The Best Weekend Trips From Cartagena, Colombia

Take a trip from Cartegena to stay at Casa en el Agua, probably the coolest hostel in Colombia
Take a trip from Cartegena to stay at Casa en el Agua, probably the coolest hostel in Colombia | © Pierrick Lemaret / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Chris Bell
3 September 2021

Cartagena is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Colombia, and thousands of travelers visit each year to enjoy the Caribbean climate, beautiful Old City and delicious food. However, after a few days, you might want to get out and explore the nearby beaches and islands. Here are the best weekend trips from Cartagena.

Isla Grande

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, crystalline waters and warm sunshine. You can go snorkeling, relax on the beach or rent a kayak to explore the mangroves. The best spot to stay is the lovely Paraiso Secreto, a collection of hostels in the former mansions of emerald barons.

Isla Grande is just an hour’s boat ride from Cartagena | © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Casa en el Agua

The coolest hostel in Colombia is 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 in the warm sea or exploring the surrounding islands on kayaks. You can even see phosphorescent plankton in the waters of nearby Tintipán Island at night.

Playa Blanca

The most popular day trip from Cartagena actually works much better as a weekend getaway. The lovely Playa Blanca can get incredibly crowded during the day, but at night (once the tourist boats have returned to the city), you’ll practically have the place to yourself – same in the early morning before the boats arrive.

Playa Blanca is popular by day but less crowded at night | © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Isla Mucura

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 has 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 stunning surroundings.

San Andres

San Andres is a lovely Colombian Caribbean island in the middle of the sea – actually closer to Nicaragua than Colombia – but it makes a nice weekend getaway from Cartagena (from which there are regular flights). Enjoy excellent seafood, beautiful beaches and world-class diving in just a couple of days.

The tropical beaches on the Caribbean island of San Andres are stunning | © Kobby Dagan / VWPics / Alamy Stock Photo

San Basilio de Palenque

Palenque is a small village about an hour inland from Cartagena and is famous for being the first settlement in the Americas for previously enslaved people. It’s a Unesco-recognized village, which still maintains many African traditions. The people speak Palenque, spoken nowhere else in the world. Most people visit as a day trip, but staying overnight will give you more time to absorb the unique atmosphere and meet local people. Interested in visiting? You can do so as part of Culture Trip’s immersive eight-day Colombian Caribbean tour, led by our local insider.

San Basilio de Palenque is the first place in the Americas where free Africans lived | © Marek Poplawski / Alamy Stock Photo

Santa Marta

A much more ambitious weekend trip from Cartagena includes a four-hour bus ride to Santa Marta (although there are also regular flights). 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.

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