If you’re hitting Colombia’s Caribbean coast, you simply need to pay a visit to the Rosario Islands, otherwise known as the Islas del Rosario (if you want to brush up on your Spanish). The islands are an archipelago made up of around 27 small, coral islands, and are a perfect slice of paradise with white sandy beaches surrounded by warm, turquoise Caribbean waters. The islands form part of a national park and are protected under Colombia’s national park system. It’s Colombia’s Caribbean gem, and absolutely not to be missed. Here’s what to see and do in the Rosario Islands.
How to Get There
The Rosario Islands are just a short boat ride from Cartagena, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The only way to see the Rosario Islands is by boat, so you’ll have to decide if you want to stay on the islands (there are only a few islands that have accommodation options) or you can opt for a day trip instead, which departs and returns to Cartagena.
The islands can be reached in around 45 minutes on a fairly bumpy speedboat ride, and you can either take a private boat (if you’ve got the cash to splash) or hop on a group tour, which are easy to sign-up to — just ask at the reception of your hotel or hostel. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or home rental, you’ll also find plenty of tour agencies in Cartagena’s Old Town where you can book a boat tour. Boats generally leave from the Muelle de la Bodeguita port in Cartagena.
The format for a day trip to the Rosario Islands is normally a boat departing from Cartagena early in the morning, followed by a few stops at some of the islands. The most popular day trips will also take you to Playa Blanca, which is known for its brilliantly white sand and crystal clear waters. You’ll likely be taken to a deserted spot in the perfect turquoise waters too, where you can snorkel and swim. Most day trips include a stop on one of the islands for a bite to eat, which is normally a traditional Caribbean lunch of freshly caught fish and coconut rice, accompanied by a beer or fresh, tropical juice.
Top Things to Do
At the Rosario Islands, you can snorkel, swim, fish, and scuba dive above the island’s coral reef. While the reef has suffered erosion in recent years, you’re still likely to see plenty of tropical fish in the crystal clear waters. The biggest island, Isla Grande, has an inland lagoon where you can go kayaking and also do plankton tours at night. The island has incredible plankton displays, which can be seen when there isn’t a full moon. If you’re keen to see a plankton display, generally speaking, the best time to do a tour is around seven days before a full moon or seven days after. The visibility of the plankton also depends on the cloud coverage that day.
If you’re staying on one of the islands, what better things are there to do than kick back in a hammock, drink a tropical cocktail, and eat freshly caught lobster for lunch and dinner? The islands are so small, there’s not much else to do, and you won’t have a care in the world.
Where to Stay
Our top picks include Paraiso Secreto, which is a hostel collective, set within seven identical mansions surrounding a large pool, Eco Hostel La Cocotera, which is a stunning eco-friendly hotel, with rustic charm, or Hotel Coraline Island, a luxurious hotel with an incredible private deck overlooking the water.
When to Go
We recommend visiting the Rosario Islands on weekdays, as the main spots (especially on the group boat tours) can get really busy during the weekends. Colombia’s Caribbean coast is also best avoided in the months of October and the beginning of November when it is particularly rainy.