The 12 Best Beaches in Colombia (You Haven’t Discovered Yet)
“At the beach, life is different.Time doesn’t move hour to hour,
But mood to moment… We live by the currents,
Plan by the tides and follow the sun.”
– Sandy Gingras, author and illustrator
Colombia is blessed with a myriad of possible destinations for discerning travellers. If you like your rainforests and jungles lush and green, and home to more exotic flora and fauna than you could ever hope to see, Colombia has it right here for you. If you like your carnivals and festivals brimming with vibrant color, and music you can’t help but move your body to, Colombia has that covered for you too.
So, if you’re looking for a paradise beach to rest your weary head, miles and miles of sandy heaven to stroll along as the sun sets, and, with every step, ease the tension in your overworked and underpaid body, until, at last, you are once more at peace with our crazy world – guess what? Correct. Colombia has also been blessed with some of the best beaches you will ever encounter, and is the perfect place to start looking for your perfect beach holiday.
In fact, with well over 3,200 kilometers of actual coastline, split between the Pacific Ocean (1,448 km) and the Caribbean Sea (1,760 km), Colombia has enough beaches for everyone. Well, not literally, but you get the point. And, obviously, many of these beaches have been discovered by tourists and travellers, risen in popularity, and become touted as the best beach in Colombia to head to, their vistas implying a real touch of paradise in the holiday brochures.
However, you’re now dealing with experienced, local experts in the very, very best of what Colombia has to offer in the way of paradise for every kind of traveller. So, if you wish to find the very best beaches in Colombia, and enjoy the very best in beach-life away from the masses, consider it done – from hidden gems to paradise islands to the locals’ favorites, here are the 10 best beaches in Colombia you haven’t discovered yet.
The Best Beaches near Cartagena, Colombia
If you’re happy to move away just a little from Cartagena’s more touristy beaches, such as Bocagrande and such like, you’ll find your own little piece of beach paradise just waiting for you.
#1. Mucura Island – Isla Múcura, San Bernando Archipelago
Number one on the list is a real treat to the avid sea wanderer. Colombia owns ten little islands that you’ll find in the Morrosquillo Gulf of the Caribbean Ocean called Las Islas de San Bernardo (San Bernardo Islands). If you’re a fan of island-hopping, white sandy beaches, and charming little island children that have very little exposure to tourists, not to mention the absolutely stunning ocean, this one is definitely for you.
These islands are located just south of Cartagena, but despite the amount of tourist the walled city garners every year, the San Bernardo Islands barely receive a fraction of the attention. This is probably the biggest reason why the islands are able to retain their simple, authentic charm.
Nine of the islands; Boqueron, Palma, Panda, Mangle, Ceycen, Cabruna, Tintipan, Wonder, and Mucura are naturally occurring islands. The tenth, Santa Cruz del Islote, is a man-made island and is actually the most densely populated island in the world.
Of these ten islands, only three islands receive most of the tourism (which is still not that much). Mucura (in our opinion, without a doubt, one of the best beaches in Colombia by far) is where you’ll find most of the lodging and ‘hotels’. There are cabins, a handful of hotels, a small resort, and even a hotel that is literally on the water, like a tiny little island of its own. It is the typical Caribbean island getaway surrounded by bright blue sparkling water full of beautiful coral, a plethora of colourful fish, manta ray, and dolphins. The island itself has pristine white sand beaches, palm trees as far as the eye can see, as well as remarkable exotic wildlife like iguanas, various birds and even sloths.
Visiting Tintipan is an absolute must, especially at night time. With it’s mangrove swamps, picturesque beaches and exotic birds, it’s a treat anytime of day, however, at night you can witness something truly magnificent. If you get into the water on a dark, moonless night, with not a single cloud in sight, you may start to see little lights flickering around your moving body. Those lights are tiny bioluminescent plankton. Each flash only lasts a fraction of a second so what you’ll be seeing will be something akin to hundreds of twinkling stars around your body. Magical, right?
Santa Cruz del Islote is on its own level. As previously mentioned, it is an artificial island and the most densely populated island in the world, but how did it come about?
Some 200 years ago, Afro-Colombian fishermen decided that they needed somewhere to stay so they could fish for longer periods of time out in San Bernardo. What started as a makeshift settlement has become a small island of just 0.012 km² inhabited by fishermen and their families which tallies up to about 1,200 people.
