Are you coming to Cartagena de Indias soon? Then you might want to visit the Rosario Islands National Park.
There are various ways to do it.
One of the options is to book a Rosario Islands day trip from Cartagena.
These tours disappoint many travelers because of a lack of information.
Do not worry. It won’t be your case.
I’ve explored las Islas del Rosario many times —the last time in December 2021. To help you, I analyzed all the best Rosario islands day tours available and booked the one that seems to be the best.
Read on to find out how it went.
👉 Want to know everything about the Rosario Islands? 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 the Rosario Islands.
Best Rosario islands day trip: Overview
- Price: < 69 USD
- Duration: 7h30
- Type: Group experience
- Where: Near Isla Grande & Isla Barú
- My opinion: A fun and unusual way to discover the Rosario Islands on a wide Catamaran, with excellent customer service (bar, lunch, snorkel equipment) and crossover music.
- Book it here
More Rosario Island day trips
You don’t have to opt for my favorite Rosario Islands tour. Here are some other options to have a good time
Private Rosario Island Tour
Did you know that you can rent a boat with captains in Cartagena? It’s my favorite option to visit the Rosario Islands in one day. You can decide on the different stops or trust your crew.
This day trip is usually from 9:30 am to 4 pm.
The price per person becomes quickly interesting if you travel in a small group!
👉 Ask our expert to find you a private boat in Cartagena.
Day-pass to a beach resort
The best Rosario Islands hotels offer day passes to travelers.
This can be a good option if your goal is to enjoy secluded beaches. However, you should know that the beach will usually be noisy and crowded with daytrippers.
I visited most of the Rosario Island hotels.
There are 2 hotels I would recommend spending the day at:
They both benefit from lovely private beaches and serve a delicious lunch —albeit slow in Gente de Mar.
TPMT Tip: I won’t recommend Isla Barú. The seawater is murkier—except for playa Blanca, but you will be bothered every 5 minutes by a vendor.
Easy Day trip to Isla Blanca from Cartagena
Playa Blanca (Barú Island) is the most famous beach in Cartagena. Unfortunately, mass tourism has made this place less pleasant, and it is complicated to get there yourself. This agency offers a ” basic ” tour where a van will pick you up at your hotel. After a 1 hour drive, the guide will show you a quieter part of the beach (playa tranquilla). It’s up to you if you want the package with or without lunch. This day trip is the easiest and most pleasant option to enjoy the white sand & turquoise water of Playa Blanca.
The road to get there is bumpy.
- Price: From 45 $
- Departure: Around 7h30
- Duration: 8 hours
- Include: Transporation back & forth (van with A/C) from your hotel to Playa Blanca
Important: Don’t stop at Agua Azul
Agua Azul is a beautiful public beach near Isla Barú, but the people who run the place/restaurants are thieves. They will charge you a LOT for a simple lunch or a plastic chair. Some boat captains will try to convince you to go there (they will get a juicy commission). Definitely refuse to go.
Rosario islands: The map
Full day Rosario Islands: my experience
Aleja and I arrive at the dock at 7:45 am — Yes, I like to come in advance.
15 minutes later, the catamaran appears. It has to park on a double row because another boat has stolen its place. The tourist dock of Cartagena is always a little (a lot) chaotic.
Travelers arrive one by one.
After 45 minutes, we are about sixty “sailors” ready to discover the turquoise water of the Caribbean sea.
A member of the boat comes to me with a welcome drink.
It’s a fresh watermelon juice. You just have to go to the bar if you want another one. It’s unlimited and free, he says.
Cool! This boat trip starts well.
1rst gift. Unlimited fresh watermelon juice is included in the day tour.
TPMT Tip: How to choose the right seat? You can stay in the shade, then sit on the nets at the front of the catamaran when departing to enjoy the view.
Departure to the Rosario Islands
The captain turns on the music at the same time as the engines.
Vamos p’a la playa, Pa’ curarte el alma, Cierra la pantalla …
You should listen to it too. It will put you in the mood.
Le catamaran follows the coast of Cartagena de Indias. I lie down on one of the nets at the bow and watch from afar the sun reflecting on the tall buildings of Bocagrande and Castillogrande.
Then I see the closest island to Cartagena: Isla Tierra Bomba. The remains of numerous fortifications on this island were still used to defend the city from pirate attacks.
While I enjoy the (hot) caress of the sun, Aleja wakes me up. She holds 2 small paper bags in her hand.
Look! They gave me empanadas to snack on.
2nd gift: a tasty local snack is offered during the boat ride.
👉 Book your catamaran day trip tour and sail through the Rosario Islands.
First stop: in front of Isla Grande
After 2 hours, we arrive in front of the beautiful island of Isla Grande. The hull of the boat cuts the turquoise water of the Caribbean sea.
Then it stops a hundred meters from a private island and its palm trees.
We will stay here for 1 hour, announce the captain.
Do not swim too far from the catamaran. It is dangerous, he claims.
