Isla Grande – An island off the Caribbean coast that has been the perfect weekend getaway for many.
What I love about this place is the beautiful white-sand beaches with turquoise water! My perfect place to escape and unwind.
This Caribbean paradise is especially popular among those that are looking to get away from the city bustle and those looking for the best summer locations.
What’s more? It is just an hour boat ride away from Cartagena!
Isla Grande, Colombia – A Great Island Escape
Isla Grande near Cartagena, is part of the Rosario Islands (Islas del Rosario), an archipelago off the coast of Colombia. The locals are mostly of African descent and their main line of work is fishing and growing coconuts. My two favorite foods! The island has no cars or roads, but it has a lot of walking paths which makes this place even more chilled. The paths are located on the island’s southern coast with hand-painted signs that point you to where you want to go.
Apart from that, most tourists visit Isla Grande to enjoy the white-sand beaches and palm trees soak up the island life here. The resources and internet access are limited, which will pretty much force you to relax and enjoy one of the warmest locations around the world. Talking about resources, there are no ATMs on the island, so make sure you bring cash with you.
How To Get to Isla Grande
Many people go with a tour company for a one-day trip with arranged transportation from Cartagena to Isla Grande and back. But how do you get to Isla Grande by yourself? You can catch a boat from Cartagena to Isla Grande that departs from the main dock that is near the Old City – El Muelle La Bodeguita. This public boat only goes from 8:00 am to 10:00 am, and the ticket costs 55,000 COP (including port fees), which is around $18USD. However, you should be aware that the 1-hour boat ride is not a comfortable ride. After 10 am, you can hire a private boat, but it will be more expensive. To return, the boat usually leaves from Paraiso Secreto at 2:30 pm. And it is the only time you can catch the public boat ride back. Alternatively, you also have many private boats that you can get a ride from.
Where to Stay On Isla Grande, Colombia
Isla Grande accommodation is pretty good. There are plenty of hotels and hostels you can choose from. However, the best ones usually sell very quickly so it’s best to book your hotel ahead of time. Let’s take a look at some of the accommodation options that stood out for me and why:
This great budget hotel is made of colorful bungalows located along the tropical planted paths. It has a very chilled setting, with welcoming and helpful staff. They will give you tips on the best tours to go snorkeling and diving and more. The beach is just a short walk, that is Playa Libre, which is the main beach on the island. Eco Hotel Las Palmeras is a great place for introverts and those looking for a peaceful vacation. There is no internet and you are only able to charge your phone during the evenings.
Ecohotel El Hamaquero is more on the fancy side, it has one of the best locations on the entire island. It is located on the water! And it also has a private swimming area and a lounge area with a large deck. There are also private cabanas with an ocean view and an on-site restaurant that has reasonable prices for the island. There are hammocks in each cabana where you can lay down and enjoy the ocean view and the perfect sunset. You will surely be able to enjoy one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes.
As a modern Isla Grande hotel, San Pedro de Majagua has a private beach, lounge areas, beautiful grounds, hammocks, and plenty of trees – a perfect setting for relaxation.
The rooms in the hotel are very spacious and full of light that makes you feel like you’re on an island bungalow.
Each room has air conditioning which will help you beat the heat and humidity, especially if you’re not used to it 🙂
The Cocoliso Resort has really clean rooms with air conditioning and a pool that has a bar and waterslide.
They also offer free transportation from and to Cartagena. I mean, it’s probably just included in the room price.
There is also a hotel restaurant, but you can also order from the outside bar and take your meal to eat it poolside. Convenient!
One of the best hostels you can find in this region is My Casa Nativa. It’ is one of the 7 hostels in the Paraiso Secreto group.
Although there are plenty of hostels there, this one can offer you a great stay. With its private beach, private rooms, very cheap hammocks, and great staff, this hostel will surely make your stay great.
What To Do On Isla Grande
The island is an ideal setting for scuba diving, snorkeling, and sunbathing on different beaches.
There are even excursions and tours that will take you around the island. As one of the world’s underrated places, your stay here will surely be filled with plenty of things to do and see in a place like this.
Snorkeling and Diving
Snorkeling and diving are a must if you’re planning to visit this island.
This tropical paradise is surrounded by a beautiful coral reef that makes this place one of the amazing places to visit before you die.
The crystal clear waters will let you see the corals, schools of fish, sea snakes, and the trumpetfishes.
And you get a chance to see an underwater plane wreck that is located right off of the shore, where you can see also Pablo Escobar’s vacation mansion.
