Rosario Islands, Colombia: How To Visit Them From Cartagena

A practical travel guide to enjoy the Rosario Islands in Colombia, thanks to my many visits there since 2015.

🛑 Stop having doubts about the Rosario Islands. Start deciding if you should include them in your trip—and if so, HOW?

I know you might have some doubts right now: Which Rosario island should you visit? Is it worth it? Should I stay there or not?

I’ve been living in Colombia since 2015 and went many time to the famous Islas del Rosario.

Here’s what you get if you read my unbiased travel guide:

  • Find out which of the three main islands in the Rosario archipelago is right for you.
  • Get simple advice to help you pick the best day boat tour.
  • Discover my favorite hotels that really make your trip special.
  • Learn what to avoid so your experience is enjoyable, not disappointing.

Who are we 👋

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.


Premium Experiences & hotels

Want to create incredible memories when visiting the Rosario Islands? Here are my favorite experiences and hotels.

Book with locals
  • Description:

    More than 300 travelers have trusted us to book their boats with Aymeric. He works only with the best local captains and will quickly answer any questions you may have.

Best Group Tour
  • Description:

    Embark on a luxurious catamaran journey to the Rosario Islands, complete with snorkeling adventures, a delectable lunch, and breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea.

Hotel on Isla Grande
  • Description:

    Escape to Hotel Coralina Island, a secluded paradise nestled in Isla Grande's mangroves. Indulge in gourmet dining, private beaches, and tranquil, adult-only romantic settings. Perfect for couples seeking serenity and luxury amidst nature's beauty.

Hotel on Isla Grande
  • Description:

    Discover Eco Hotel Islabela's serene charm, offering cozy cabins, private beaches, and a blend of tranquility and local culture on the picturesque Isla Grande. Good value.

Hotel on Isla Baru
  • Description:

    A luxurious, eco-conscious Caribbean haven offering refined accommodations, stunning ocean views, and a harmonious blend of nature and elegance.

Book with locals
Description:

More than 300 travelers have trusted us to book their boats with Aymeric. He works only with the best local captains and will quickly answer any questions you may have.

Best Group Tour
Description:

Embark on a luxurious catamaran journey to the Rosario Islands, complete with snorkeling adventures, a delectable lunch, and breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea.

Hotel on Isla Grande
Description:

Escape to Hotel Coralina Island, a secluded paradise nestled in Isla Grande's mangroves. Indulge in gourmet dining, private beaches, and tranquil, adult-only romantic settings. Perfect for couples seeking serenity and luxury amidst nature's beauty.

Hotel on Isla Grande
Description:

Discover Eco Hotel Islabela's serene charm, offering cozy cabins, private beaches, and a blend of tranquility and local culture on the picturesque Isla Grande. Good value.

Hotel on Isla Baru
Description:

A luxurious, eco-conscious Caribbean haven offering refined accommodations, stunning ocean views, and a harmonious blend of nature and elegance.

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Rosario Islands, Colombia: where Should You Go

The Rosario Islands are a sunny paradise with clear blue waters and white sandy beaches.

  • They’re approximately located 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Cartagena.
  • Rosario Islands is one of Colombia’s 46 Natural National Parks, established in 1988 to protect the Colombian Caribbean coast’s vital coral reefs.
  • About 30 islands in total.

1# Isla Baru: The largest Rosario island

Rosario Islands, Colombia

Isla Barú is the largest and most accessible of the Rosario Islands. The island is famous thanks to Playa Blanca, a long white sand beach with palm trees and a turquoise Caribbean sea.

Isla Barú: My opinion

Isla baru Plastic chair blue water

I visited Isla Baru back in 2015, discovering its hidden charm with secluded beaches and simple pleasures like watermelon. The downside? A memorable sunburn.

In 2017, I returned with my friend Ben. We stayed in Cartagena at a basic beachside hotel. It was far from luxury, complete with bed bugs, but the island’s beauty at dawn and dusk was still captivating.

