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The 11 Best Day Trips From Cartagena


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Patrizia Peterson


Rosario Islands

The Rosario Islands, located just off the coast of Cartagena, are a true tropical paradise. This stunning archipelago consists of 27 small islands, each with its own unique charm. The crystal-clear turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs, and white sandy beaches make it a perfect destination for snorkeling, diving, and sunbathing.


One of the most popular ways to explore the Rosario Islands is by taking a boat tour from Cartagena. The tour will typically include visits to several of the islands, allowing you to swim, snorkel, and relax on the beautiful beaches. You can also choose to go on a guided snorkeling or diving adventure to discover the colorful marine life that inhabits the reefs.


If you’re looking for a more secluded experience, you can opt to stay overnight on one of the islands. There are a few eco-lodges and boutique hotels that offer accommodations, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the peaceful and natural surroundings.


Aside from enjoying the beach and water activities, the Rosario Islands also offer opportunities for exploring the local flora and fauna. You can go on a hiking trail through the mangrove forests, where you may spot various species of birds and other wildlife.


When it comes to dining, the islands offer a range of options. You can savor fresh seafood and traditional Colombian dishes at the local restaurants, or even enjoy a beachfront picnic with a packed lunch.


Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, the Rosario Islands are an idyllic destination that offers a true tropical escape just a short distance from Cartagena. With its breathtaking natural beauty and abundant activities, it’s no wonder why the Rosario Islands are considered one of the best day trips from Cartagena.


La Boquilla

If you’re looking to experience the authentic coastal culture of Colombia, a day trip to La Boquilla is a must. Located just a short distance from Cartagena, this vibrant fishing village offers a glimpse into the traditional way of life in the region.


One of the highlights of visiting La Boquilla is taking a canoe tour through the mangrove swamps that surround the village. You’ll glide along the calm waters, guided by local fishermen who will share their knowledge about the ecosystem and its importance to the community. As you navigate through the mangroves, you’ll have the chance to spot various species of birds and other wildlife that call this area home.


The village itself is a lively and colorful place, with houses painted in vibrant hues of blue, yellow, and green. You can explore the narrow streets and interact with the friendly locals, who are known for their warm hospitality. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to join in a game of beach soccer or enjoy a traditional dance performance.


No trip to La Boquilla would be complete without trying the local cuisine. Seafood is the specialty here, with fresh catches of the day cooked in traditional Colombian recipes. From ceviche to fried fish, you’ll have plenty of delicious options to choose from.


For those seeking a bit of relaxation, the beautiful beach of La Boquilla is the perfect spot. With its soft sand and calm waters, it provides an ideal setting for sunbathing, swimming, or simply unwinding with a book.


If you’re interested in learning more about the cultural heritage of La Boquilla, you can visit the local museum, which showcases artifacts and exhibits that depict the history and traditions of the community. You can also participate in a traditional drumming workshop and learn how to play the Afro-Colombian rhythms that are an integral part of the local culture.


Visiting La Boquilla is not only a chance to discover a hidden gem near Cartagena, but it’s also an opportunity to support the local community and learn about their way of life. With its unique blend of nature, culture, and delicious food, La Boquilla is undoubtedly one of the best day trips to experience Colombia’s coastal charm.


Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca, located on the scenic Barú Peninsula, is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia. With its powdery white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, it’s no wonder that it’s a popular day trip destination from Cartagena.


To reach Playa Blanca, you can take a short boat ride from Cartagena to the neighboring town of Barú, and from there, a short taxi or bus ride will get you to the beach. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a mesmerizing stretch of beach lined with palm trees and dotted with rustic beach huts.


One of the main activities to enjoy at Playa Blanca is simply soaking up the sun and swimming in the warm Caribbean waters. You can relax on the soft sand, take a dip in the sea, or rent a beach chair and umbrella for some added comfort. The beach is known for its calm and shallow waters, making it suitable for both adults and children to frolic and play.


