Epic Rosario Islands Day Trip From Cartagena: My Story

Here’s the story of my 2 favorite day trips to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena, with all the pros and cons, and some insider tips for a successful adventure.

🛑 Stop looking randomly at the various day trips to the Rosario Islands. Start making the right choice thanks to my honest reviews.

There are several ways to organize the perfect day trip to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena.

Would you like to go on your own? Do you have enough money to hire a private boat? What if you’re a solo traveler?

So many questions to which it’s hard to find answers when you’ve never set foot on these beautiful islands.

That’s where I come in.

I have been exploring Colombia since 2015 in search of the best experiences and have had the opportunity to travel many times to Las Islas del Rosario.

Here’s what you’ll get if you read my guide c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y:

  • Why I love this tour if you’re a solo traveler.
  • The scams to avoid if you go on your own.
  • My secret tip to rent the best private boats—spoiler: his name is Aymeric.
  • My favorite Rosario Island day pass if you want to relax on the beach.

👉 Want to know everything about the Rosario Islands? To learn where the best places are and avoid tourist traps and beginner mistakes? Nothing could be easier. I put it all together in our guide to the Rosario Islands.


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.


Best Day Trips

My top choice
  • Where:
    Departure from Cartagena's dock. Stop wherever you want: Barú, Isla Grande, Cholón.
  • From 400 USD/Boat
  • 4.9
  • Description:

    I rented a boat with Aymeric and loved it! He picks the best boats and spots, sorts out drinks, and you're free to explore from 9am to 5pm with your crew. Decide the music, move your body, and skip the crowds. It's a must-do experience!


Best Group Tour
  • Where:
    Departure from Cartagena's dock. You'll swim around Isla Grande and Isla Barú.
  • From 95 USD/pers
  • 4.0
  • Description:

    Unlike crowded speedboat tours, the catamaran offers a relaxed journey. Imagine sipping cocktails, sunbathing, and enjoying serene views without the hustle of tourist spots. Plus, it includes snacks, lunch, and snorkeling gear. It's a peaceful, value-packed adventure

Best day pass
  • Where:
    Departure from Cartagena's dock to Isleta (near Isla Grande). 1h boat.
  • From 75 USD/pers
  • 4.0
  • Description:

    The Islabela day pass is fantastic for a fun beach day! It has a big beach area, free kayaks, and cool spots for photos. Plus, it includes your lunch, and can order plenty of cocktails! It's a great, relaxed spot for families and kids.

My top choice
Where:
Departure from Cartagena's dock. Stop wherever you want: Barú, Isla Grande, Cholón.
From 400 USD/Boat
4.9
Description:

I rented a boat with Aymeric and loved it! He picks the best boats and spots, sorts out drinks, and you're free to explore from 9am to 5pm with your crew. Decide the music, move your body, and skip the crowds. It's a must-do experience!


Best Group Tour
Where:
Departure from Cartagena's dock. You'll swim around Isla Grande and Isla Barú.
From 95 USD/pers
4.0
Description:

Unlike crowded speedboat tours, the catamaran offers a relaxed journey. Imagine sipping cocktails, sunbathing, and enjoying serene views without the hustle of tourist spots. Plus, it includes snacks, lunch, and snorkeling gear. It's a peaceful, value-packed adventure

Best day pass
Where:
Departure from Cartagena's dock to Isleta (near Isla Grande). 1h boat.
From 75 USD/pers
4.0
Description:

The Islabela day pass is fantastic for a fun beach day! It has a big beach area, free kayaks, and cool spots for photos. Plus, it includes your lunch, and can order plenty of cocktails! It's a great, relaxed spot for families and kids.

Rosario Islands Tour: The map

Rosario Island Day Trip: Your Booking Guide

Sol y Papaya Beach - Isla Grande - Islas del Rosario

Before you start looking for the best day trip to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena, I’d like to explain a few important points—so you can make the right decisions.

Is a Rosario Island Day Trip Worth it?