However, Isla Baru’s reputation has taken a hit over time. Scams and overcrowded beaches, like being overcharged for a simple fish meal, became common stories. I’ve heard that prices are more regulated now, but I can’t confirm it myself. Isla Baru is undoubtedly charming, but its rising popularity has its drawbacks.

What I like about Isla Baru

Playa Blanca Isla Baru Cartagena (1)

Isla Baru has a lot going for it. Here’s why I’m a fan:

  • First off, it’s super easy to get to, more so than other Rosario Islands. You can head there by boat or car.
  • You’ll find the most luxurious hotels in Isla Barú. They’re pricey, but if you’re after luxury in a tropical setting, this is it.
  • Playa Blanca is one of Colombia’s top beaches, with its white sands and clear waters.
  • Don’t miss the National Aviary. It shows off Colombia’s amazing wildlife diversity.

What I don’t like about Isla Barú

Playa Barbacoa Baru (1)

While I adore Isla Baru for its natural beauty, there are aspects that I find less appealing.

  • Playa Blanca’s mass tourism is a bit much. The persistent street vendors, though just earning a living, can get overwhelming.
  • The coastline around Barbacoa Bay and southern Isla Baru doesn’t match the idyllic image I had. The river flow affects the water color, making it less turquoise than I’d like.
  • Organizing activities by yourself here can be tricky. You often have to rely on your hotel, which kind of limits the adventure.
  • Price hiking for tourists by some locals is a letdown. It feels like a scam and detracts from the genuine experience.
  • The noise level, especially near Isla Cholon or Playa Blanca, can be disruptive. I prefer a quieter, more peaceful beach vibe, so this is a downside for me.

Best Things to Do on This Rosario Island

Isla Baru Playa Manglares Tom & Aleja (1)

In Isla Baru, your activities depend on a few things:

  • Got your own ride or up for a tour?
  • Staying overnight and where?

Sunbathing at Playa Blanca: Go solo if you know some Spanish. Grab a cab, walk away from the parking lot towards Playa Tranquila for fewer crowds. Pay for an umbrella and lunch if you want shade. Or, pick a day tour for hassle-free transport and meals at a beach club.

Staying overnight at Playa Blanca gives a more authentic, less crowded experience. Day-trippers, try a beach club for easier logistics.

Visit the National Aviary: Skip the Playa Blanca crowd and check out the Aviary with its rescued birds. Cathy’s agency offers private transport and a bilingual guide.

Explore the Mangroves: Hotels in the South of Baru can arrange tours. If you’re short on time, there’s a day tour covering Isla Baru, mangroves, and bioluminescent plankton. But it’s a long day!

How to get to this Rosario island

Cartagena

Option 1: Taxis

Thanks to the construction of the bridge over the Dique Channel, you can now reach the Rosario Islands from Cartagena by land.

Expect to pay around COP 100,000-150,000 per one-way taxi trip. The journey should take about an hour.

On your return, consider looking for a boat. Day tours usually head back to Cartagena around 3-4 PM. Check if they have available spots. The cost is approximately COP 60,000-70,000 per person.

Option 2: Public Transportation

Another budget-friendly way to get to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena is by using public transport.

Take the bus from Monumento India Catalina (Avenida Venezuela and Playa Pedregosa #34) to Pasacaballos, then a moto-taxi to Isla Baru. Duration: 2-3 hours.

However, I wouldn’t recommend this. It can be somewhat risky.

Option 3: Group Tour

I discuss this in the “things to do” section. Depending on the tour, you’ll arrive via the Caribbean Sea or by land.

Where to stay on this Rosario island?

Sofitel Barú Calablanca
Credit: Sofitel Barú Calablanca

There are various places to stay on Isla Barú, each offering a unique experience.

North of Playa Blanca: This area hosts several resorts, including Decameron and Sofitel Calablanca. Ideal for those seeking luxury and convenience in their accommodation.

Budget-friendly Option: For travelers packing light, the beach bungalows on Playa Blanca are an economical choice. These are quite basic, with limited access to fresh water and no electricity during the day. For a slightly more comfortable option, consider Playa Surf Baru or Soy Local Baru.

