Playa Blanca Cartagena Day Trip | Important Things to Know Before Visiting

Playa Blanca is one of the most popular beaches in Colombia. With its white sand, clear blue water, and trees swaying in the breeze, it has all the makings of a tropical paradise.

Whether you’re seeking a relaxing day in the sun or looking for an ocean adventure, a day trip to Playa Blanca Cartagena can be a wonderful experience. However, there are a few things to know before you visit Playa Blanca beach to ensure your time spent there is a positive one. 

This Playa Blanca Cartagena travel guide includes what to expect on a Playa Blanca day trip, how to get there, what to bring, and our best travel tips for visiting the tropical Colombian beach.

About Playa Blanca Beach

Playa Blanca Cartagena is one of Colombia’s most visited beaches. | Photo by Perszing1982 from Getty Images Canva Pro

When planning a trip to Cartagena, Colombia, chances are one of the first activities you will read about is a day trip to the Rosario Islands. The most popular beach in Colombia’s archipelago, Cartagena’s Playa Blanca, is located on Isla Barú. 

Playa Blanca boasts crystal-clear waters, soft white sand, and breathtaking views that are just a short boat ride away from Cartagena. Known for its natural beauty, the popular beach is often considered the perfect place to unwind and soak up the sun. 

Our Playa Blanca day trip experience

After reading mixed reviews about the most visited beach in Colombia, we debated whether Playa Blanca was worth visiting.

There are numerous islands that make up Colombia’s Rosario Islands. While some have large beaches, like Playa Blanca, others lack the vast stretches of golden sand that many visitors are seeking. 

So, we were torn between visiting the beautiful but crowded Playa Blanca beach or venturing to a different island in the Rosario Islands archipelago that might lack the sandy scenery but would be far less crowded.

Ultimately, we opted for a day trip to Playa Blanca from Cartagena, and had a great time, for the most part. Although, there were a few things that would have made the experience even better. Keep reading for our best Playa Blanca Cartagena tips and warnings!

Although we chose to visit Playa Blanca, the best beaches to visit in Cartagena depend on several factors, including your budget, desired beach amenities, and your individual travel style.


What to know when planning a Playa Blanca Cartagena Day Trip 

turquoise water and white sand at Playa Blanca one of the best beaches in Rosario Islands Colombia
Playa Blanca is known for its soft sand and calm, warm, clear water.

Without a doubt, visiting the Rosario Islands is one of the top things to do in Cartagena, Colombia. There are numerous islands in the archipelago that directly cater to tourists, including Isla Baru – or Baru Island in English.

The largest of the Rosario Islands and most popular, Baru Island is home to Playa Blanca, Cartagena.

How to get to Playa Blanca from Cartagena

As previously mentioned, Playa Blanca is considered by many to be one of the best beaches in Colombia. It is the largest and easiest beach to visit from Cartagena.

There are multiple ways to get to the beach, which is located about an hour away from Cartagena by car or approximately 45 minutes by boat.

Getting to Playa Blanca by Boat

Several tour groups offer excursions to Playa Blanca from Cartagena by speed boat. This is, by far, the best way to get to Playa Blanca, albeit the most expensive. Pulling up to the beach by boat, you’ll get a great view of the coastline and the tropical beach with its covered cabanas and outdoor food stalls.

Some of the excursions take you exclusively to Playa Blanca for the day while others include the beach as one of several stops in an island hopping day trip.

If you are wanting to book an excursion to Playa Blanca Cartagena by boat, this tour comes highly recommended.

Getting to Playa Blanca by Land Tour

Family walking to the beach from the parking lot on a Cartagena Playa Blanca day trip
If arriving by land, you’ll walk through a sketchy area to get to Playa Blanca.

Many of the tour groups that take you to Playa Blanca access the beach by water. But you can also visit Playa Blanca by land. There is a bridge that takes you to Baru Island from mainland Colombia. So, it is possible to take a private transfer to Playa Blanca from Cartagena.

If arriving at Playa Blanca by car or tour shuttle, you will drive down a bumpy, unmaintained dirt road and walk through a less-than-desirable area to get to the beach.

My first impression when walking to the beach from the dirt road is that Playa Blanca was dirty and extremely run down. Trash was everywhere and instantly aggressive vendors accosted us. 

So, the first impression of the beach when arriving by land is very different from the impression you get when you arrive by boat. 

This is why we recommend a tour that takes visitors to Playa Blanca by boat so your first glimpse of the beach will be the pristine sand and the clear water.

Still, you’ll save a little money by booking a tour by land.

Getting to Playa Blanca by Taxi or Uber

Finally, if you don’t want to be restricted by a tour or you are on a backpackers budget, you can also take an Uber or taxi to the beach. An Uber costs approximately $19 USD (as of 2023) or 85,300 pesos – one way. 

