Visiting the Rosario Islands is a must during a trip to Cartagena!
The crystal clear waters and less crowded beaches make getting out of the city to this Caribbean paradise completely worth it.
Doing a boat day trip or a day pass at a hotel or beach club are great ways to enjoy them.
However, it can be really special to spend the night at one of the Rosario Islands hotels, and even better to spend several nights! Rather that is best for you depends a bit on a few factors though.
Read on to see some tips for planning your stay, the pros and cons of staying the night at one of the Rosario Islands hotels and what to consider, and my picks for where to stay in the Rosario Islands!
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Best Rosario Islands Hotels – Contents
- Is it Worth it to Spend the Night in the Rosario Islands?
- Some Practical Tips for Staying at Islas del Rosario Hotels
- The 11 Best Rosario Islands Hotels
Too long; can’t read it all quick overview
- Best Overall Rosario Islands Hotel: IslaBela
- Best Luxury Bungalows in the Rosario Islands: Las Islas
- Best Modern Luxury Resort: Sofitel Calablanca
- Best Cheap Hotel in the Rosario Islands: El Secreto Hostel
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Is it Worth it to Stay at One of the Isla del Rosario Hotels?
Well, it depends.
I think there are a ton of advantages of staying in the islands.
Many of the ecolodges and hotels in the Rosario Islands are less crowded than the popular beach clubs, and even the larger Rosario Islands resorts clear out a lot after the day trip people go home and you have the gorgeous beach and crystal clear water to yourself.
One of the big disadvantages of going on a day trip only is boats have to be back to Cartagena before sunset. Boats usually head back between 2 and 3, and the day goes by quicker than you think.
Plus, you miss the incredible sunset in the islands!
So, why do you say it depends if it’s amazing?
I would say it depends on three things:
- The time you have have.
- Your budget.
- What you’re looking for.
Let’s break those 3 things down one by one.
The first, and I think the most important, factor to consider if you want to stay at one of the hotels in the Rosario Islands is time.
The islands are a 90 minute boat ride away from the city.
You won’t be able to spend the night at an Islas del Rosario hotel and go explore the city during the day. Staying at one of the Islas del Rosario hotels is strictly for some good old rest and relaxation at the beach.
So don’t plan on staying all your time at a hotel in the Rosario Islands, because you won’t get to see any of the other things to do in Cartagena.\
For most travelers, I would not recommend staying in the islands unless you have at least 5 or more nights in Cartagena.
Unless you get in incredibly early, your first night won’t be worth going to the islands because you won’t get a full day, and that’s if there is even a later boat.
Ditto for your last day. Unless you have a very late flight, I would highly discourage staying the in the islands your last night.
At a bare minimum you should give yourself at least one full day to explore the city. You also will want at least one night to enjoy the best Cartagena restaurants and perhaps the nightlife in town.
So that’s four nights in town as a minimum. I’d actually probably recommend anyone staying 3-5 nights to just stay in town, maybe at one of the places on my list of the best boutique hotels in Cartagena, and do one of the day trips to the islands listed below instead of staying at one of the Rosario Island hotels.
However, if you’re staying more than 5 nights, you hit that sweet spot where a night or two in the islands combines really well with time in the city.
If you are staying a week or more, I’d highly encourage you to also check out the lesser known San Bernardo Islands farther to the south that are also beautiful.
Good Day Trip Options
While you can find more details on day trip options in my list of the best Rosario Islands tours and more on the pros and cons of staying the night vs doing a day trip in my complete guide to the islands, here are some recommended day trips as an alternative to a stay at one of the Isla del Rosario hotels:
- Private Boat – This is the coolest way to do the islands but takes a group for it to be cost effective. There is also a shared boat to party spot Cholón (learn about Cholón here).
- Catamaran Day Trip – This is one of the top rated tours and a much better option than the standard little speed boat shared tours, which I encourage you to avoid. There is a nice looking pirate ship that does a similar day trip too. It’s fairly new but also has great reviews.
- Day Trip at IslaBela – To just spend a day at my favorite Rosario Island hotel. This is perfect for a relaxing beach day.
- Bora Bora Beach Club – This is a popular beach club with a party style atmosphere.
- Shared Islands Tour – Stops in the Rosarios, at Cholón, and Playa Blanca. This one has really good reviews, so I have no qualms recommending it. I’d still discourage booking with the agents selling tours like this on the street though.
This is the second important consideration when deciding if a stay at one of the Rosario Island hotels is for you.
There’s no two ways around this, staying in the Rosario Islands is expensive.
Prices can vary, but generally you’re going to pay a pretty peso to spend the night here. I have included one hostel that is a bit cheaper but it’s still pricier than hostels in town.
A very important consideration as well is the cost of transportation.
Some places include the cost of the boat out to the islands in the cost of their Rosario Islands accommodation, but many do not. They will help you coordinate it, but getting to the hotels in the Rosario Islands often has an additional cost.
When comparing prices between places be sure to keep that in mind.
If you are on a tighter budget, then doing one of the day trips above and staying in cheaper accommodations like one of the best Cartagena hostels in town might be more cost effective.
For especially tight budgets, you could consider going to Playa Blanca instead.
I think the islands are well worth the extra cost and generally recommend avoiding Playa Blanca due to the crowds and vendors. Therefore, I think most people will have a better time skimping somewhere else on the trip to have the extra pesos for the island, but Playa Blanca can be done cheaper.
The Rosario Islands are tiny coral islands with no proper running water or electricity.
Most of the eco-lodges and bungalows have wells or water tanks and generators, but you should not expect 5 star style accommodations here. It’s not unheard of that power goes out, and only some places offer A/C.
