Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

The 6 Best Day Trips From Cartagena


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Paula Vetter



Colombia, with its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich history, offers a multitude of options for travelers seeking unforgettable experiences. And if you find yourself in the charming coastal city of Cartagena, you’re in luck. Not only does Cartagena itself boast a wealth of attractions, but it also serves as a perfect base for exploring the surrounding areas. From pristine beaches to lush national parks and charming colonial towns, there are plenty of day trip options from Cartagena that will add depth and diversity to your Colombian adventure.


Whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply seeking relaxation, there is something for everyone within a short distance from Cartagena. This article will guide you through the six best day trips from Cartagena, ensuring that you don’t miss out on any of the region’s hidden gems.


From the breathtaking Rosario Islands to the enchanting colonial town of Mompox, each destination offers a unique experience that will leave you awe-struck. Whether you choose to explore the protected coral reefs, relax on pristine white sand beaches, hike through dense rainforests, or immerse yourself in the local culture and heritage, these day trips will provide you with unforgettable memories of your Colombian journey.


So, pack your swimsuit, grab your camera, and get ready to embark on an adventure beyond Cartagena’s city walls. Let’s discover the six best day trips that will allow you to explore the diverse beauty of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.


Rosario Islands

The Rosario Islands, located about 45 minutes by boat from Cartagena, are a true Caribbean paradise. This group of 27 small islands is part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, known for its diverse marine life and pristine coral reefs.


Once you arrive on the islands, you’ll be greeted by crystal-clear turquoise waters, powdery white sand beaches, and lush mangrove forests. This natural haven offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Cartagena, allowing you to immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Caribbean sea.


One of the top attractions in the Rosario Islands is snorkeling or diving around the coral reefs. With an abundance of colorful fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional dolphin sighting, exploring the underwater world here is an extraordinary experience. You can join a guided tour that provides all the necessary equipment and expert guidance to ensure a safe and memorable adventure.


If you prefer to stay above the surface, you can simply relax on the pristine beaches, bask in the sun, or go kayaking along the coastline. Many of the islands also offer enjoyable hiking trails through the dense mangrove forests, giving you the opportunity to spot exotic birds and other wildlife.


To fully appreciate the beauty of the Rosario Islands, take a boat tour that stops at multiple islands. Isla Grande is the largest and most developed island, offering various accommodation options and restaurants. Isla Barú, also part of the Rosario Islands, is known for its exquisite beaches and vibrant nightlife.


It’s important to note that the Rosario Islands are a protected area, so it’s crucial to respect the environment and follow sustainable tourism practices. Keep in mind that the islands can get crowded, especially on weekends and during holidays. To avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the weekdays or booking a private tour.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a change of scenery, a day trip to the Rosario Islands is a must-do when visiting Cartagena. Indulge in the natural beauty of the Caribbean, dive into the vibrant underwater world, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Playa Blanca

If you’re searching for a true beach paradise near Cartagena, look no further than Playa Blanca. This pristine stretch of shoreline, located on Isla Barú just an hour’s drive from Cartagena, offers a picture-perfect tropical escape.


With its soft powdery white sand, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and swaying palm trees, Playa Blanca is the epitome of a Caribbean dream. The beach stretches for approximately 2.5 miles, providing ample space for relaxation and exploration.


One of the main attractions of Playa Blanca is its untouched natural beauty. Unlike the more developed beaches in Cartagena, Playa Blanca has managed to maintain its tranquil and unspoiled atmosphere. You won’t find high-rise hotels or resorts here, but instead, you’ll be immersed in a peaceful and rustic beach experience.


While at Playa Blanca, you can spend your day sunbathing, swimming in the warm Caribbean waters, or simply enjoying the breathtaking views. There are also a handful of beachfront restaurants and bars where you can indulge in delicious local cuisine and sip on refreshing cocktails.


A popular activity at Playa Blanca is snorkeling, as the clear waters teem with marine life and colorful coral reefs. You can rent snorkel gear from the local vendors or join a guided tour that will take you to the best snorkeling spots in the area.


For those seeking a bit more adventure, there are also opportunities for jet skiing, kayaking, and even horseback riding along the beach. Exploring the surrounding islands on a boat tour is another fantastic option to discover hidden coves and secluded beaches.


If you wish to extend your visit, there are a few affordable accommodation options available along Playa Blanca, ranging from basic beachfront huts to eco-friendly bungalows. Spending a night under the stars in this idyllic paradise is an experience you won’t want to miss.


It’s important to note that Playa Blanca can get crowded, especially on weekends and during peak tourist season. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting on weekdays or arriving early in the morning before the day-trippers from Cartagena arrive.


Playa Blanca is a slice of paradise that showcases the natural beauty of the Caribbean coast. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, this beach will exceed your expectations and provide unforgettable memories of your trip to Colombia.


