My name is Frank and I run a travel agency based in Bogota, Colombia. If you have any feedback or suggestions, please write them in our comments section. Thank you and have a great trip to Colombia!
The Rosario Islands are an archipelago in the department Bolivar and can be reached by boat from Cartagena within 45 minutes. The distance to the tourist city is around 50 km. The Rosario Islands also belong to the network of 59 national parks in Colombia. There are various tours and opportunities to stay, as well as scams.
A complete tourist overview can be found in my Cartagena travel guide.
The Rosario Islands
The archipelago comprises 28 islands, most of which are private. Some offer sandy beaches: others villas that you can rent, others are a bit bigger and you can find accommodation such as hotels or hostels on them.
The islands are a popular destination for excursions from Cartagena. The crystal clear water in the breathtaking Caribbean surroundings makes every heartbeat faster. You can dive, snorkel, swim, explore the mangroves, swim in bioluminescent plankton or just do nothing.
How do you get to the Rosario Islands?
There are many ways to Rome and also to the Rosario Islands. From Cartagena, you can either go directly by boat or drive to Baru and then get on a boat.
Boat tours from Cartagena
Boat tours are offered in every price range and once again I have to say that you get what you pay for. You will find many vendors around the historic center and various tours can be purchased. These sellers work on a commission basis and the whole tour is built on a commission basis. Accordingly, the boats are loaded to the last seat and you then visit, for example, the aquarium where so-called “happy” dolphins show their tricks (which dolphin is happy in captivity?). Of course, mooring the boat and the entry cost an additional fee. The whole day goes on like this and everywhere you have other options to pull out your wallet. Mostly you also drive to Playa Blanca, which tops off the disaster. There beach vendors and massage women will constantly bother you and if you are unlucky, you will also get ripped off with the food.
Also in Cartagena you can book a private boat tour. With a trustworthy provider, you get a properly trained and paid crew and enjoy the luxury of freedom. You can change the island and the beach as you wish or carry out other activities. Also, you also always have cool drinks at hand. Incidentally, this is also the method that I personally recommend. As a travel agency in Bogota, we can organize this for you.
Another option to consider is to charter a sailboat and spend a few days in the Rosario Islands. Not all sailing boats are available, however, as many are geared towards a trip to Panama. Despite this, you can do research online or go straight to the ports and arrange this directly with a captain.
There are also hotels, such as the Hotel Casa San Agustin, which have a private beach or arrangements on the islands. Accordingly, depending on the hotel, activities can be booked directly at the reception.
At the weekends, the “Booze Cruise” is certainly one of the most popular tours. You go by boat to the island of Cholon, where you can party.
Food in the Rosario Islands
Seafood is, of course popular on the islands. Fresh fish with coconut rice is the absolute classic. Depending on the tour, you can also moor at one of the numerous hotels and have meals there. Depending on the island and the beach, however, some local fisherman offer you catering by boat.
However, when it comes to prices, you shouldn’t accept everything. Especially on Cholon, horrible prices are being asked for small portions. A plate easily costs COP 90,000. You don’t even pay such a price in Colombia in a gourmet restaurant.
In general, a mentality of quick money has set in in the region. Especially as a foreigner, you are repeatedly confronted with ridiculously exaggerated prices, although you usually don’t even notice that.
Baru and Playa Blanca
Baru is now a peninsula and probably the best hotel in the region, the Hotel las Islas, is located there. There are other hotels and pretty associated beaches and, in the middle of the island, you find a small village.
Playa Blanca, as briefly mentioned above, is one of the main destinations for day trips from Cartagena. The authorities have already communicated several times to close the beach, but so far nothing has happened. The former dream beach has now turned into an absolute circus. You cannot lie undisturbed in the sun for 2 minutes. Beach vendors and massage ladies ensure that you certainly don’t fall asleep.
There are also constant boatloads of arriving tourists, noisy Jet Skies and music from every direction. Everyone is trying to sell you something and if you can clearly be identified as not a Colombian like me, these efforts increase by a factor of 10. Consequently, garbage piles up beyond the beach, because nobody is responsible for it. Everyone who decides to go there, have fun!
Stay in the Rosario Islands
You can either stay on a boat or book one of the numerous hotels or hostels. Various villas on private islands are also available. So far I only know the Hotel las Islas. This one is luxurious.
Unfortunately, I cannot make a clear recommendation here. So far I have heard good and bad experiences from travelers. I think the biggest problem for local providers is maintaining constant service. Because of the remoteness, quality problems sometimes occur, the power fails, employees do not come to work, or other inconveniences occur. If you decide to stay on one of the islands, you should be aware of this.
What to look out for in the Rosario Islands
Colombia Travelers who also have Cartagena on their route should definitely consider a detour to the Rosario Islands, a visit is definitely worthwhile. However, you should check your needs and budget in advance and explore the possible options accordingly. A selection based on the motto “avarice is cool” can take revenge quickly.
Advertised services should always be documented. Make sure that you are aware of any additional costs. Do not accept all prices for meals. Always ask the price in advance, also should you only order a beer.
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