Barbacoa Bay: A peaceful retreat for those who don’t necessarily need to swim in the turquoise Caribbean Sea. It’s less crowded here, and customer service is more personalized. Playa Manglares is a favorite among travelers seeking tranquility.

Cholón Bay: Stunningly beautiful, but it can get noisy on weekends or during peak season when boats from Cartagena gather here for parties. Aura Hotel is an excellent choice for those looking to enjoy the area’s beauty with some peace.

South of Isla Barú: Hotels here are surrounded by mangroves, offering a secluded, world-apart feeling. The setting is idyllic, perfect for those seeking a serene escape. Las Islas and Isla del Encanto are two options worth considering for their enchanting atmospheres.

Luxurious (Playa Blanca)
Good deal (Barbacoa Bay)
High-end (South of Barú)
  • 4.5
  • Pros:
    • Secluded
    • Luxurious experiences
Luxurious (Playa Blanca)
5.0
Pros:
  • Many pools and beautiful property
  • Amazing private beach
Good deal (Barbacoa Bay)
4.0
Pros:
  • Delicious food
  • Peaceful and easy to reach
High-end (South of Barú)
4.5
Pros:
  • Secluded
  • Luxurious experiences

My Practical Tips To Enjoy Playa Blanca & Isla Barú

Playa Tortuga in Isla Baru
  • Avoid weekends and holidays to dodge crowds.
  • At Playa Blanca, head towards Playa Tranquila for a quieter spot.
  • Be cautious of ‘free’ samples from vendors.
  • Always confirm prices to avoid surprises.

💡 My Top 3 to Remember:

🚗 Accessibility and Popularity: Isla Barú is the largest and most accessible of the Rosario Islands, connected to Cartagena by a bridge over the Dique Canal. This ease of access has made it a favorite day trip destination for both locals and tourists.

🏖️ Natural Beauty and Accommodations: The island boasts the stunning Playa Blanca, known for its white sand and turquoise waters, and is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in the Rosario archipelago.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Impact of Mass Tourism: Despite its natural allure, Isla Barú faces challenges due to mass tourism, such as overcrowding, especially at Playa Blanca, and issues with scams. This has somewhat tarnished the island’s charm and tranquility.

2# Isla Grande: My Favorite Rosario Island

Rosario Islands, Colombia

Isla Grande is a slice of paradise in the Rosario archipelago, sprawling over 200 hectares. It’s famous for its serene natural beauty. Most agencies and beach resorts offer day trips from Cartagena, with speedboats departing El Muelle around 8:30 AM and returning by 4 PM.

But here’s the thing: a quick day trip means you’ll miss out on the best Isla Grande has to offer.

My advice? Stay at least two nights on Isla Grande to truly soak in the essence of the Rosario Islands. Let me show you how to make the most of this favorite trip of mine.

isla Grande: My opinion

Sol y Papaya Isla Grande

My eight-night stay on Isla Grande with Alejandra was an adventure from a treasure hunt.

The journey there was chaotic – the public boat felt like a puzzle without a picture. But the return trip? We rented a boat, played music, and had a floating dance party with friends. It was fantastic!

Exploring Isla Grande was the highlight. We were on a mission to find the best hotels and local spots. I discovered Sol y Papaya, a laid-back beach bar, and enjoyed the local food, which was affordable and tasty, though the area could be cleaner.

A little insider tip: November is the perfect time to visit. It feels like you have the island to yourself.

Why I like Isla Grande

Isla Grande in the Rosario Islands is an absolute gem, and here’s why I love it:

  • Shaded Paths: The island is a green maze of serene, shaded paths, ideal for a relaxing walk or an adventurous exploration.
  • Snorkeling Haven: With clear waters and great visibility, it’s perfect for snorkeling, though the corals are mostly gone.
  • Stunning Views: Think blue waters, palm trees, and lounging in flip-flops with a cocktail. Isla Grande is a living postcard.
  • Quiet Nights: Overnight stays mean you miss the day-tripper crowd and get a more genuine, peaceful island vibe.
  • Private Beaches: The island’s secluded beaches are perfect for some quiet sunbathing and relaxation.

