7 Great Day Trips from Cartagena

Sharing is caring!

Cartagena is well known as one of Colombia’s best destinations. There are great beaches nearby, a ton of colonial charm, and there is some great nightlife. All of that makes for great day trips from Cartagena. There are also some great things to do nearby. Here you’ll learn about the best day trips from Cartagena, Colombia. Just don’t forget to check out some of the best boutique hotels in Cartagena too so that you can enjoy a relaxing evening after a fun day spent exploring Colombia.

Need a Colombia backpacking itinerary? Click here to read mine.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything! Travel insurance has always been high my list of things to get before I travel but now more than ever its at the top of my list.

I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So when looking for travel insurance it’s important to check it covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, Hey Mondo, Passport Nomads, Safety Wing, and Travel Insurance Master all provide cover for this.

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover. You even have the option to start the cover when you are already on your trip, although you won’t be covered for the first 72 hours. For me my favourite feature is their app which offers you a 24/7 Dr chat and the ability to file a claim direct in the app.

Passport Nomads provides the most comprehensive cover for Digital Nomads. The game changer with them is that you have a red card and if you find yourself in need of medical care you just contact them and they will pre load your card with the funds to cover your treatment, meaning you won’t need to pay out of pocket and then put in a claim later.

Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. They have an excess of $250 and it’s simple to make a claim through their website. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy and I like that it renews on a monthly basis, so I don’t have to pay out a big lump sum up front.

I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation type trips.

If you are doing shorter trips or an extended backpacking trip then Hey Mondo or Travel Insurance Master are the best option. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for Passport Nomads or SafetyWing.

1.  The Rosario Islands

While there are some great eco-lodges and cabins here, if your time is limited in Cartagena, it’s best to visit the Rosario Islands on day trips rather than stay overnight in one of the Rosario Islands hotels. If you happen to be in a large group, doing a private boat rental is a ton of fun. You can choose to head to party spot Cholón or more relaxed beach spots like Agua Azul.

If you don’t have the group to make a private boat rental popular, there are several good ways to do a day tour from Cartagena to the islands. The catamaran Bona Vida has a nice day trip, and there is also a pirate ship that does an island day trip from Cartagena. Finally, you could also opt to do a day pass at one of the hotels or beach clubs.

Day Trips from Cartagena | The Rosario Islands Colombia

2.  Visit the Mud Volcano and Pink Sea

For two of Cartagena’s most unique and lesser-known attractions, consider booking a day tour from Cartagena to the Mud Volcano named the Vólcan del Totumo. This active mud volcano is located a little over an hour outside of Cartagena. It rises above the ground and opens into a mud-filled crater. Slide in to feel a strange consistency and get a massage. The mud is supposedly very good for your skin. And don’t worry, the consistency of the mud means you can’t sink below about shoulder level.

Depending on the time of year and weather, you can easily combine a visit to the mud volcano with a visit to the Pink Sea of Galerazamba. In the shallow waters off the coast of this small town, there is a sea salt mine. The salty environment is perfect for micro-algae which gives the water a pinkish color. It’s absolutely gorgeous. If it has been raining or the salt has been recently harvested, the pink effect may not be visible, so it’s best to double-check before planning a visit here. However, when it’s in effect, doing these two activities together is an excellent day trip from Cartagena.

Day Trips from Cartagena | Pink sea Cartagena

Need to book transportation in Colombia?

I highly recommend booking all of your Colombia transportation with GuateGo. You can search for buses, shuttles, ferries, and Flights on their website. What I love most about them is their customer service. I know these guys personally from my time living in Guatemala and they really do look after their customers. So if anything happens and you get delayed and miss your bus, you can just call them and they are always there to help.

If you book through them you will pay a little more than if you book in person at the bus station. But it’s worth it for the ease and security in my opinion. Click here to search for transportation in Colombia.

3.  Visit the Historical Afro-Colombian Town of Palenque

Palenque, or to be proper San Basilo del Palenque, is a unique place. This was one of many free black towns formed by run-away slaves in Colombia and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. They were known as palenques, or walled towns, as they fortified themselves from attack by the Spanish authorities.