This island has zero crime, and is basically like one big neighbourhood. Everybody knows each other, small children weave their way through open doors as they play, and there is a deep rooted sense of family values that is almost tangible. This concrete island is almost completely covered in houses with little alleyways carved throughout.
You can spend your days diving, snorkelling, scuba diving, island hopping, or simply lying on one of their breathtaking Colombia beaches, snacking on fresh fish.
#2. Playa Blanca, Isla Baru
If you’re looking for something a little closer the the colonial delights of Cartagena, less than an hour to the south you’ll find the secluded and pristine Baru Island, with it’s stunning white sand beaches and beautiful ocean waters. Popular with the city locals (proof, if you needed it, that it’s considered to be one of the best beaches in Colombia), it also has a number of markets during the week in Marina Rubicon, selling local wines and handicrafts.
#3. Playa Punta Arena, Tierra Bomba Island
A mere 10 minutes by boat from the Castillogrande area of Cartagena, another island awaits – Isla Tierra Bomba. Home to another slice of beach paradise, Punta Arena Beach, the island boasts white sand beaches, with clear turquoise-blue waters. The trip over will set you back around COP$15.000, less than USD $5. When the boat drops you off at the beach, go to your right and the white sands become far less busy. Remember, you’re only 10 minutes from Cartagena, and you’re sat sunbathing on one the best beaches in Colombia..
#4. Providencia Island
If you really are looking for the perfect paradise beach location, you’ve arrived, and you’ll be glad you did. Easily one of the best beaches in Colombia. Seriously, if you’re with your partner, you’ll think you’re on your honeymoon. Providencia Island is the picture-perfect Caribbean island – untainted, white sand beaches, clear, calm waters, and the third largest barrier reef in the world – the Belize Barrier Reef – right on your doorstep.
To happily “shipwreck” yourself on the island, you can either fly to the neighbouring island of San Andrés, itself home to the glorious Caribbean waters, and then enjoy a short boat ride, or you can boat it, perhaps in a luxury yacht, all the way from Cartagena. As you can imagine, it’s easier to fly.
So now you know. Heaven is located on a small island in the Caribbean Sea somewhere between Jamaica and Costa Rica. And the definition of the word providence? “The protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power.” Apart from being one of the very best beaches in Colombia (if not, the best), the island of Providencia is exceptionally well-named, don’t you think? Our editor’s choice for the picture-perfect beach holiday in Colombia.
Yes, Barranquilla Makes “The Best Beaches in Colombia” List!
Now, Barranquilla is obviously very well-known for its city (the 4th biggest, behind Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali), and its huge port, the largest on the Caribbean coast. and many people think that’s all there is to it. Those who know it a little better will be very happy to tell you of Barranquilla’s Carnival, second only to Rio’s in size. Let’s be honest here – you don’t automatically think of beaches in Barranquilla. However, there is one of note, one that makes our list….
#5. Puerto Salgar Beach
So where do Barranquilla’s locals go when they want some beach-life close to home? To the beaches of Puerto Salgar in Puerto Colombia, a mere 7 miles from the department of Atlántico’s capital. Stretching from the cliffs of Sabinilla Point along to the impressive Salgar Castle, a National Historic Landmark, you’ll want to check out this wide expanse of beaches if you head to Barranquilla for the carnival.
Santa Marta: Safe & Secluded Colombia Beaches
Santa Marta was set up as the base of the Spanish conquest in 1525, and is South America’s oldest existing city. Sitting at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Santa Marta is home to one of Colombia’s largest, protected national parks – Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona. Tayrona itself is home to some of the best beaches in Colombia, particularly Playa Neguanje, Playa Gairaca, Bahia Concha, and Playa Cristal.
#6. Playa Neguanje
Tayrona’s largest beach is stunning, definitely one of the best beaches in Colombia, and you’ll find beautiful coral reefs and multi-colored fish surprisingly close to shore in the calmer waters. In the ancient indigenous language of the people that used to live in this region, Neguanje means “sea of deep, crystal clear waters” – another aptly-named place.
