There are many things I loved about Cartagena; the colorful buildings, the atmosphere, the energy, the food. If I had one complaint about this vibrant city it would be the lack of beach accessibility. Visitors who don’t stay in an upscale resort with a private beach have one of two options: visit one of the crowded mainland beaches like Boca Grande, or take a boat to one of the nearby islands.
Playa Blanca is located on the Island of Baru. It’s not technically an island but a long peninsula most easily accessible by boat though also reachable by bus followed by motorbike. Baru is perhaps the most popular beach day trip from Cartagena with a fleet of boats leaving the city docks each morning and returning in the afternoon . The boats, and there are many companies to choose from, all offer more or less the same service, will drop you right on the beach. There’s no dock, so be prepared to get a little wet as you walk from the boat to the shore. There will be several men waiting to assist you and your bags off of the boat, but know that they expect a tip for their services. Once you reach the beach turn left and start walking. The main area of Playa Blanca is crowded and full of vendors. The further you walk down the beach the more peaceful it will become.
My travel companions and I had looked into staying the night on Baru but found very few options listed online and those that were listed, seemed to all be booked. Though, as we made our way down the beach, I was surprised to see so many bungalows places to stay the night. Wishing we had known about these options we settled in on a stretch of beach called Motica and rented a couple of chairs in front of a collection of bungalows and thatched hammock area called The Wizard.
While the beaches are gorgeous and the view can’t be beat, the extremely basic accommodations on Baru are a rather pricey. Expect to pay about $70,000 COP ($37 USD) for a double bungalow and around $15,000 COP ($8 USD) for a hammock. Looking at the prices on the hand written lunch menu I suddenly understood why so many people on board our little boat over had shopping bags with them! If you choose to stay on Baru for the night (and I highly recommend you do!) be sure to bring water, food and cash from the mainland.
As mentioned, the accommodations are basic, maybe a step up from camping: shared outhouse-style bathrooms, three-walled and thatched roofed bungalows, electricity for only a couple of hours a day and no more than a mattress on the floor. But that is part of the charm of staying on Baru.
(That and the sexy blue eyed beach bum who runs the place with his guitar and two adorable dogs. But, I digress…)
If you choose not to spend the night on Baru then, unfortunately, your visit will be a short one – as mine was. The boat will drop you around 10am and pick you back up around 3pm from the main stretch of beach. Though, I speak from experience – 5 hours is plenty of time to get ample sun, especially if you insist on playing in the waves like a 5-year-old.
Plan Your Visit
- Boats leave the main docks in Cartagena between 9am and 10am daily. Simply walk toward the docks and a dutiful salesperson will surely locate you. Tickets are about $20 USD for a return or about $12 each way if you’re unsure about spending the night. Boats leave Baru for Cartagena at around 3pm.
- Be sure to bring plenty of: water, food, SUNSCREEN, towel, dry clothes, a flashlight, TP, a fully charged camera/phone/iPod and cash. I recommend either using a waterproof bag or wrapping your items in a plastic bag before putting them in your overnight bag.
- If you’re able to secure a reservation somewhere that’s great, but don’t let it deter you from seeing what you can find once you arrive. There are plenty of little beach bungalow places like The Wizard and, at the very least, you’ll be able to rent a hammock for the night.