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Rosario Islands Colombia: An Epic Cartagena Day Trip

Rosario Islands Colombia: An Epic Cartagena Day Trip

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

A detailed travel guide to visiting the Rosario Islands from Cartagena, Colombia. Includes up-to-date information on the best day trip with photos to inspire your travels.

If you’re visiting Cartagena de Indias and looking for the absolute best day trip to the small coral islands of the Colombian Caribbean Coast, then look no further.

The Rosario Islands in Colombia are one of the top destinations for those seeking a true Caribbean paradise. Located within the biodiverse Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo National Natural Park, you’ll find crystal clear waters, white-sand beaches, and coral reef-lined coastlines.

Best of all, taking a day trip to the Corles Isla del Rosario from Cartagena city is very easy and actually quite affordable!

After exploring the islands myself, I’ve written (and updated) this guide aimed to give you a rundown of everything you need to know to visit the Resorio Islands yourself.

How to Visit The Rosario Islands On A Day Trip From Cartagena

Why read about it when you can experience it yourself? The best and easiest way to visit the Rosario Islands is to join one of the popular day trips departing daily from the Pegasus Dock Cartagena Old Town.

I first went on this day trip in 2023 and the one I went on is still rated the best across all the popular booking sites like GetYourGuide and TripAdvisor. It's run by a local company and takes you to the beautiful Rosario Islands aboard the 50 ft catamaran called "Bona Vida"!

I booked this trip because it is ranked as the best tour in the city, with over 1,300 5-star reviews!

Currently, the trip costs around $99 per person and includes:

  • Visit Isla Grande on the Rosario Islands
  • Visit to Playa Blanca or Isla Baru
  • Free snorkel equipment hire
  • 7.5-hour excursion (full-day trip)
  • Fast sailing/motor-sailing to the islands (more time at Rosario)
  • Lunch
  • Free drinks and snacks throughout
  • Small group tour (not too many people)

Book: Bona Vida Sailing Trip

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Catamaran day trip vessel at the rosario islands, colombia
Bona Vida

Where Are the Colombian Rosario Islands?

The Colombian Rosario Islands are located approximately 22 miles (36 kilometers) southwest of Cartagena de Indias in the Caribbean Sea. There are a total of 28 islands in this group all located within the Corales del Rosario National Park (Rosario Islands National Park), one of the most important coral reefs on the Colombian Caribbean coast

Slower boats take roughly 2-3 hours to get to the Rosario Islands. Fortunately, if you pick the boat trip aboard the luxury catamaran above, you'll get to Isla Grande (the largest island in the chain) in under 1.5 hours!

This was great for us as we got to visit a few different swimming and snorkeling spots and spend more time in the water than on deck.

Rosario islands map in colombia

Notable Islands of Islas Del Rosario, Colombia

As mentioned there are a total of 28 islands within the Rosario Islands group. The largest is Isla Grande but below I've listed some more of the main islands that tourists tend to visit.

  • Isla Marina: Ideal for snorkeling and swimming in clear water. Dive to see vibrant coral reefs and marine life. This one is best visited in the morning for calmer waters.
  • Isla Gigi: Houses a luxurious resort that's perfect for upscale relaxation with privacy. You won't visit this one on the day trip but you can stay here and book activities like paddleboarding or spa treatments in advance.
  • Isleta (Carolina Island): Great for cycling to explore hidden beaches, checking out local markets for artisan crafts.
  • Isla Rosa: This one is unique for its pink sand beach and ideal for photography. Definitely visit early or late for the best light and fewer crowds.
  • Isleta del Pirata (Pirate Island): Explore historic ruins and snorkel over sunken artifacts. Great for history buffs and adventurers who want to get off-the-beaten-path.
  • Bendita Beach: Offers family-friendly waters and beachside service. Rent kayaks or join a volleyball game. Arrive early to secure the best spot.

It's important to know that the very popular Playa Blanca and Isla Barú are protected within the Rosario Islands National Park. But, they are not part of the main island chain since Isla Baru was technically a peninsula before the man-made canal was first dug in 1582.

Isla grande, colombia

More Options For Getting to the Rosario Islands

Below are a few more options for how to get to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena.

