Either side of our time in Cartagena we took the opportunity to explore Colombia’s incredible Caribbean coast a bit more by visiting 2 nearby islands; Tierra Bomba and Playa Blanca on the Islas del Rosario.
Both our quiet island stays were 2 nights and a total contrast to the busy, cosmopolitan way of life we experienced in Cartagena.
When in the city we wandered the busy streets, discovering lively bars and ate gelato, pizza and sushi. Island life however consisted of sunrise swims, early nights, simple home-cooked Colombian specialties and showers from a bucket of rain water.
Firstly we made the short trip from Bocagrande beach over to Tierra Bomba, about a 15 minute boat ride away. We stayed in a tent right behind the beach under the shade of huge palm trees and enjoyed relaxing on the quiet white sand beach and looking over the water to the incredible city skyline.
Tierra Bomba is a small island with one or two accommodation options near the beach where the ferries run from. Life on this island is super simple, The Beach Hostel where we stayed has a small simple menu of seafood and drinks but it is pretty pricey due to the isolation and the kitchen only operates for a limited amount of hours.
As the sun sets around 6:30pm and darkness descends, the day trippers are long gone and the hostel turns off the background music – in total contrasts to the bright lights of Cartagena, Tierra Bomba slips into an early night as the cool sea breeze soon sends you from hammock into tent. Just as well though, as you are sure to be woken at the crack of dawn to the bright sunlight and singing birds.
After Tierra Bomba we headed back to Cartagena for a few days in the city (you can read about that adventure here) and, after an unexpected delay in the start of our sailing trip we had time to squeeze in a last minute trip to the Rosario Islands.
Only an hours drive in a minibus away Playa Blanca, the highlight of Isla de Rosario, is really and truely a ️paradise found! The gorgeous beach stretches around a glassy blue bay for a few kilometres, interrupted only by palms.
However, I feel like I need to do a little get out clause piece here though;
Playa Blanca is beautiful and only an hours drive from a huge city – inevitably you are not going to be the only ones here, in fact, a lot of cynics warned us that the beach wasn’t worth the trip. In honesty I understand what they mean, as you arrive there seems to be a million sellers flogging you everything from sunglasses to sun loungers or a bed for the night. However, if you push on and walk for a couple of kilometres around the bay you are soon rewarded as the sellers virtually disappear, the beach becomes a lot more wild and deserted and accommodation options are now small family run affairs.
Despite the heat we wandered all the way around to Hakuna Matata, following the recommendation of a girl we met in Cartagena, and discovered heaven!
We agreed with the family a 2 night stay and were given a tiny Palm shack on stilts with a mattress and a mosquito net as our home – the hut stood right over the beach just 10 metres from the sea
Where to stay;
We had a great time living a super simple island life – but be prepared when sleeping in a tent or in a tiny wooden shack luxuries are extremely few and far between.
The Beach Hostel Cartagena, Tierra Bomba – we led such a simple island life in our tent; early nights and even earlier mornings as we rose with the sun. For around £11 /night you get a tent, complete with mattress (and cockroach if you’re lucky like us) and access to the beach club which includes sun loungers, a volleyball net and a small bar/kitchen.
Hakuna Matata, Playa Blanca – We got some incredible advice before heading to Playa Blanca; ‘keep walking, it may be hot and hard with your stuff but if you walk the 2/3km along the beach you will find a quiet paradise’ – and we did – total simple island life bliss! A family run collection of 5 wooden shacks on stilts that are about 5m from the sea – the only luxuries are a mattress and a mosquito net but being able to see the Caribbean sea from your bed more than makes up for the lack of bathroom facilities!
How To Get There
Tierra Bomba – By Boat – the only way to get to Tierra Bomba is by boat. Small colourful ferries leave from Bocagrande beach in the heart of the high-rise heart of Cartagena – however, there is no timetable and no order, The Beach Hostel has their own red and white ferry which will take you across the 15 minute trip for free but he only seemed to go once a day, if that. Otherwise there are plenty of others ready to take you for a small fee (around $5).
Playa Blanca – By Bus – only an hours scenic drive from the bustling city and by far the cheapest (and safest) option why take any other route… however if for some unknown reason you dont want to go for the quickest and cheapest route then….
By Boat – each day a couple of maniac drivers take there enormous boats, packed with life jacket wearing tourists from Cartagena harbour to Playa Blanca – for a quite a bit of money you are zoomed around the trip (which takes about 2 hours) crammed into the boats and open to the always rough seas) for 2 days we saw these boats leave and arrive and never thought it looked like a good idea…
My top tips for getting the best out of island life
- Take plenty of cash – if the island you’re on doesn’t have running water the is little chance that they will have a cash machine either – even though we planned to rely on cash we didn’t take enough meaning that our stays, whilst good for our budget and waistline wasn’t ideal for making the most of the time there
- Take supplies – on both islands you have to buy everything (even water) so definitely save yourself lots of moment and stress and take supplies; my essentials include lots of water, toilet roll and plenty of snacks!
- Don’t get burnt – luckily we have pretty sun friendly skin so with a bit of sun cream we had no problems with, how everyone, if you got burnt there was virtually no escape from the sun and definitely no escape from the heat until after dark!
- Go with the flow – island life is so simple and no one has any time pressure or even awareness for that matter! Whether your looking to pay for accomodation or get a ferry back to the city the best way to handle it is to let them know early and be ready to leave/settle up when they are!