The Most Beautiful Beaches in Cartagena, Colombia

Paradise Playa Blanca beach of Baru island by Cartagena in Colombia
StreetFlash / Getty Images

Cartagena can be a paradise of soft sand beaches, clear waters of blue-green hue, coconut liquor libations, and boat parties in the ocean. The key word, though, is “can”: the world-renowned beauty of Cartagena’s beaches has caught up to it in recent years with a huge influx of tourists, hotels, and local vendors, causing many of the best spots to be overrun with people, debris, and high prices.

A dream beach vacation can still be had, but it takes more planning than just showing up, and plunking down on the first beach outside of the Old City. Generally, the most beautiful beaches will be outside of the center, often require a boat trip, and should be done during the week to avoid the worst of the crowds. Read on to know where and when to go to plan your getaway.

01 of 08

Playa Blanca

Paradies beach of Playa Blanca on Island Baru by Cartagena in Colombia
StreetFlash / Getty Images

Playa Blanca lies about 40 minutes outside of Cartagena on Isla Barú, famous for its white sands and clear turquoise water. Since the road to the beach was paved several years ago, a huge spike in tourism and beach vendors have led to extreme crowding on the beach, meaning you should visit during the week, preferably on an overnight trip to avoid the crush. Renting a basic cabaña, glamping, or staying at the Decameron Resort will allow you to enjoy the beach in the morning before the tours arrive, as well as see the glow of bio luminescent plankton at night. Renting a jet ski, getting pulled on a banana float, and snorkeling can all be done here, as well as touring mangroves and the nearby Colombian National Aviary. Reach Playa Blanca from Cartagena by bus, taxi, or boat.

Playa Blanca, Cartagena Province, Bolivar, 130017, Colombia
02 of 08

Playa Las Mantas

Playa Libre in front of the Eco Hotel Luxury Islas del Rosario

Courtesy of the Eco Hotel Luxury Islas del Rosario

While the whole of Isla Grande has several excellent beaches with soft sand and calm waters, most of them are attached to beach clubs—except Playa Las Mantas (also known as "Playa Libre"), making it a good option for a budget day trip. It is generally recommended to spend one or two nights here, since boat schedules can heavily cut into your time laying on the white sands or wandering the island’s walking trails. Part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, Isla Grande is one of the 27 coral islands in the Rosario Archipelago, an area bursting with marine life and prime for snorkeling. While you can take a boat from Cartagena, the most direct way is to book a taxi service through one of the hotels there or charter a private boat.

Isla grande, Sector Las Mantas, Cartagena, Isla, Bolívar, 130001, Colombia
Phone +57 313 5740280
03 of 08

Isla Tierra Bomba

beach of caribbean island of tierra bomba
gustavo ramirez / Getty Images

Only a 10 minute boat ride away from Bocagrande Peninsula, Isla Tierra Bomba provides slightly less crowed beaches than those on Cartagena’s mainland. Though not as picturesque as the beaches on the farther flung islands, you can still find stretches of shoreline in Punta Arena with blue water and impressive views of the Cartagena skyline in the distance. Catch a boat outside of Bocagrande Hospital in Castillogrande and take a picnic lunch to save money, or book a day pass at a beach club for access to one of the island’s private, cleaner beaches. Palmarito Beach Hotel has well-priced packages, strong drinks, and a daily dance competition, while Hotel Fenix Beach Cartagena’s day beds and private pool count among one of the more exclusive experiences on the island.

Tierra Bomba Island, Cartagena Province, Bolivar, 130018, Colombia
04 of 08

Playa Castillogrande

Aerial view of a skyline of white residential skyscrapers in Cartagena's prestigious Castillogrande district.
RoNeDya / Getty Images

The most luxurious of the beaches in Cartagena proper (though still free), Castillogrande’s dark sands and calm waters act as the front yard to gleaming white high rise apartment buildings and well-healed hotels. Located on the peninsula of Bocagrande, it’s a bit more secluded than other mainland beaches and has cleaner water and fewer vendors. A path along the extensive shoreline leads runners, bikers, and rollerbladers down its expanse, while other beachgoers relax on the shore for an ideal vantage point for a Cartagena sunset. Swimming is also more popular here than the other beaches due to an underground seawall (originally installed to deter pirates) that acts to temper the currents and waves. To have a more peaceful experience, find a spot to base yourself by the navel club where fewer vendors venture.

Carrera 7, Distrito Turístico Y Cultural, Club Cartagena #5, Castillogrande, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, 130001, Colombia
Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Manzanillo del Mar

The beach at Manzanillo del Mar

Courtesy of Stamp Hostel

Take a 35-minute taxi to the town of Manzanillo del Mar for wide stretches of dark sand beaches and relatively few tourists. The lack of people here also makes this one of the best beaches to take pictures at without having other tourists crowd into your shot. Other activities include chilling in a beachside hammock, horseback riding, and kitesurfing. Head to popular Restaurante Doña for a fried fish plate or go for dinner and cocktail specials at Stamp Hostel, which also hosts sunset parties with a live DJ. If you don’t want to rent a chair or umbrella for the day, bring a thick towel and sturdy flip flops so as not to burn your feet on the dark sand.

Manzanillo del Mar, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
06 of 08

Isla Cholón

Cenital Cholon
MIchael Hernandez / 500px / Getty Images

Party boats pull up to the small white sand beach of Isla Cholón and anchor in the clear sea foam green waters for a day of drinking and dancing on Catagena’s
“party island." Located at the tip of Isla Barù, you can reach it in 40 minutes by private boat (with optional stops in the Rosario Islands). Spend your time on the boat dancing to your own personal DJ, or jump off and swim in the surrounding waters. Come lunch time, wade over to the partially submerged tables at the sandbar to dine under the shade of palm leaf-thatched huts. Take plenty of water and cash for snacks, and pace your drinking to enjoy your time here.

587J+Q8 Centro comercial getsemani, local 1a126, Cartagena de Indias, Provincia de Cartagena, Bolívar, 130001, Colombia
Phone +57 310 7344058
07 of 08

Playa Isla del Encanto

The beach at Hotel Isla del Encanto

Courtesy of Hotel Isla del Encanto

Attached to the private beach club Isla del Encanto, this Isla Barú beach offers calm, clear Caribbean-teal water with almost no waves, white sand beaches, and day beds. Though somewhat smaller than other Cartagena beaches at just under 1,000 feet long, no vendors will bother you, allowing for relaxation in a way not possible on many of the public beaches. Book a night at the hotel or buy a day pass, both of which include transportation to and from Cartagena’s Bodeguita pier (a good deal as most area beach clubs do not include transportation), and a buffet lunch. When not lounging on the beach, go SUP boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, wakeboarding, or swimming in the pool.

08 of 08

Islas San Bernardo

Tintinpan and isla Mucura in San Bernardo Islands, on Colombia's Caribbean Coast
Pierrick Lemaret / Getty Images

Take the two-hour speed boat from Cartagena to the Islas San Bernardo for beaches with clean, clear water, few people, and no vendors. An archipelago
made up of 10 islands, these idyllic beaches are part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park. Sun yourself in the soft, white sand on
the largest beach in the islands at Isla Tintipán, then order a lobster plate for lunch. Spend a romantic night at one of the many hotels on Isla Mucura, the most popular of the islands, where you can walk by the waves to see the shimmer of bioluminescent plankton in the moonlight. Go for cocktails in the Casa en el Agua Hotel on a lone ocean reef, then catch the boat back to Cartagena the next day.

Isla San Bernardo, Colombia
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The Most Beautiful Beaches in Cartagena, Colombia