Are you considering visiting Cartagena? It’s a beautiful city, and you’re in for a treat. However, did you know that the best beaches in Cartagena are not close to the city?
Travelers dreaming of palm trees and white sand beaches will have to go to the Rosario Islands.
I stayed more than two months between the islands of this national park and Cartagena. This guide will give you a complete list of the beaches and why you should visit them.
👉 Want to know everything about Cartagena? To learn where are the best places, and avoid tourist traps and beginner’s mistakes? Nothing could be easier. I put it all together in our guide to Cartagena de Indias.
Cartagena Beaches: Quick tips
Beaches within Cartagena: Boca Grande and La Boquilla are surrounded by skyscrapers, covered by plastic chairs, and invaded by street sellers. I wouldn’t recommend them. If you’re still curious, you can head to Laguito or Manzanillo.
Tierra Bomba: It’s an island nearby where you can find some good beach clubs.
Rosario Islands: It’s a beautiful national park near Cartagena where you will find your dreamy white-sand beach. Depending on the season, they can be overcrowded. Stay overnight if you can.
Isla Barú: It is the most famous island because of its beautiful beach called Playa Blanca. Unfortunately, it’s a place crowded with locals and tourists. The south of the island is wilder, surrounded by mangroves and some small hidden beaches. This is where you will find the most luxurious hotels like Las Islas or Isla del Encanto.
Isla Grande: With its postcard setting and relaxed atmosphere, it has quickly become my favorite island. There are many beach resorts hotels but few that stand out from the crowd – except my two favorites which are Coralina Island and Islabela.
Don’t stop at Agua Azul. They’ll overcharge you.
Isla Cholon: It’s a famous party place on the weekend that you can only reach by boat.
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Beaches in Cartagena: the City
In my opinion, you shouldn’t spend too much time on the Cartagena beaches described in this section – Except if you’re living in Cartagena de Indias or if you’re spending the week.
Below, you will find a short description of where they are located and what their advantages are.
Map of the best Cartagena beaches in the city
1# The beach of Bocagrande
With the tall skyscrapers, Bocagrande looks like a little Miami. There are fancy restaurants, huge Cartagena beach resorts, and tourists living on Mac Donald’s diet. Colombians love this area as hotels are usually cheaper and they just have to cross the street to access the beach.
Bocagrande is one of the most touristy beaches in Cartagena, with hundreds of plastic seats, tents, umbrellas, and street vendors. We are far from a paradise setting.
- How to get to Bocagrande: 5-10 min in taxi from the city center.
- Interest: easy access
- Best hotel next Bocagrande beach: Hyatt Regency
- Note: 1.5/5
2# The beach of Laguito
Laguito is similar to Bocogrande except that I find the area quieter and more pleasant. There are fewer street vendors on the beach. On the map, it is the southernmost red dot.
- How to get to Laguito: 10-15 min in taxi from the city center.
- Interest: easy access
- Best hotel next to Laguito beach: Hilton
- Note: 2/5
3# The beach of La Boquilla
La Boquilla is a little fisherman village just after Cartagena. The beach is so wide that cars and buses use it as a road. There are fewer skyscrapers, tourists, and street vendors.
The beach is of little interest, but there are some great experiences to enjoy, such as the mangrove tour of La Boquilla.
- How to get to La Boquilla: 20 min in taxi from the city center.
- Interest: Fewer tourists
- Note: 2/5
4# The beach of Manzanillo del Mar
Manzanillo del Mar is the best beach “near Cartagena”. You will find some tents to shelter you from the sun and no street vendors. It is a quiet place even if more and more hotels are built around it. In addition, you can plan a kitesurfing activity.
- How to get to Manzanillo: 40 min in taxi from the city center.
- Interest: Quiet
- Best hotel next to Manzanillo: Zion Beach House
- Note: 2.5/5
Best Beaches in Cartagena: Tierra Bomba
It’s not because Cartagena beaches aren’t great that you can’t have a fantastic time with a cocktail in your hand and your butt on a white-sand Colombia beach.
Do you know why?
Thanks to the beautiful islands around Cartagena!
The closest Cartagena island is Tierra Bomba.
Let’s see how it is.
Where are the Tierra Bomba beaches
Tierra Bomba is a large island (7,700 m2) in front of Bocagrande. You can easily reach it by boat (about 20 minutes). Due to its proximity to Cartagena, the sea remains rather murky. However, you can already find a relaxing atmosphere with palm trees and cocktails.
