On the coast of the Caribbean sea, Cartagena is a must-see destination when visiting Colombia. This charming city is buzzing with energy and is known for its colorful colonial architecture, historic neighborhoods, and lively nightlife. The vibrant city also has many contemporary bars and upscale restaurants. Boasting idyllic and unforgettable beaches, we highly recommend that you plan to spend a few days exploring the islands and the alluring coastline with some of the best beach experiences in the country.

Generally speaking, the most magnificent beaches aren’t located in the city itself but require a boat ride, taxi, or tour to avoid the dense crowds found on the beaches in the city. From the nearby beaches found in the small fishing village of Manzanilla del Mar a short drive away, or to the irresistible islands, every type of beachgoer will find a spot that suits them. Take a short boat ride to the Rosario islands, an archipelago with over 20 islands. Here you’ll find San Bernardo National Park, a protected area full of coral reefs, mangroves, and islands with their own distinct flair. Use this guide to steer you to the best beaches near Cartagena, an ideal place to slowly soak up the white-sand paradise, turquoise crystalline waters, and festive boat parties—we’re sharing a mix of public and private beach experiences we love.

Here are five of the best local beaches to visit near Cartagena:

1. Playa Blanca

A seaside view of Playa Blanca off the coast of Cartagena in the Caribbean Sea.
A seaside view of Playa Blanca off the coast of Cartagena in the Caribbean Sea.

Southwest of the city, Playa Blanca is one of the most popular beaches. As the name implies, this beautiful stretch of white sand beach is just an hour from the old town of Cartagena

It’s a great place to soak up the sun and relax, but you can also spend the day snorkeling, riding jet skis, visiting the mangroves at the National Aviary of Colombia, or dining at the seaside restaurants to sample the freshly-caught pescado frito, a traditional regional dish of fried fish. 

During the weekends and afternoons, it can get quite crowded with visitors and vendors. If you are looking for something more isolated and private, it’s recommended to stay overnight on Isla Barú, the peninsula it’s located on. That way, you can have the beach all to yourself in the mornings, late afternoons, and evenings when it tends to be more isolated. Also, if you stay overnight, you can visit the ocean to see the bioluminescent plankton after it gets dark. To get there, we can arrange a private tour or a speedboat. 

2. Playa Las Mantas

White sand beach of Isla Grande
A tropical white sand beach on Isla Grande, Carribbean coast of Colombia. Image by JPosvanzc from Getty Images

Isla Grande, the largest of the Rosario Islands, is surrounded by unspoiled beaches, with soft sand and calm waters. However, most of the beaches are private, only available for resort guests or by purchasing a day pass at a beach club. Popular among the locals is Playa Las Mantas, also known as “Playa Libre” the island’s only public beach. Even though this beach is relatively small, this area has some of the best scuba and snorkeling spots, teeming with marine life and coral reefs. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in calm clear waters, making it a popular swimming spot. To see the island from a different perspective, we can arrange a hired canoe or kayak to explore the mangrove tunnels and lagoons. Plus, if you want a break from the sun, the entire island is covered in tropical forests and trails for trekking. Wherever you’re staying in Cartagena, we can arrange a transfer to the Muelle de la Bodeguita port where your private boat transfer. From the port, it takes about an hour by boat.

3. Playa de Oro

Perhaps one of Cartagena’s most beloved beaches, Playa de Oro is just a short 40-minute drive from Cartagena. This is a great option for those that don’t want to take a boat tour and want to avoid overcrowded beaches. Located in Manzanillo del Mar, a small fishing village north of the city, Playa de Oro offers an authentic local experience. Here you’ll find rustic, thatched-roof restaurants serving up the day’s catch, huts with hammocks, often with tranquil Caribbean music playing in the background. Although these beaches aren’t as jaw-dropping as the others you will find on the islands, you’ll find long stretches of tranquil dark-sanded beaches, with few tourists in sight and fewer vendors than you find on the beaches in Cartagena. Most come here to avoid the crowds and relax, but there are also plenty of activities like horseback riding, stand-up paddle boarding, and kitesurfing. We can turn it into a day trip and plan for you to visit the nearby El Totumo Lodo Volcano, a dormant volcano where you can soak in mineral rich-mud in the center of the crater. 

4. Isla Tintipán

Arial view of a beach lodge on Colombia's Islas San Bernardo
Colombia’s Islas San Bernardo. Image by Getty Images

Often touted as one of the finest beaches near Cartagena—but also one of the least—visited is Islas San Bernardo. If you want your own private paradise, the pristine beach has very few visitors, which also means that there are no vendors that will interrupt your sunbathing session.