What I don’t like about Isla Grande

Isla-grande-Rosario-Islands

Although I love this Rosario Island, there are a few points you should know about:

  • Limited Sandy Beaches: Isla Grande isn’t rich in sandy beaches. You’ll find more dead corals or mangroves, which, while unique, don’t fulfill that sandy beach walk desire.
  • Hotel Constraints: Your hotel choice significantly impacts your experience. Some can feel restrictive and pricey.
  • Environmental Issues: Unfortunately, litter is a problem in some areas, marring the island’s beauty, despite growing eco-consciousness among the younger locals.
  • Fixed Travel Times: The boat schedules to and from the island are fixed, which can be a bit inconvenient if you prefer flexible travel plans.
  • Seasonal Rough Waters: From December to April, the sea can get rough in the afternoons, making the boat ride back a tad unsettling for those uneasy with choppy waters.

Best Things to do on this isla del Rosario

Kayak Isla Grande

There are several cool experiences to discover on this Rosario Island. You’ll have to book these activities through your hotel.

Mangrove Tour & Jellyfish: Explore Isla Grande’s mangroves by canoe, ending with a sight of unique orange and purple jellyfish. It’s a quiet, bird-song filled journey, best done early morning.

Bioluminescent Plankton: At Laguna Encantada, post-sunset, swim with plankton that lights up around you – it feels magical. Wear a white shirt for an even better show. Go on new moon nights for the best experience.

Scuba Diving: The Rosario Islands offer great diving with shipwrecks and coral reefs. Visibility is fantastic, but most corals are dead. There are two dive centers on Isla Grande: Scuba Cartagena and Diving Planet.

Snorkeling: Near Isla Grande, snorkel around coral reefs. Stay safe from speedboats by using a buoy and snorkel early morning or after 4 pm.

Kayaking/Paddling: Rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the mangroves or the island’s perimeter. Remember sun protection and hydration.

Beach Day: On Isla Grande, choose from various beaches. Playa Libre is public and cozy. For private beaches like Sol y Papaya, expect on-site dining. There are also luxurious options like Rosario de Mar and PA’UE.

Island Exploration: Walk the shaded paths or take a 4-hour panoramic boat tour to see the island and its surroundings.

Rosario Island Oceanarium: Though they claim conservation efforts, they allow swimming with dolphins, which I don’t recommend.

How to get to this Rosario Island From Cartagena

Boat to Rosario Islands - Cartagena
I love renting a boat with friends.

There are four boat travel options to reach Isla Grande from Cartagena de Indias, and you’ll need to pay an entrance fee of around COP 20,000 to access the Coralline Islands of Rosario and San Bernardo Natural National Park.

Option 1: The Most Economical Choice is a boat ride from Bazurto Market. However, I wouldn’t recommend this option as the boat only leaves when it’s fully booked, usually around 10-11 AM.

Option 2: Departing from “El Muelle” Tourist Port. Boats leave around 9 AM and stop at various hotels on Isla Grande. Boarding will be slow, and you should reach the island around 11 AM.

Option 3: Private Boat Services from Well-Known Hotels on the island offer daily trips starting at 8:30 AM. Don’t miss it, or you’ll have to pay for a private transfer.

Option 4: An Excellent Choice is to rent a boat in Cartagena with friends and ask the captain to drop you off at your hotel in the mid-afternoon. You can also book a private transfer (around €200).

Where to stay on this Rosario island?

Islabela Day Trip
Credit: Islabela

Isla Grande appeals to me because you can get around on your own two feet. This allows you to change your scenery and save money by eating in the village. Travelers looking to enjoy a beautiful beach should head to Playa Sol y Papaya, those in the mood to party might prefer booking at Hostel Secreto, and budget travelers will love El Hamaquero.