A word of warning if you plan to get to Playa Blanca by Uber: it’s best to arrange a ride back to town with your driver before you get to the beach.

If taking an Uber, you will likely need to pay cash for your ride home, so make sure you have some and that the price is negotiated before your ride to the beach. The area is extremely remote, so internet access and readily available Uber drivers aren’t an option.

Be prepared to pay your driver double for the return drive to Cartagena, as your driver is likely going to miss out on business while waiting for you near the beach. 

When we went to Playa Blanca there were a few transportation companies that offered rides back to Cartagena, but you are better off arranging your ride back to Cartagena with your Uber driver in advance.

The transportation companies seemed pushy and scammy, in our honest opinion. 

Tips for a Great Playa Blanca Day Trip

When planning your day trip to Playa Blanca Cartagena, there are a few important things to know before your visit that will ultimately enhance your experience. 

Book a tour by boat

Boats in the water at Playa Blanca
Arriving by boat is the best way to get to Playa Blanca from Cartagena | Photo by Cyprus Niko from Getty Images Canva Pro

Arriving by speedboat to Playa Blanca from Cartagena is the best way to get to the beach. We typically do not take organized tours. In fact, we usually avoid booking anything through tour groups and prefer to visit places at our own pace. 

However, this is one of those rare scenarios where we recommend spending a little extra money and booking a group tour by boat to Playa Blanca Cartagena.

You will ultimately have a better experience at the beach if you arrive by boat and book a tour. Your first impression of Playa Blanca will be beautiful stretches of golden sand and turquoise water rather than tarped food stalls and trash on the ground on the backside of the beach cabanas.  

Additionally, if you can find an organized tour that includes both transportation and lunch, you can avoid getting scammed by vendors, some of which will grossly overcharge tourists.

Bring cash to rent a cabana or lounge chairs

A day trip to Playa Blanca is the easiest and least expensive beach to visit from Cartagena aside from the small stretch of shoreline in the Bocagrande district of Cartagena, one of the most popular places to stay in Cartagena

It is a public beach, so while it is inexpensive to visit, you will pay separately for everything. If you want to relax in a cabana or under an umbrella, you’ll have to rent one. Don’t want to sit in the sand? You’ll pay extra for a lounge chair.

So, bring some cash to rent a cabana. Doing so will give you a safer place to leave your belongings when you go play in the water. Additionally, the cabana offers a bit more privacy and can serve as a buffer from aggressive vendors who can be very pushy. 

It’s important to note, we did not see an ATM on the beach, so cash is necessary. You also will not find indoor restaurants, shops, or actual restrooms at Playa Blanca.

Although there are food vendors where you can buy a meal or a drink, the vendors, as well as the lodging accommodations are somewhat primitive. Most of the food stalls are simply grills and a folding table set up under a tarp or tin roof. 

How to avoid the crowds and pushy vendors at Playa Blanca

Family playing in the water at Playa Blanca Cartagena worth visiting
Staying in the water is a great way to avoid the vendors and crowds at Playa Blanca.

The beach is crowded, not only with visitors but with very aggressive vendors. Like in the town of Cartagena, the vendors at Playa Blanca can ruin the experience.

You will be approached numerous times with offers to buy a coconut drink, a massage, food, or souvenirs. In fact, the vendors can be so pushy it feels almost like harassment. 

I realize the locals are just trying to make a living, but it does definitely take away from the relaxing atmosphere most beach-goers are seeking.

We ultimately stayed in the water the entire time which helped us avoid the vendors. But you can also rent a cabana or head further down the beach to avoid the area where most people tend to congregate and where vendors are constantly hounding beachgoers. 

What to do at Playa Blanca

Like other beaches, it is the sun, sand and water that are the biggest draws to Playa Blanca and Isla Baru Cartagena. Not surprisingly, typical beach activities are the best things to do at Playa Blanca. 

Play in the sand

Mother and daughter playing in the sand in Cartagena Colombia Playa Blanca beach
Playing in the sand is a great way to spend a day in Playa Blanca Cartagena

If visiting the beach with toddlers or young children, pack some sand toys, find an empty spot in the sand and build a sand castle.

Kids love playing in the sand and can spend a full day going back and forth between building sand castles and splashing in the ocean. 

Play in the water

The water at Playa Blanca Colombia is warm, calm and clear! So, naturally, playing in the ocean is the best beach activity at Playa Blanca.

There are areas of the beach where the waves are stronger, but for the most part the water is fairly calm and slopes down gently from the shore.

Relax under a beach umbrella or cabana

If you want to spend money, you can rent a cabana, buy a coconut drink and even get a massage from a local vendor. Be sure you know the exchange rate so you don’t get scammed! And be firm with any pushy vendors if you do not want their services.  

What to pack for Playa Blanca

toddler walking along Playa Blanca Cartagena beach
Visiting Playa Blanca with kids? Be sure to pack sand toys, sunscreen, snacks and other beach essentials.

Depending on how long you plan to stay at Playa Blanca, there are a few things you will want to bring with you for your day trip. Keep in mind, there are no lockers to store your belongings or bathrooms to change in. 

Additionally, the aggressive vendors can make Playa Blanca feel sketchy and borderline unsafe. So, I would limit what you bring with you to necessities only and keep an eye on your belongings when you go into the water.

Better yet, if you take a boat tour to the beach, leave most of your belongings on the boat instead.

Here is our Playa Blanca packing list with a few necessities. 

  • Sand toys
  • Waterproof fanny pack
  • Sunscreen 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Beach Towel
  • Swimsuit Cover
  • Flip Flops
  • Snacks

Also read: Beach essentials for Toddlers and Babies

Conclusion: Is Playa Blanca worth visiting?

a less busy stretch of sand in Playa Blanca
To avoid crowds walk further down the beach from the food stalls and cabanas. | Photo by StreetFlash from Getty Images Canva Pro

There are definitely pros and cons to Playa Blanca. The sand is soft and the water is calm, shallow, and warm. That can make a day trip to Playa Blanca enjoyable for your family.

With that said, aggressive vendors constantly harass tourists, the area surrounding the beach is somewhat sketchy and feels unsafe, and the beach area is not developed at all. It greatly lacks adequate infrastructure like paved roads, WIFI, or public restrooms.  

Despite reading numerous negative reviews, we visited Playa Blanca Cartagena anyway. We were traveling on a budget and decided at the last minute to go to the beach. It was too late to book a day trip to the Rosario Islands through a tour company, so we opted to simply Uber to Playa Blanca.

While it wasn’t a horrible experience, I’ve become spoiled by the stunning, quiet beaches in places like St. Maarten and love visiting beaches where you aren’t constantly hassled. So, Playa Blanca didn’t live up to my expectations.

If you plan ahead and book an excursion a day in advance, you’ll likely have a better experience. But, another option would be to skip Playa Blanca and visit another beach in the Rosario Islands instead.


Best beaches in Rosario Islands to visit other than Playa Blanca

While it may cost you more to visit one of the private or less crowded beach resorts in the Rosario Islands, like Hotel Isla Del Sol, the experience will be worth the additional money. This tour to Isla Del Sol comes highly recommended.

For a family-friendly beach with fewer people, no pushy vendors, and access to hotel amenities another option would be to head to Hotel Isla del Encanto on the far end of Baru Island.

The cost of the day trip includes the use of their lounge chairs, bathrooms, a pool, and restaurant. For even more solitude and relaxation, stay the night in the hotel. You’ll have the beach basically to yourself after the day trippers leave. 

Alternatively, head just a bit further than the Rosario Islands and stay at the beautiful Punta Faro Resort on Isla Mucura in the San Bernardo Islands.

Many day trips to the Rosario Islands no longer include Playa Blanca because the experience no longer lives up to the hype. Instead they go to Isla Grande, Playa Tranquila or Isla del Encanto further down Baru.

So, if you want to experience the best beaches in Colombia, skip overrated Playa Blanca and head to one of the more secluded areas instead where you will not feel like you need a stick to fight off pushy vendors.


FAQs about visiting Playa Blanca Cartagena

After reading our review of Playa Blanca Cartagena, it is natural you may have a few questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about a Playa Blanca day trip or a day trip to the Rosario Islands.

Which beach in the Rosario Islands should you visit?

Playa Blanca Cartagena wins out when it comes to scenery, with its vast stretch of sand and warm water. But the vendors ruin the experience. For this reason, Isla Grande or a day pass to Isla del Encanto make for better day trips.

How long do you need in Playa Blanca?

If you book a day tour from Cartagena, plan for a full day in the Rosario Islands. But if you plan to visit Playa Blanca only, you probably just need a few hours at the beach to play in the sand and water before you head back to Cartagena.

Have another question about Playa Blanca Cartagena or about taking a day trip to the Rosario Islands? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know your questions in the comments below.

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This guide to Playa Blanca beach near Cartagena was first written in August 2018 but was most recently updated in February 2024 for accuracy and current travel information.

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3 comments on “Playa Blanca Cartagena Day Trip | Important Things to Know Before Visiting”

I’m not much of a beach person but I did hear so much about this place before that I thought I should go. I won’t anymore 😉 I’ll definitely go to the secluded ones instead.

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