Cartagena is one of Colombia’s most charming cities, with beautiful Colonial-style architecture, and the Old Town district with narrow streets and shops. The lovely balconies are overflowing with colorful flowers. Take a carriage ride, dine at superb restaurants, explore museums and historic churches, and experience the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Cartagena also has some of the most beautiful beaches on the Caribbean Peninsula. With an average temperature of 81.6 degrees, nearly every day is perfect for heading to the beach. The tropical islands and beaches that surround the city attract visitors from around the world.
Check out: Best Hostels in Cartagena
There are more than 11 miles of beaches within the Metro region with more surrounding the nearby islands. Whether you prefer the non-stop excitement of water sports, luxurious resorts, and beach clubs, or pristine beaches and crystal clear water, Cartagena has something for everyone.
One of the most incredible places to visit near Cartagena is the Rosario Islands. The archipelago features one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. The water is crystal clear, there are amazing natural landscapes, and the coral formations are unique. The colorful plants and tropical marine life are worth planning a visit to this beautiful region off Cartagena.
Islas Del Rosarios is made up of 30 unique islands. The island chain is only about an hour away from Cartagena. Besides lounging on the beach and swimming in the Caribbean, there are a lot of options for spending time on the Rosario Islands. Backpacking trips to your favorite beach, boat tours, and private boat charters are just a few of the ways to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the islands.
The Bocagrande Peninsula features a long stretch of urban beach in the midst of Cartagena’s upscale hotels and high-rise buildings. The beach is one of Colombia’s most popular locations with trendy bars, restaurants, and shops. The beach is close to upscale hotels and some of Cartagena’s best neighborhoods, making it a favorite vacation destination.
Castillogrande is one of the hotspots on the Caribbean for the elite of Cartagena. The beach is more upscale than Bocagrande and has a laid-back atmosphere because it’s less crowded than many of Cartagena’s other beaches. The beach is more spacious than many of the other beaches in the area, and the water is immaculate, so it’s a favorite place to swim.
The apartments near the beach are more exclusive than some others throughout the city, have a lower turnover, and usually attract fewer tourists. Castillogrande is a delightful beach for a late afternoon swim and early evening picnic while you watch the sunset.
Castillogrande is a favorite gathering place for the elite of Cartagena. The beach has a more laid-back, peaceful atmosphere than Bocagrande; primarily due to the number of private resorts and clubs on the beach.
The upscale apartments at Castillogrande have a very low turnover, and the area attracts fewer tourists. The water along the beach has more protection from the currents due to the underwater wall constructed more than a century ago. The wall was built as a deterrent to English pirates.
Due to all the activity in the Port of Cartagena, the water isn’t as clean as it is along some of the other beaches. A lot of people enjoy spending the day on the beach and soaking up the sun.
If you want to spend some time at a deserted beach away from the hordes of tourists that flock to Cartagena, La Boquilla Beach is the place for you. The beach isn’t a well-known tourist attraction but is becoming more popular, since it’s the most laid-back beach you’ll ever visit.
A lot of vacationers from Colombia know the area and love La Boquilla because it’s not near the districts in Cartagena that tourists frequent. The beach which is just east of Old Town has been a favorite spot of locals for years. Although the beach may not be as attractive as some of the beaches around Cartagena, it has a certain charm. There are quite a few kiosks and restaurants scattered around the beach, and a few hotels are popping up.
You won’t find upscale restaurants at La Boquilla. Quite a few are open-air restaurants that feature grass roofs and hammocks. Patrons may lounge around at the beach while they enjoy their meal. Boat tours are available for nature lovers who want to check out the nearby mangroves.
Manzanillo del Mar
Manzanilla del Mar is a small town located about 35 minutes outside Cartagena. The beaches in this area are the furthest of the mainland beaches around the urban area of the city.
One of the best reasons to visit Manzanilla del Mar is the beaches are more spacious than many that are closer to the city, and the views are lovely. You’ll also encounter fewer tourists in Manzanilla del Mar. The sand on the beach here is black so it’s hotter than beaches with white sand. Plan on bringing thick towels or blankets if you want to lounge on the beach and don’t forget your sandals.
Spending the day at Manzanilla del Mar will give you the most authentic experience while you’re in Cartagena. One of the most common sights is families gathered on the beach enjoying a barbecue on the weekend.
Playa de Oro is one of the loveliest beaches near Cartagena. If you take a taxi, it only costs about USD 10. You can enjoy the beach and eat at Dona’s, one of the best seafood restaurants. Locals know this place in the area as being as one of the region’s most well known.
Playa Dorada is one of the area’s most tranquil beaches and is three minutes away from Manzanilla del Mar. The best time to spend time on this beach is on the weekend. The sound of Caribbean music fills the air. The beach has tables, chairs, and hammocks to relax in, and the water is warm.
The beach at Playa Blanca is one of the most beautiful around the Cartagena region. The beach is to the southwest of the city on the island of Baru. The water is a lovely turquoise blue, the sand is sugary soft, and there are palm trees that sway with the breeze and shelter you from the sun. The vendors that run the shacks also sell drinks and food.
Shacks along the beach rent out hammocks and mattresses for the beach. You can hang your hammock between two trees and sleep on the beach if you wish. The island doesn’t have running water or electricity, but if you’re the adventurous type and want to stay overnight, cabanas or wild camping are your options.
There are plenty of good restaurants and cabanas so you have some privacy on the beach to relax and enjoy the scenery. Ferries from Cartagena make daily trips to the island. Another option for visiting Baru is to book a trip to the park on the Rosarios Islands, which has a side trip to Baru.
Since the island can be very crowded at certain times, one of the best ways for the adventurous traveler to experience Isla Baru is to plan your excursion to the island when the tourists are heading back to Cartagena for the night.
People that know Cartagena well agree that some of the loveliest beaches are around the Baru Peninsula and the Rosario Islands. One of the best spots on Punta Arena is the Bomba Beach Club which has loungers, hammocks, food, music, and an outdoor bar. On another note, dog lovers appreciate the fact that the beach is dog-friendly, so your furry friend can enjoy the day with you.
The water at the beach is crystal clear. There are plenty of shady spots to settle in for the day to enjoy the sun and surf. You can book a boat tour to the beach which includes lunch. Punta Arena is a quiet beach with a few restaurants.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Cartagena for the day, consider a trip to the island of Tierra Bomba. One of the most significant advantages to spending the day on the island is that it’s closest to Cartagena. An excursion out to Tierra Bomba takes 10 to 15 minutes from the mainland. You can spend more time enjoying the peace and tranquility of Tierra Bomba rather than having a two-hour trip each way.
The only way to get out to Tierra Bomba is on one of the local boats called lanchas. A lot of vendors will be at the dock attempting to sell packages of food, transport, and cabanas, but a lot of visitors deal directly with the captains of the lanchas.
Cartagena is a fascinating city if you love history and culture. If you love hanging out at the beach, choose the one that best suits the travel experience you want.