8 Awesome Day Trips from Cartagena

ViaHero · October 18, 2018

Cartagena’s famous beaches, warm culture, and charming Old Town make the city a favorite Colombian destination for travelers of all stripes. But there’s more to Cartagena than meets the eye. Just a few hours away are even more places full of authentic Colombian culture, brimming biodiversity, and colorful history you need to experience firsthand. Read on to uncover 8 magical day trips you can only take from Cartagena. Once you do, feel free to message us with any questions you have about traveling to this Caribbean paradise!

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A Monument to Benkos Bioho, San Basilio de Palenque

#1: Soak up the history of San Basilio de Palenque

If you’re looking to embrace the true melting pot of Colombian culture, look no further. Palenque, only 1.5 hours from Cartagena, was actually the first free black community in the Americas. The village was founded in the 16th century by Benkos Bioho, an African king who was sold into slavery before escaping from the slave port of Cartagena in 1599. Fleeing captivity, he—along with a band of freed slaves—established the walled town of San Basilio de Palenque to protect themselves from their Spanish captors. In 2003, UNESCO declared the village a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and with so much history to be soaked up through the village’s food, architecture, and people, it’s easy to see why. To that end, we’d recommend connecting with a village native to show you around; any one of our Heroes would be happy to make an introduction.

#2: Relax in the Rosario Islands

While Cartagena’s beaches are phenomenal, the Rosario Islands—only an hour away—are in a league of their own. Composed of 27 stunning islands, the Rosarios truly offer something for every type of traveler. You can swim, surf, snorkel, scuba dive, or just settle back in the sand with a cold drink. One of the islands, Isla de Pajarales, even boasts its very own Oceanarium where travelers can enjoy the beautiful aquatic life of the Caribbean. Whether you’re on a romantic getaway or just stopping by on a Colombian odyssey, these unparalleled islands are an incredible day trip destination.

#3: Slip and slide in a volcanic mud bath

While a volcanic bath sounds bizarre and rather painful, worry not—the volcano of El Totumo is filled with silky mud, not lava. Nicknamed the “Volcano of Youth,” its mud is said to contain magical healing properties. At only 45 minutes away from the city, a day trip to dip in this incredible mud bath is a Cartagena highlight you have to experience yourself.

El Totumo Volcano Colombia

#4: Island hop in the Archipelago of San Bernardo

While the Rosario Islands are definitely more well known, the Archipelago of San Bernardo also deserves a spot on any Colombian itinerary. A cluster of 10 islands off the coast of Cartagena, the San Bernardo Islands are some of the most widely-inhabited in the Caribbean; in fact, the tiny man-made island of Santa Cruz is the most densely populated island in the world!

#5: Boat through La Boquilla’s mangrove swamps

Cartagena day trips aren’t all tanning and napping in smooth sands. If you’re more of the outdoor type, just 20 minutes from the northern port of Cartagena lies the charming fishing village of La Boquilla. Not only does it stay true to its Afro-Colombian roots through its local music, indigenous clothing, and native food, it also has a network of luscious mangrove forests that you can only float through by boat. La Boquilla also features a huge public beach with perfect wind conditions for kitesurfing, jet skiing, diving, and of course, fishing—making La Boquilla one of Colombia’s prime places to visit.

#6: Uncover colonial Usiacuri

Usiacuri, a charming colonial village an hour and 45 minutes away from Cartagena, is a can't miss Colombian destination. Bright green trees and vibrantly colored houses cover every inch of the village’s hills, as if it were straight out of a storybook—so you should absolutely have your Hero plan you a trip. Situated in Colombia’s Atlantico region, the village is an excellently-preserved remnant of the country’s Spanish colonial history and has remained practically unchanged since its founding in 1533.

#7: Take a load off at Tayrona National Park

One of the best parts of being in a tropical climate is being able to indulge in its bounty of biodiversity. Tayrona National Park is about 4 hours away from Cartagena via a shuttle to Santa Marta and a quick Uber or taxi ride—but it’s well worth the trek. The park itself is rife with ancient beach coves, lush forests, and pristine sands, as well as innumerable species of marine life, birds, and animals. You couldn’t find a better place to indulge in the beauty of the crystal-clear Caribbean.

Tayrona National Park Colombia

#8: Tear it up in Tierra Bomba

Last but not least of Cartagena’s incredible day trips is the beautiful Tierra Bomba. Just south of Cartagena, the island itself is described as an open-air museum due to its incredible architecture and the 18th-century military fortress, Castillo San Fernando de Bocachica, perched on the highest point of the island. Tierra Bomba is truly one of Colombia’s hidden gems; although it’s not often visited by travelers, the island has so much to offer. Travelers can play on the beach, experience Cartagena’s rich history, feast on succulent seafood, or get crazy in an oceanside club. An Instagram-worthy locale of the highest degree, Tierra Bomba is one destination you need to have your travel expert plan a day trip to.

Ready to go to Cartagena? Have one of our local travel experts plan your personalized itinerary, complete with any or all of these phenomenal day trips—of message us with any questions you still have! And before your trip, make sure to check out: