The Rosario Islands are a highlight of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, famous for their vibrant marine life, pristine white beaches, and sun-soaked beach resorts. A cluster of 28 idyllic islands dotted offshore of the port city of Cartagena, this archipelago sits atop the world’s third-largest barrier reef and makes up Islas del Rosario National Park.
Although many of the islands are private and therefore off-limits, the larger islands of Isla Grande, Isla Rosario, and Isla Caribaru draw a steady stream of day-trippers. Full-day tours from Cartagena often focus on Isla Barú, which lies closest to the mainland and houses attractions such as Playa Blanca, Playa Azul, the Bay of Cholón, and the fortresses of San Fernando and San Jose.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Be sure to take everything you need, as there are no shops on the islands. Sunscreen, a swimsuit, and a sunhat are essentials.
- Bring cash if you want to purchase food or drinks from beach kiosks—many do not accept credit cards.
- Wi-Fi can be scarce on the islands, but some resorts offer paid or free access.
- Many passenger ferries and private boats to the Rosario Islands are wheelchair accessible, but it’s best to check with the operator in advance.
How to Get There
The Rosario Islands are located roughly 60 miles (100 kilometers) off the coast of Cartagena and are reachable only by boat. Fast boats take about 45 minutes to reach the islands, embarking from La Bodeguita Pier in central Cartagena.
When to Get There
The region’s dry summer (December through February) is the most popular time to visit the Rosario Islands, and resorts can fill up quickly during this time. Thanks to the mild Caribbean climate it’s possible to visit year-round, and off-season visitors can benefit from reduced rates on tours and accommodation.
Marine Life of the Rosario Islands
The crystal-clear waters and colorful coral reefs of Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park (Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario y San Bernardo) offer ample opportunities for water sports, especially snorkeling and scuba diving. Those venturing underwater can admire calcareous algae, anemones, sponges, dusters, and sea lilies; spot exotic marine life including spadefish, clown fish, barracuda, moray eels, and manta rays; or head to the Oceanary on Isla Rosario to see sharks, giant sea turtles, and dolphins.