The most stunning Cartagena beaches to visit
Cartagena is known as Colombia’s jewel. And while it’s the country’s most popular city for tourists, don’t let that put you off. The city’s colourful colonial architecture and world-class restaurants might be it’s draw, but its uniqueness comes from the amazing beaches that are right on the city’s edge – and just a short drive or boat ride away.
Choose from local beaches like Bocagrande with the cityscape as your backdrop, or head a little further for classic Caribbean-white sands and crystal waters in the Rosario Islands. Here’s our pick of the best Cartagena beaches to add to your list.
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. You can travel from tropical rainforests to beautiful beaches, vast deserts to Andean forests higher than the clouds, in just a few days. And this is exactly what we did during our recent trip.
In Medellin, we soaked up the city’s cool coffee culture and nightlife. Within an hour, we could be in Guatape with stunning lakes and one of the best views in Colombia – from the rocky view point of El Peñol.
Further north, the beautiful Sierra Nevada region offered up coffee farms and hiking trails in the region’s cloud forests. From several view points, you can see the ocean on one side and the snowy Andean peaks on the other.
But, after hiking what felt like hundreds of miles, we were never more ready to explore the Caribbean coast and the beautiful Cartagena beaches. Here, there are hundreds of miles of shoreline and tropical islands to discover.
Scroll down to view our pick of the best beaches in Cartagena, Colombia. And if you’re looking for places to stay to explore the city read our feature on the iconic Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa.
You might also like to read our guide to the best beaches in Anguilla for more Caribbean beach inspiration, and you can also browse Wild Bay Co’s full collection of stunning beaches and spectacular coastlines from around the world.
Have you been to Cartagena? Which Cartagena beaches did you visit? If you had the trip of a lifetime let us know so we can add your favourite beaches to the list of the best beaches in Cartagena, Colombia, below. Tell us about your experiences and let’s raise the profile of the places that are truly unforgettable. Contact us and let us know.
Wild Bay Co is as much a celebration of the people who make these incredible experiences possible, as it is a celebration of the luxury resorts and hotels themselves. If you’ve stayed somewhere outstanding that deserves recognition for its exceptional attention to detail as well as its stunning setting then contact us and let us know.
Turqouise waters and white sands a short drive from the city – about as dreamy as it gets.
Playa Blanca is a picture-perfect beach close to the city, and the most famous of all the stretches of sand near Cartagena.
Colombia beach paradise
This is the most famous beach near Cartagena and is just a 40-minute drive or boat ride from the city, in Isla Barú. Not technically an island, but more a peninsula, a recent connecting bridge makes this beach even easier to get to.
Yes, this means that the beach can get busy with tourists and vendors selling fruit and pastries. But, with its soft sands and calm waves, it can’t be beaten when it comes to paradise beaches close to the city. At lunch it’s made for people watching, especially while tucking into whole Red Snapper and fried plantain in Ocean Blue Beach Bar. Just avoid the weekends and go in the early morning for a more chilled time.
Paradise beaches and beautiful mangroves, just an hour out of the city.
Also in Barú…
Also in Barú, is the stunning, Las Islas Hotel. Book in here and you can step onto the hotel’s private beach straight from your cabana (with a Cuba Libre in hand). The sound of the birds and the breeze rustling through the mangroves was enough to melt away the stress.
Playa Tranquila is also nearby, which is open to everyone and you can easily book a day trip here from Cartagena. I heard the sunsets are stunning, and at night you can snorkel among the biolumensecent plankton just off the shore.
A bustling beach with the cityscape as your backdrop.
Playa de Bocagrande
Hot, buzzing and with plenty to do.
Beach city views
If you like your beaches hot, buzzing and with plenty to do, this is the Cartagena beach for you. If remote and tranquil is more your thing, then you may want to skip it. The long golden-sand beach is about a 15-minute walk from the historic walled centre and is fringed with some of the most glamorous hotels in Cartagena. Palm trees separate beach and city, and there are roped-off designated sunbathing areas.
We liked weaving from the beach to cafes and shopping malls, and it’s fun to watch windsurfers glide across the waves. But we didn’t love the crowds. It’s great for a quick chill in the heart of the city, but heading further out to the Rosario Islands is where you can find quieter shores.
Protected, tropical beaches and turquoise waters await off the coast of Cartagena.
Stunning islands around an hour from Cartagena by boat.
These stunning islands are just a 1-hour ferry or 45-minute speed boat ride from Cartagena. They really are worth the journey if you want to pair castaway-style beaches with city life in one trip.
The Rosario Islands are a group of 28 islands just off the coast and we rented a boat for the day to drop anchor at some of the best spots. Our highlights included Isla Grande, which is the biggest island but still feels remote with stunning snorkelling spots and luxury resorts.
And Isla Cholon, where hundreds of visitors pull up by boat around lunchtime to have drinks and fresh seafood in the shallow waters. You can also pick up homemade pineapple and coconut cocktails from mixologists in kayaks along the way – just have some cash easily available.
A hidden private island with calm waters and the best seafood lunches.
Beautiful Cartagena beaches.
Hidden private island
Staying at Las Islas also gives you access to the hotel’s private island, Isleta. Arriving here, we were stunned by the long stretch of white sand, with only a few cabanas dotting the shoreline.
You can be here by boat from the hotel’s jetty in 5 minutes. The set up is simpler, but the restaurant serves a similar menu with everything from fresh lobster to grilled octopus, and there’s a long deck lined with sun beds that stretches out into the ocean. We spent the whole afternoon here, snoozing in the sunshine.
The calmer city beach with chill watersports to try.
Playa Castillo Grande
A more relaxed Cartagena city beach.
Along the peninsula of Bocagrande
Further along the peninsula of Bocagrande, this stretch of soft, dark sand feels a bit more exclusive and high-end than some of the other central Cartagena beaches. There’s more space to relax and the sea was perfect for swimming – or kayaking and paddleboarding from the watersports centre. Look back and you might feel like you’re in mini Miami with the grand hotels and highrises behind the beach.
A stretch of sand where locals and runners head to press pause.
Playa de Crespo
Playa de Crespo lies north of the city centre.
North of the city centre, the beaches continue to stretch. I went for a (very hot) run during one of our mornings in Cartagena and decided to take a breather here. This beach felt more local, with lush green vines bordering the sands and only a few swimmers out at sea. Opposite is a park that’s perfect for cyclists and runners to escape the noise of the city.
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