If you think Cartagena beaches in Colombia have pure turquoise water that laps upon sand so soft it feels like baby powder, you’d be right. They are mind-blowingly beautiful.
Not to be outdone, the city is known for its colorful downtown, fantastic nightlife, history, and buzzing atmosphere. Although it is most known for its beaches, the city has plenty to do. It was founded in the 16th century, which gives it centuries of history to explore.
In addition, almost a million people live in the city, and more than three million people visit each year, lending an electric vibe. So, you can find everything you expect from a big city plus the beaches of a quaint village.
Where is Cartagena, Colombia?
Cartagena is located on the northern coast of Colombia.
It is a major port for the Caribbean and Colombia and has an important link to the West Indies, which were crucial for trade.
It is quite far from other major cities of Medellin and Bogota but easily accessible via plane.
Ok, let’s get to the reason you’re here…beaches!
Top Cartagena Beaches
In terms of beaches, Cartagena, Colombia, has plenty close by, but the best ones aren’t right near the city center. Instead, the most popular beaches will be to the north and south of the city center, which you can get to by public transport or car.
If you want to spend your day on the beach, Cartagena, Colombia, is your place.
Playa Blanca (south of Cartagena)
Best for stocking up on Instagram shots.
Named after its white sand (blanca means white), Playa Blanca is one of the most famous beaches near Cartagena.
It is known for being one of the prettiest beaches in all of Colombia, which is really saying something. You will find turquoise waters, brightly colored hostels, and white sand that feels like powdered sugar.
Not only can you relax and soak in the warm water, but you can find a variety of water sports here, including snorkeling and jet skis.
You can eat freshly caught fish at the restaurants just off the beach and grab a cocktail.
Remember that this beach is famous for a reason and might get crowded during weekends and peak tourist season. So, if you want somewhere more private, check out some of the other destinations below.
You can get to Playa Blanca from Cartagena in just an hour and a half.
Isla Cholón (south of Cartagena)
Best beach for a party atmosphere.
Isla Cholón is one of the biggest party beaches near Cartagena, Colombia.
Going to this beach is a fantastic way to meet new people, especially if traveling solo.
However, do not expect to get your rest on, as it is world-renowned among the party crowd.
Here, you can find private yachts anchored with DJs, bars submerged in the water for swimmers to grab a drink, and lots of people.
It takes about an hour via boat from Cartagena.
Isla Baru (south of Cartagena)
Best for snorkelers.
If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of Cartagena, you can take a day trip to Corales del Rosario National Park—just about an hour and fifteen minutes away. Isla Baru is on the Baru Peninsula in this park.
If you want to go snorkeling and explore incredible coral reefs, this is the place to do it.
Isla del Encanto (south of Cartagena)
Best for spending a day at a beach club.
Also located on Isla Baru is Isla del Encanto beach, which is attached to the private beach club of the same name. The water here is more teal than blue and extremely calm. If you are not a strong swimmer, you will love this beach, as there are almost no waves.
As it is attached to a beach club, you will find day beds to relax on while soaking up the sun, and you won’t have to worry about vendors like on public beaches.
To visit, book a night at the hotel or buy a day pass. Both of these options include a buffet lunch.
In addition, you can go snorkeling, kayaking or wakeboarding.
It is a great way to spend a day and provides fantastic value for your money.
Playa de Oro (north of Cartagena)
Best for feeling that authentic Caribbean beach vibe
Playa de Oro is another one of the best beaches in Colombia near Cartagena—think Caribbean music playing while you lay in a hammock and eat the day’s catch. It’s the quintessential tropical beach.
This is your place if you like paddleboarding or kitesurfing.
Is riding a horse along the shores of a mind-blowing beach on your bucket list? You can check it off here!
It’s about a 40-minute drive from the old town in the quaint fishing village of Manzanillo del Mar, so it is much less crowded than other beaches on this list.
Bocagrande (in town)
Best for city beach lovers
If you are staying in the old town and don’t want to commute too far, Bocagrande is the best bet. From the old town, it would take less than 10 minutes by car or around 30 minutes walking.
Although it might not be the prettiest of all that Cartagena offers, it is still worth a visit. And it allows you to be right next door to some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.
Castillogrande (in town)
Best beach for a bit of luxury.
When you think of Castillogrande, think of exclusivity and luxury.
It is located on the peninsula of Bocagrande and has plenty of space to enjoy the beach and swim in the clear waters.
Even though it is so luxurious, it is still free to visit. Sands here are much darker than on other beaches, but the water is very calm. High-rise apartments and hotels border this beach, but it is still more secluded than other beaches in the region.
While others sit and watch the sunset, you will find plenty of runners and bikers along the shoreline. An underground seawall was originally installed to deter pirates but now serves to make the waters ultra-calm for beachgoers.
Laguito (in town)
Best for a quiet day at the beach.