San Basilo del Palenque earned quite a reputation for repelling Spanish attempts to suppress it and for leading raids against Cartagena to free more slaves. In fact, it earned the status as the first free town to be formally recognized by the Spanish crown in a peace treaty with the colonial authorities.

Besides this interesting history, what makes Palenque unique as a day trip from Cartagena is the fact that the people still maintain many African traditions. In fact, the language maintained by the elders here is the only officially recognized African-Spanish creole language. The town has also produced several famous boxers and singers and hosts an annual music festival. Anytime makes for a good time to take a day trip here and learn a bit more about its unique history and culture though.

4. Visit the Forts of Bocachica

Cartagena’s Castillo San Felipe is one of its most famous sites. This massive fort was meant to be the city’s last line of defense. For the true history buffs, a visit to the lesser-known forts at Bocachica, which were the city’s first line of defense is a neat Cartagena day trip.

Located at the entrance to the bay, there are three forts here, two that guard the entrance to the bay itself and one atop a nearby hill that protected the other two from a land attack. These forts, though isolated, are very well preserved. The main one is the Castillo San Fernando and a visit here combines great with hanging out at the nearby Blue Apple Beach Club. The forts can be reached by taking small boats from the main docks just outside the Walled City of Cartagena.

Day Trips from Cartagena | Castillo San Fernando Colombia

5.  Hang Out at the Beaches of Tierra Bomba

Bocachica is located on the far side of the island of Tierra Bomba. On the closer side of the island, facing Cartagena, there are several nice beach clubs that make for a great beach day, especially if you don’t want to go all the way out to the farther Rosario Islands mentioned higher up.

You can get boats across to the island from behind the hospital in Bocagrande. You can also book a day pass at one of the popular beach clubs and hotels such as Palmarito Beach, Fenix Beach, and Amare Beach here ahead of time.

6.  Beat the Crowds at Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca has long been a favorite Cartagena day trip. However, this once pristine beach has suffered from overcrowding and overbuilding. The crowds can be downright overwhelming now, and it is best avoided on the weekends or holidays.

However, the beach itself is still gorgeous. If you are willing to avoid the most crowded days and willing to walk down the beach to the lesser crowded end often referred to as Playa Tranquilla, it is still worth a visit and makes for a great day trip from Cartagena. For an added bonus look into a tour that will take you to see the bioluminescent plankton at night and take you back to Cartagena afterward. You can also check out the excellent Colombian National Aviary not far from the beach.

7.  See the Pretty Nature in Montes de María

Not far from Palenque, the area known as Montes de María is very pretty. The agency Taroa Adventures offers a nice hiking tour and workshop on the famous gaita music that comes from this area near the town of San Jacinto.

Also near San Jacinto, there is a gorgeous sunflower field that is well worth a visit. The photos here are stunning! Still, a relatively unknown area, transportation here can be a bit tough to find but it is possible to get buses to San Jacinto from the Cartagena terminal.

Day Trips from Cartagena | Montes de Maria Colombia

Looking for a place to stay in Cartagena?

Akel House Hotel

Hotel El Viajero Centro

Casa India Catalina

República Hostel Cartagena

Viajero Hostel Cartagena

Casa Zahri Boutique Hostel

If you don’t know what to pack for your trip to Colombia, take a look at this Colombia packing list I have prepared. Or if you are going to the Colombian Caribbean Coast, I got you covered as well!

Day Trips from Cartagena Conclusion

As you can probably tell, Cartagena is a great beach destination as there are 3 beach day trips from Cartagena mentioned here. However, you can also discover the hidden histories of Palenque and the fortifications at Bocachica, see a mud volcano and a pink sea, and even do some hiking on day trips from Cartagena.

About the Author

Adam McConnaughhay lived in Cartagena from 2011 to 2022 and writes about Cartagena and other destinations in Colombia at CartagenaExplorer.com.