Tayrona National Park

Nestled along the stunning coastline of the Caribbean Sea, Tayrona National Park is a natural treasure that should not be missed. Located approximately a three-hour drive from Cartagena, this protected area is renowned for its pristine beaches, dense rainforests, and rich biodiversity.


Tayrona National Park is a paradise for nature and adventure enthusiasts alike. The park covers approximately 150 square kilometers and offers a variety of hiking trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints and secluded beaches. As you explore the park, you’ll encounter fascinating flora and fauna, including monkeys, colorful birds, and unique plant species.


One of the highlights of Tayrona National Park is its stunning beaches. After a scenic hike through the lush forest, you’ll be rewarded with the sight of pristine sandy shores and crystal-clear waters. Some of the most popular beaches within the park include Cabo San Juan, Playa Cristal, and Arrecifes. These idyllic spots are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, or simply relaxing in the natural surroundings.


In addition to its natural beauty, Tayrona National Park is also steeped in indigenous history and culture. The park is home to the indigenous Kogi and Tayrona communities, who have inhabited the region for centuries. You can learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life by visiting the Pueblito Chairama archaeological site within the park.


It’s important to note that due to its ecological importance, Tayrona National Park has implemented several conservation measures. Visitors are required to register and pay an entrance fee upon arrival. The park also limits the number of daily visitors to preserve its delicate ecosystem, so it’s advisable to arrive early to secure your spot.


For those who wish to spend more than a day exploring Tayrona National Park, there are camping facilities available near some of the beaches. Sleeping in a hammock or tent under the starry sky is a magical experience that will connect you even closer to nature.


When planning your visit to Tayrona National Park, it’s recommended to bring comfortable walking shoes, insect repellent, sunscreen, and plenty of water. It’s also essential to adhere to park rules and regulations to ensure the preservation of this natural wonder.


Tayrona National Park is a true gem of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, offering a unique blend of stunning landscapes, biodiversity, and rich cultural heritage. A visit to this enchanting park will leave you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the natural wonders of Colombia.


Isla Barú

Located just south of Cartagena, Isla Barú is a paradise within reach. This stunning island offers breathtaking beaches, turquoise waters, and a laid-back atmosphere, making it a perfect day trip destination from Cartagena.


One of the most renowned beaches on Isla Barú is Playa Blanca, famous for its powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters. Relax on the beach, take a dip in the inviting sea, or simply soak up the sun while enjoying the tranquil surroundings. The beach is lined with rustic beach bars and restaurants, where you can indulge in fresh seafood and tropical drinks.


For those seeking more seclusion, there are other hidden gems scattered across the island. Playa Puntilla is a picturesque spot with shallow calm waters, ideal for families and those who enjoy a peaceful beach experience. Playa Cholón, located on the western side of the island, offers a unique experience with its shallow natural pools created by the coral formations.


Isla Barú also offers opportunities for snorkeling and diving, with vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. You can explore the underwater world while swimming alongside colorful fish, turtles, and other fascinating sea creatures. Snorkeling tours and equipment rentals are available for those who want to make the most of their underwater adventure.


Aside from its stunning beaches, Isla Barú is also known for its vibrant culture and warm hospitality. Take the opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about their way of life. The island is also dotted with small fishing villages where you can observe traditional fishing techniques and sample delicious seafood dishes.


Make sure to explore beyond the beach and immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty. Isla Barú is home to mangrove forests that can be explored by kayak or boat, offering an opportunity to spot unique bird species and other wildlife.


When visiting Isla Barú, it’s important to be aware of the impact of tourism on the island’s ecosystem. Respect the environment, follow sustainable practices, and dispose of waste responsibly. Also, keep in mind that the island can get busy during peak tourist season and on weekends, so consider visiting on weekdays for a more tranquil experience.


Isla Barú is a tropical paradise that offers a perfect blend of relaxation, adventure, and cultural immersion. Embark on an island escape just a short distance from Cartagena and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Santa Marta

Located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Santa Marta is a vibrant city that serves as a gateway to some of the region’s most mesmerizing natural wonders. A day trip from Cartagena to Santa Marta will take you on a journey through history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes.


One of the main attractions in Santa Marta is the historic center, where colonial architecture meets bustling markets and vibrant street life. Explore the charming streets, visit the iconic Cathedral Basilica of Santa Marta, and browse the local shops for unique souvenirs.


For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the nearby Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a must. This majestic mountain range, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, is home to unique ecosystems, including the renowned Tayrona National Natural Park. Hiking enthusiasts can embark on the challenging yet rewarding trek to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida), an ancient archaeological site hidden deep within the jungle.


