Colombia Travel: Everything you need to know about Rosario Islands
Boasting glittering white-sand beaches and dotted like pearls in the vast blue Caribbean Sea, Rosario (one of the prime highlights of Colombia) is an archipelago of 27 small coral islands, just minutes away by boat from the vibrant colonial town of Cartagena. While Cartagena’s rich history and old charm are worth a lot of attention in their own right, a traveler should not pass up on the brilliance of the turquoise-colored waters and the tropical Caribbean aura that the Rosario Islands offer. Apart from all that beachy-beauty, the islands are home to pristine and delicate coral ecosystems, calling divers and snorkelers to their shores.
Traditionally called Islas del Rosario or Corales Islas del Rosario (the coral islands of Rosario), this archipelago of 27 small islands are home to over 1000 species of flora and fauna breeding in its translucent waters.
Considered one of the most important coral reefs in the world, the Rosario Islands were endowed a national park status in 1977, and this is when it opened its gates to curious snorkelers and scuba divers who wished to explore this never-seen-before unadulterated aquatic world.
Until 1977, wealthy families from Cartagena used this natural playground to build their vacation homes; post '77, the government allowed them to retain their homes if they paid an annual tax and complied with the rules to protect the ecosystem of the islands. Today, the islands are a perfect day escape option from the cultural charm of Cartagena; given the availability of excellent accommodation, one can stay overnight in one of the many eco-lodges on the islands.
Just around 23 miles from Cartagena, Rosario Islands can be accessed by a 45-minute boat ride from La Bodeguita Pier in Cartagena’s historic center.
Sights and activities
Editorial copyrights: Reginaldo G Martins
There is no better way to commence your Rosario voyage than by visiting the open-air Oceanario aquarium. Although not that huge, it still houses a variety of rescued sharks, along with giant sea turtles and other aquatic life. Rather than focus on entertainment (apart from a short dolphin show), Oceanario is geared more towards conservation, providing as a perfect stop for anyone curious to learn about the marine culture.
After a pleasant aquarium visit, head over to Isla Grande, a unit of Rosario Islands and perhaps the only island inhabited by the indigenous native population, providing its visitors an oportunity to explore the local culture.
With boutique resorts lined up and and gorgeous waters to swim in, everything that tourists look for in Caribbean islands are represented here.
Grab your snorkeling gear (which can be rented if you aren't carrying your own) and swim around to your heart's content. Walk into dive shops, rent gear and enjoy day dives, bookings for all of which can be done in Cartagena itself.
Editorial copyrights: Chuck Holton
After a refreshing splash in these vibrantly chromatic waters, be sure to treat your palates with some typical and original Colombian food consisting of coconut rice, fried white fish, and yucca, all with the finest beach views.
Important tip: Be sure to carry sunscreen protection, and if planning to explore other parts of the island, stock up on mosquito repellant too.
Not just limited to beachside fun and underwater explorations, Isla Grande is also home to magnificent mangroves, best explored by canoeing; a travel expert will easily hook you up.
The Beauty of Playa Blanca
Although formally not considered as part of the Rosario Islands, Playa Blanca situated on Isla Baru is famed for its sheer beauty of golden sands; a must-visit spot while in Rosario or Cartagena.
Consistently voted as one of the best beaches of Colombia, Playa Blanca draws a substantial amount of visitors to its shores that abound with fun activities like as diving and surfing. Whether for spending quality time with family or simply to enjoy a breathtaking sunset with a drink in hand, Playa Blanca is truly the place to be. One can also sample lip-smacking traditional recipes of the region, famed for their distinctive Caribbean flavors.
Another island for top-notch diving is Tierra Bomba, superb reefs and superb wrecks, so be sure to include that in your Rosario outing if you are a scuba junkie.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Colombia in general, and especially the Rosario Islands is the dry-season months from December to March. These uninterrupted sunny days are just perfect for a Caribbean coastal experience, along with other exciting activities that the area hosts.