The Rosario Islands are an archipelago located just an hour from Cartagena. They are seriously paradise, and you will not want to miss the chance to island-hop near Cartagena. We chose to do a day tour because we only had four days on our trip to explore and knew we didn’t want to sit on a resort beach all day.
Honestly, I’m still thinking about the island hopping near Cartagena we did too! When I started to research where to go to the beach on our Cartagena trip, one spot came up over and over – the Rosario Islands came up, and once I saw one picture… I knew I had to go. They looked really beautiful, and after the fiasco in San Blas, I wanted to island-hop successfully!
While the resorts are nice, we wanted a little more adventure and to spend more time exploring some different beaches. It ended up being the perfect choice! We went island hopping near Cartagena with an Islas del Rosario Tour we found on Viator. It was such a fun day.
We found our tour through a company called Backpackers Colombia and I loved it. We paid $95 a person for the entire day.
Why book a tour?
Booking a tour is definitely the way to go for this one. When you are trying to island-hop to different places, the logistics can be a lot to deal with. Instead, a tour company can take care of all of that for you.
You want your island trip to be relaxing, not stressful. Some things are worth the splurge and this is one of them. If you want to be super relaxed and just visit a resort, I recommend Agua Azul Beach Resort (it was right on my favorite island we visited and incredible). You can take a day trip here too.
Yes, $95 feels like a lot for a single day, but it was soooo nice for an island-hopping trip not to have to worry about anything. Plus, most Islas del Rosario trips just pick you up and drop you off at a resort (which is fine) but, this was different.
pick up and drop off from your hotel
bus drives to Baru instead of all the way out to the islands for an hour
4 different stops at islands
water and fruit in the morning
boat ride to the different islands
octopus and fish ceviche
snorkeling gear and snorkel stop
traditional lunch on the beach
national park fee (most other tours don’t include this so check)
So… It included everything but alcohol so spending $95 for a day without worry on beaches was perfect. The splurge was worth it trust me!
Now for the details of our Islas del Rosario Tour…
We started our day early with a 6:30 am pick up. The tour company was really easy to get ahold of and responsive through WhatsApp. It was great to feel like things were all settled before we were picked up. We were picked up right on time and headed toward the islands.
Instead of us taking a boat from Cartagena, we took a bus until we got to Baru. I liked this option because it meant less time getting seasick on a boat (again trying to avoid San Blas issues…). We were given fruit cups with a variety of fresh fruits and water during the drive.
There was also a stop at a convenience store to buy anything we wanted. We were advised it would be a long time before lunch. The drive was about an hour then we took a boat ride that lasted about 20 minutes to our first island stop.
Isla de Pirata
Our first stop was snorkeling right near Isla de Piratas (Pirate Island) named because they found old coins, maps, and artifacts owned by pirates back in the 1800s! How cool is that? I wish I had found a coin or two while snorkeling. Most of the coral was alive there and really close to the surface. It was a pretty white and green color that lit up with every sunbeam. We saw lots of fish, I just wish my goggles hadn’t been fogging up so bad!
After our hour-long snorkel stop, we headed to Cholon. Cholon is known as the “party island.” Here you can get a drink under a thatched hut in the water. It was really fun to sip a limonada de coco (coconut lemonade only found in Colombia!) while swimming in crystal clear waters. While this island was fun, I was surprised people could spend an entire day there (a lot of private boat rentals will take you here).
Drink prices are $8 – $10 apiece so this is not a cheap spot for a drink. There are lots of people in the water trying to sell you things as well. We just chose to swim on the other side and found it very relaxing. I also ate a fresh oyster from a guy with a kayak with hot sauce and limon that was just 50 cents and pretty delicious. There are seafood options here as well if you are hungry as well. The one that looked really tasty was the seafood rice dish. YUM!
Playa Agua Azul
After Cholon, we headed to my favorite island stop – Playa Agua Azul. I don’t think I’ve ever seen water so beautiful! It was so nice to basically have the beach to ourselves here too. There were so few people on this beach besides our group and it was really relaxing. This is also where we were given the octopus ceviche that was pretty tasty. Drinks were for sale here too but we skipped and went straight for the beach.
Next up on our Isla del Rosario tour, it was time to head back to Baru. Baru isn’t technically an island, it’s a peninsula that is really close to the islands. We spent the rest of the tour eating lunch, enjoying beer, and lounging on the beach. The hotels, restaurants, and boats here seem to go on for miles along this beach. Each one is colorful and unique. Many of them honestly reminded me of Tulum! We stayed at this spot until about 3 pm before heading back to Cartagena, arriving at our hotel around 4:15 pm after other drop-offs.
This seriously was the best island hopping near Cartagena and I’m so glad we got to go with an Islas del Rosario tour. I love a good adventure and this was the perfect balance for me between adventure and relaxation.
Next time we go back, I want to spend a night on one of the islands to experience even more of what they have to offer. If you’re headed to Cartagena, you’ve got to do a day trip to Islas del Rosario. You won’t regret it.