Laguito is quite similar to Bocagrande but is generally quieter and more relaxing. You won’t find nearly as many street vendors, but there are still a few if you want to grab a bite to eat. It’s a quick drive from the old town of Cartagena.
La Boquilla Beach (in town)
Best beach for a laid-back day.
For some reason, La Boquilla Beach does not have many tourists and is one of the more laid-back beaches in the area. And it’s just a quick drive from the old town of Cartagena.
Although it might not be the most breathtaking beach on this list, it is perfect if you want to escape the crowds.
You can expect open-air restaurants serving authentic Colombian cuisine and far fewer crowds than on other beaches.
Playa Las Mantas (Isla Grande in Rosario Islands)
Best for marine life and nature lovers.
It’s easy to see why everyone who visits the area thinks Playa Las Mantas is one of the best beaches near Cartagena, Colombia.
It is also known as Playa Libre, the only beach on the island open to the public without staying at a resort or purchasing a day pass.
The main draw to this beach is the extraordinary marine life and coral reefs, making it a paradise for snorkeling and scuba diving lovers.
Plenty of mangrove tunnels and lagoons are accessible by canoe or kayak if you want to see Isla Grande from a different point of view.
Another big draw of this island is a dense forest filled with trails to give you some time away from the sun if you feel like you are getting burned.
Tierra Bomba (near town)
Best hideaway for the day.
This is the closest island to the mainland of Cartagena, and it only takes 10-15 minutes to get there by boat. However, you will think you are in a completely different country. It is peaceful, quiet, and a major contrast from the bustling city nearby.
The only way to get to the island is by lancha—a local boat.
You’ll find plenty of vendors trying to sell you food, cabanas, and other things, but you can just talk directly to the captain to arrange transport.
Playa de Punta Arena (Tierra Bomba)
Best beach with a view.
On Isla Tierra Bomba, this beach blends the sparkling blue waters with the skyscrapers of Cartagena in the background. At just 10 minutes away, you can clearly see the city’s skyline as you float and enjoy the peacefulness of the beach—a unique experience.
San Bernardo/Isla Tintipan (archipelago south of town)
Best islands for a secret day trip.
San Bernardo is an archipelago that has nine separate coral islands.
This area is most frequently visited by Colombians but generally does not have many foreign visitors. This can be both a pro and a con. The beach won’t be packed, but you won’t have access to beach vendors to grab a cocktail.
Of all the islands of San Bernardo, the best is Isla Tintipán, with water so clear you’d think you were in a pool.
You can reach Tintipan from Cartagena via ferry in about two hours.
Along the way, you’ll pass other islands, like Islote de Santa Cruz. This is the most densely populated island in the world, with a thousand people inhabiting the colorful houses in a space about the size of two football fields.
All in all, a day trip to San Bernardo is absolutely worth the visit.
Weather in Cartagena
Cartagena is a hot and humid destination with year-round highs in the 30’s°C (mid-80’s°F).
Remember that this is a Caribbean place through and through, meaning there are periods of heavy rain throughout the year.
Cartagena gets around 40 inches of rain annually, with most falling in October. If you are going there primarily for beaches, the last thing you want is to be stuck inside watching a rainstorm for your entire trip.
That said, the driest time of year to visit is from December to April, when it’s super sunny and warm.
Packing list essentials for Cartagena
There are a few standard items that you should bring to any beach worldwide, as well as some Cartagena-specific items.
The standard items:
- Bug spray
- A book/kindle
- Umbrella or rain jacket
The not-so-standard items:
- Waterproof dry bag. Petty theft happens. So when you get into the water, throw your valuables in a dry bag to bring with you.
- Backpack – it is always best to pack a daypack in your luggage to hold your beach belongings.
- A lock for your luggage, especially if staying in hostels.
- Microfiber towel – from personal experience, only rely on your accommodation to provide a beach towel if you are staying in a pretty upscale hotel on the water.
Map of Cartagena Beaches in Colombia
How to get to Cartagena, Colombia
You can find nonstop flights from all over the world to Cartagena, including Amsterdam, Madrid, Montreal, Toronto, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Mexico City, Lima, Santiago, São Paulo, and many cities across Colombia.
Once you arrive, you can travel to the city center from the airport in about 35 minutes.
Explore all of Bookaway’s routes throughout Colombia to make the most of your next trip.
The Rafael Nuñez International Airport, CTG, is the best airport to fly into when visiting Cartagena.
The closest major city to Cartagena is Barranquilla, about 141 kilometers (88 miles) away, or around two and a half hours of driving.
Yes! Despite what you may have heard. The tourist hotspots are filled with other travelers and lots of security. However, of all the Colombia beaches, Cartagena is arguably the most popular. Unfortunately, with that comes opportunities for scams or pickpocketing—always be aware of your surroundings.
You sure can! The sea at the beaches of Cartagena, Colombia, is clean and calm, perfect for a day in the water.