Isleta offers a quiet, heavenly setting with few boats approaching, housing some of the best hotels in the Rosario Islands. Stay at Coralina Island for a high-end, intimate, and romantic getaway. Alternatively, Islabela is perfect if you desire your own semi-private white sand beach

Affordable (Isla Grande)
Best deal (Isleta)
High-end (Isleta)
Affordable (Isla Grande)
4.0
Pros:
  • Near the coral reefs
  • Chill out vibe
Best deal (Isleta)
5.0
Pros:
  • Lovely wooden cabins
  • One of the best beaches
High-end (Isleta)
5.0
Pros:
  • Romantic hotel with delicious meals
  • Few rooms

Best tips to enjoy Isla Grande

Beach Sol y Papaya Isla Grande

Here is what I always recommend my friends to do:

  • Eating in the village saves money and gives a real taste of local life.
  • To navigate the island’s maze-like paths, Map.me is essential for uncovering hidden spots.
  • Stay online with Movistar – it’s your best bet for mobile service on Isla Grande.
  • Boats to Cartagena leave by 2 or 3 pm.

💡 My Top 3 to Remember:

💤 Plan for an Extended Stay: Isla Grande isn’t just a hop, skip, and a jump away. With boats leaving from Cartagena’s La Muelle at 8:30 am and returning around 4 pm, day trips can feel rushed.

💰 Hotel Experiences Vary: During my exploration of over 10 hotels, I found that while some are nestled in breathtaking spots, the value for money can be hit or miss. It’s a balancing act between enjoying paradise and managing your budget.

🥇 Unmatched Island Beauty: Isla Grande is the Rosario Islands’ star. Think clear, turquoise waters – it’s your dream vacation spot in a nutshell. Pure paradise vibes!

Isla Cholon: Rosario Party island

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ruQ3ZfAJJY

Located next to Isla Barú, Isla Cholón is a peninsula beloved by Colombians for its festive atmosphere. Every day, it transforms into a mini spring break scene. In the morning, private yachts and party boats ferry visitors from Cartagena, setting the stage for a daylong reggaeton blast. Amid this vibrant cacophony, everyone dances and drinks in the Caribbean Sea while street vendors circulate, offering cold beer, cocktails, and grilled lobster.

Isla Cholón, while pricey, offers an unforgettable glimpse into Colombian party culture!

However, if you’re looking to experience the festive side of the Rosario Islands, Isla Cholón could be the perfect day trip from Cartagena for you.

Be advised that this island’s party-centric vibe may not be for everyone.

My Experience on Isla cholon

Isla Cholon in Rosario Island (3)

Upon arriving at Isla Cholon, I was already feeling the effects of pre-lunch tequila shots. The scene was electric: yachts lined up, music blasting, and an enthusiastic crowd wading waist-deep into the water.

The local entrepreneurs were on point. They navigated between the boats with their canoes and kayaks, tempting us with seafood and cocktails served in coconuts and pineapples. Luckily, we were with Aymeric. He’s well-known around here, and thanks to him, we didn’t get overcharged.

The water was a dreamy shade of turquoise, albeit a bit murky – let’s not inquire too deeply about that. We were all set to enjoy a festive time with friends.

The vibe here was unmistakable: oversized sunglasses, tiny bikinis, and Colombian parties that sweep you up in their momentum. I did my best to dodge the sun, as I had no intention of ending the day looking like a lobster. But hey, when in Cholon, embracing the wild side is part of the experience!

How to get to this Rosario island from Cartagena?

Rosario-Island-Boat-with-Aymeric-Cartagena

The best way to enjoy Isla Cholón is by renting a private boat with your friends. This gives you the freedom to drift away whenever you’ve had enough. It’s an hour away from Cartagena.

Alternatively, most tours offering the Rosario Islands’ five-island circuit will likely include a stop at Isla Cholón.

How to enjoy The Rosario Islands From Cartagena

Boat rosario island with Ameryc Cartagena

There are different ways to enjoy the Rosario Islands when visiting Cartagena.

1# Overstay In the Rosario islands

Staying on the Rosario Islands, especially Isla Grande, for a couple of nights is a great decision. Here’s my take:

The beach life in the early mornings is unmatched. You witness tranquil, crowd-free moments that day-trippers miss. The island exploration is more fulfilling too, without the rush of a day visit. You get to uncover hidden spots and local life at a leisurely pace.

