Your Guide to the Rosario Islands

No trip to Cartagena would be complete without a visit to the Rosario islas.

Colombia’s coastal city of Cartagena has transformed over the last decade from an off-the-beaten Caribbean retreat into one of the world’s hottest destinations. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this sunny city is a treasure trove of historic sites, Spanish colonial architecture, and cobblestone streets—in addition to famous five-star eateries, stylish cafés, and boutique hotels. 

But only a few travelers know that Cartagena’s best beaches can be found just off the shoreline. After a 45-minute boat ride from the city, you’ll find the Islas del Rosario—a tropical island chain with translucent blue waters, sandy beaches, and fresh coconuts galore. 

Here are six of our favorite islands you’ll want to visit when you are in Cartagena. 

  • Isla Cholón. A tiny island that draws private boats full of partygoers seeking fun, tans, and Reggaeton.
  • Isla Grande. As its name suggests, Isla Grande is the biggest of all of the Rosario Islands. On the island, you’ll find plenty of beach clubs, a diverse ecosystem, and the Laguna Encantada, or “Enchanted Lagoon.” The brackish lagoon is open for swimming and home to bioluminescent plankton that glows in the dark. 
  • Isla Barú. Another popular island, Isla Barú boasts dazzling white-sand beaches dotted with shaded daybeds for rent. The beach is usually buzzing with vendors and tourists during the day, so you may want to plan your visit earlier or later in the day to try and beat the crowds. 
  • Isla Fuerte. If it’s a chiller experience you’re after, you can also stop by the laid-back Isla Fuerte. Located far to the west of the other Carribean islands, the isla is relatively quiet and home to a tropical forest, stunning beaches, and coral reefs that are perfect for snorkeling. 
  • Isla del Pirata. Isla del Pirata, or “Pirate Island,” may be less than a mile long, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm. The island is more tranquil than Isla Grande or Baru and offers fresh seafood and captivating views. 
  • Isla San Martín de Pajarales. After soaking up the sun on its sunny beaches on Isla San Martín de Pajarales, you can visit the island’s aquarium. Oceanario Aquarium offers an up-close look at the region’s biodiversity—plus live dolphin shows. 

Ready to explore Cholón and the Rosario Islands? Cartagena is your best bet for a convenient base from which to access the world-famous islas. Book a Lifeafar Cartagena apartment to make sure you have a stylish, modern home-away-from-home to recharge after a day of snorkeling, sunning, and swigging Coco Locos.

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