If you prefer a more relaxed day trip, head to the beautiful beaches surrounding Santa Marta. Playa Grande, located within the city limits, offers a long stretch of golden sand and clear turquoise waters. For a quieter beach experience, visit the nearby Bahía Concha or Taganga, where you can also arrange boat trips to explore crystal-clear coves and hidden beaches.


Santa Marta is also a great base for those looking to explore the incredible biodiversity of the region. From here, you can venture into the Tayrona National Park, where dense rainforests meet pristine beaches, providing a habitat for diverse flora and fauna. Explore the park’s hiking trails, swim in natural pools, and marvel at the beauty of the Pueblito Chairama archaeological site.


Food lovers will find Santa Marta to be a gastronomic haven. The city is known for its fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and traditional Colombian cuisine. The Mercado Publico, or public market, is a bustling hub of food stalls where you can taste local delicacies and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere.


When visiting Santa Marta, it’s important to plan ahead and make the most of your day trip. The city offers a variety of tours and activities catered to different interests, ranging from cultural experiences to outdoor adventures. Consider hiring a local guide to gain deeper insights into the city’s heritage and to discover off-the-beaten-path gems.


Santa Marta showcases the diversity and natural beauty of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Whether you’re seeking history, adventure, relaxation, or culinary delights, Santa Marta has something for all types of travelers. Embark on a day trip from Cartagena and immerse yourself in the captivating charm of this coastal gem.



Tucked away on the banks of the Magdalena River, Mompox is a town frozen in time. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this colonial gem is a hidden treasure that will transport you back in time. A day trip from Cartagena to Mompox offers a glimpse into Colombia’s rich history and architectural beauty.


As you wander through the cobblestone streets of Mompox, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a different era. The town’s well-preserved colonial architecture, with its colorful buildings and grand churches, is a testament to its rich heritage. Take your time to explore the historic center, visit the centuries-old churches, and admire the intricate balconies that line the streets.


Mompox played a significant role in Colombia’s quest for independence, and its historical importance can be seen throughout the town. One of the most notable landmarks is the San Francisco Church, where revolutionary leaders once gathered to discuss plans for independence. The Church of Santa Barbara, with its unique mix of European and indigenous influences, is another must-visit site.


Aside from its captivating architecture, Mompox is known for its artisan craftsmanship, particularly its filigree jewelry. Take the opportunity to visit local workshops and witness the intricate process of creating these delicate pieces of art. You can even purchase a unique handmade souvenir to commemorate your visit.


A visit to Mompox wouldn’t be complete without exploring the tranquil waters of the Magdalena River. Take a boat tour along the river and immerse yourself in the serene surroundings. You’ll have the chance to witness the local way of life as fishermen go about their daily routines and glimpse the diverse birdlife that inhabits the riverbanks.


Mompox is also famous for its traditional music, which combines African, indigenous, and European influences. If you visit during a festival or special event, you’ll have the opportunity to witness lively performances and experience the vibrant local culture.


When planning your day trip to Mompox, it’s important to note that the town is not easily accessible by road. The most common way to reach Mompox from Cartagena is by taking a boat or ferry along the Magdalena River. It’s advisable to book your transportation in advance to ensure a smooth journey.


Mompox offers a truly unique and enchanting experience for those seeking a glimpse into Colombia’s colonial past. Step back in time, soak up the town’s rich history, and be captivated by its architectural wonders. A day trip to Mompox from Cartagena will leave you with memories of a place that feels like a living museum.



Exploring the diverse beauty of Colombia’s Caribbean coast is an adventure that shouldn’t be missed. From the pristine beaches of the Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca to the natural wonders of Tayrona National Park and the cultural heritage of Mompox, each day trip from Cartagena offers a unique experience that will leave you in awe.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, nature, or history, there is something for everyone in these nearby destinations. Marvel at the vibrant marine life while snorkeling in the Rosario Islands, indulge in the idyllic beach paradise of Playa Blanca, or immerse yourself in the cultural richness of Mompox.


Trek through the dense rainforests of Tayrona National Park, encountering stunning vistas and hidden beaches along the way. Or venture to Santa Marta, where history, culture, and stunning landscapes await.


Each of these day trips offers a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of Cartagena and immerse yourself in the natural beauty and diverse experiences of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Whether you’re a beach lover, nature enthusiast, or history buff, these destinations will satisfy your wanderlust and leave you with memories to treasure.


As you embark on these day trips, remember to practice sustainable tourism and respect the environment and local communities. Be mindful of the delicate ecosystems, follow park regulations, and support local businesses and artisans.


So, when planning your trip to Cartagena, don’t forget to carve out time for these unforgettable day trips. Let the beauty, history, and serenity of the Colombia’s Caribbean coast capture your heart and create memories to last a lifetime.