcycles and no vendors. The location has evolved over the years, and there are now some cool spots to enjoy the day.
16# Amare Beach Club
My first choice would be Amare. I liked the chill out atmosphere, the good music and the delicious cocktails.
How to enjoy this beach club: During the week, they offer an package with illimited cocktails for 360,000 COP. But even at weekends, it’s still the best value for money. You pay 165,000 p/p with transport – 115,000 consumable credit – lounger by the pool or kiosk on the beach.
17# Marlin Beach club
There’s also a newcomer to Cartagena’s beach club scene. It’s Marlin.
It’s a beautiful spot with a warm beach and an exclusive vibe. The atmosphere is calm and great for a day of unwinding by the beach and pool, without any vendors to disturb you. The staff are friendly and the food, particularly the chef’s specials, is quite good. However, it’s not without drawbacks – the service can be slow, and prices are on the higher side, especially for small portions. The beach and pool areas are separate, and accessibility could be better.
18# Blue Apple Beach Club
The south of the island (west coast) is the most pleasant part of Tierra Bomba island. The sea is cleaner, and there are no vendors.
You can also visit the fort of San Bernardo de Bocachica— built to protect Cartagena from pirate attacks.
Blue Apple Beach is the most recommended beach club in Tierra Bomba. Its facilities are top-notch, with a great pool area, the food is delicious, and they offer many activities—if you decide to stay overnight. Check out their instagram to know about their famous pool parties.
However, their beach isn’t next to the hotel (3 min away), with rather old beach facilities and a few street vendors.
How to enjoy this beach club from Cartagena: Choose between a package (70 USD) or just pay from the boat + entrance (30 USD)—Here.
19# Playa de Punta Arena
The beach of Punta Arena are just in front of Cartagena. From your deckchair, you will be able to see the skyscrapers of Bocagrande.
This is the most visited area of Tierra Bomba, with many beach clubs to choose from.
However, there are still several drawbacks:
- The frequent passage of locals on motorcycles — this is the official route.
- There may be some occasional garbage in the sea.
- The sea water is turbid.
- There are still too many street vendors.
The beach of Punta Arena is easy to reach from Cartagena. You can take the beach club’s boat—this what I recommend—or take one of the many boats leave in the morning from the beach of the hospital of Bocagrande.
The beach clubs have nevertheless beautiful installations which minimize these annoyances. Here is a solid selection for you to have a good time.
Fenix Beach: This beach club is known for its Instagram-worthy setting with friendly dogs. However, its proximity to an industrial area leads to murkier waters. The service can be slow, and prices are higher.
Namaste Beach Club: This beach club provides a unique package that includes transportation and massage. The setting emphasizes well-being, although the surrounding areas can be noisy and less clean. It costs about 60 USD.
Eteka: This beach club offers a complete package with lunch and transportation, and it’s the only beach club with a spa. The atmosphere is serene yet vibrant, with great music, perfect for a relaxed day out. It costs around 70 USD.
Palmarito: This beach club is a more affordable option in Punta Arena. The facilities are nice, and the staff is friendly, though the food might not appeal to everyone. It costs about 40 USD.
Cartagena beaches in the Zona Norte
Zona Norte in Cartagena is a quieter beach area with a mix of upscale resorts and local life, ideal for relaxed beach days away from the city’s main tourist spots or playing with the wind—kitesurfing and windsurfing.
These are very long grey-brown sandy beaches with a rather murky sea. Nothing paradise-like, but there are a fewer tourists and street vendors.
20# La Boquilla Beach
La Boquilla, a traditional fishing village in Cartagena’s Zona Norte, offers a glimpse into the local way of life with its rustic charm. The beaches here are less commercialized, providing a quieter, more authentic coastal experience, but with fewer amenities compared to more tourist-centric areas.
Between you and me, the beach didn’t inspire me to go swimming. If I plan a trip to la Boquilla, it’s only to visit its mangroves by canoe in the early hours of the morning.