The Archipelago of San Bernardo has nine coral islands and since it’s somewhat off the beaten path, it’s mostly visited by Colombians. The largest and best beach found on the islands is Isla Tintipán, a hidden gem with crystal clear, almost transparent waters. Only accessible by a two-hour speedboat ride, we can arrange a day trip. You’ll pass (or make a stop) at the Islote de Santa Cruz—the most densely populated island in the world. About the size of two football fields, the island is estimated to be home to nearly a thousand people and crammed full of colorful houses. You can visit the island with a small donation, which supports the development of the community, service projects, and conservation efforts for marine life and sea turtles at the island’s aquarium.

5. Isla Cholón

Arial view of Isla  Cholón with boat docked and scattered around the beach area
Isla Cholón is the place to see and be seen in private yachts—Cartagena’s party-centric island experience.

For social butterflies who want to sip on coconut-infused libations, head to the party-centric Isla Cholón. Located at the tip of Isla Barù, this is not the place to go to if you are looking for a little rest and relaxation. Partygoers flock to Cholón beach to anchor their private boats and yachts, each having its own boisterous party, often with private DJs. This small island is covered in thick mangroves and lined with palm trees. While there are patches of sandy beaches, many opt to stay in their private boats, often only dipping into green-hued, waist-deep water to socialize with other visitors. This island also has palm thatched roof huts with tables and chairs that are submerged in the water for dining and mingling. Pace yourself with aguardiente shots, a local anise-flavored liqueur, so you can watch the sunset, with plenty of music still booming and drinks flowing. The best way to get there is for us to arrange a private boat—the island is only about an hour boat ride from Cartagena

Looking for a more luxurious, exclusive beach experience? Check out these private beach club experiences:

6. Acasi Private Beach 

beach goer sits on a wicker lounger with her back to the camera looking over the private beach at Casa San Agustin
Plenty of seating to spend the day lounging on the beach at Casa San Agustin. Image by Stephane Louesdon / Hans Lucas

Escape the buzz of the city for the day by hiring a boat (just a 45-minute ride) to whisk you to Acasi, a private beach on the island of Barú. Reserved exclusively for guests of Casa San Agustin, Acasi allows you to immerse yourself in the serenity of nature for the day on a sandy beach complete with a shaded cabana and loungers, a full kitchen, outdoor showers, and hammocks in the trees. You’ll also enjoy Cartagena’s classic cuisine such as fresh fruit, lobster empanadas, and seafood paella next to turquoise water while sipping on sparkling wine or local beers (the hotel will pre-pack the cooler with your drink of choice). Feel like getting active? There’s snorkeling gear and kayaks too.

7. Blue Apple Beach Club

Arial view of Blue Apple Beach club on Tierra Bomba Island
A bird’s eye view of the fun, vibrant Ibiza-inspired Blue Apple beach Club on Tierra Bomba Island. Image by Blue Apple Beach Club

This beach club is located on Tierra Bomba Island, about 20 minutes from Cartagena. Here, it’s all about great food, tropical drinks, cocktails, and fun music in a perfectly curated ambiance away from the city. Come for the day (or even just for a drink or meal on your way back from another island) and enjoy a lively view of Cartagena and the Caribbean Sea. It’s not only about rest and relaxation here though—so don’t expect chill vibes—you’ll find plenty of hip, young Colombians staying at the hotel here and or spending the day (it’s inspired by beach clubs in Ibiza and the South of France). That said, you can enjoy a typical Caribbean lunch on part of a private beach just for you—Extraordinary Journeys will organize a private yacht for you to get here.

8. Majagua o Gente de Mar

Genta de Mar beach in Colombia
Gente de Mar private beach club—a tranquil beach on Isla Grande. Image courtesy of Gente de Mar.

On Isla Grande, you’ll find a beach club Gente de Mar located 40-50 minutes from Cartagena. Its natural landscapes, crystal clear waters, and coral reefs are the main attraction. Sail in on a private boat (with drinks and snacks on board), and enjoy touring between the different islands and the snorkel spots to get to know the coral reef that characterizes this part of the Caribbean. After a sunny morning on the boat and enjoying yourself in the water, the beach club awaits with a refreshing drink and a typical Caribbean lunch. After lunch, relax, or take out a stand-up paddleboard or kayak before heading back to the mainland.

Ready to book your trip to Cartagena so you can check out all the beaches?

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