For those seeking adventure, Playa Blanca offers a range of water activities. You can go snorkeling and explore the vibrant coral reefs teeming with tropical fish, or try your hand at paddleboarding or kayaking. If you’re a thrill-seeker, you can even go on a jet ski ride and feel the wind in your hair as you zip across the waves.


As for food, Playa Blanca is famous for its seafood. You can indulge in a variety of fresh catches prepared in traditional Colombian style, including grilled fish, coconut shrimp, and ceviche. There are also beachside restaurants and food stalls where you can savor local dishes and sip on refreshing tropical drinks.


For a truly relaxing and laid-back experience, you can even opt to stay overnight in one of the beachfront accommodations. Falling asleep to the sound of the ocean and waking up to the gentle breeze is an unforgettable experience.


Playa Blanca offers a serene escape from the bustling city life of Cartagena. Whether you’re looking for tranquility, adventure, or simply a day of sun and sand, this picturesque beach is a must-visit destination and one of the best day trips from Cartagena.


Isla Barú

Isla Barú, located just off the coast of Cartagena, is a hidden gem that offers a perfect combination of natural beauty and cultural charm. This idyllic island is known for its pristine beaches, lush mangroves, and vibrant local communities.


One of the main attractions on Isla Barú is Playa Blanca. This stunning beach boasts powdery white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, making it an ideal spot for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. You can relax on the beach, take a refreshing dip in the sea, or explore the underwater world and marvel at the colorful coral reefs.


Aside from Playa Blanca, Isla Barú is also home to other beautiful beaches, such as Playa Puntilla and Playa Manglares. These beaches offer a more secluded and tranquil atmosphere, allowing you to enjoy a peaceful day by the sea.


The island is also known for its mangrove forests, which are a vital ecosystem teeming with diverse flora and fauna. You can take a guided tour through the mangroves by boat or kayak, where you can spot various bird species, marine life, and even encounter the famous pink dolphins that inhabit the area.


Another highlight of Isla Barú is its cultural heritage. The island is home to several Afro-Colombian communities, and you can immerse yourself in their rich traditions, music, and dance. The locals are warm and welcoming, and you can visit their homes, learn about their way of life, and even participate in drumming workshops and traditional dance performances.


When it comes to food, Isla Barú offers a range of culinary delights. You can savor fresh seafood dishes, including ceviche, fried fish, and coconut rice, at the local restaurants. Don’t forget to try the refreshing and flavorful coconut water, which is a specialty of the island.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion, Isla Barú has something for everyone. Its natural wonders, pristine beaches, and vibrant communities make it a perfect day trip destination from Cartagena.


Totumo Mud Volcano

If you’re looking for a unique and one-of-a-kind experience near Cartagena, a visit to the Totumo Mud Volcano is a must. Located about an hour’s drive from the city, this natural wonder is not only a fascinating geological phenomenon but also offers therapeutic benefits for both the body and mind.


The Totumo Mud Volcano is a small volcano filled with warm, mineral-rich mud. You can climb up to the crater and descend into the mud pit, which is said to have healing properties for the skin due to its high mineral content. Once in the mud pit, you can let yourself float on the surface and indulge in a relaxing mud bath. The thick mud is surprisingly buoyant, making it effortless to float while enjoying the unique sensation and the picturesque view of the surrounding landscape.


After your mud bath, local attendants will offer to help you with a mud massage. They have mastered the art of giving massages in the mud, using their hands to gently rub and knead your muscles, leaving you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.


Once you’re ready, you can make your way out of the mud pit and rinse off in the nearby lagoon or choose to be rinsed by the local attendants. The lagoon is refreshing and provides an opportunity to wash away the mud and enjoy a pleasant swim.


Visiting the Totumo Mud Volcano is not only about the therapeutic experience but also an opportunity to soak in the stunning natural surroundings. The volcano is located in a picturesque area with lush greenery and panoramic views of the nearby countryside. You can relax and take in the tranquil atmosphere while enjoying the unique landscape.


It is important to note that the mud volcano can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. However, the experience is still worth it, and the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the locals adds to the overall enjoyment.


A visit to the Totumo Mud Volcano offers a truly unforgettable and offbeat adventure that combines relaxation, wellness, and natural beauty. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in this extraordinary mud bath experience during your time in Cartagena.



Located on the banks of the Magdalena River, Mompox is a charming colonial town that is frozen in time. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and rich cultural heritage.


A visit to Mompox is like stepping back in time. The town’s historic center is filled with beautifully preserved buildings dating back to the 16th century, making it a paradise for architecture enthusiasts. You can wander through the town’s narrow streets and admire the colonial houses, ornate churches, and elegant squares.


One of the highlights of Mompox is the Santa Bárbara Church, a stunning example of colonial architecture. Its grand façade, intricate carvings, and imposing bell towers make it a must-visit attraction. Inside, you’ll find a serene and beautifully decorated interior, with religious art and sculptures.


Mompox is also famous for its goldsmiths and jewelry artisans. The town has a long tradition of gold and silver craftsmanship, and you can visit workshops and boutiques to witness the creation of intricate jewelry pieces. Don’t miss the opportunity to take home a unique and handmade souvenir.


The town is also known for its rich cultural traditions and celebrations. If you visit during Holy Week, you’ll witness elaborate processions and religious rituals that have been passed down for generations. The locals take great pride in their heritage and are always eager to share their customs and stories with visitors.


Exploring the Magdalena River, which runs alongside Mompox, is another highlight of the trip. You can take a boat ride along the river, enjoying the scenic views and observing the local flora and fauna. The river also offers opportunities for fishing and birdwatching.


When it comes to food, Mompox offers a variety of traditional Colombian dishes. You can savor regional specialties, such as sancocho (a hearty soup), arepas, and empanadas. For dessert, try the enyucado, a sweet treat made from yuca and coconut.


A trip to Mompox is like stepping into a colonial time capsule. With its historic charm, cultural heritage, and picturesque setting, it’s no wonder that Mompox is considered one of Colombia’s hidden gems.


Santa Marta

Santa Marta, located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is a vibrant and charming city that offers a mix of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and adventure. As the oldest surviving city in Colombia, Santa Marta is rich in history and has something to offer every type of traveler.


One of the main attractions in Santa Marta is its stunning beaches. From the popular Playa Rodadero to the more secluded Playa Blanca, there are plenty of options for sunbathing, swimming, and water activities. The crystal-clear waters and golden sands provide an ideal setting for relaxation and enjoyment.


For those seeking outdoor adventure, Santa Marta is the gateway to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world. Here, you can hike to the famous Lost City, an ancient archaeological site that dates back to pre-Columbian times. The multi-day trek through lush jungles and indigenous villages is a truly unforgettable experience.


Another must-visit attraction in Santa Marta is the Tayrona National Park, known for its pristine beaches, dense forests, and diverse wildlife. You can explore the park’s hiking trails, swim in the turquoise waters, or simply relax and soak in the natural beauty. Camping options are available for those who wish to spend more time in this stunning natural paradise.


In addition to its natural wonders, Santa Marta also boasts a vibrant culture and history. You can visit the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, the final resting place of Simón Bolívar, a prominent figure in South America’s fight for independence. The city’s historic center is also worth exploring, with its colonial buildings, narrow streets, and charming squares.


When it comes to gastronomy, Santa Marta offers a wide range of delicious dishes. From fresh seafood and ceviche to traditional Colombian fare, the local cuisine is sure to satisfy your taste buds. Don’t miss the chance to try a refreshing limonada de coco, a popular local drink made with coconut water and lime.


With its mix of stunning beaches, natural beauty, cultural attractions, and adventure opportunities, Santa Marta has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re a beach lover, a history buff, or an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll find endless possibilities for exploration and enjoyment in this vibrant city.


Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park, located along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is a true natural treasure. This protected area is known for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and rich cultural heritage. A visit to Tayrona National Park is a must for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.


One of the main highlights of Tayrona National Park is its stunning beaches. From the famous Cabo San Juan to the picturesque Piscina Natural, there are numerous beach options to explore and enjoy. The pristine white sands, clear turquoise waters, and lush surroundings create a paradise-like setting for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.


Aside from the beaches, the park is also home to dense tropical forests and rugged mountains. You can embark on hiking trails that lead you through the lush jungle, offering opportunities to spot various wildlife species, such as monkeys, colorful birds, and reptiles. The park’s diverse flora and fauna make it a haven for nature lovers and photographers.


Tayrona National Park is also rich in indigenous history and cultural significance. The park is home to the indigenous Tayrona people, who have inhabited the area for centuries. You can learn about their traditions, customs, and spiritual beliefs by visiting the archaeological sites, such as the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) and the Pueblito Chairama. These archaeological sites provide a fascinating glimpse into the ancient Tayrona civilization.


For those seeking a more immersive experience, camping is available within the park. You can spend the night in a hammock or tent, surrounded by the sounds of nature and under the starry skies. Camping in Tayrona National Park allows you to fully appreciate the tranquility and beauty of this natural sanctuary.


It’s important to note that Tayrona National Park is a protected area, and visitors are encouraged to practice responsible tourism. This includes respecting the natural environment, following park regulations, and supporting sustainable initiatives.


A trip to Tayrona National Park is a journey into a world of natural wonders and cultural history. Whether you’re lounging on the pristine beaches, hiking through the tropical forests, or immersing yourself in indigenous heritage, the park offers a memorable experience that showcases the beauty and diversity of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.



Hidden in the scenic mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the charming town of Minca offers a refreshing escape from the heat and bustle of the nearby coastal cities. Surrounded by lush greenery, cascading waterfalls, and stunning vistas, Minca is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.


One of the main attractions of Minca is its tranquil and idyllic setting. The town is nestled amidst coffee and cocoa plantations, providing a serene and picturesque environment. You can take a leisurely walk or hike through the surrounding hills, immersing yourself in the natural beauty and enjoying the cool mountain air.


One of the must-visit spots in Minca is the beautiful Pozo Azul waterfall. This stunning cascade of water is nestled in the dense forest and offers a refreshing swimming hole where you can take a dip in the crystal-clear waters. The hike to the waterfall is relatively easy and takes you through picturesque trails lined with exotic flora and fauna.


Minca is also known for its thriving coffee industry, and visitors have the opportunity to learn about the coffee-making process firsthand. You can visit local coffee farms, observe the cultivation and harvesting of the beans, and even participate in coffee tasting sessions. The rich aroma and smooth taste of the coffee will leave you with a greater appreciation for this beloved Colombian beverage.


For adventure enthusiasts, Minca offers a range of activities to get your adrenaline pumping. You can go on a thrilling zip line tour through the forest canopy, enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Additionally, there are numerous hiking trails that lead to stunning viewpoints, such as the Mirador Los Pinos, where you can witness breathtaking sunsets and sweeping vistas.


Minca is also a paradise for birdwatchers, as the region is home to over 300 species of birds. You can embark on birdwatching tours, led by knowledgeable guides who will help you spot and identify the colorful and diverse birdlife in the area.


If you’re in need of relaxation and rejuvenation, you can indulge in a yoga or meditation class, taking advantage of the serene natural surroundings to find inner peace and balance. There are also several eco-lodges and guesthouses in Minca that offer yoga retreats and wellness programs.


From its natural bounty to its serene atmosphere, Minca is a hidden gem that should not be missed. A visit to this charming mountain town will leave you refreshed, energized, and with memories of its breathtaking beauty that will last a lifetime.


