Cartagena, Colombia, boasts colorful colonial buildings, authentic museums, historic churches, and vibrant nightlife. And due to its prime location on the shores of the Caribbean, it’s dotted with world-class seafood restaurants and a marvelous selection of beaches. From the city beach of Bocagrande to Tierra Bomba Island and further afield, here are the seven best beaches in Cartagena.
Castillogrande: For Lovers of Quiet Beaches
In the heart of Cartagena, under the watch of a luxury residential area, Castillogrande has an upscale feel.
The gently sloping beach on the Bocagrande peninsula, with modern skyscrapers towering right behind, offers plenty of space for long beach walks at sunset. It lacks the crowds you find on other city beaches and has clear water—ideal for taking a dip. You’ll also love the soft brown sand, the views of Tierra Bomba Bay, and the cabanas providing shade.
Need a drink as you lounge on a sun recliner? Unfortunately, there aren’t any beach bars here. However, if you don’t want to bring your own beverages, you can buy drinks from the laid-back vendors roaming this beach in Cartagena, Colombia.
Playa Blanca: For Paradise Beach Bums
Don’t mind a day trip to a paradise beach? Cartagena to Playa Blanca on Isla Baru is just a 30-minute-boat ride from the city.
The aptly named Playa Blanca, or White Beach, is undoubtedly one of the best beaches near Cartagena. With turquoise water and coconut trees growing across the powdery white sand, it epitomizes what springs to mind when you think of the Caribbean.
Given that it’s paradise, it’s little surprise you have to share it with fellow vacationers, particularly on the weekend. But hey, look at the picture, you don’t want to miss that. And if tourist masses are not your thing, take a short walk up the beach to quieter spots.
Playa de Bocagrande: For City Beach Vacationers
As the name implies, Playa de Bocagrande sits on the Bocagrande peninsula, not far from the Castillogrande beach.
Since this beach is right in front of a ritzy quarter with top-notch hotels, it’s no surprise this strip of white sand is popular with the rich and glamorous. However, this beach setting is so close to the Old Town that it can get crowded—it’s within walking distance to everything this seaside city has to offer.
Feel like having a massage on the beach? You can get that here. And beach vendors selling food and drinks aren’t far either. With light brown sand and sapphire waters, reasonably priced chairs and umbrellas for hire, it’s one of the most fantastic beaches in Cartagena. The gentle waves make for easy swimming in clean but sandy water.
Rosario Islands: For Snorkeling Enthusiasts
The Corales Islas del Rosario, or Rosario Islands, is an archipelago off the coast of Colombia, about 100 kilometers south of Cartagena’s beaches. Part of a national park, these magnificent islands boast some of the best beaches in the region.
Just like in the Maldives, you can discover these tiny islands on foot. Even Isla Grande, the largest of the Rosario Islands, is totally walkable. It’s usually packed on weekends and public holidays, so avoid it if you can.
During the week, snorkeling adventures and sunset cocktails are a dream.
As an aside, it’s easy to get from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands.
Playa de Punta Arena: For Travelers Seeking a Quiet Retreat
This lovely beach hides on Isla Tierra Bomba, a large island just a short boat ride from the city.
Playa de Punta Arena is a sharp contrast to the glitzy metropolitan beaches near the city. Yet this calm retreat is close by, with sandy beaches, blue waters, and superb views of Cartagena’s high-rise buildings in the Bocagrande neighborhood.
Chairs, umbrellas, cabanas, and particularly the hammocks invite you into lazy afternoons. Several bars play all kinds of music and provide fresh fish and tasty cocktails for any budget. It’ll be difficult to peel yourself away from this sandy haven.
Manzanillo del Mar: For People Looking for Isolated Beaches
Defying the best beaches in Cartagena, Manzanillo del Mar is a string of beaches a half-hour drive north from downtown Cartagena.
Given their remote location, these beaches offer a relaxing atmosphere, ideal for recharging your work-life batteries. Gorgeous swathes of sand and sea and few tourists await you at this beautiful hideaway near a small town called Manzanillo del Mar.
Can’t decide which stretch of beach to choose? Head for Playa de Oro. It’s the best place to find peace and quiet, the antithesis of Cartagena’s beach clubs, vendors, and hustle and bustle.
Popular with couples, this beach with shallow waters has such a relaxed feel. The only sounds you’ll hear are the humming waves. Fish-based specialties are available if you get hungry after a hard day working on your tan.
La Boquilla: For Nature Lovers
A quick drive from the Old Town is the La Boquilla area, where you’ll find plenty of quiet beaches.
Situated on a narrow strip of land off Cartagena’s coast, La Boquilla’s appeal is in its laid-back atmosphere. It can get crowded during peak season, so avoid visiting then if you want the beach to yourself.
Highlights of this area include the nearby mangroves, which are perfect for nature lovers. Take a tour, and you’ll float through the foliage-covered tunnels of the mangrove forest while listening to wetlands birds nesting in the trees.
Even though it’s more of a rustic beach experience with fewer people and beautiful scenery to explore, you can find numerous restaurants and shopping kiosks here.
Visiting this coastal city, you’re guaranteed to find a beach that suits your fancy. The best beaches in Cartagena are never more than a 30-minute drive from town.
Weather-wise it’s warm throughout the year. The driest months (peak season) are from December to April.
Rumor has it some people do. But to play it safe, stick to bottled water.
Many tour operators accept US dollars, but the official currency is the Colombian peso. Bring both to avoid any issues.