At only a 10-15 minute boat drive from Casillogrande port, Tierra Bomba is the closest, and most accessible, island from Cartagena. If you’re short on time and can only do a day trip, this can work to your advantage as you’ll get far more beach time. Other islands, such as Isla Grande for example, can take up to two hours each way, cutting considerably into your day. With Tierra Bomba being located within the Bahia Cartagena, this also means that, while rough seas may be affecting islands further out, chances are your short boat ride will be relatively smooth in comparison.
Tierra Bomba may be conveniently close, but this doesn’t come without its disadvantages. Because of its proximity to the city, the water here isn’t as pristine as it is in other parts of the Rosario archipelago. This isn’t to say it isn’t clean; it’s still more than adequate for a refreshing swim, and is a huge improvement on Cartagena’s Bocagrande beach. Just don’t expect that picture-perfect, Robinson Crusoe-style stretch of pristine white sand and bright turquoise waters. Also, the proximity to the city also means that, at weekends, Tierra Bomba becomes one of the most crowded islands in the archipelago. Something to keep in mind if you’re not into crowded beaches.
Being an island, the only way to get to Tierra Bomba is by boat or, as they’re locally known, lanchas. Boats leaving for Tierra Bomba will be waiting in a small port located near the big hospital in Castillogrande. If you’re travelling from the walled city, hop on a bus headed to either ‘Bocagrande’ or ‘Castillogrande. There will be lots of people trying to sell you ‘packages’ (cabanas, food and transport included) near the boats, but many people haggle a transport deal directly with the lancha captains. Usually, transport costs around 15,000 COP (USD$5.20) (one-way), lunch on the island is 25,000 COP, (USD$8.70) and you can haggle a cabana and two loungers for 20,000 COP (USD$6.95). So, if you can find a deal that beats these individual prices, then go for it!
Note: for more available boats (and therefore more haggling opportunities) arrive in the early morning.
There are four small ‘towns’ on Tierra Bomba, each offering a different stretch of beach and a handful of accommodations. With the prettiest beaches and slightly better tourist infrastructure, the best place to get dropped off is in Punta Arena. Located on the side of the island which faces Cartagena, you’ll also get some cool views of the city’s impressive skyline right from your beach cabana.
If you’ve come to Tierra Bomba to relax, be sure to avoid the cabanas sat right outside the hotels or bars, as both – in true Colombian style – tend to blare out reggaeton most of the day. There are some quieter spots further down the beach – beeline for those!
Most hotels and hostels here offer packages which include transport to the island, all your meals (normally consisting of lots of fish!), and little extras such as loungers and cabanas. So, if you plan on staying the night, make sure you ask your hotel ahead of time what’s included so you don’t fork out unnecessarily on a boat or package in Cartagena.
For the price you pay for accommodation on Tierra Bomba, you’d expect that places to stay – in comparison to what you can get in other parts of Colombia – would be pretty decent. However, many hostels and hotels on the island, despite their hiked-up prices, are looking a little tired and are basic to say the least. What you’re paying for here is the location and, in some cases, the extra perks such as free boat pick-up/drop-off, hot meals and drinking water (surprisingly hard to find on the island), and the use of the cabanas and beach loungers.
There are a handful of bars and restaurants serving the typical Colombian menu del dia, such as fried fish and plantain with a fizzy drink or Club Colombia. However, if you just fancy a little beach snack or a bottle of water, you won’t find any shops on the island – and safe drinking water can be surprisingly challenging to find considering its proximity to the mainland. So, stock up with a few litres of water and some snacks from Cartagena to be safe, especially if you plan on staying the night.