I just came back from a week in the beautiful Cartagena de Indias, Colombia – and you can read all about it here! – and even though I was enchanted by this colorful, lively city, what really made my trip was the days at Isla Baru and Isla Rosario, two amazing islands surrounded by the most impressive turquoise sea. To tell you about it, nothing better than use pictures, so I decided to write you this very special Isla Baru and Isla del Rosario photo guide!
Isla del Rosario, a natural paradise close to Cartagena de Indias!
Don’t miss it: The Ultimate What Not to Miss List of Cartagena de Indias!
A few quick facts before moving on the visual part of this post: If you really wanna enjoy white sand beaches and turquoise waters, you have to get out of Cartagena and go for one of the islands. The beaches in the city are not very nice, but reaching the islands is easy. It takes about 1 hour, and there are daily boats leaving the city`s harbor every morning.
Cartagena de India’s Boca Grande neighborhood as seen from the sea!
Make sure to buy the tickets in advance, especially during summer season (Dec-Feb). You can find a lot of day trips to the islands online, but hotels usually also offer the packages and even street vendors. Just like everything in Colombia, do some research on the prices first because they can vary a lot.
View of the beaches of Isla Baru from the boat
Isla Baru is actually connected to the continent by land so you can either get there by car or by boat. The fastest way is by water, but if you`re not really a marine person, you can go by car (hire someone to take you there, most cab drivers will do that, but negotiate the price upfront).
Some cute beach bungalows by the beach.
Once you get to Isla Baru… Well, I had already made my research and knew that Playa Blanca is very touristic, but I was a little shocked at how crowded it was. From whole families barbecuing on the sand (!) to the loud reggaeton music playing non-stop (sorry, Colombians, but there`s only so much I can bare listening to this kind of music), to having no space on the beach to put a chair (and no chair to rent) to having to protect yourself from kids playing ball and running around, this was my beach nightmare.
Call me old and grumpy, but I like calm, spacious beaches and a private square of sand…
Luckily I had already hired someone to take us to another part of the beach, up north, unofficially called “Playa Tranquila”. As soon as we set foot on the beach, there was a little wooden boat ready to take us to our destiny. It was a short boat ride close to the shore, enjoying a panoramic view of the beachfront with its beach bungalows and restaurants.
Our little boat, “El Trueno” which means The Thunder!
Riding our boat away from the crowds…
Less than 10 minutes later, we arrived at a much calmer and emptier area. Most guides work in collaboration with the restaurants by the beach, so in the price, you’re also paying for sun chairs, an umbrella, a lunch menu. How to know which one is the better one? Hard to say, but I calm you down by saying that they’re all almost the same and the menu doesn`t really change from one to another, either.
View from the second floor of the restaurant. Look at all this space in the sand! What a luxury!
The typical (and very popular) lunch menu consists of grilled fish (or chicken), coconut rice, salad, and patacones (fried banana chips). This is what almost all the of the places serve, and even though is a simple combination, it’s tasty and not too heavy, which is a good thing when you`re spending a whole day at the beach.
One of the beach restaurants at Isla Baru. How cute are they?
Chillin in one of the hammocks with sea views at the beach restaurant
If you are looking for something even quieter than this… Yes, it`s not easy but I have a solution for you! If you walk all the way to the end of Playa Tranquila, you will find a really “tranquila” (calm), I dare to say, almost deserted area. It took me 20 minutes walking to get to this area where I had the whole beach all to myself, except for a couple of campers.
Peace and quiet… Not bad at all!
Now, this is what I call paradise!!!
Isla del Rosario
Even though they call it Isla del Rosario, the Rosario Island is actually an archipelago of 28 little islands, most of them private, surrounded by the most amazing turquoise sea and part of the Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo, one of the most important coral reefs of the Colombian Caribbean.
Reef grounds of Isla del Rosario. I`m jumping in the water right now!
The only way to get to the islands is by boat, and since the islands are about 100 miles away from the coast of Cartagena de Indias, the boat ride takes about 1 hour. It goes by fast, trust me, and when you start approaching the islands and seeing the reef grounds, you completely forget about how long it took you to get there.
Welcome to Isla del Sol, one of the Rosario Islands!
If you don’t have a private sailboat, you’ll probably have to choose which island to visit. Many tourist agencies offer tours that pass by some of them and then stop at Baru Island. I don’t recommend that, you`ll need at least a few hours to be able to really enjoy this are, and if you wanna be part of any of the activities they offer, like scuba diving, you need to be spending the day at one of the Rosario Islands, you can`t really dive at the Baru Island.
How can you pass on that??? The answer: You can`t!
The biggest islands are owned by hotels and you can buy a day pass to spend a day on them, enjoying all the luxuries and the amenities they offer, without having to spend the night. Of course, if you have time and budget, its really to spend the night in a tropical paradise on a private island, but even if you don’t, don`t worry. You can still enjoy it.
Feeling rich in the salted water pool with sea views…!
I bought a day-trip to Isla del Sol, it was the one that for me seemed the prettiest: Small and private enough to feel exclusive and less touristic, but also budget friendly and with the activities I wanted. The boat took us straight from the harbor to this island, leaving us at the small private beach, and took us back to Cartagena de Indias at the end of the day. Perfect and 100% worry free!
Besides the beach, the gardens of the island were also so pretty!
From the island, you can go to the Oceanarium (to see the dolphins, but I prefer to see them in the wild) or go diving. I chose the last option. It was a guided snorkeling tour on the reefs, where you get by boat because is outside the island. The water was pretty crystalline and the variety of fishes, rich and colorful, with some species I had never seen before. Too bad my underwater camera decided to die on me right there (RIP Sony TX20!) so I only have a few good underwater photos of it, but here you can have an idea:
Swimming in the middle of a shoal of the most beautiful blue fishes…
A homemade lunch was served for all of us, buffet style so you could eat how much you wanted (that’s for the hungry ones!). The food didn`t vary much from the classic menu: Fish, coconut rice, patacones… Here they also had fried manioc and a delicious cocada for dessert, but if you wanted to opt-out the included menu, the island’s restaurant offered everything from simple dishes to fresh lobsters and crank.
Caribbean hospitality! Time to eat!
My “happy Vick eating cocada” face
It was a perfect day and I highly recommend doing that. This is not an affiliate post, all the opinions are my own, so you know that they are honest and true. The Rosario Islands are a beautiful Caribbean paradise and should be part of every trip to Cartagena de Indias.
If you wanna know more about Cartagena, check The Ultimate What Not to Miss List of Cartagena de Indias!
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