Located along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, Cartagena was once an important port of colonial Spain.
It’s a beautiful city- colourful, vibrant and buzzing with activity.
Its proximity to the equator though, means it’s hot and humid in Cartagena throughout the year. Humidity levels average around 80%, with the temperature hovering between 25°C and 30°C.
Even during the cooler months, from January to March, sunshine reins supreme, and the days are warm enough to warrant a dip in the ocean.
When planning our visit, we knew we wanted to spend time seaside, but weren’t sure what’d be the best way to do so.
The beaches adjacent to historic old town will suit if you’re just after a quick dip, but aren’t exactly the stuff lounging in the sand dreams are made of.
We’d read Playa Blanca on Isla Baru was one of the most popular beaches to visit. With colorful beach shacks, pina colada stands and beautiful turquoise water, Baru makes for a pretty great day trip. What’s more, it’s easy to reach- friends told us they’d coordinated a day trip return taxi for $50-60 USD. But, with popularity comes vendors selling things up and down the sand.
Another thing we considered was a day at Blue Apple Beach. Thirty minutes from Cartagena by boat, on the southern shore of Tierra Bomba Island, Blue Apple is a private beach club. Space is limited, so you’ll need to book in advance and specify if you want space by the pool, beach, or a cabana.
In the end, we decided we really wanted to visit the Rosario Islands on a day long boat trip.
If we had another day, we would have likely gone to Baru or checked out Blue Apple Beach. But, with only one day to spend seaside, we decided a sailing trip would be best since it didn’t require much planning from us, and meant we could just lounge on a boat all day with food and drinks taken care of.
When looking into tour providers, we saw some recommendations to charter our own boat. But, with only two of us, that’d be quite a costly option.
Thankfully, we found Bona Vida Catamarans.
Bona Vida offers a beautiful day at sea, without being crammed onto a boat with a bunch of strangers.
The catamaran is huge, with the ability to hold up to 100 people. On the day we sailed, in the midst of peak season, we had about ~50 people on our boat, so while there were people milling about, it never felt too full. There were always spaces to sit, in the sun or shade.
Venturing out with Bona Vida is a full-day event, you’ll depart around ~8 am, and return to the harbour at 4:30 pm.
Included in your day are ice cold drinks whenever you fancy one, lunch cooked on board, snorkeling equipment, floaties and fun music.
The catamaran sails to the Islas Rosario, an archipelago of 27 coral rich islands, part of Colombia’s most important national park.
Each of the islands are beautiful and diverse in their own way, and have something to offer for everyone.
If you’re visiting Cartagena for a week or so, you may want to consider spending a night or two actually on one of the islands- the resorts and beach huts we sailed past look like the epitome of relaxation.
Our journey started with an hour and a half long sail from Cartagena de Indias, gliding past the city’s spectacular skyline.
During this part of our journey, we sipped fresh watermelon juice and read books, while sprawled out on cushions adorned with pillows.
The bar on board offers different kinds of drinks, at an additional cost, but watermelon juice and water are free throughout the day.
In the morning, there was a fried dough snack, which I skipped because it looked to have either meat or nuts inside it. Plus, we’d grabbed coffee and croissants at Libertario Coffee Co. & Roasters, plus fresh cut watermelon from a street vendor, before boarding so we weren’t hungry until lunchtime rolled around.
Our first stop was snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and warm, but unfortunately, the reef was mostly bleached, and there wasn’t much to see.
Nonetheless, it was beautiful to swim.
We alternated lounging on the catamaran’s net, and jumping in the ocean for nearly two hours.
While we swam at this stop, local fisherman paddled over, offering fresh lobster for purchase. We didn’t try it, but it seemed to be popular with others on the boat, who raved about how delicious it tasted.
Next up, we sailed for about a half hour to our second stop- a private beach. Here, after we docked close to shore, we swam to a small, white sand beach.
There wasn’t much to see, per se on the beach, but that’s kind of the point.
It’s tranquil and relaxing.
At this stop too, you’ll have 1.5-2 hours to swim, explore and relax.
When we boarded the boat again, we were served lunch- which is either vegetarian or fish paella, plus an array of fresh vegetables, salads and fruits.
We both had the vegetarian paella, and thought the serving was generous, as well as delicious.
Before we knew it, the time had come to sail back to the city. This part of our journey was a bit rough- we were sailing the open ocean, and the waves were choppy.
Neither of us are prone to seasickness, but if you are, I’d recommend bringing something with you for the day in case you need it.
Arriving back in the harbour, we headed straight to the old town to watch sunset from a rooftop bar.
All up, it was a beautiful day. Our sailing tour was seamless and simple, allowing us to truly unwind and enjoy the beautiful national park we were in.
Have you ever been to Cartagena? Would you spend a day of your vacation on a catamaran tour?
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