Day trips can feel too hurried, barely allowing you to relax. But with a longer stay, you really soak in the island vibes.

Accommodation might be pricey, but you can find reasonable places that offer great value. For a quieter, authentic experience, the southern part of Isla Barú or Isleta is my top pick. They offer a peaceful retreat away from the usual tourist spots.

2# Book your private Rosario island

Isla Pelicano Aleja

Want to rent an island just for you and your friends? It might not be as expensive as you think.

Locals had the brilliant idea to build houses on top of tiny coral islands. Some of these wooden houses are quite luxurious, coming with staff, air-conditioned rooms, and living areas equipped with all the necessary amenities.

Enjoy stunning sunsets surrounded only by your friends and the fish. It’s perfect for an unforgettable bachelor party.

Isla Pelicano

This modern-style white house covers half of the island. The other half features a long terrace, allowing travelers to relax by the sea. After enjoying a delicious meal prepared by a local chef, you can use one of the two kayaks to explore nearby Isla Grande or Isla Pirata. However, try to return before 5 PM to enjoy the sunset from the roof. Couch, hammock, or jacuzzi? The choice depends on you and your friends!

Isla Rosa

Isla Rosa Rosario Island Aymeric
Credit: Aymeric

Although smaller than other private islands on this list, Isla Rosa is no less idyllic. This tastefully decorated two-story house features numerous sofas, vases, and paintings. The large ground-floor windows allow natural light and the sea breeze to flow in. Outside, you’ll have a choice of several spots to listen to the waves under the shade of trees. Its palm leaf roof, the bright pink color of its walls, and lush greenery make it a pleasant and photogenic location. It’s the most romantic island among the Rosario Islands.

Isla Matamba

credit: Aymeric

Isla Matamba is an impressive property located on Isla Grande, making it not technically a private island. However, this fact does not detract from its allure; in fact, it enhances it. A large terrace encircles a spacious main house. On the ground floor, you’ll find a beautiful, shiny wooden table along with numerous sofas and hammocks. The second floor is dedicated to bedrooms, all with sunset views. A small wooden bridge leads to a second guest house and a relaxation area featuring a pool and plenty of lounge chairs.

Book with locals
Stay on a private island with Aymeric
5.0

Since 2015, Tomplanmytrip (us) looks for the best local agencies in Colombia and put you in direct contact with them.

Pros:
  • Aymeric takes care of everything.
  • One of the most unique stays in Colombia.
See his profile Our Review
Book with local agencies we trust.

How to get to these Rosario islands?

Boat rosario island with Ameryc Cartagena 4

To reach the private islands of Rosario from Cartagena, you’ll need to book two private boats in total (one for arrival and another for departure). Most private islands can arrange this for you at a high price. However, you’ll get a better deal with Aymeric ;).

3# Rosario Island Day trip from Cartagena

It will still be possible to glimpse the Rosario Islands’ natural beauty in one day.

Go to the Rosario islands on a catamaran

The day tours to the Rosario Islands stop at approximately the same spots: Isla Grande, Isla Cholón, Isla Barú. Depending on the tour, the boats do not stop on the islands’ beaches.

There are many shitty tours (especially the tour agencies in Cartagena’s streets). The boarding time is horribly long, and you stop in the most crowded places. Make sure you know what you are getting and book directly online.

Here is my guide to planning the perfect Rosario Island Day trip.

My favorite group tour is the one below:

Catamaran Rosario islands
Catamaran experience

This catamaran experience offers a delightful day enjoying the Rosario Islands.

The catamaran sails by Isla Grande and Isla Barú but never stops at the beaches. This allows you to swim peacefully in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, away from other tourists.

Onboard, there’s a bar serving delicious cocktails and playing cross-over music.

Lunch, a welcome drink, and snorkeling equipment are included.

Best Group Tour
Catamaran tour Islas del Rosario
4.5
Pros:
  • Large and beautiful catamaran
  • Lots of perks
See on GetYourGuide See On Viator
I tried it. I loved it.