There are 4 towns on Tierra Bomba island: Bocachica, Tierra Bomba, Caño de loro, Punta Arenas.
This is not where you will stay.
The main advantage of Tierra Bomba is the beach clubs! You can decide to buy a day-pass or spend the night.
Let’s see the 3 sections where you will find the best beaches in Cartagena.
Map of the best Cartagena beaches in Tierra Bomba
5# The beach of Punta Arena
The beaches of Punta Arena are the closest to Cartagena. From your deckchair, you will be able to see the skyscrapers of Bocagrande.
This is the most visited area of Tierra Bomba and you will find many beach clubs to have a good time.
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 clubs have nevertheless beautiful installations which minimize these annoyances. Here is a solid selection for you to have a good time:
The beach of Punta Arena is easy to reach from Cartagena. Many boats leave in the morning from the beach of the hospital of Bocagrande (see map). I recommend that you know Spanish to communicate well with the captains (some of them are tricksters who can take you to another hotel to earn a commission).
- How to get there: 15-min boat ride from Bocagrande.
- Interest: to spend the day drinking cocktails in a bathing suit.
- Note: 3/5
6# The beach of Playa Linda
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.
Amare beach club is the ideal place to drink at low prices and listen to good music.
- How to get there: 15-min boat ride from the hospital of Bocagrande. Read the explanation here.
- Interest: affordable day pass to eat well, drink a lot and listen to good music.
- Note: 3.5/5
7# South of Tierra Bomba (near Bocachica)
The south of the island (west coast) is the most pleasant part of Tierra Bomba. 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 on Tierra Bomba. Its facilities are top-notch (there is even a pool), the food is delicious and they offer many activities.
- How to get there: Use Blue Apple beach’s boat.
- Interest: A well-arranged private beach next to the best Tierra Bomba beach club.
- Note: 3.75/5
Best beaches in Cartagena: Rosario Islands
Did any of these beaches in Cartagena catch your eye?
In this section, I will present to you the beaches of the Rosarios Islands National Park. This archipelago is made up of 30 tiny islands and It is one of the most famous tourist places in Colombia.
You will finally see heavenly beaches.
Map of the best Cartagena beaches in the Rosario Islands
Best Beaches in Cartagena: Isla Barú
Isla Barú is a peninsula that was separated from the mainland during the construction of the Dique Canal. Its access by the general public was more or less complicated until 2014, with the inauguration of the first bridge.
You can now reach these Cartagena beaches by land.
8# The Beach of Playa Blanca, Rosario islands
Isla Barú is mainly known for one thing: the paradisiacal beach of Playa Blanca.
This is the most beautiful beach in Cartagena. It is a long white sandbank, with some palm trees and many bars and basic hotels made of beautiful palm leaf roofs.
However, there is a catch. It is often invaded by tourists, jetskis, and street vendors. There are also frequent complaints of price gouging.
If you are allergic to other people, there are some tips to know. Let’s see what they are.
How to Avoid the Crowds in Playa Blanca
The answer is simple.
You must stay overnight on Isla Barú!
Tourists usually plan a day trip to Playa Blanca. It means that most buses and speedboats go back to Cartagena around 3-4 pm.
If you’re staying overnight, you will be able to enjoy one of the best Cartagena beaches for yourself.
Also, avoid going there on the weekend or on a public holiday.
How to Get To Playa Blanca
First, you have to decide if you want to go by yourself.
It’s pretty simple to organize. You can either use an app like Didi or Uber, chat with a cab, or you can arrange private transportation. It should take 1 hour from Cartagena’s walled city.
The cheapest option should be Uber (around 100,000 COP – 1 way). Take the driver’s phone number to be able to call him when you want to get back to Cartagena.
If you plan to spend only the day there, you can play it safe (especially if you don’t speak Spanish) and book a day trip.
Most of those sold in the streets of Cartagena are of very poor quality. I advise you to book this tour on Viator.
- Interest: Beautiful beach and easy to access
- Note: 3/5 (victim of mass tourism).
- Favorite Playa Blanca hotel: Nuestra cabañita
9# The beach of Bahia Barbacoa, Rosario islands
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.
It is quiet!
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).
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 get there: private transportation only (1h from Cartagena)
- Interest: lovely setting and peaceful atmosphere.