Boat rosario island with Ameryc Cartagena 9

If you ask me whether a trip to the Rosario Islands is worth it, I’d say absolutely, especially for the stunning crystal clear water and the relaxed holiday atmosphere. It’s a refreshing change from the beaches in Cartagena, offering a more picturesque and enjoyable experience.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these islands are quite popular, so expect to share the beauty with quite a crowd.

And don’t forget about Cartagena itself! I always recommend setting aside at least one full day to explore this vibrant city.

When it comes to exploring the Rosario Islands, your experience heavily depends on the tour you choose. There are various options and trust me, they can vary greatly in quality—I did a really bad one the first time I came to Cartagena de Indias. So, choose wisely to ensure your day trip is as amazing as the islands themselves.

Maybe you would prefer to stay overnight?

Coralina Hotel - Rosario Islands
Credit: Coralina Hotel – Rosario Islands

I think it’s the best way to really enjoy them.

You dodge the daytime crowds, so the stunning sunsets and peaceful sunrises are all yours. Waking up to the sound of the waves and having those quiet moments in the morning and evening? I will never get bored of it.

If you’re in Cartagena for at least four nights, I’d say go for two nights on the islands. There are many cool places to stay, but it won’t be cheap.

The Cartagena Island tour you shouldn’t book

Public Boat Cartagena - Rosario Island

You’ll meet many vendors on Cartagena’s street, offering you the cheapest Rosario Island tour on earth—sometimes for less than 10 USD.

But, as I’ve learned the hard way, it’s far from the perfect adventure.

Let me tell you about my not-so-great trip to the Rosario Islands. First off, I was stuck at the dock for an hour and a half just waiting to board – total chaos, and I even had to pay a park tax. Then, the speed boat was this tiny, overcrowded thing with no shade, speeding like crazy.

They had the option to visit an aquarium, but it was pretty sad seeing those animals in captivity. The snorkeling? More people in the water than fish, and yep, it was an extra charge. And the stop at Playa Blanca was just a crowd fest.

Honestly, the whole thing was a letdown and not as budget-friendly as I thought it would be. Not the best day out, for sure.

What to learn from my adventure?

→ There are so many bad tours out there that I recommend booking online, where you can check the reviews before getting on board.

Rosario Island Day Trip on your own

Isla Grande Sol y Papaya

You can visit the Rosario Islands in a day, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Why?

Because you can only visit Playa Blanca on Isla Baru. This beach is beautiful but has fallen victim to mass tourism. I prefer going to Isla Grande.

If you still want to go. Here’s what I recommend:

You may have read that you can get there by boat. Please don’t. Take a cab instead. It should cost you between 120-150,000 COP, but you can decide when you want to arrive (instead of being there around 10-11am with the boat). Try to get there from 7 am—leave at 6pm.

Once at the parking lot, walk along Playa Blanca on the right to reach Playa Tranquila, where there will be fewer people and less noise.

For the return trip, you’ll have to convince a tourist boat to take you back to Cartagena. They leave around 3pm. It shouldn’t be too difficult and cost max 50,000 COP. Otherwise, arrange a return trip with your cab driver.

Better to speak a bit of Spanish if you want to plan this day trip.

Tips for your Rosario Island Day Trip

Boat rosario island with Ameryc Cartagena 3

Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years:

  • Check if your tour includes the tax to enter the Rosario National Park. It costs around 20,000 COP.
  • Bring some cash—you can’t pay by credit card.
  • Protect yourself from the sun, or you’ll burn.
  • Avoid the high season, weekends, and public holidays.
  • The return trip by boat will be choppy, especially during the windy season from late December to April. The tours generally return a little earlier at this period (leaving the islands around 2:30 pm).
  • Boats have to be back in Cartagena before 5pm.

💡 What to Remember

🥇 Pick the Right Day Tour: There’s a mix of good and not-so-great tours out there. Do a bit of digging online, check out reviews, and choose a tour that sounds reliable and fun. The best option is to rent a private boat or book this catamaran tour.

😴 Think About Staying Overnight: If you’ve got the time, staying on the islands overnight is awesome. You miss the day crowds and get those amazing sunsets and sunrises all to yourself.