Rent a private boat to explore the Rosario Islands

Renting a private boat in the Rosario Islands is a top experience for me.

First, It’s super convenient. You skip the lines and schedules, cruising through the islands on your terms. Plus, there’s the fun of blasting your favorite tunes and chilling with drinks as you sail the clear waters.

Practical Info:

  • A boat rental for 8-10 people is pretty affordable, around 450 USD.
  • Choose a boat with a friendly captain; they know the best spots.
  • Avoid Agua Azul near Isla Barú. The place looks nice, but they overcharge for everything. Some captains might push it for a commission, but it’s best to steer clear.
Book with locals
Easily Find The Best Private Boats With Aymeric
4.9

Over 100 of our readers book their boats in Cartagena with Aymeric monthly. He works only with the best local captains, knows the best spots, and will quickly answer any questions you may have.

Pros:
  • A reliable, organized local agency.
  • Pay local prices at no extra cost.
Learn about him Chat with him
Easy, quick and risk-free (Talk first. Book later)

Buy a day-pass in A Rosario Island hotel

Gente de Mar - Rosario Islands - Isla Grande

Most hotels in the Rosario Islands offer day tours including transport, lunch, and access to private beaches and facilities. Choose carefully to avoid overcrowding.

Typically, you arrive between 9-10 AM and leave around 2:30 PM, giving you 5-6 hours to enjoy. Travel usually takes an hour each way.

This is a good option for those who want a relaxing beach day, especially since Cartagena’s beaches aren’t as impressive. You can unwind with cocktails and a good book.

For lovely white sand beaches, consider these two hotels in the Rosario Islands:

  • Islabela
  • San Pedro de Majagua

Other Rosario Islands trips include:

  • Bendita Beach: A small private island with a long beach, 45 minutes from Cartagena.
  • Isla Del Pirata: A hotel with private cabañas and secluded beaches, 50 minutes away.
  • Isla Del Encanto: Exclusive hotel with excellent facilities and a 300m private beach, 60 minutes away.
  • Coralina Island: a romantic hotel.
  • Bora Bora: A beach club.

Packing list For the Rosario Islands

Islabela beach Isla grande

For the Rosario Islands, I’ve perfected a packing list combining practical needs and island style:

  • Swimwear: Pack a few options. You’ll practically live in them.
  • Evening Wear: Go for light and stylish – think linen shirts and sundresses.
  • Footwear: Water shoes for the reefs, flip-flops for the beach, and sneakers for walking.
  • Snorkeling Gear: I always bring my own for the best experience.
  • Beach Essentials: Compact, quick-drying beach blanket and towel.
  • Sun Protection: High-SPF, reef-safe sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are essentials.
  • Camera Gear: A waterproof camera or GoPro for those underwater shots.
  • Portable Charger: Keep your devices charged.
  • Light Backpack: Ideal for day trips.
  • Cash: There are no ATMs, and cards aren’t widely accepted.

Remember, space is limited on boat rides, so pack smartly.

Q&A: las Islas Del Rosario in Colombia

Isla Grande Sol y Papaya
  1. Are the Rosario Islands safe?

    Yes, the Rosario Islands are safe to visit. I walked peacefully on Isla Grande without feeling unsafe.

  2. What can you do in the Rosario Islands?

    In the Rosario islands, you can do luminescent plankton tours in the mangroves, snorkel tours, diving, party on Isla Cholón, or some beach clubs. You will have more choices on Isla Grande than on Isla Barú. Make sure to pack a good camera for underwater photography.

  3. Can you stay in the Rosario Islands?

    Yes, you can stay in the Rosario Islands. You can pick your hotel on Isla Barú, Isla Grande, Isleta or rent a small private island.

  4. How much does it cost to go to Rosario Islands?

    The cost to go to the Rosario Islands depends on your transportation. It costs about 60.000 COP to go by public boat. Also, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee of about 20,000 COP because it’s a national park.