- Note: 3.5/5
10# Beaches in the South of Isla Barú, Rosario islands
Travelers who venture to the south of Isla Barú are those who stay in one of the many beachfront hotels hidden among the mangroves — or the ones planning an adventure with Olinto.
- How to get there: hotel transportation
- Interest: upscale hotels & beautiful environment.
- Note: 4/5
This is an interesting option if you don’t like taking the boat and want to enjoy a couple of days at the beach.
My favorite hotels are:
Best beaches in Cartagena: Isla Cholón
Isla Cholón is known for one thing: partying.
Every weekend, 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.
Next to this parade of bikinis and aguardiente shots, there is the famous beach of Playa Azul.
11# The beach of Playa Azul, Rosario islands: Don’t stop there
This lovely Cartagena beach is less visited than Playa Blanca (as you need a private boat to get there).
However, I recommend that you do not eat in restaurants. They are known for ripping off foreign tourists on prices.
- How to get there: private boat, 45 min from Cartagena.
- Interest: beautiful white-sand beach
- Note: 0.5/5 (locals are unfriendly)
Best Cartagena beaches: Isla Grande
I saved the best for last.
Isla Grande is my favorite Rosario Island.
The only problem is that there is almost no sand beach (like on Isla Barú).
Lucky for you, I was there for a week to look for the best beaches!
Here is my selection.
12# The Beach of Playa Libre, Rosario islands
Playa Libre is the only public beach on Isla Grande. It is small but well maintained and there are trees for napping in the shade.
- How to get there: There are several paths that cross Isla Grande. I advise you to download Maps.me because there are few indications. It’s next to the restaurant Sol y Papaya. It’s a 15-min walk from town.
- Interest: Beautiful and free
- Note: 4/5 — it can become noisy when private boats come to anchor nearby.
13# The Beach of Sol y Papaya, Rosario islands
Sol y Papaya is my favorite Cartagena beach. It’s a bar/restaurant so you’ll have to grab a drink to use their comfy yellow beds.
The prices are among the best in Isla Grande and the staff does not push you to consume.
Below the restaurant, there is even a beautiful white sand beach that is constantly well maintained.
- How to get there: Follow the path. It’s a 15-min walk from town.
- Interest: Gorgeous and affordable.
- Note: 5/5
14# The beach of la Cocotera, Rosario islands
La Cocotera is another beautiful Cartagena beach.
The boats do not stop near the beach because it is a hotel. However, the entrance is not forbidden for visitors on foot — nobody stopped us.
The hotel’s rooms are quite simple, but the propriety is very nice.
- How to get there: 10-min walk from town
- Interest: no boat nearby
- Note: 4.5/5
15# The Beach of Gente de Mar, Rosario islands
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, bar, restaurant, volleyball court.
The hotel also sells day passes from Cartagena. So you’ll have to share this little piece of paradise with a bunch of people.
- How to get there: Buy a day-pass in Cartagena (1-h boat ride) or a 30-min walk from the town in Isla Grande.
- Interest: the perfect paradise.
- Note: 5/5 — the only downback is that the restaurant is very slow (and expensive).
16# The Beach of Islabela, Rosario islands
Islabela is the eco-hotel that offers the best value for money for travelers. You won’t be able to enter if you’re not a guest.
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.
If you can, I advise you to sleep there for 2 nights. The bungalows are independent and each one has its little private beach.
It is definitely one of the best places if you want to enjoy the beach during your stay in Cartagena.
- How to get there: Islabela is localted on Isleta, a small island in front of Isla Grande. You’ll have to come with the daytrippers (1-h boat ride from Cartagena).
- Interest: Beautiful and excellent price for value.
- Note: 5/5 — beware of sharp dead corals in the sand.
Another alternative: The San Bernardo Islands
There is one last option if you’re not interested in the Cartagena beaches above. Grab a bottle of rum, a dead parrot, and an inflatable buoy, and go to the San Bernardo Islands.
To make the most of it, you must spend 2 nights.
Isla Mucura and Isla Tintipan are both beautiful islands and the landscapes are better than what you can imagine.
- 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 about other fantastic beaches in Colombia.
Best months to enjoy the Cartagena beaches
There are two types of weather in Cartagena: A day with or without rain.
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 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 invade the beaches.
- The sea is rough from October to April. Think about it before organizing a day trip on the islands from Cartagena.
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?
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