If you have more than a day or two to spend in Cartagena, you’ll want to experience at least one of the many activities located outside of the colonial city. Whether you are searching for a white sand beach, a cultural experience, or an encounter with nature, you’ll find your perfect adventure on one of these fabulous day trips from Cartagena.
Baru – Playa Blanca
Cartagena lies on the coast but the city beaches leave something to be desired. To find the white sand beaches and sparkling blue waters of your dreams, plan a day trip to Playa Blanca in Baru. Here you can rest in a hammock next to the crystal clear Caribbean Sea, all while sipping straight from a coconut. The beach is a popular destination with both locals and tourists and it gets very crowded on weekends. If you’re able to visit on a weekday, the crowds are diminished and you’ll have plenty of space to enjoy a relaxing day in the sun. If you are willing to stretch your visit, consider staying overnight! The beach empties after the day tourists head back to Cartagena around 4 pm. You will have an evening to yourself.
Tip: Don’t just head straight to the beach! Baru is also home to the >National Aviary, where you can experience the richness of Colombia’s biodiversity. Flamingos, toucans, parrots, condors, and 190 more bird species call the aviary home.
Just 45 minutes from the city, you can find yourself covered in mud, floating inside a volcano. A visit to the mud volcano of El Totumo is a quirky, memorable side trip to add to your visit to Cartagena. The visit itself is pretty straight forward, just climb up a ladder and jump in! The mud is the perfect consistency to allow you to effortlessly float on the surface. Locals will be waiting in the volcanic pit, offering massages for a small tip. Once you’ve had your fill there is a river nearby to wash off. Hopefully, your skin will feel rejuvenated and restored. At the very least, you’ll have a story to tell!
San Basilio de Palenque
Odds are that while planning your trip to Cartagena, you saw photos of smiling Afro-Caribbean women in brightly colored dresses balancing fruit on their heads. These women are unofficial symbols of the city of Cartagena and their images blanket the Instagram accounts of thousands of tourists, yet few visitors learn about their rich heritage.
These women are Palenqueras, from the town of San Basilio de Palenque, descendants of the first free Africans in the continental Americas. This small town of about 4,000 people is located about 1 hour from Cartagena. Although the population has shrunk over the centuries, the people of San Basilio have maintained their culture and traditions through music, dance, and language. San Basilio can be reached from Cartagena through a combination of buses and moto-taxis, but we highly recommend booking a guided tour. This will help you to make the most of your visit to the town, and you can learn about the history and culture of the people of San Basilio from a knowledgeable guide.
La Boquilla Mangroves
Just 15 minutes north of the walled city lies a sprawling forest of mangrove trees, dissected by canals and swamps. These mangroves are not only beautiful but are also home to one of the most complex ecosystems in the world. Fishermen in La Boquilla have been paddling the canals and fishing in this intricate forest system for centuries. A canoe tour through the mangroves with a local guide is a great way to learn more about local traditions while exploring nature. If you're feeling up to the challenge, you can even try to catch your own lunch!
There are 27 islands in the Rosario Islands archipelago, each more beautiful than the last. Considering the aquamarine waters and pristine white sand beaches, this day trip is absolutely unmissable if you have the time. To visit this national park, you can book a boat tour and hop from island to island. Or if you’d rather spend your day relaxing on the shore, choose a specific island and book a day trip. Do some research on the different islands and pick one that best fits your travel vibe. Boats leave from La Muralla right outside of the walled city. One final word of advice: prepare for rocky seas, especially from December to February.