#7. Playa Gairaca
Playa Gairaca can be reached a short way from Neguanje. Although its waters are a little on the darker side, it is slightly more challenging to get to (clearly, one of the best beaches in Colombia for backpackers!) and so is more secluded than Neguanje. This is a beach as Mother Nature intended, and a great choice for the more earthy types.
#8. Bahia Concha
Bahia Concha (Seashell Bay) is a stunning white sand Colombia beach, with crystal blue waters, and is perfectly backdropped by majestic mountains rising behind you. Another ideal place to completely unwind, and reconnect with nature.
#9. Playa Cristal
Playa Cristal has the calmest waters of any beach in and around Santa Marta. The sparkling white sands sink slowly into crystal blue water, full of colorful marine fish weaving their way in and out of the breathtaking coral reefs. This beach actually has a daily limit of only 300 people allowed entry, in order to help preserve its natural beauty. on a daily basis. For sure, one of the best beaches in Colombia if you love relaxing peace and quiet, and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t once in a while?
Chengue is located in Tayrona’s dry tropical forest region and miraculously has both a salt pan and a swamp brimming with wildlife, perfect for nature lovers and birdwatchers. It can be accessed by either boat or ecological path and is one of the least known and least visited beaches in the entire park.
Choco, Colombia: Activity-Packed Beaches in Colombia
The department of Choco, with coastlines on both the Pacific and the Caribbean, and home to a number of the finest Colombia beaches, is absolutely blessed when it comes to paradise sands, either to relax on or to be active around. The wonderful town of Nuquí is located in the western part of Choco, Colombia, between the Pacific Ocean and the mountainous region of Baudó. Itself a municipality also, Nuquí is an amazing mix of cultural and ethnic diversity with Afro-Colombians and indigenous tribespeople, backdropped by a rich variety of flora and fauna. With less than 10,000 inhabitants living in the municipality, the departmental capital retains a pueblo feel.
Beach-life here is simply amazing. Nuquí is one of the best places along the Choco’s Pacific coastline for a spot of relaxing whale-watching. However, it has numerous other activities to engage in, from surfing, canoeing, hiking and river tours, to the rejuvenating and gentle relaxation of immersing yourself in a thermal spring. Many visitors to Choco, Colombia choose Nuquí as their base simply because, apart from the excellent surfing. it really is smack in the middle of everything.
#10. Playa Guachalito – Guachalito Beach
If you’re looking for the perfect paradise beach, look no further than the exotic, sandy utopia that is Guachalito Beach, possibly the best beach in Colombia you could ever hope to find, a 30-minute boat ride from Nuquí. Here, situated on the Gulf of Tribugá in the Pacific, those idyllic visions of paradise can be fully realised. One of the most popular beaches for the Colombians themselves, the mocha-colored beach stretches for miles, backdropped by majestic waterfalls springing from the jungle-covered mountains behind you. Yes, you do have to see it to believe it.
#11. Capurgana: Home to a Few of The Best Secluded Beaches in Colombia
This quaint little Colombian town can also be found in the beautiful department of Choco, this time on the Caribbean coastline. It is very closely bordered by Panama, yet incredibly remote and isolated. This tranquil little gem is surrounded on three sides by dense jungle and can only be reached by boat or small plane. There are no actual roads, so you can’t get to Capurgana by car. The only available modes of ground transport are horses, donkeys, and bicycles.
As far as Colombia beaches are concerned, Capurgana’s are spotless, the vegetation abundant, and the wildlife embraced with a genuine sense of awe and responsibility, not ownership. Capurgana’s beautiful white sand beaches lay nestled between the dense tropical rainforest, and the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Uraba.
The population of about 1,500 people is largely made up of fishermen and farmers. And, although it received its first cruise ship in 2016, Capurgana is not a big tourist destination. Locals seem incredibly connected to nature and its process, offering a truly inspiring display of how progress and nature can peacefully flourish at the same time and in the same place.
There are many things to do in Capurgana. There are several natural pools nearby like La Piscina De Los Dioses (translation: pool of the Gods), and La Coquerita. The first is a saltwater pool located only ten minutes away from Capurgana. La Coquerita is about 45 minutes away and features a natural salt water tidal pool, and two smaller freshwater pools. The walk there offers some fantastic views with various tree species, glorious rock formations and the constant soothing sound of the crashing waves.
