Best Cartagena Beaches to Visit

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Chris Bell

Cartagena, Colombia, is a colorful city filled with colonial architecture, buzzing nightlife spots and world-class restaurants. However, magnificent beaches and the Rosario Islands are also nearby. From the alluring local beaches in Bocagrande just minutes from the city to the Caribbean paradise of Playa Blanca further afield, here are the most beautiful beaches to visit in this coastal destination.

1. Playa Blanca

Natural Feature

Playa Blanca near Cartagena, Colombia
© Jess Kraft / Shutterstock

The most famous and popular beach paradise near Cartagena is Playa Blanca, about 40 minutes from the city by boat on Isla Barú. While it can be busy on weekends, with many visitors and vendors, its white sands and crystalline blue waters make it one of the most beautiful beaches to visit close to the city.

2. Rosario Islands

Natural Feature

Playa Cristal on Isla Grande, Rosario Islands, Colombia
William Pate / Unsplash

These paradisiacal islands off the coast of Cartagena are part of a national park and home to some of the loveliest beaches and resorts in the region. The archipelago comprises many different islands, so it can be hard to pick which beach to relax on for the day. Isla Grande is the most accessible island from the city and has several excellent beaches. However, your safest bet is to take a tour of the islands from Cartagena.

3. Pink Sea of Galerazamba

Natural Feature

A shot of pink sea salt
Nao Takabayashi / Unsplash

This is less of a traditional sunbathing spot and more of a natural phenomena worth making the hourlong trip north from Cartagena for. The Pink Sea, or El Salar de Galerazamba, is a truly otherworldly sight that does exactly what it says on the tin – the sea here is pink! This is no marketing ploy for the Barbie movie, though, rather it is a natural consequence of a nearby salt mine. You’ll have to visit in February and March, as this is when the water levels are low enough for everything to become yassified (a rich azurean blue will have to do for the rest of the year). A trip to the shores of Galerazamba is often paired with some mud bathing therapy at nearby Totumo Volcano – now that is a travel day like no other.

4. Manzanillo del Mar

Natural Feature

The Manzanillo del Mar beaches are the farthest mainland beaches from the urban area of Cartagena, but they are consequently the most relaxed and tranquil stretches of sand near the city. Close to a little town of the same name – around a 35-minute drive from the city – the beaches are large and beautiful swathes of sand and sea, with very few tourists in sight. The best of the bunch is Playa de Oro.

5. Castillogrande

Natural Feature

Castillogrande beach in the heart of Cartagena, Colombia
Lucas Chizzali / Unsplash

On the peninsula of Bocagrande in the heart of Cartagena, Castillogrande is a touch more exclusive and upmarket than some of the other beaches on this list, but it’s a lot more peaceful and laid-back because of this. The sea here is very clean and perfect for swimming, and there’s more space to enjoy the beach, too.

6. Playa de Punta Arena

Natural Feature

Girl sitting at beach watching the sunset in Tierra Bomba, Cartagena, Colombia
Darren Lawrence / Unsplash

This beautiful beach lies on Isla Tierra Bomba, a large island less than 10 minutes by boat from the city. With sandy beaches, azure waters and spectacular views back towards the skyscrapers of the Bocagrande neighborhood in Cartagena, Playa de Punta Arena is a stark contrast from the glitzy urban beaches nearby but a peaceful haven so close to the city.

7. Playa de Bocagrande

Natural Feature

Waves lapping on beach in Cartagena, Colombia
Victor Rosario / Unsplash

The most famous urban beach in Cartagena sits in front of the glitzy neighborhood of Bocagrande (the famous peninsula lined with skyscrapers and upmarket hotels). Popular with the glamour set in Colombia, the beach is a nice strip of white sand near some of the best areas and hotels in the city.

8. La Boquilla

Natural Feature

A short drive from Cartagena’s old town, La Boquilla has become increasingly popular with foreign tourists, but locals have been coming here for many years. The beach itself is perhaps less visually attractive than some of the others on this list, but it’s perfect for anyone looking to spend some beach time away from the crowds of tourists who can descend upon Cartagena during high season. A boat tour of the nearby mangroves is also perfect for anyone interested in nature.

Additional words by Gethin Morgan.

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