This beautiful island might just be the perfect weekend getaway from Cartagena. It takes less than one hour to get there by boat – so it’s convenient with limited time – and it’s a paradisiacal Caribbean island of white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and warm sunshine. You can go snorkeling, relax on the beach, rent a kayak to explore the mangroves and much more. The best spot to stay is the lovely Paraiso Secreto, a collection of hostels located in the former mansions of Emerald barons!
Casa en el Agua
Colombia’s coolest new hostel is located on a floating house in the middle of the Caribbean! It takes around two hours to get there by boat from Cartagena, but it’s worth the slightly longer journey to spend a weekend relaxing in a hammock, sipping a cocktail, swimming the warm sea, or exploring the surrounding islands on kayaks. You can even see phosphorescent plankton in the waters of nearby Tinitipan island at night.
Cartagena’s most popular day-trip actually works much better as a weekend getaway. The lovely Playa Blanca beach can get incredibly crowded during the day but, at night, once the tourist boats have headed back to the city, you’ll practically have the place to yourself (ditto in the early morning, before the boats arrive).
Just across the water from Casa en el Agua is the beautiful Caribbean island of Mucura, home to the luxurious holiday resort of Punta Faro. This lovely hotel boasts a private beach, a spa overlooking the sea, an excellent restaurant serving local seafood, and scuba diving and kayaking excursions. It’s a pricier weekend getaway from Cartagena, but worth it for the luxury and the stunning surroundings.
San Andres is a lovely Colombian Caribbean island located in the middle of the sea – actually closer to Nicaragua than Colombia – but it makes a nice weekend getaway from Cartagena (from where there are regular flights). You can enjoy some excellent seafood, beautiful beaches and world-class diving in just a couple of days for less time than it takes to get the boat to some of the islands around Cartagena.
San Basilio de Palenque
This trip is more of an off-the-beaten-track trip away from Cartagena: Palenque is a small village about an hour inland from Cartagena and is famous for being the first free slave settlement in the Americas. It’s a UNESCO-recognized village, which still maintains many African traditions and where the people speak Palenque, a language spoken nowhere else in the world. Most people visit as a day-trip, but staying overnight will give you more time absorb the unique atmosphere and meet local people.
This is a much more ambitious weekend trip from Cartagena: a bus to Santa Marta takes over four hours (although there are regular flights). However, if you have limited time on your trip to Colombia, then it’s worth traveling along the coast from Cartagena towards Santa Marta to visit either Tayrona National Park, the small fishing village of Taganga, or the lovely mountain village of Minca.