Cartagena, Colombia is hot. Extremely hot. When we visited in December, the temperature never even dropped below 27 C even during the evening. After only a few days in Cartagena, we decided to search out the best beach to visit near Cartagena. We wanted to get away from the stifling heat of Cartagena and get back to the cool ocean breeze.
Just an hour’s ride from Cartagena, Playa Blanca Colombia, is a hugely popular destination for Colombian and foreign tourists alike. With the popularity and location of Playa Blanca Colombia, it is no wonder you have stumbled upon this Colombian beach destination. And after reading all the reviews, you may be wondering, “Is Playa Blanca worth visiting?”, “Is Playa Blanca worth it?”, “Is Playa Blanca too touristy?”, “Are there better beaches near Cartagena than Playa Blanca Colombia?”.
Don’t worry. We have been there too, but we decided to take the gamble anyways. We assumed there would have to be something great about Playa Blanca Colombia if so many people visited this Colombian beach year after year.
Driving into Playa Blanca, however, we were hit by a sinking feeling we had made a terrible mistake. Turning off the bitumen onto an unpaved road to the beach, we were energetically waved onto the road we were already on. Young Colombians ran beside us with eager outstretched hands requesting money for services “rendered”. We kept, however, trundling forward.
More young Colombians ran beside us, insisting we passed the last car park. If we turned back now, they could take us to nearby parking for free. We kept rolling along. By the time we parked the car and paid at the real parking lot, the number of hagglers with outstretched hands had exhausted us.
We charged on, however, to the beach. Restaurants/bars galore lined the beach leaving very little white sand to be seen. Beach chairs and tourists alike littered what remained of almost every inch of sand that was left.
Our hearts sank. We had been fooled. Playa Blanca Colombia, with its overcrowded beach really was not worth it. Or so we thought.
We debated turning around and driving to another beach to spend the weekend but ultimately decided to just wait it out. If we could find a spot on the beach to relax, maybe it would not be so bad.
And I am here to tell you that I am glad we did. Playa Blanca Colombia may get a reputation for being overcrowded and overrun by tourists, but what beach just outside of a large city isn’t? Haven’t you ever been to La Barceloneta in Barcelona? Or the beaches of Nice in France?
If you are considering visiting Playa Blanca Colombia, but are not quite sure yet. Here are five reasons why we think it could be right for you!
5 Reasons Why Visiting Playa Blanca Colombia is Worth It
#1 The Beach Is Stunning (When Everyone Leaves)
If you can manage to find yourself a slice of sand amongst the beach chairs and tourists and can wait out the day, you will be rewarded with a stunning beach. When the tourists leave around 4:00 pm, it is evident why Playa Blanca is so popular with the locals. The removal of beach towels and chairs reveals fine, white sand beaches, the return of families to their cars invites calm water a beautiful shade of turquoise blue, and the fading of the day clearly shows the original appeal of Playa Blanca.
If you can outlast the locals and day-trippers, I can promise you that you will be able to enjoy your time at Playa Blanca.
#2 The Sunsets Are Magical
Some of the best sunsets we saw in Colombia were from the beach of Playa Blanca. With most day-trippers gone by 4:00 pm and few holidaymakers spending the night, the beach was mostly ours each night for sunset. Watching the sun drop behind the Pacific Ocean while sipping on a Colombian Club was one of the highlights of our time in Playa Blanca.
I mean, who doesn’t love a good west coast sunset?
#3 The Islas del Rosario Are Easily Accessible from Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca is an excellent jumping-off point to visit the nearby Islas del Rosario (Rosario Islands).
The Islas del Rosario is an archipelago off Colombia’s coastline and one of the country’s natural national parks. Located only 50 km from Cartagena, it is an easy escape from the heat. Most of the islands are private homes to the wealthy (Pablo Escobar once owned one of these private islands) or resorts, leaving only a few to be visited and explored.
While tours can be arranged with a number of hotels and hostels in Playa Blanca (and even arranged from Cartagena), we recommend arranging a boat driver yourself. Through shrewd negotiation skills, we managed to locate a local boat owner and scheduled a full-day tour of the Islas del Rosario for only COP $250,000 (~USD ~80), a fraction of the cost of an organized tour.
On our tour, we cruised past several of the private islands marveling at the architecture of the homes and the surrounding crystal blue waters. We spent 1 – 1.5 hours snorkeling, swimming with various types of fish, and admiring starfish, sea urchins, and coral.
