An eco-hostel located in the San Bernando Islands – a stunning archipelago of around 10 islands in the Colombian Caribbean – Casa en el Agua is also situated in the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, making conservation and eco-friendly facilities an essential part of the hostel’s philosophy. It’s not a big place: the floating house is two storeys high and consists of an open common room, a bar and restaurant, several private rooms and dorms, and a hammock sleeping area. With space for a maximum of 35 people – there’s an eight bed dorm and 15 hammocks for people on a budget, and four different private rooms as well – it can get a little cramped when it’s full, but the Robinson Crusoe vibe is all part of the magical experience of spending a few nights there.
Food and drink are also available at Casa en el Agua. There’s an excellent restaurant (guests can bring their own snacks, but the kitchen and fridge are off-limits to guests due to limited space) which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and special dishes such as fresh lobster and ceviche. Prices are naturally higher than on the mainland, but a catch-of-the-day fish dinner will still only set you back US$10 (€8): hardly a bad price for the freshest fish you’ll eat in just about the most beautiful setting! The bar is one of the hostel’s many highlights: with excellent cocktails, cold beers, and fresh fruit juices, there are plenty of choices regardless of your taste in drinks.
There are several things to be aware of before you book a bed at Casa en el Agua: as the hostel is located in the heart of a National Park, there are several important eco-friendly features which might not be everyone’s cup of tea! The toilets are composting toilets, with a system in place to effectively dispose of waste in an environmentally-friendly manner, while the showers are simple bucket showers: you are allowed one bucket of fresh water per person, per shower, and the hostel encourages you to take one shower per day, preferably in the evening in order to conserve water for day-to-day uses. There’s also, naturally, no WiFi on the island. If any of these things are deal-breakers for you, then perhaps this hostel isn’t for you. However, if you are relaxed and laid-back enough to go with the flow, you’re sure to have the time of your life!
But what is there to actually do at Casa en el Agua, besides sunbathing, drinking cocktails, and jumping off the balcony into the warm Caribbean waters below? The good news is that the hostel offers plenty of activities to keep guests occupied, so there’s no chance of getting bored. With tours to nearby islands – including Santa Cruz del Islote, the most densely populated island on earth – snorkelling trips, nighttime tours to swim with phosphorescent plankton, beach day-trips, kayaks for rent, and diving tours, Casa en el Agua has a wealth of excellent and fun Caribbean tour activities that are sure to please even the most active traveller.
Getting to the hostel is easy enough: there are daily departures for the hostel from Cartagena on a boat that takes two hours each way and costs 100.000 COP (around US$35), or you can take a boat from either Tolu or Rincon del Mar, two seafront towns located further west along the Caribbean coast from Cartagena. There’s also an additional fee of 15.500 COP for your entry into a National Park. You can find detailed itineraries on how to visit on the Casa en el Agua website.
In short, Casa en el Agua is easily one of the most innovative and unique hostels you are likely to come across in Colombia, or even South America. How many other hostels are there where you can wake up with a hangover from one too many delicious Pina Coladas and simply walk to the edge of the room and fling yourself into the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea!? Well, at Casa en el Agua you can!