How to enjoy this Cartagena Beach: a 20-min taxi drive from the historic center. Don’t hesitate to ask Cathy to show the best of La Boquilla
21# Manzanillo del Mar
Manzanillo del Mar is further out, characterized by its tranquil, expansive beaches. This area is less developed, offering a peaceful escape with fewer crowds and a more laid-back vibe.
From my point of view, the only reason to go there is if you want to stay several days in an all-inclusive resort.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach:
- A 30-minute taxi drive from the historic center.
- You can check out Playa de Oro.
- Dreams Karibana is the best resort in the area.
- Or stay at Zion Beach if you are looking for a small beach hotel with a cool vibe.
Beaches near the Cartagena center
These are the most accessible beaches from Cartagena. From my point of view, they’re also the worst options.
Beaches in the “Modern Cartagena”
With its tall buildings overlooking the beach, this neighborhood resembles Miami, but without the white sand and turquoise water.
22# Bocagrande beach
This is where most tourists looking for modern, affordable accommodation go. It’s particularly popular with Colombians, as they only have to walk a few meters to relax on the beach.
Honestly, this beach isn’t exactly a slice of heaven. The usual scene involves spending a few dollars to grab a spot under one of many plastic tents. It’s pretty crowded, filled with other tourists and persistent street vendors. The atmosphere is often loud and chaotic, with a jumble of different music playing from various speakers. It’s authentic, but not my concept of a good day at the beach.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: a 10-min taxi ride from the walled city.
23# Laguito Beach
Laguito beach is a little better than Bocagrande, but nothing crazy either. It’s a good sunset spot and you can spend your time having a cocktail at Punta Las Velas and watching the kitesurfers do their jumps.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: a 15-min taxi ride from the old town.
24# CastilloGrande Beach
Castillogrande Beach is a quieter, less crowded spot compared to others in Cartagena. It’s ideal for a peaceful day out, especially for families, offering a wider beach with calm waters. While vendors are present, they’re not overly intrusive. The sand and water might not be pristine, but it’s a decent choice for a relaxing beach experience in the city.
How to enjoy this Cartagena beach: a 15-min taxi ride from the walled city.
25# Beaches near the Cartagena Airport
The beaches of Marbella and Crespo are located between the historic center and the Cartagena airport.
As at Bocagrande, the beaches are made up of dark sand and murky water.
Marbella Beach is conveniently located near markets iconic CARTAGENA sign and is a go-to option for those staying nearby.
Both beaches are usually clean, except for occasional seaweed (depending on the month of the year) and some plastic debris.
You’ll also find the usual plastic tents to protect you from the sun and order drinks/lunch.
These Cartagena beaches are rarely visited and are the least costly in the city.
One word of caution: Don’t swim too far, even if the sea seems calm. The current can be treacherous on these 2 beaches.
How to enjoy these Cartagena beaches: a 5-min taxi ride from the historic walled city.
beaches in las islas San Bernardo
The San Bernardo Islands are two hours by boat from Cartagena. Although too far away to organize a day trip from the city, it’s an ideal place to spend a few days resting on paradise islands.
You’ll have to choose between the island of Mucura or the island of Isla Tintipán—my favorite one.
The most beautiful public beach is on Isla Tintipan, but it’s often very crowded. I recommend that you choose your hotel carefully and enjoy the location—you won’t be able to roam around the islands on your own.
Bottom line: Cartagena Beaches
As you can see, it won’t be so easy to enjoy a nice little piece of white sand during your visit to Cartagena.
To enjoy the most beautiful beaches of Cartagena, I recommend staying two nights on Isla Grande or Isla Barú. Otherwise, you can consider spending your sunbathing days on another part of the Caribbean coast. Or explore the deserted beaches of the Pacific coast!
So, what will be your favorite Cartagena beach?
What to read next
Our exciting series on the best things to do in Cartagena. Read it to find out all our little exciting secrets.
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