Afterward, we headed over to Cholon, a peninsula where the locals love to party. Private or rented boats line up, blaring loud music, and visitors are lured into little cabanas partially submerged in the Caribbean Sea. Vendors sell overpriced food such as their version of ceviche (fish tossed in tomato sauce), lobsters, prawns, and the like. Beers and spirits are also available, but if you have your own you can drink these to cut down on costs.
After observing the Colombians in their element, we headed over to a much smaller and low-key island. This was more our style. We sat back, enjoying the crystal clear blue waters, sipping Colombian beers, and basking in the sun. We visited two more “private” islands before making our way back to Playa Blanca around 3:00 pm.
Overall, visiting the Islas del Rosario was one of the highlights of our time in and around Cartagena.
#4 Playa Blanca Is Budget Friendly
A trip to Playa Blanca Colombia is budget-friendly if you want it to be. We camped directly on the beach for less than USD $3 a night, made our own meals, drank Colombian Clubs and rum on the beach, which we brought with us, and did this all for less than $25 per person.
If you want a cheap budget-friendly beach in Colombia, then Playa Blanca is a great place to start.
Consider camping at Hermanos Rocha for only COP $10,000 a night per person (~USD $3)! With a simple tent, you can camp beachfront with access to basic toilets and a small kitchen. Yes, it may be rustic, but it is not every day that you can enjoy a stunning beach for less than $5 a night!
#5 Playa Blanca Colombia Serves Really Good Pizza
Ok, so this reason might be a little bit silly, but if you are tired of meat, rice, and beans and looking for a little something different, the pizza on Playa Blanca is seriously good. Ridiculously large pizzas for only COP $30,000 will feed you and a small army of fellow pizza lovers.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the restaurant and Google has failed me in finding out, but find the sign in the picture here and you will be in the right spot. Sit down for a delicious pizza meal as the sun sets over the Pacific!
How to Get to Playa Blanca?
Self Drive Cartagena to Playa Blanca
If you have your own set of wheels, Playa Blanca in Baru Colombia is easily accessible from Cartagena. Head south out of the city on Highway 90 to 90B. From there, follow the signs leading you to Isla Barú, the island on which Playa Blanca sits.
Bus to Playa Blanca Cartagena
Hostel Mamallena offers a shuttle bus for COP 50,000 return with departures at 08:00 / 12:00 / 17:00. The return trips are open which allows you to stay for as many days as you please.
Boat to Playa Blanca Cartagena
Speed boats leave from the main port in Cartagena and cost approximately $100,000 COP for the return plus $15,000 tax for using the dock. The trip only lasts one hour, though, so it is by far the quickest option.
How Long Should You Stay on Playa Blanca?
Playa Blanca is a popular day trip from Cartagena, but we recommend spending at least one night to truly enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area, including the stunning Islas del Rosario.
When is the Best Time to Visit Playa Blanca?
Playa Blanca is great all year round. However, it is popular, so it is best avoided during the holiday season. It is also a popular day trip from Cartagena, so heading out to the beach during the middle of the week may mean fewer people.
Where to Stay at Playa Blanca Colombia?
If you are down to camp on the white sand, head to Hermanos Rocha. At only 10,000 COP per person they offer basic amenities right on the beach and are friendly beyond measure. Finding this spot definitely made our time on Playa Blanca more enjoyable.
La Cabaña de Geronimo
If you are looking for a hostel check out La Cabaña de Geronimo. Set right on the beach it offers basic accommodation for your relaxed weekend on Playa Blanca.
Where to Eat in Playa Blanca?
Amongst all the hawkers, there will inevitably be one offering you copious amounts of food. Use your negotiation skills and bargain down to 15,000 or less per plate (standard pricing) for fresh fish, rice, and plantains delivered to you while relaxing.
Check out the picture above in the article for details on how to get the best pizza in town. For only COP $30,000 one can enjoy a grande pizza which is more than enough food for three people (and really should have fed four) of a wide arrange of topics. This pizza was one of our favorite pizzas we found in South America (which I guess isn’t saying too much)!
Other Playa Blanca Tips and Information
Is there a cell signal at Playa Blanca Colombia?
4G Claro is available on Playa Blanca. In regards to wifi, I am sure there is some available in some of the nicer hostels, but we did not check it out.
Can you drink the water at Playa Blanca?
It is advisable not to drink tap water. Water is available from the hawkers, but it is advisable to bring your own due to steep prices.
How do you get to and From Playa Blanca if you don’t have your own car?
So, do you think visiting Playa Blanca Colombia is worth it? Let us know in the comments below! Or pin it for later when planning your trip to Playa Blanca Colombia!