In the Rosario Islands, nobody respects the maritime codes. Speed boats are going full speed nearby the coast. This can lead to accidents, especially on Isla Cholón —be careful if you rent a boat.
I give Aleja’s ID to get 2 snorkeling gears. They are disinfected beforehand and of good quality!
3rd gift: snorkeling gears are free for this Rosario Islands day trip.
The barrier reef is not exceptional. There are only a couple of corals and very few fish. If you care about snorkeling, I advise you to stay on Isla Grande or book a diving excursion.
After my short underwater adventure, I decide it’s time for a cocktail. The prices on the menu are affordable (only 5 USD while you are in the middle of the Caribbean), and they are yummy. The bartender knows his job well. He mixed a piece of fresh pineapple for Aleja’s piña colada!
And for my Marguerita, he put 2 shots of Tequila.
Cocktail, tropical island, sun & music. I can’t complain — and I’m French!
After 1 hour, we change location.
Second stop: in front of Isla Barú
My stomach is rumbling. Fortunately, I see Isla Cholón. It’ll be lunchtime soon.
Isla Cholón is the party island del Rosario National park. Yachts and speedboats form a semi-circle around a tiny sandy beach while people dance / drink / eat and bask in the sun. Each boat plays its music the loudest possible. Locals on jetskis or canoes ride between the visitors to bring seafood dishes and bottles of aguardiente.
In short, it’s a real mess.
Fortunately, we move away to a quieter place.
The staff takes out the dishes from the kitchen. It’s time to eat!
The cook has prepared a tasty paella, and we can make a mixed salad as a side dish.
Preparing and reheating food on a boat is never easy, especially for many people.
Overall, they did a good job.
We stay 2 more hours at this 2nd stop.
It’s enough to swim, take a nap, and order another cocktail.
It is now 2h30 pm. It’s time to go back to Cartagena (1h30).
The breeze starts to blow. Take out the sails, sailors!
Why book this Rosario Island tour
Many agencies offer day tours to discover las Islas de Rosario. Why is the Catamaran tour different from others?
The boat ride is comfortable
To visit the islands of Rosario in one day is to accept spending many hours by boat.
The furthest island from Cartagena is Isla Grande.
Most Rosario island day trips will offer you to get there on a crowded speedboat. During these tours, the captains do not consider the clients’ comfort. They drive like crazy to get there in 1h15 and then go to the beach clubs that offer them the highest commission.
→ The Catamaran trip takes a little longer (2 hours), but you are free to move around as you please. You can order a cocktail at the bar, sunbathe on the nets, or sleep on a couch during the boat trip.
You won’t mingle with other boats or tourists
The problem with traditional island day trips is that you cannot stay on the boat. So the agency has to find places where the travelers can land.
On Isla Grande, there is only a tiny public beach —playa libre. You won’t get there because the agency won’t earn any commissions. Instead, they’ll bring you to Luxury Beach or Bora Bora. These beach clubs are expensive and loud.
And on Isla Barú, you’ll stop at the crowded beach Playa Blanca.
Both islands are beautiful, and you can still like these day trips—if that’s what you’re looking for on your tour of the Rosarios Islands.
I don’t particularly appreciate being approached by dozens of street vendors or being surrounded by hundreds of belly buttons on vacation.
→ During this Catamaran day trip, you won’t have to lie on a crowded beach. You will alternate between swimming in the turquoise water, dancing, and sunbathing on the boat’s sundeck.
This day trip to the Rosario Islands is an excellent value for money
If you compare the price of this tour with other day trips, it will seem more expensive.
But that’s not taking into account everything that’s included:
- Illimited watermelon juice.
- Snorkeling gears.
- National Natural Park fees.
Not to mention the bar that offers delicious and affordable cocktails. The bartender uses fresh fruits and premium bottles of alcohol. We loved the piña colada and the marguerita!
This Cartagena Island tour is well organized
Most Rosario Islands day trips leave from the tourist docks of Cartagena. You will have to wait in line to pay the Rosario National Park tax and then linger 1 hour in the sun to get on a speedboat.
It won’t be the case with the Catamaran day trip.
→ Payment is made online, and you don’t have to stand in line to pay the national park fee. In addition, you will be boarding in a quieter area – close to the Torre del Reloj.
Note: They won’t accept cash onboard. Remember to bring your credit card!
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How to book this Cartagena day trip
You can book this boat trip on GetYourGuide.
Once the online payment is made, you will receive a reservation code that you must present to get on board the catamaran. That’s it!
And you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund— which is pretty cool at this time of Covid.
The Rosario Islands are beautiful but very visited. If you have the time, I advise you to stay 2 nights in Isla Grande. If not, the Catamaran tour presented in our article will give you an excellent overview of this natural environment. The size of the boat allows you to be at ease during the trip and spend an incredible moment.
Finally, if you can afford it, don’t hesitate to rent a boat for a private tour of the Rosario Islands.
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