The plane wreck is pretty eery to see, but the crumbling state that was abandoned is also something unique.
SUP or Kayak
For those looking to work out while enjoying the island’s beauty, you might want to consider getting paddleboards and kayaks.
The hotels have both paddleboards and kayaks for rent, so you can get them without a problem for approximately 20,000 COP, which is around $5.
It is a great way to explore the island. You can go to the nearby lagoons, the mangroves, or just go to one of the secluded beaches.
Tour the Mangroves
If you want to look at a landscape different than the open ocean, then you should take a canoe tour of the mangrove lagoons.
Going through the calm waters, you will get to see the birds on the entrance to the first of three connected lagoons.
The second and third lagoons are separated with a 350-meter tunnel of mangrove that is narrow, so just a canoe can fit.
The mangrove tunnel offers a beautiful view of the birds and you can even see them taking flight ahead of the boat.
The third lagoon is closed on all sides, making the entrance your only way out. The tour offers you a view of the island’s wildlife.
Enchanted Lagoon Isla Grande
A wonderful and breathtaking place you shouldn’t skip on your visit here is Enchanted Lagoon on Isla Grande.
This bioluminescent lagoon is filled with phytoplankton that creates an illusion of a glowing lagoon.
You can go here by yourself, without a guide, but going in a group is highly recommend.
The route doesn’t have any signs along the way, so it can be easy to wander off and get lost, especially considering the fact that you’ll be going there in the middle of the night. So, it’s definitely not safe to go alone.
But keep in mind that this Isla Grande activity should be timed with the moon.
If there is a full moon, there is too much light and you won’t get a chance to see the lagoon properly. If the moon is just a sliver, then the view can be very mesmerizing.
Visit Paraiso Secreto
Paraiso Secreto is a great place for those looking for a great party spot.
Apart from having a DJ setup at the beach, you can see bonfires each night and a beautiful sunset with the sun slowly disappearing behind the horizon.
Around the beach, there are mangroves, so you can only get here by getting a boat ride from the center of the island or by on your way from Cartagena with a private boat.
But the place offers you peace and quiet during the day and parties in the evening, so you’ll be able to soak up the island life and have fun.
Spend Your Day at Playa Libre
Right across from Paraiso Secreto, there is another alluring beach – Playa Libre.
The soft and white sand, with clear and turquoise waters, is what attracts people to spend their day here. And there’s also the nearby restaurant Sol y Papaya that has great snacks and beverages to order.
It is also more accessible than any other beach on the island, and you can even walk here. Even though it’s not a big beach, you can expect to see more people here than anywhere else.
However, it’s still quiet and peaceful if you want to relax and enjoy that perfect and clear water.
Take a Look at Isle Grande’s Main Village
The many resorts have left the island very underdeveloped, which has kept the authentic feel. Because of that authentic feel, you can experience a visit to a fairy tale village.
You can get there by following the signs that lead to the middle of the island. Alternatively, you can get a local to guide you, but they don’t usually want to do it for free.
A walk through the main village will help you get a feel about how everyday life looks at Isla Grande.
Taste the Local Food at La Pola Restaurante
If you’re looking for the best local food, then La Pola Restaurante should be your destination.
It offers a great and locally made dinner, and it’s a perfect place to watch the sunset.
Isla Grande is one of the most romantic places and the best place to experience that is at La Pola Restaurante.
It’s 10-15 minutes away from Paraiso Secreto, so you can plan out a full romantic day at the beach and go and gaze at the sunset here in the evening.
The restaurant serves freshly caught seafood, along with the typical Caribbean and Colombian side dishes, which include rice, beans, and salad.
The menu is limited to a few options, and it depends on what the fisherman brings back. This only means that you can go on different days to try something new.
Best Time to Visit Isla Grande
The Rosario Islands are a magical place, with plenty of beautiful and magnificent sceneries to see, but the perfect getaway spot that you should go to is Isla Grande, Colombia.
So when is the best time to visit Isla Grande?
If you’re looking to avoid crowds then make sure you avoid going in the busiest periods – December, June, and July.
During these months, you can expect not only more people but higher accommodation prices naturally.
If you want to have dry weather during your visit, you should know that January, February, and March are the months with the lowest chance of precipitation.
In general, the climate in Rosario Islands is humid during the entire year, so make sure you prepare for some humidity, regardless of the month you’re going.
Even though the wind here is usually calm, during January, February, and March you can expect more winds than usual.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing place to just enjoy your day at the beach or looking for a place to explore and do exciting things – this Colombia gem is definitely the place you should visit.