Cartagena Playa Blanca

The Best Beach in Cartagena, Colombia

The city of Cartagena, Colombia is known for the charm and splendor of its 500-year old centro historico, the nuevo-luxe of its Miami-like Boca Grande neighborhood and, more recently, the drama surrounding Obama’s Secret Service hooker scandal. One thing Cartagena is not known for is particularly beautiful beaches.

After you’ve finished strolling Cartagena’s colorful, bougainvillea-lined streets, take a speed boat (or a slow boat, if you prefer) to Isla de Baru, just a short jaunt at 50,000 pesos colombianos from the Cartagena boat terminal. What awaits you is an idyllic paradise that will make you feel shipwrecked — and, if you’ve only booked a day trip, like you should stay longer.

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Is Playa Blanca Cartagena’s Best Beach?

I was initially a bit disappointed when I arrived at Playa Blanca. Heralded by literally every other backpacker I encountered as “Colombia’s Best Beach,” it seemed cluttered and even dirty in parts. Still, I couldn’t get past how content all my fellow beach goers seemed to be there.

It seemed to take forever, but eventually my friend Kevin and I reached the end the crowds. The beach beyond that point was deserted; the clear, calm surf was devoid of swimmers. I wasn’t yet convinced that Playa Blanca was the best beach I’d ever seen, but I was beginning to feel comfortable there.

As we walked further down Playa Blanca, the beach took on an idyllic, shipwrecked feel. Empty canoes sat in the still, swimming pool-like water; most of the cabanas were empty. All of a sudden, I heard a shout.

“Texas!” It was John, a guy from California I’d met in Santa Marta a few days earlier. He invited Kevin and I into the cabana where he’d been staying.


The Company You Keep Determines Cartagena’s Best Beach

We set pretty immediately to rolling a joint. As the high set in, we caught up with each other—or, I should say, we got to know one another. I had only talked to John for a few minutes before he left Santa Marta for Cartagena.  I let myself cool off in the shade, then we headed out into the sea for a swim.

As we floated on top of the gentle waves, I began to realize why John had been camped out on Playa Blanca for five days. The pace of life was as slow as I was moving through the thick, humid air; the breeze was as soft and sooting as the hammock I was lying in.

Food and Drink in Playa Blanca

On the way out of the water, I bought a “Coco Loco” from one of the many vendors that can be found walking up and down the beach. A concoction made with coconut water, several different types of rum, cream (and, in my case, vodka), the Coco Loco is a deceptively smooth cocktail—it packs a fierce punch.

After my Coco Loco Kevin and I headed down to one of the many restaurants on the busier part of the beach and enjoyed a traditional Colombian lunch of fried fish, coconut rice and fried plantains. I’d had it nearly every day I was along Colombia’s Caribbean coast, but it tasted just as amazing as the first time. Most day tours include this lunch as part of the ticket price, which is usually around 50,000 COP ($28).

The Bottom Line

We spent a few more hours lounging with John in his cabana. Although the time for the boat to depart came relatively slow, I was sad when it was time to leave. I came not expecting a lot and to be fair, there isn’t “a lot” on Playa Blanca. Still, if I hadn’t had a flight scheduled for the next morning, I would’ve stayed several days. Playa Blanca is a true paradise.

About The Author

is the author of 1088 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


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Adele February 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Robert, love the article as we are in Cartegena now and deciding what to do with the rest of our trip. I look forward to the fried fish and cabanas of Playa Blanca. Thank you for a great article.

Robert Schrader February 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Adele, so jealous you are in Cartagena! I hope you have a wonderful time in Playa Blanca!

This American Girl February 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Ah, sooo wish I had enjoyed the same experience in Playa Blanca. I made the mistake of going the week after New Year’s and it was unbelievably crowded and chaotic. I met a man from Cali on the boat ride back to Cartagena who said he had never seen it so bad on Playa Blanca and would never go this time of year again. Fortunately I had my piece of Colombian beach paradise in Palomino. Did you make it there? My favorite part of Colombia.

Robert Schrader February 6, 2013 at 9:07 am

That sucks RE: the horrible crowds. But I’m glad you still managed to find your own piece of Colombian paradise – nice!

mo July 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm

this place seems heavenly…i am going to south america in 1 month, will definitely check this out 🙂

Luis C October 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Hi, Robert. My partner and I live in Toronto, Canada and we bought a place in Bocagrande, Cartagena. Not far from a gay friendly beach called Hollywood Beach. Just FYI there are a big lot of pretty beaches all around Colombia, especially in San Andrés Island (type “San Andres” on Google and prepare to be amazed). It’s kind of far from continental Colombia (it’s actually closer to Nicaragua), but for travelers with some extra time and budget … highly recommended. Bring water shoes! Those are coral reef beaches. Colombians call San Andrés surrounding water, “el mar de siete colores”, the seven-color sea. I dare you to go count them.

Robert Schrader October 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Thanks for the recommendation, Luis, and also for reading! I’ll make sure to give you a holler next time I’m in Cartagena, and in the meantime, I hope you’ll explore the site more. Cheers!

Guest October 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

It’ll be our pleasure to show you around and take you out to the fun places! We’re always there from mid-December to mid-January. I learned that you’ll be at Panama around that time next year, so why not hopping on a Copa plane and come visit us! Please feel free to email me anytime about anything you need about Colombia or reach me on Facebook.

Luis C October 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm

It’ll be our pleasure to show you around and take you out to the fun places! We’re always there from mid-December to mid-January. I learned that you’ll be at Panama around that time next year, so why not hopping on a Copa plane and come visit us! Please feel free to email me anytime about anything you need about Colombia or reach me on Facebook. .

whereexactly August 18, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Robert, please tell me—and this is absolutely imperative—where did you score pot in Cartagena?

Robert Schrader August 19, 2014 at 6:32 am

On the city wall!

Michael Lewis December 23, 2014 at 10:30 am

Luis, I’m not sure if you will see this post, but somewhat at the last minute I am traveling to Cartagena January 2 – 7, 2015. If you have any advice regarding fun spots and especially fun gay-friendly spots, I would love to hear them! I sent you a message to your FB account, but because we’re not friends, I’m sure it went to your “other” folder where you might not see it. Thanks so much!

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