Cartagena’s Rosario Islands Day Trip

(Not Exactly) A Day at the Beach

There are plenty of reasons for considering Cartagena’s Rosario Islands day trip.

For us, it simply came down to the fact the series of 27 tiny islands located 35 km from the enchanted Spanish colonial port town of Cartagena was something we could take in as a family. This as opposed to the relatively expensive option of kitesurfing for myself. Relative in that what I needed to spend for two hours on the water would easily feed us for three or four days.

For almost the same money, it stood to reason Rosario Islands day trip for all of us seemed to make much more
Your ‘wet’ magic carpet ride awaits.

sense. At least, on paper.

An eight hour day spent in transit between the Old City’s Muelle Turistico and Isla Baru’s Playa Blanca and onward to Rosario Island itself. Eight hours that included lunch and what we were assured would allow for five hours of beach time amidst some of the clearest water in the Caribbean.

It seemed the perfect way to kill our final day before moving on further up the coast. And, who’d have thunk it, the brochure photos only seemed to confirm it.

In the end, the old adage of ‘Never Trust a Tour by the Brochure Photos’, never rang truer.

Eight reasons to reconsider a Rosario Islands Day Trip

It’s crowded. Getting out of your taxi and being engulfed by ticket salespeople feels like what I imagine Brad Pitt has to deal with any time he goes out to grab a burger without his body guards in tow. It’s total mayhem.

Which probably explains why the scheduling is poor. As in you’re told you’ll leave by 8:30. Nope. Closer to 9:30.
Welcome to wet and wild!

Which, considering you definitely won’t be getting back to the dock at the end of the day an hour later, has to come off of somewhere. That somewhere being your beach time.

The boat is wet. How wet? Let’s just say, I’ve been on white water rafting trips where I’ve stayed drier. Way drier. And that’s just running with the wind at your back. It gets even better later.

The Rosario Island aquarium section is as depressing as it gets. And I’m not even referring to the poor dolphins on display (which we didn’t care to pay 25,000 COP to see). As in there’s no beach. Much to our surprise, just a pathetic little dock area with a natural pool like area where you can sit and stare at other befuddled tourists who, like you, are wondering why they didn’t jump off en route at Playa Blanca and avoid Disney and Epcot theme park like prices there on the edge of a mangrove.
Father/daughter aquarium play time.
How not to spend 1 hr 20 min of your day.

The only alternative for this wasted 1hr 20 minute chunk of time is

going for a group snorkel excursion that, from everything I’ve since read about regarding the quality of reef and fish life, makes me happy I was stuck on the docks playing with Kaia as she repeatedly jumped in and out of her lovely little swimming hole.
A new take on ‘intimate’ dining.

Meal time leaves something to be desired. And I’m not taking the easy route and calling into question the food which, really, after so much time on the water already, struck me as filling and not half bad.

No, let’s start with the dining area is ridiculously crowded. And

even if you do manage to secure a bit of breathing room, you’re forced to deal with endless touts selling everything from jewellery, ice cream, hats, hair braiding, jet skiing, water activities, massages and more. Plenty more.

Nothing makes the first, well deserved, ice cold beer of the day taste quite so good as trying to have a conversation

with your wife while simultaneously waving off multiple vendors like malarial carrying mosquitoes and shaking your
Making friends

head in a futile effort to get a persistent, impossible to shake 140 kilo woman to quit applying various lotions to your shoulders before proceeding to nearly separate your shoulder blades while bellowing profusely “Regalo, regalo (gift, gift-as in you try before you buy).

Ah yes, such serenity!

Which leaves you all of maybe an hour and a half to actually attempt to enjoy the beach. A beach whose actual sand front real estate is taken up almost exclusively by rental beds and chairs with the only exception being at either end of the bustling strip. That being, depending on when you get your lunch, assuming you actually have the time for a walk that far in either direction.

And then, the best part of the day, the return run from Playa Blanca. And one straight into the prevailing winds that, on our day was blowing easily 35 knots. A light refreshing gale and, at times, in an open 3-5 foot sea. Not the ideal scenario for anyone with a bad back, pregnant or small children that frighten easily.
All the beach she could need.

No, what was merely a wet ride on the outbound leg becomes something entirely different on the return leg. As in a pelting fire hose like torrent that, quite frankly kind of hurt. Especially considering I’d end up using my hat to shield Kaia’s face. An act of fatherly love that both mom and I were gobsmacked to learn was just enough to let the little water baby fall off into her second boat nap of the day.

Yes, Kaia was asleep. A drowned rat, but asleep nonetheless. And in that regard, at least, the day had been a resounding success.

But most importantly, we were just happy to be back. All the while certain I should’ve gone kiting instead.


 Ways to Improve your Chances of Enjoying your Rosario Island Day Trip

Don’t book your trip online. Book straight through the tickets sales people at the dock. Online tickets go for a ridiculous three to four times the going rate on the dock. Having to endure such an experience at such a price would be a cruel fate I’d not wish on my worst enemy.

Seriously consider going the cheaper, slow boat option. Though you’re conveniently told the bigger, slow boat will take ‘two to three hours’, on our trip the bigger, covered boat was less than thirty minutes behind us. In rougher conditions this is definitely the dryer, more comfortable course of action.

If you want beach time, DEFINITELY pass on continuing to Isla Rosario’s aquarium. Get off at the first
Three drowned, salty rats!

stop (Isla Baru’s Playa Blanca) and walk to either end of the otherwise overrun section of what was once probably a very cozy beach.

Accept the fact tourism is the only game in town in the area and a relatively new game at that. As such, come prepared to be confronted by the heavy onslaught.

Visit with a small child. As Kaia proved yet again, they can find the silver lining in pretty much any awkward and uncomfortable setting.

And the Rosario Islands day trip out of Cartagena is about as awkward and uncomfortable as it comes.





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