Between Capurgana and Cartagena, the small San Bernardo Islands are made of white sands, palm trees, and cabañas and hidden from the gringo trail. Within the Archipelago de San Bernardo, locals use their speedboats to achieve their daily tasks, and fishers are going out at night to get the biggest prey. Let’s see where and how to travel to the San Bernardo Islands.
San Bernardo Islands: What you must know
What to do: Don’t worry. Be happy. Lay back on the beach and plan a few activities with your hotel like snorkeling, paddling, or the bioluminescent plankton.
Isla Palma: It’s the nearest island to Rincon del Mar. The island is divided into 2 hotels. You can party here.
Duration: You can plan a day trip from Rincon del Mar or stay a couple of days if you like relaxing on paradise islands.
Best San Bernardo tips: You can only pay by cash (except a few hotels). The sea is rough from December to April.
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What’s the Archipelago of San Bernardo
The Archipelago of San Bernardo, made of 10 little paradises surrounded by crystalline blue water, is a forgotten place where nature and humans have learned to evolve together in harmony. The islands are part of the Rosario and San Bernardo corals national natural park, one of the 59 protected Colombia National Parks.
The majority of the inhabitants live on an artificial Colombia island, smaller than two football stadiums. There, 1500 people are sharing every little piece of ground. Kids are jumping and kicking the air with their legs before landing in the clear ocean. Neighbors are like brothers and sisters as there is no secret or intimacy in Islote de Santa Cruz.
Among the 10 San Bernardo islands, some are private or too small to be visited.
Let’s find out their specificities and names.
Isla Boqueron: the tiniest San Bernardo Island
It’s the closest island to the coast. A few families have established their summer homes. Usually, you don’t go to Isla Boqueron with a tour.
Isla Mucura: The most famous San Bernardo island
It was my favorite island. On Mucura Island, there are the cheapest hotels in San Bernardo. You can walk to a tiny village to get some street food, water, and alcohol. I love to make my own Coco Loco!
Unfortunately, 95% of the island is privatized by hotels. It means you will only have access to the small public beach if you don’t stay on one of them.
Because you’re not free not to roam wherever you want anymore, I prefer staying in Isla Tintipan.
Isla Mucura is still an excellent option if you travel on a high budget or with a group of friends.
Hotel Isla Mucura | Ideal for groups of friends who wants to spend a fun moment.
Hostel Dalhandia | Peaceful & Family vibe. It’s one of the most affordable places.
Hotel Punta Faro | Luxury & Romantic. It’s the best hotel in the archipelago.
Isla Tintipan: the most beautiful San Bernardo Island
Isla Tintipan is the largest island. I like to get there to eat tasty lunches of seafood on the long white beach under a colorful umbrella. Isla Tintipan in Colombia is also a haven of peace for many pelicans, and it’s a fun moment to navigate through the labyrinth of mangroves.
And last year, we participate in a techno festival organized by Casa En El Agua. It was awesome!
Hotels are scattered on various secluded beaches on the same side of the island.
It’s the ideal spot if you’re traveling as a couple.
Hotel Punta Norte | Basic cabins made with wood. The location is outstanding.
Hostel Isla Roots | Social place & Private island where young travelers like to hang out.
Hotel Sal Si Puedes |The best hotel in Isla Tintipan, with private access to the beach and the mangrove at the back.
Quinta del Mar| A dream house to rent with friends, with a swimming pool, restaurant, activities, and caring staff.
Islote de Santa Cruz, a town in the San Bernardo islands
It’s an artificial island where most of the inhabitants are staying. The density population is one of the highest in the world. Take a boat to visit the town. The streets are so tiny that you’ve got the feeling to walk through their living rooms.
Also, kids are running everywhere, and they won’t miss an occasion to involve you in football games.
Isla Palma: The closest island to Rincon del Mar
The island is private and divided into 2 hotels. Previously, it was owned by the all-inclusive resort Decameron. It’s only 20 min away from Rincon del Mar. The island is beautiful, but the hotels still need some improvements to become a romantic little paradise.
Hostel Mistica | The surrounding area is stunning. There is a white sandy beach, palm trees, and turquoise water. On the other hand, there is little to let go of with the management of the hostel. The huts are not very well maintained—little access to fresh water. Paradise is expensive.
