The heart of the Caribbean: paradise islands and colonial city
The area of Cartagena de Indias and its surroundings is characterized by its natural beauty and its important historical influence. Colonial architecture is omnipresent in the area. Cartagena de Indias is an open-air museum with its colonial architecture still intact, its magnificent colonial houses and its picturesque streets scented with the scent of tropical fruits and a delicious sea breeze make the unique charm of this illustrious city, considered the most beautiful colonial city in South America.
Cartagena is the destination not to be missed during your stay in Colombia. It is surrounded by a great wall that protected it from pirate invasions. It is also one of the most important ports for the country’s economy and is a connection point between the islands of Rosario, San Bernardo and Providencia with the interior of the country. It is also the gateway to South America, through which the Spanish arrived and imposed their customs and architectural influences.
The beautiful Caribbean beaches and the mix between modern and colonial make this region a paradise for visitors.
What to do around Cartagena in video :
What to do around Cartagena?
Stroll along the ramparts at sunset, discover the historic center and the more authentic district of Getsemani. Discover the many churches and historical monuments, let yourself be carried away by the scent of the bougainvillea and the colors of the facades. For more information, read our Practical Guide to Cartagena de Indias!
After Cartagena it is for us the island where you must go for one or two days. You can get there in only 45 minutes by boat. On the Rosario Islands, you will feel a wind of relaxation, a peaceful atmosphere that feels good. It is an idyllic place for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts due to the beauty of the sea bed.
Some information : The Rosario National Park is an archipelago of 27 islands bathed in turquoise water. This archipelago is part of the Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo, a marine park of more than 120.000 hectares.
Why do the boats leave at 2pm? Because after lunch, the wind starts to blow. From 5pm, the wind is very violent and it is difficult to even stay on the beach. 2pm is the time limit to face the waves before the wind is too strong, and still! The crossing was wet!
It is the closest island to Cartagena and therefore one of the most touristy. The destination is indeed very popular, although the majority of the land is private. People go there to enjoy the sea but there is also cultural tourism thanks to sites such as the San Fernando de Bocachica castle. Tierrabomba is an island of about 20 km2
Another tourist island but not far from Cartagena: the peninsula of Baru. If you dream of beautiful white sand beaches, this is the place to go. But be careful! The island of Baru is, because of the beauty of its beaches, a very popular destination. We advise you to go there after 4 pm or early in the morning, when the island and its famous playa blanca beach become quieter and more pleasant. Moreover, its population of about 20,000 inhabitants is distributed in several villages and lives mainly from tourism.
A little anecdote! It is in front of the island that the battle of Barú took place in 1708, during which the galleon San José sank loaded with more than 200 tons of gold, silver and emeralds.
San Bernardo island
It is for us a favorite of the Caribbean coast off Cartagena. If you have a little time we advise you to spend a few days there. San Bernardo is a magnificent archipelago of 10 islands that remind us of the archipelago of the Rosary. It is also part of the Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo, which shelters and protects many underwater ecosystems including coral reefs and many colorful fish.
The snorkel paradise! Located 2 hours by boat from Cartagena, it is an archipelago populated mainly by descendants of slaves, living from fishing and tourism. It is the ideal place if you want to snorkel, kayak and relax.
Looking for tranquility and exclusivity? Mucura Island is a small paradise island in the San Bernardo archipelago, where you can take a day trip or stay overnight in many hotels, including luxury hotels with private white sand beach!
The national aviary
The National Aviary of Colombia has 190 species of birds and approximately 2000 specimens. Through various ecological trails, you can discover three ecosystem environments and 21 exhibits divided into large immersion aviaries, radial aviaries, marshes and lakes.
- Price for a foreign adult: 60 000 COP
If you want to take care of your body and do an original activity, we recommend spending half a day at the Totumo volcano, only 40 minutes from Cartagena, in the town of Santa Catalina. It is a small volcano filled with mud. Bathing in its crater has therapeutic properties for the skin.
Our advice: Go early in the morning to make the most of the site and avoid the busiest times. From the historical center, count 2h30 of journey. It is possible to make an organized tour for the day.
- Take a bus from the terminal to Galerazamba and get off at Lomito Arena: 6.000 pesos
- Then 45 minutes on foot or motorcycle cab for 3,000 pesos
- Taxi : 150.000 pesos
What to do around Cartagena? Colombia Adventure Activities
Bird watching, fishing, cooking classes, horseback riding, water sports … these are our favorite tourist activities in the Cartagena region. Contact Adventure Colombia for more information and/or reservations. ([email protected])
- Birds evening : In this small haven of peace you can enjoy a canoe trip in the mangroves to observe the birds at sunset.
- Dance class: Learn the typical steps to the lively rhythms of the champeta, a very popular music in the region. Afterwards, you will enjoy a lunch in front of the sea.
- Traditional fishing: During this excursion, the locals will share with you the traditional fishing techniques: net and crab fishing. You will then discover the secrets of coastal cooking before eating with the fishermen and their families.
Horseback riding by the sea
During this 2-hour horseback ride, you will discover the wilderness of Manzanillo beach. A peaceful and pleasant experience where you will be accompanied by a local guide.
Water Sports in Boca Grande
If you want to practice water sports for an afternoon, we offer you six different modalities, adapted to your desires and your level. Paddle, surf and windsurf lessons or rentals… there is something for everyone!
- Sea kayaking: In this 4-hour trip you will go through the bay of Cartagena to Tierra Bomba, admiring the vegetation, the birds and the different tones of the water. Be careful, you need to be in good physical condition.
- Day trip to Tierra Bomba: Enjoy the white sandy beaches while meeting the different communities of the island and visiting the historical remains of the island.
The Rosary Islands by private boat
This excursion to the discovery of the Rosary Islands is personalized and organized according to your expectations and desires. A luxury yacht or lancha will be at your disposal all day long and you will be able to sail between the islands, off the bay of Cholon, Playa Blanca. You can even if you wish make some diving sessions to discover the colored fauna of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
Diving in Baru : Discover the magnificent Baru island and the beauty of its underwater landscape through a 6 hours diving session. This excursion is adapted to all types of levels and is proposed to you under 3 options.
Discovery of Baru by sailboat: It is an exceptional day of sailing that awaits you! Accompanied by a captain and a sailor, you will discover the seabed by snorkeling. You will even have the right to a succulent seafood platter!
San Bernardo Island in 4 days
This immersion in the heart of the Caribbean Sea will allow you to discover the charms of the islands in which the San Bernardo National Coral Park is located, which protects the coral reefs.
Enjoy Mucura Island, a paradise island with crystal clear waters. Canoeing, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, catamaran and other activities will be available!
Agrotourism visit to the Mayan Walnut project – Cartagena
On ½ day or 1 full day, spend a day immersed in the life of farmers and women of the village Los limites. It is in a tropical dry forest that you will discover the agroforestry project of the community. The Mayan walnut tree is a magic tree, emblem of the community. It has a very important role for the ecosystem threatened by deforestation. During this responsible day, you will plant a tree and then walk in the rainforest to finish with a delicious meal in this pleasant place.
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