  5. Are there sharks in Cartagena, Colombia?

    I didn’t see any sharks in Cartagena. I guess there must be some “bobo sharks” that are totally harmless.

  6. How do you get from Isla Barú to Isla Grande?

    It is rather complicated and expensive to find a fisherman who agrees to take you to Isla Grande from Isla Barú.

  7. Best beach in the Rosario Islands

    Playa Blanca is a beautiful beach, but unfortunately, it is too crowded. I recommend Sol y Papaya and Gente de Mar to enjoy the best Rosario Islands’ beaches. Both are private beaches in Isla Grande.

  8. Are the Rosario Islands expensive?

    Yes, the Rosario Islands are expensive. The quality-price ratio of the hotels is not always up to par. You will pay for the location. Expect to pay prices like in Europe.

  9. Is there an ATM on the Rosario Islands

    There is no ATM on the Rosario Islands. Bring lots of cash.

  10. When are the best months to visit the Rosario Islands?

    The sunniest months are from January to March and July to September. From December to April, it is the windy season, and the sea is more agitated in the afternoon.

  11. How long is a boat ride from Cartagena to Rosario Islands?

    It takes about 1 hour to travel by boat from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands. It’s about 50 km away.

  12. Why is Rosario Islands popular?

    The Rosario Islands are popular because they are small paradise islands surrounded by turquoise seas. Besides, Cartagena’s beaches are unremarkable, so it’s your only option 😉

  13. Can you swim in Rosario?

    Yes, you can swim in Las Islas del Rosario, but watch out for the speedboats. They drive like crazy Mario Kart players.

  14. Is there a ferry to get to the Rosario Islands?

    No, there is no ferry to get to the Rosario Islands.

Rosario Islands, Cartagena: The Bottom line

The Rosario Islands are the most famous islands on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Depending on your time and your tastes, you will have to choose your Rosario Island hotel or your day tour wisely. If you can, try to stay 2 nights in Isla Grande.

Thanks to my article, you should now have all the information you need to plan your trip and make the right decisions. Grab your swimsuit, and let’s go!

  • Want to plan your trip to 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.

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I have been traveling around Colombia and Mexico since 2015 to discover new experiences and help travelers make the right choices.

9 comments

  1. Jack says:

    Great article Tom! Maybe a little precision for Isla Grande. The hostels are overpriced and use ‘ecological’ as an excuse for not having A/C which is obviously bullsh*t. Unless you are used to sleeping in a room of over 30°C with lots of mosquitos, the night is quite a bad experience. Also, you could mention that when it rains, it takes more than 3h to get there and the boats often stop on Isla Baru for no comprehensible reason. That’s without mentioning the port’s organisation and infrastructures which are completely unsuited for the amount of tourists they have. All in all, the journey to Isla Grande is a disaster.
    And yet, you’re absolutely right, it’s still worth going! Isla Grande is one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia and much less crowded than Isla Baru. For a little slice of paradise, coping with some of these problems is ok, but day-trips are impossible because the organisation is so bad.
    Cheers !

    • th.espeute@gmail.com says:

      Whaou Jack! Thx for the inputs mate! I gonna update my post 😉

      I guess it’s still a piece of quiet paradise because it’s a pain in the ass to get there haha

  2. Jack says:

    That’s exactly right! Because the infrastructure is not on point and because it’s so badly organised, the islands have remained heavenly. Every coin has two sides as we know, Cheers !

  3. Sarah Cummings says:

    Wow! Great post! Thank you for sharing the detailed info. The photos look very enjoyable and relaxing. Gonna try this soon. ????

  4. Judy says:

    Great article, Tom and amazing pictures – can’t wait to go!
    Do you know, if it’s possible to rent a boat by yourself (considering you have a boat license)?

  5. Tanya says:

    We are looking forward to our trip to Cartegena on Feb. thanks for the info. We want to spend a few days in the Rosario Islands and have yet booked our accommodations. We may need to work (yuck) a bit and wondering if you have insight to the strength/dependability of internet on Isla Grande or any of the islands we shouldn’t avoid because of the need to stay connected. Thanks!

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