Islas Maravilla, Panda, Cabruna, and Mangle
San Bernardo islands
Most of them are little islands made up of dead coral reefs, trees, and mangroves. You can drive around, but it’s normally not allowed to get off the boat as it’s a protected area.
Hostel Casa En El Agua in the Archipelago
It’s not an island, but it’s the most famous Hostel in San Bernardo. A Dutch guy had the great idea to build a big hostel on a dead reef in the middle of the Archipelago of San Bernardo. The Hotel Casa En El Agua is probably one of the most famous hostels in Colombia. Travelers hang around, spending time between cocktails, inflatable buoys, and snorkeling sessions.
It’s a bit expensive, and you won’t meet many Spanish speakers. However, it’s a cool spot if you want to get some fun and spend your money on cocktails.
Another isolated house in the archipelago
Fortunately, there is another option if Casa En El Agua is not your thing. It is located right next door, between Tintipan and Mucura islands.
However, there are a lot of constraints when you live on a “home island.” So it’s not for everyone 😉
Acuarimantima Hostal Spa| A simple but cute wooden house near Tintipán. A perfect welcome! A simple life without any hassle.
Map of the Archipelago de San Bernardo
How To Enjoy The San Bernardo Islands In Colombia
#1 How to get to the San Bernardo islands
- Tolu to the San Bernardo Islands: It’s a beach town very touristic during the high season because it’s the closest big city to the San Bernardo Islands. You can book day tours or ask the driver to be dropped on Mucura Island or Isla Tintipan. Boats are leaving around 8 am: 50 000 COP / 1 hour
- Rincon Del Mar to The San Bernardo islands: It’s a little fisherman village on the Colombian Caribbean Coast where it’s pleasant to spend the night before looking for a boat in the direction of the San Bernardo islands: 200 000 COP/boat | 30 min | Boats leave early in the morning
- Cartagena To the San Bernardo islands. The “public” boat stop to most of the upscale hotels on Isla Tintipan and Isla Mucura. Approx 100 000 COP / 2.5 hours. All the information here.
#2 Tight budget on the San Bernardo islands
- There is no drinkable water on the San Bernardo islands. Inhabitants are using the rain waters. If you want to save money, you can buy a gallon of water before.
- Food is expensive on Isla Mucura and Isla Tintipan. There are restaurants on the public beaches. Approx 7$.
- Also, there is no ATM on the San Bernardo Islands. I advise you to withdraw lots of cash before.
- You must stay on Isla Mucura if you travel on a low budget. There is a small public beach with one affordable hotel.
- The cheapest boat trip is from Rincon del Mar.
In short, avoid staying overnight on the San Bernardo islands if you’re traveling on a low budget. The easiest and cheapest way is to book a day trip from Rincon del Mar.
However, you risk to be a bit disappointed as you will miss most of the fun.
#3 Things to do on the San Bernardo Islands
1) Think about all your worries and negative thoughts. Grab them and put them in mental green Tupperware. Keep it somewhere in your mind. Once you’re in the middle of the ocean, throw the box. It will sink like dead bodies in Dexter’s series.
2) On the islands, take a juice and lay down on the beach. You can build a little sand pillow and protect your face with a Colombian hat
3) Make your own Coco Loco (coconuts + rum) and observe the sunset. Try to find mermaids.
4) The following day, explore the other islands around. You can take a taxi boat to travel to Casa En El Agua, Isla Tintipan, Mucura Island and Islote de Santa Cruz. Price: 15 – 20 000 COP/pers
5) Ask your hotel about the activities they offer:
- Snorkel among colorful reefs and fishes – Around Isla Palma and Maravilla or Casa En El Agua.
- Drive between the mangroves – Around Isla Tintipan, Colombia.
- Observe birds like pelicans or flamingos – Around Tintipan et Isla Palma.
- Swim at night surrounded by bioluminescent planktons – Around Isla Tintipan, Colombia.
- Go spearfishing with locals.
#4 How many days in the San Bernardo Islands
Those little paradises are perfect to chill and put aside all your problems. I recommend you stay at least 2 nights to receive an awesome dose of happiness. Or book a day trip from Rincon del Mar if you’re just curious.
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