When you are in Cartagena, Colombia, it is not enough to walk the old colonial walls and visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (also known as Cartagena Castle). You are beside the Caribbean! Coral sands and aquamarine waters are no longer as far away as a movie screen. You are literally right beside some of the best swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing beaches in the world.
Better yet, if you are in Cartagena, the Islas del Rosario (the Rosario Islands, or the Rosary Islands) are in the municipality, and only one boat ride away.
The Islas del Rosario: A National Park
There are 27 islands all in all in the Islas del Rosario. Because of the great quantities of undersea and aboveground wildlife on the islands, they were protected by Colombia, as a national park, in 1977. It makes a gorgeous pair with the UNESCO World Heritage site that Cartagena, Colombia is.
How to Enjoy the Islas del Rosario
First of all, do not take any of the tours being offered. Those who do not know the great beauty of the Islas del Rosario often pop it into their Cartagena itinerary. It gets mixed up with all the tours of the walls and fortifications and shopping centers they need to do in Cartagena itself. Instead, consider the Islas del Rosario a completely different tour from the Cartagena city tour.
First of all, find out how you can arrange your own transportation from Cartagena to the Islas del Rosario. It is simple enough: all boats going to the Islas del Rosario leave from El Muelle, near the Convention Center in Cartagena. For sure the locals will be able to tell you how to get there. Bargain with one of the sailboat captains to take you across to the Islas.
You will not be cramped on either a tourist boat or a speed boat, so you can fully enjoy the slow hour-long trip to the islands. Even better, since the sailboat is all for your use, you can ask the sailboat captains to stop near the island instead of docking. Then you can swim to the island from the boat, or simply enjoy swimming in the deeper water around the sailboat.
To fully enjoy the Caribbean waters, decide early if you want to go scuba diving and snorkeling. As all coral sands beaches are, the Islas del Rosario are ideal for snorkeling even close to the shore. You will be able to see starfish, anemones, even bright-colored clownfish. If you are in a sailboat, it will be easier to go scuba diving in the deeper waters, so you will be able to fully enjoy all the Caribbean has to offer.
The Islas del Rosario: Another World
No matter how many tourists you may bump shoulders with going to the islands, the Caribbean will dwarf the crowds. In fact, that is one of its biggest attractions: the moment you are face down with your snorkel on in the water, following the fish across the white sands, it feels as if you are completely alone. The Islas del Rosario are another world altogether.