😎 Be Trip-Smart: Check if your tour includes the park tax, and bring some cash since cards might not work. Slap on sunscreen to avoid getting burnt, and try to avoid busy times like holidays and weekends. The boat ride back can get bumpy, especially during windy months.

Rosario Island Day Trips: What to Expect

I’ll quickly tell you the good and bad for each Rosario island tour I did so you can easily choose.

Private Rosario Island Boat Tour: My Review

This is what happened

So, I’m on this private boat heading to the Rosario Islands, right? We leave at 9 AM, and everyone’s already buzzing with excitement. We’ve got our trendy swimsuits on, sunglasses in place, and a cooler with our favorite drinks.

The short boat ride to Isla Grande is a blast – just an hour of speeding over stunning turquoise waters. We’re all about reggaeton and salsa music, dancing, diving into the Caribbean sea, and sipping on tequila and white wine. What a mix!

Around 2 PM, feeling a bit tipsy, we decided to swing by Isla Cholon, the famous party island. Aymeric had arranged for some delicious arroz de camaron to be delivered right to our boat. The island is buzzing – loud music, yachts everywhere, and a lively crowd.

We head back at 3:30 PM. Despite the choppy waves, half of us doze off, exhausted from the day’s fun. It’s one of those days where you live every moment to the fullest – sun, sea, and unforgettable memories

❤️ What I like about this day trip

Total Freedom: I love that on a private boat, you call the shots. You decide where to go and when. It’s like having the ocean as your personal playground from 9 AM to 4:30 PM.

No Crowds: The best part? Skipping the queues and crowded beaches. It’s just you and your friends or family enjoying the islands without the hustle and bustle.

Aymeric’s the Man: Aymeric knows the Rosario Islands inside out. He’ll hook you up with the best spots and boats. It’s like having a local guide who’s also a friend.

Fun day trip: Bring your favorite tunes and some cold beers. Whether it’s a party vibe or a chill day at sea, it’s all about having a great time.

Romantic Getaway: And if you’re looking for something more intimate, it’s perfect for that too. Just you and your partner, surrounded by beautiful scenery – it doesn’t get more romantic than that.

💔 What you might not like

Cost Considerations: Renting a private boat isn’t cheap – I usually pay at least $350. Now, if you’re splitting that with a group of eight friends, it feels like a bargain. But for a couple? That price tag can feel a bit steep.

Depends on Your Crew: The fun factor? It heavily relies on who you’re with. If your friends are lively and love to have a good time, you’re set. But if you’re hoping to meet new people or need a lively bunch to keep the energy up, this might not hit the mark.

Bumpy Ride Home: The 1-hour return trip can be a bit of a challenge. Not much to do during that time, and it can be a bit rough, especially if the sea’s not calm.

How to find the perfect private boat?

At Tomplanmytrip, we’re all about making your Colombia trip amazing. We’ve got the inside scoop on the best local agencies because we know them personally – like friends!

Here’s the deal:

  • No Extra Fees: You’ll pay what everyone else pays—like locals. No intermediaries.
  • Aymeric’s Got Your Back: He knows the coolest boats and captains. Plus, he’s great at finding sweet deals.
  • Boats Galore: Fancy a speedy ride or a chill yacht vibe? We’ve got both!
  • Meet Aymeric: Check out his profile to see why he’s our go-to guy for fun on the water.
  • Easy Contact: Just a quick form, and Aymeric will hit you up on WhatsApp. Super simple. See his profile.
  • Ask Away: Got questions? Aymeric’s ready to answer them all. Book only if you’re totally happy.
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)

Rosario Islands Excursion on a Catamaran: My Review

This is what happened

Aleja and I hit the dock early for our Catamaran trip, around 7:45 AM.

Once we’re on board, the day kicks off with a nice surprise: free, unlimited fresh watermelon juice. Perfect start!

Quick Tip: For the best experience, start in the shade and then move to the front nets for amazing views.

The music’s on, and we’re off to the Rosario Islands. Lying on the front net, I’m soaking in the views of Cartagena’s coastline and the historic Isla Tierra Bomba.

Snack time? Empanadas! Delicious and just what we needed.