The coral reef here is excellently preserved in its natural state and the water is perfect for some soul filling scuba diving. The number of colourful fish you’ll meet along the way alone are a feast for the eyes.
If you are able to plan your trip within the months of April and May, you could take a boat out to the beaches of Acandi and you may just be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the tiny newborn babies of the endangered Tortugas Cana (a turtle species protected by the locals and the Colombian government).
There are also many nature walks and hikes you can take to explore the exotic flora and fauna of the region on your own. The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re there is that we as humans have a choice. If we make the most mindful one, nature and wildlife can continue to flourish around us. A visit to Capurgana is a truly uplifting reminder of that.
The Most Naturally Diverse Beaches in Colombia: La Guajira
#12. La Guajira
The department of La Guajira is in the far northeast of Colombia, located on the Guajira peninsula and bordering Venezuela. This department is home to some beautifully diverse landscapes, including a mountain range, desert, and arid plains – not to mention its breathtaking beaches along the Caribbean coast.
One of the most culturally interesting things about this region is that it is still home to the Colombian indigenous Wayuu tribes. In the early 1500s, Juan De La Cosa and the expedition that he led was the first to land on the beaches of Cabo de la Vela (“Jepirra” in Wayuunaiki). The Wayuu consistently fought against the Europeans, and, therefore, remained free. Cabo de la Vela is sacred land to them as they believe that it is where souls go to rest with the ancestors in the afterlife.
Going to these Colombia beaches can give you the feeling of travelling back in time, as much of the region is untouched and well preserved. In order to keep it that way, it is best to be entirely respectful of this region and its people.
A good starting point to any trip into La Guajira is Punta Gallinas, which is at the northernmost tip of the country, where you can take in the beautiful contrasting colors made up of the deep, red sands, and the crystal blue-green of the ocean waters that span on either side of this piece of land.
If you can, make your way up the large sand dune that sits right between desert and Caribbean waters. Despite being so utterly stunning, this place is so isolated that it really feels like it’s just you and the ocean out there. This is because most of the region is actually owned by the Wayuu people so you won’t find any modern developments or large groups of tourists to disturb the peace and authenticity.
When you continue on to Cabo de la Vela, you’ll find a few shacks along the beach and a number of hammocks lined up as well, making it feel alluringly peaceful. One thing that is a little visually out of place is the windsurfing that occasionally happens in the area. However, due to the incredibly strong winds, this is one of the best places in the world to both learn and practice windsurfing. Lastly, a visit it to the area is not complete without taking in Palomino Beach, with it’s volcanic sand beaches and, once again, the beautiful waters of the Caribbean.
Colombia Beaches Simply Too Hard To Discover….
Important Note: If you’re not “au fait” with the geography of Colombia (and if you haven’t cottoned on yet, it’s ColOmbia, not Columbia – a popular mistake for some), please be aware that you’re not going to find any beaches in or near the 3 largest cities here – Bogotá, Medellín and Cali, all quite seriously landlocked. In fact, searching online for “beaches in Colombia near Bogotá” will just make Señor Google have a quiet chuckle to himself…
However, Medellín itself does have a kind of beach – “La Playa,” which is, in fact, a main avenue in the city center, well-known for its wonderful Christmas lights come Navidad, as is the entire city. They did actually put palm trees and golden sand along it a couple of years ago as part of the Christmas celebrations! You just have to love Colombians, don’t you?
So Come & Discover….
So there you have it, the 12 best beaches in Colombia (you haven’t discovered yet), spanning across the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines of this wonderful country. There’s a little something for everyone and a whole lot of tranquility awaits on our Colombia beaches. All that’s missing is you, your beachwear, sunscreen (essential), maybe a floppy hat too), and your sense of adventure and wanderlust.
Have you discovered for yourself any of the 12 best beaches in Colombia described here? If so, what was your experience like? Please let us know. If there is an off-the-beaten-path beach in Colombia that’s worth mentioning and we missed it in this post, please let us know and so we can add it to our list.
Have you been to any of our top 5 hidden beaches in Colombia? If so, what was your experience like? If there is an off the beaten path beach in Colombia that’s worth mentioning and we missed it in this post, please let us know and so we can add it to our list.