Stunning island paradiseA sustainable beach hideaway close to Cartagena
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Destination: Barú, Colombia
Vacation: Beachfront boutique eco-hotel
Seeking: Luxury island living
Highlight: Private beaches and uninterrupted sea views
On the tip of the peninsula of Barú, Hotel Las Islas is a sprawling eco-friendly estate. Just a speedboat ride away from historic city, Cartagena, you can reach it easily by zipping around Cartagena Bay. But, there was something about the thatched-roof bungalows, lush tangle of jungle and pure-white sands that made it feel like a million miles away from anywhere.
We cycled around the grounds when we first arrived and found that three restaurants (including one you could literally swim up to), two pools and one luxurious spa awaited us. Even better, the hotel has its own private island, which I later discovered was one of my all-time favourite beaches near Cartagena.
This was a special stay for us. Our best friends got engaged on day two of our trip during a boat tour around the picturesque Rosario Islands. The rooms we chose matched the occasion. Apparently, Bungalow 30 is the best at the resort, placed right on the edge of the beach, with a an infinity saltwater pool and sweeping sea views – we let the new fiances have this one. Our room, with its own jacuzzi and al fresco dining room, was close to one of the hotel’s private beaches and we loved falling asleep to the sound of the waves below.
Hotel Las Islas is part of The Leading Hotels of the World Group, and is committed to sustainability – not a single tree was felled for construction of its 55 bungalows (23 at sea level, 32 treehouses). They also have a wildlife conservation programme and the hotel’s grounds are a refuge for the once-endangered white-headed marmoset monkeys in the area. While it offers so many different amenities and activities, Las Islas really does feel like your own private island getaway.
Keep scrolling to find out more about our stay at Hotel Las Islas. You can also browse our full collection of luxury resorts in South America.
For more beautiful and unique hideaways take a look at our feature on the most sylish overwater bungalows with decor to rival the scenery.
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“Reconnect and refresh your spirit amidst the white sand beaches and turquoise waters of Colombia’s Isla Barú.”
Best food & drink
1. Las Islas Bar
We climbed the stunning spiral staircase to the third floor of Hotel Las Islas’ Club House and were met with jaw-dropping 360° views over the hotel estate. It felt a bit magical up here as the day ended and the sounds of jungle increased in volume.
The design was also seriously impressive, with an open-air terrace, statement rattan lighting and and bowls overflowing with tropical fruits. We loved heading up here before dinner, ordering fresh-fruit daiquiris and settling into the sofas for sunset. It was also a great spot for a nightcap after dinner – though I wouldn’t recommend looking back down at the winding staircase after.
2. Las Guacas
Las Guacas is the main restaurant for dinner at the Club House. Surrounded by lush jungle and wild orchids, the open-air restaurant was beautifully designed across multiple levels with dramatic corocillo cane chandeliers.
The menu offers both Colombian and international dishes. So, you can opt for traditional Caratagena seafood stews or ceviche with patacones and rice, tuck into deliciously tender baby beef with coconut rice or – if you’re fuelling up for snorkelling the following day – the creamiest pasta al fredo.
3. Isleta Restaurant
The hotel’s private island is the ideal place to spend an afternoon – the flawless beach will probably make you never want to leave. It’s just a five-minute boat ride away from the resort, which the hotel can easily arrange.
The restaurant and bar is more laidback than the main hotel and the service is better suited for lazy lunches rather than quick snacks. However, the grilled octopus ceviche is amazing, plus they do poolside classics like mouthwatering cheeseburgers and an epic club sandwich – ideal washed down with an ice-cold Club Colombia or Aguila beer.
The rooms at Hotel Las Islas were a total standout here. You can choose from treetop bungalows amidst the tropical forests and beachside bungalows with jacuzzis, sea access or private infinity swimming pools. You can also stay on the hotel’s private island, Iselta, where there are 10 new beachside bungalows all along the beach.
We stayed in beachside villas 30 and 21. Each of them had large decks, sunloungers and – maybe my favourite perk – two dedicated bikes labeled with our room numbers. Villa 30 was breathtaking with its sweeping deck and huge infinity pool spilling into the ocean below. We hung out here most evenings for sunset. Chilling in the pool with Champagne watching pelicans skim over the water the day our friends got engaged, is a memory that will always stay with me.
The rooms are equally luxurious inside, with overhead fans, an entire wall of windows that you can push wide open and huge bathrooms with Japanese-style toilets and L’Occitane products.
I was pretty much content hanging out on the hotel’s beach and alternating between the two saltwater pools. But, if you want to venture out of the resort, there are seemingly endless possibilities – from cookery courses to night snorkelling.
You can hire a boat like we did and zip past the mangrove-lined waterways for a tour of the Rosario Islands – also home to one of the largest protected coral reefs in the Caribbean sea. The snorkelling was out of this world. We saw neon-yellow tangs and huge silver shoals. We visited Isla Grande and Cholón, stopping for handmade Coco Loco cocktails from sellers in kayaks just hanging out along the way.
Hotel Las Islas also has its own helipad (if you like the sound of that take a look at our feature on incredible hotels with helipads) and we were pretty jealous of a couple who’d booked a helicopter tour of the Corales del Rosario National Natural Park. Closer to home, a trip to the hotel’s private island, Isleta, is unmissable. Here, you can base yourself on the island’s stunning beach or hire kayaks and wend your way around the island.
Then, there’s the biolumincescent plankton. You can book a night tour via the hotel and hop in a boat once night falls. Stopping in the shallow waters near the mangroves, the plankton light up the floor of the white-sand beaches and it’s a truly ethereal experience.
It feels like the whole resort is designed around melting away the stress, especially with those beautiful and calming sea views. But the ultimate relaxation spot is the hotel’s spa, Niña Daniela. With five treatment rooms, a thalassotherapy pool, sauna and Turkish bath, the facilities are extensive. You can also book the meditation room for private breathwork and yoga classes, or the al fresco treatment room and be completely immersed in nature.
We spent one morning here, sipping fresh juices in the jacuzzi before our treatments. I opted for the Caribbean Renewal massage that included a salt scrub with Shea butter, coconut and lemongrass. My friend indulged in the Niña Daniela Wellness Pause, with a mini facial, eye contour mask and Moroccan clay hair mask. Next time, I’d love to try their sound healing sessions, using traditional Tibetan techniques. And this is what makes Las Islas so enticing, you could keep coming back and have a different holiday each time.
Browse all the amazing places to stay recently added to the Wild Bay Collection and find your dream vacation, and if you’ve stayed somewhere unforgettable that you think we should showcase contact us with your recommendation.
It really says something that the design of The Lone Star Hotel & Restaurant is so impressive that your gaze is torn between its sleek white structure, and the mesmeric beach it’s nestled on.
Senda Watapuy’s expansive lobby with its beautiful turquoise tiles and open-air deck was a very welcome sight. After spending two days hiking the remote beaches and jungle of Tayrona National Park, we were ready to relax. As our bags were whisked away, we were shown the sparkling infinity pool just beyond, to the sound of evening cocktails being shaken.
Sitting on the powdery white sand of this particular stretch of Alleyne’s Bay beach looking out at the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea is like living a castaway fantasy, but with the comfort and luxury of one of the most beautiful hotels in Barbados seamlessly nestled into the sand right behind you so as not to break the illusion.
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