Our first stop: Isla Grande. The snorkeling’s okay, not the best, but still a cool experience. And hey, the snorkeling gear is free and good quality.

Cocktail time is a hit – affordable and tasty. The bartender knows his stuff, making the drinks just right, with fresh fruits.

After enjoying Isla Grande, we head to Baru Island, avoiding the party madness at Isla Cholón. Lunch is a tasty paella, surprisingly well-made for a boat kitchen.

We chill there for a couple of hours – swimming, relaxing, maybe another cocktail. Then, around 2:30 PM, it’s time to sail back to Cartagena.

❤️ What I like about this day trip

Thinking about a Catamaran tour to the Rosario Islands? Here’s why it’s a great pick:

Relaxing Ride: Unlike those packed speedboats, the Catamaran gives you a comfy 2-hour trip. You can chill, grab a drink, or just enjoy the sun. It’s all about taking it easy.

Avoid the Crowds: Instead of being squeezed onto busy beaches, on this tour, you’re mostly on the boat. Swim, dance, or sunbathe without bumping into a ton of people.

Worth Your Money: This tour might look a bit pricier, but check out what you get: all the watermelon juice you can drink, snorkeling gear, snacks, lunch, and your park fees. Plus, the bar’s cocktails? Fresh, tasty, and well-priced.

Smooth Sailing: No long lines or waiting in the sun here. You book online, skip the line, and board in a quieter spot.

Social: I didn’t see many people mingling on this tour, but I imagine it’s quite possible if you’re sociable. So it’s a good tour for solo travelers—if you want to party, opt for Isla Cholón instead.

💔 What you might not like

Let’s look at the other side of this trip to the Rosario Islands:

Still Crowded: Even though you’re not dealing with beach crowds, the Catamaran isn’t exactly private. You’re sharing the space with about 50-70 other people. So, it can get a bit busy on board.

No Beach Lounging: If you dream of sunbathing on a white sand beach, this might not be your ideal choice. Most of the time, you’re on the boat, which is great for some, but not if the beach is what you’re after.

Slower Pace: The Catamaran takes its time getting to the islands – about 2 hours. It’s more about enjoying the journey, but it might feel slow if you’re eager to get there fast.

Cost Comparison: If your group is 5 or more, this tour’s cost is similar to renting a private boat. So, for larger groups, you might want to weigh your options.

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.

Rosario Islands Day Pass

Stay in Islabela Cocktails Tom & Aleja (1)
Islabela

The best Rosario Islands hotels and beach resorts offer day passes to travelers.

This can be a good option if your goal is to enjoy secluded beaches. However, you should know that beaches are usually noisy and crowded with daytrippers. And keep in mind that you’ll arrive around 9-10am and leave at 3pm.

I visited most of these hotels, and there are 3 I would recommend:

  • Islabela.
  • Rosario de Mar.
  • PA’UE Beach Lounge.

They benefit from lovely private beaches and serve good food.

Q&A: Rosario Islands day trip

Here are the questions readers usually ask me about:

  1. How long is the boat ride from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands?

    The boat ride to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena is usually 60 minutes.

  2. How far is Cartagena from the Rosario Islands?

    The Rosario Islands are not far from Cartagena (31 miles/50 km). Allow around 1 hour by boat (one way), depending on the weather conditions.

  3. What is the best island next to Cartagena?

    My favorite island next to Cartagena is Isla Grande.

  4. Is there a ferry to the Rosario Islands?

    There is no ferry to the Rosario Islands

Bottom line

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 have an incredible moment. It’s an easy activity to organize in Cartagena.

Finally, if you can afford it, don’t hesitate to rent a boat for a private tour of the Rosario Islands.

What to read next?

Here are the most popular articles to become a Rosario Islands expert:

INFORMATION: PLEASE NOTE THAT SOME LINKS ARE AFFILIATE S AND AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU, I EARN A SMALL COMMISSION IF YOU MAKE A BOOKING. IT’S A NICE GESTURE TO THANK US FOR THE MANY HOURS WE DEDICATE TO TOMPLANMYTRIP 🙂

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

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