San Basilio de Palenque

San Basilio de Palenque is a historic and culturally significant town located just outside of Cartagena. Founded by escaped African slaves, known as maroons, during the colonial period, San Basilio de Palenque holds the distinction of being the first free African town in the Americas. This vibrant community is a symbol of resistance, perseverance, and cultural preservation.


A visit to San Basilio de Palenque is a journey into the heart of Afro-Colombian heritage. The town is known for its unique cultural practices, music, and language. Palenquero, a creole language derived from African and Spanish influences, is still spoken by the locals today, making it one of the few places in the world where this language is alive.


When exploring the town, you’ll encounter colorful houses adorned with African-inspired artwork and murals, showcasing the town’s rich cultural history. You can immerse yourself in the vibrant rhythms of traditional Afro-Colombian music, with drums, maracas, and voices filling the air during lively performances.


The Cultural Museum of Palenque is a must-visit attraction, offering insights into the history, heritage, and struggles of the community. Here, you can learn about the maroons’ fight for freedom, their unique cultural practices, and their contributions to Colombian history and society.


Visiting San Basilio de Palenque is not only an opportunity to learn about the town’s history but also to support the local community. Many residents offer cultural tours, allowing you to explore the town, meet locals, and partake in traditional activities, such as cooking classes and dance workshops. This form of community-based tourism helps to sustain the local economy and preserve the cultural traditions of the maroon community.


When it comes to food, San Basilio de Palenque is known for its delicious Afro-Colombian cuisine. You can savor traditional dishes such as sancocho, a hearty soup made with meats, yuca, and plantains, or indulgent treats like bocachico frito, a crispy fried fish dish, paired with coconut rice and plantains.


A visit to San Basilio de Palenque offers a unique and enriching experience that celebrates the resilience, history, and vibrant culture of the Afro-Colombian community. It’s a chance to learn from the past, embrace diversity, and appreciate the enduring spirit of the people who shaped this extraordinary town.


Laguna de Tota

Laguna de Tota, located in the Boyacá region of Colombia, is the largest natural lake in the country and one of the highest elevation lakes in the world. Situated amidst the stunning Andean mountains, the lake and its surrounding landscapes offer a tranquil and picturesque escape.


The natural beauty of Laguna de Tota is simply breathtaking. Surrounded by rolling hills, green pastures, and vast open skies, the lake presents a mesmerizing sight. With its calm and clear waters reflecting the surrounding mountains, it’s a paradise for nature lovers and photographers alike.


The lake is not only a sight to behold but also offers a variety of outdoor activities. You can spend the day exploring the lake by boat, taking in the panoramic views and feeling the refreshing breeze. Fishing enthusiasts can also try their luck at catching trout, which is abundant in the lake.


The area surrounding Laguna de Tota is ideal for hiking and trekking. There are numerous trails that lead to stunning viewpoints, where you can witness the awe-inspiring vistas of the lake and the mountains. The diverse flora and fauna along the trails add to the adventure and provide opportunities for wildlife spotting.


Laguna de Tota is not only a natural wonder but also holds cultural and historical significance. The lake is deeply intertwined with ancient indigenous civilizations, and archaeological sites can be found in the surrounding areas. You can explore these sites, such as the El Infiernito archaeological park, and learn about the pre-Columbian cultures that once thrived in the region.


The nearby towns and villages around Laguna de Tota are also worth exploring. The town of Aquitania, situated on the lake’s shores, is known for its traditional architecture and charming streets. Additionally, the region is known for its dairy farms, and you can visit local cheese factories to taste the fresh and delicious dairy products.


For those seeking relaxation, you can simply bask in the peaceful atmosphere of Laguna de Tota. Find a cozy spot along the shores, enjoy a picnic, or take a leisurely stroll, savoring the tranquility and natural beauty around you.


A visit to Laguna de Tota offers a serene and rejuvenating experience, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and the serenity of nature. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure or a peaceful retreat, this remarkable lake in the heart of the Andes is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.