For nature buffs, or simply those who love to visit tranquil, unspoiled parts of the world, the islands in and around Cartagena Bay are simply a must-see experience that’s beyond compare. While these types of terms are often thrown around when describing almost any type of tropical destination, few deliver in the way the “Gem of the Caribbean” does.
Islas del Rosario
One of the larger parts of the national park system, the PNN Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo, can be found in the Isla del Rosario chain. Only 21 miles, or about 35 kilometers, off the cost of Cartegena, the archipelago is comprised of 27 coral islands and a scattering of islets. Easily translated as the “Islands of the Rosary,” the name itself strikes a religious or spiritual experience. This particular chain has been protected by the Colombian Natural Park system since the late 1970s, and it’s home to some of the most spectacular beaches, flora and fauna you’ll ever encounter in your lifetime.
White, sandy beaches of Playa Blanca
One of the hot spots found on one of the many islands near Cartagena is Playa Blanca, or white beach, aptly named for its pearl-colored stretch of coastline. Located on Isla Barú, beaches like this one, are mostly accessible by boat and are much more beautiful than those found on the Colombian mainland. Although boats stop at Playa Blanca on the way to Islas del Rosario, it’s an idyllic point to snorkel above the coral reefs.
The biggest and the best
Many travelers consider Isla Grande, the largest in the archipelago chain, as one of the best places to stop amid the dozens of different islands in the Cartagena Bay. The bird sanctuary located here is free to enter, although donations are encouraged to help keep the dozens of different species well-cared for and fed.
A pirate’s life for me
Protected by a coral reef, Isla del Pirata is also a part of the Rosario chain. If an underwater adventure is what you’re seeking, you’ll want to put on a pair of goggles and some fins to enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving in the shallow, warm, Caribbean waters off the island’s shores.
Apologizes for an antiquated reference to something being “the bomb,” but you’ll find the sights and sounds on Tierra de Bomba awesome, with another apology for an often-overused word. However, if you’re looking to see how the locals really live and witness wildlife in its natural setting, Isla de Tierra Bomba should definitely be on your list of islands to visit.
How to reach the islands
Unless you’re interested in a complete tourist-trap experience, taking a day cruise is definitely not the way to visit any of these gorgeous islands. On these crowded boats, you’ll find mostly watered-down drinks, cheap lunches, and feeling trapped into enduring the pre-planned schedule that’s laid out before you.
Renting a boat, or even a yacht for that matter, is actually more reasonable than you might imagine, especially given the affordability that the Colombian peso has to offer. If you’re visiting or vacationing in or around Cartagena, be sure to check out what the bay and the national park system have to offer.