Hire a Private Boat

For travelers arriving in Cartagena in a large group, it's possible to book a private boat tour or even a private yacht to head out to the Rosario Islands.

The private speed boats available will actually work out cheaper if you split the cost between a group of 10. Furthermore, you'll get your own driver who can help you plan an island-hopping itinerary from the Coast of Cartagena.

This is a popular option for people who want to take a "booze cruise" and check out popular party spots like Cholón. If you want to splurge, you could also check out GetMyBoat to find options to book a larger private yacht.

Boats and building skyline in cartagena, colombia

Stay at one of the Rosario Island Hotels

For luxury travelers, honeymooners, or those looking for the ultimate Caribbean Island holiday, the final option is to book a night or two at one of the many Rosario Island hotels.

These hotels and resorts are usually much more expensive than the accommodation in Cartagena. However, the great news is that boat transport from the city is usually included in the price.

Below is a list of the best Rosario Island hotels and resorts that offer free island transfers.

View over the water from hotel coralina island

1. Coralina Island

Perhaps the best Rosario Islands luxury hotel located on Isleta.

Beachfront views from hotel isla del sol

2. Hotel Isla del Sol

An amazing eco-hut resort with an infinity pool and spa right on the northern shores of Barú Island.

Hotel las islas rooms on the beach

3. Hotel Las Islas

Amazing all-inclusive resort in beachside bungalows on a private cove on Isla Grande.

Beachside hotel at the rosario islands, colombia

Bonus: Rosario Island Resort Day Passes

Don't have the budget or the time to spend

a night in the luxury Rosario Island resorts? Luckily, it's also possible to book a "day pass" at many of the best ones. This includes your speed boat transfer to the resort and provides access to facilities like the bar, pool, hot tub, and more.

These are the Rosario Island day passes you can book online (with Viator).

Rosorts and hotels in the rosario islands

Why Visit Islas Del Rosario?

The main reason why we chose to visit Islas del Rosario was that these islands have the clearest water and the best white-sand beaches near the popular tourist city of Cartagena.

We figured, we're on the Caribbean Coast and wanted to spend our time visiting some beautiful beaches. While I've noticed over the years that more and more travelers are choosing a day trip to Playa Blanca instead, the Rosario Islands are much prettier and less crowded!

Also, not only will you find pristine beaches in this natural park, but it's also a fun place to travel to for water sports and scuba diving! You can also rent a jet ski for an hour or so if you book one of the Rosario Island day trips from Cartagena.

Tip: you might see the dolphin show advertised on some of the tour signs around Cartagena. However, I highly recommend you avoid this for animal welfare reasons.

Boat and clear water drone photo

My Experience on the Rosario Islands Day Trip From Cartagena

Okay, with all of the basic logistics out of the way, here is my Rosario Islands blog where I recap my experience on a day trip from Cartagena, Colombia.

Again, I booked this boat trip with Bona Vida, and I honestly couldn't recommend it enough! Note I've also updated this blog post so that it offers the most up-to-date information on your trip.

Boarding the Catamaran in Cartagena Harbor

Most boat trips will depart from somewhere in Cartagena harbor. This particular tour leaves from a convenient location at the waterfront pier near Muelle de los Pegasos.

Upon boarding, we were offered a welcome drink and then set sail for the Rosario Islands! First impressions: wow! This boat is luxururious! The deck is really wide with plenty of nice places to sit down in the sun and in the shade.

Sailing boat in cartagena harbor
This is not the rosario boat - this is muelle de los pegasos where you will board

Bahia de Cartagenas (Cartagena Bay)

Before heading out to the open Caribbean, the catamaran sails through Cartagena Bay.

This offers excellent views of the upper-class skylines of Bocagrande and Castillo Grande. Furthermore, we passed the cruise terminals where a huge ship was docking just as we sailed through!

Leaving the bay, we headed out to the open sea and enjoyed some relaxing music and drinks on the deck.

Boat in cartagena bay

Arriving at The Rosario Islands from Cartagena

After approximately 1.5 hours of steady motor sailing at top speed, we arrived at the Rosario Islands. Our captain tied up to a buoy in a shallow section in a protected area between Isla Grande and Isla Marina.

The water color here was a beautiful shade of translucent blue and we didn't hesitate to jump straight in! We spent just over 2 hours here snorkeling, swimming, and jumping off the yacht into the clear turquoise water.

Below are some photos from my trip so you'll know what to expect.

Catamaran day trip vessel at the rosario islands, colombia
Girl swimming in the rosario islands in the caribbean
Girl swimming in the caribbean

Sailing to Playa Blanca

To break up the trip, our captain set sail for the popular beach of Playa Blanca. Of course, since this particular beach is very busy, we anchored just a few hundred meters away, which was the perfect place to enjoy lunch.

Lunch on board the Bona Vida consisted of fresh fish, rice, salads, and tropical fruits. Alternatively, there was a vegetable rice option for vegans and vegetarians.

After a hearty lunch, we spent more time lazing on the deck and enjoying the Caribbean sun. The stop near Playa Blanca also gave us lots of time to swim over to the nearby beach which was lined with tropical palm trees.

This was also another great place to do some more snorkeling, although the visibility was considerably better at the Rosario Islands in my opinion. Still, as you can see from my photos, the water is very blue and much nicer than the beaches near Cartagena.

Boats anchored near playa blanca and baru island in the colombian caribbean
Girl jumping into clear blue water
Caribbean lunch and fruit

Sailing Back to Cartagena

After an awesome day exploring the Rosario Islands of Colombia, we set sail back to Cartagena! The journey back was a little bumpy, but the 50-foot motor sailing catamaran cut through the waves with ease.

We were particularly glad that we chose this tour during this leg of the trip as we watched smaller speed boats smash up and down against the waves.

Sailing boat in the caribbean
Wrapping up the day on the sail back to Cartagena!

FAQ About Rosario Islands Day Trip

How long does it take to get to the Rosario Islands from Cartagena?

The travel time varies depending on the mode of transportation. With the recommended catamaran trip, it takes under 1.5 hours to reach Isla Grande, the largest island in the chain.

What should I bring on a day trip to the Rosario Islands?

Essentials include reef safe sunscreen, a hat, swimwear, a towel, and a camera. Also consider bringing a change of clothes and some cash for additional purchases or tips.

Are there food and drink options available on the islands?

Yes, the recommended day trip includes lunch and free drinks and snacks throughout the day. However, if you're exploring on your own, many islands have restaurants or vendors selling food and drinks.

What makes the Rosario Islands a must-visit destination?

The Rosario Islands offer some of the clearest waters and most beautiful beaches near Cartagena, making them a perfect escape from the city. They're ideal for snorkeling, swimming, and enjoying the Caribbean paradise.

More Photos from the Rosario Islands

Below are some more photos that I took on my trip. I hope it inspires you to visit the Rosario Islands from Cartagena as well!

By the way, I spent close to three months exploring Colombia and documenting my adventures on this blog. If you're looking for more adventure travel inspiration, check out some of my other blog posts below.

  • Medellín Travel Guide: Discover fun activities and top highlights in Medellín
  • San Andrés Island: Guide to Colombia's best Caribbean Island
  • Minca Travel Guide: Discover incredible hikes, beautiful fincas, epic jungle waterfalls, and all-around relaxing vibes.
  • Things to do in Guatapé: Travel to Colombia's most scenic Antioquian town, known for its vibrant streets, traditional street art, and the famous Piedra del Peñol.
Girl and sunset at coffee plantation in minca

Colombia Accommodation Guides

Find the best places, areas, and accommodation picks across Colombia.

Kayaker on isla grande
Rosario islands reef drone photo
Rosario islands from above
Small islands in the colombian caribbean
Isla grande drone photo, colombia
Sailing boat in the rosario islands
Rosario islands in colombia
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

Megan

Sunday 12th of May 2024

Thanks for sharing details. This was just enough to help me feel comfortable taking my toddler next month (on Bona Vida). We especially like reading about the slow pace of the itinerary, good food, smoothest ride possible, and reminder to take spare clothes. I think we’ll have a blast!

Olly Gaspar

Monday 13th of May 2024

Hey Megan, glad you enjoyed the guide! Good luck on your trip with the young one!