The number 2, 3, and 4 places in the list of Rosario Islands hotels below offer something closer to a luxury Rosario Islands resort style experience with more modern amenities, but most places are rustic style eco-lodges and cabins. That’s not to say they are like little shacks like what you’ll find at Playa Blanca, but they aren’t exactly the Hilton either.
I only bring this up to make sure you know what to expect.
I think all these places offer a great chance to get away from it all, and every one on this list has very nice accommodations.
However, you won’t be in a high rise hotel with a huge pool, great wifi, and lots of indoor space. If you would prefer something like that opt for options 2, 3, or 4, or just to stay in town at one of the top luxury hotels in Cartagena and do a day trip.
Some Practical Tips for Staying in the Islands
In addition to the bit about knowing what to expect, I would give you the following practical tips for enjoying staying at a Rosario Islands hotel:
- Ask your Rosario Islands hotel if you can come early in the day on the boat with the day pass customers, and the day you go home leave late to get the most value out of your stay.
- Keep in mind you’re not going to be able to go to a restaurant or supermarket down the street, so consider asking to take a look at the menu where you’ll be staying before hand and take along any special snacks you might want. Some Rosario Islands resort may offer rates that include food, so consider if that is worth it to go ahead and reserve with your accommodations in the Rosario Islands.
- There aren’t any ATMs in the islands and while most of the hotels should be able to take a card, it’s not a bad idea to have cash.
- Be sure to take any medication you might need.
- A good bug spray and sunscreen are necessary. It’s also never a bad idea to have your own snorkeling gear and a mini first aid kit. These are coral islands, so a good pair of water shoes for the rocky beaches are also useful to have along.
11 Best Rosario Island Hotels
Ok, now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s get to the list of the best hotels in the Rosario Islands!
This is a top 11 because, well, everyone does top 10s, 11 has a special significance for Cartagena since it declared its independence on November 11, 1811 (11/11/11), and I think you deserve just a bit more value for your scrolling efforts.
1. IslaBela – Our Favorite Rosario Island Hotel
We’ve been to several places on this list, and IslaBela is by far our favorite hotel in the Rosario Islands.
It is in my opinion the best combination of niceness and value of any of the Rosario Island hotels. You can read my full review and see more photos here, but what we loved the most about it is there is the great beach area, fairly large and not nearly as rocky as most of the beaches in the islands.
The bungalows are also gorgeous and each has their own little waterfront area. If you’re looking for a great little cabin for a romantic or family getaway, this is the place for it. As I mentioned above, it’s also possible to do just a day pass here.
If you want a slightly more luxury experience and need A/C in the room, the next three Rosario Islands hotels might be a better choice, but I think IslaBela offers the best bang for your peso.
2. Las Islas – Best of the Rosario Islands Luxury Hotels
Las Islas is one of the places we haven’t been, but man, would I like to go here.
This is the most highly considered beach resort in all of Cartagena, and by far the best choice for those looking for Rosario Islands luxury hotels.
It is technically in Barú, near Cholón, and not in the islands themselves but very close by.
They have bungalows, some that offer private beach access, many with private mini pools/jacuzzis, and some that are high up in the mangroves. It’s a nice balance between rustic and luxury.
It is also quite pricey, so keep that in mind.
However, if you can manage to fit a night or two here in your budget, I am sure it is worth every peso for a special experience at what is hands down the best Rosario Islands hotel (and if you want to invite your favorite Cartagena blogger, just let me know!).
3. Isla del Encanto – 2nd Option for Luxury Rosario Islands Resorts
Isla del Encanto, like Las Islas, is also in Barú, but very close to the islands.
We have been here, and we were super impressed. In fact, it’s one of the finest hotels we have ever stayed in, and makes a great choice for those looking for Rosario Islands resorts. You can read my review and see more photos here.
The bungalows are like little townhouses with an upstairs and downstairs and look like what you would expect in a 4 or 5 star hotel.
There is a huge and really nice beach area and two pools.
This is probably the best hotel in the Rosario Islands for families with children, and there is even a play area and kiddie pool.
It is pricey, but I appreciated that the price for accommodations includes the boat ride there and back. I can’t recommend it enough especially if you want something luxury but at a slightly less of a premium than Las Islas. You can also do a day pass here.
4. Sofitel Calabalanca – More Modern Luxury Rosario Islands Resort
Both Las Islas and Isla del Encanto offer very rustic style experiences (Isla del Encanto does have a little more modernly furnished rooms).
If you are looking for something a bit more like what you’d find at a luxury chain hotel in town, consider making the Sofitel Barú Calablanca your Rosario Islands resort of choice.
It is the sister hotel to the amazing Sofitel Santa Clara in town (on my list of the best Cartagena luxury hotels). It only opened around mid-2021, and aims to offer a modern 5 star Rosario Islands luxury hotel experience. The property is absolutely gorgeous, there is a large pool, and the rooms look simply amazing.
There is also a cool looking bar (something Encanto does not really have). They offer lots of additional tours and experiences, including coffee tastings, sailing lessons, movies under the stars, and a mixology class too.
Also nice is this Rosario Islands hotel gives you transportation on a big catamaran rather a speed boat.
Finally, this Rosario Islands hotel is set apart on a section of Barú where there is basically nothing else, offering a tranquil, private beach.
So, if you want a more traditional luxury beach resort style experience, this makes a great choice.
I think I’d poney up for the cabins in Las Islas if I had the budget, and I am keeping Encanto ahead of this because I’ve actually been there, but this place looks really top notch. They also do have space for conferences or other events like a destination wedding.
5. Coralina Island Hotel – Great Spot in the Mangroves on Isleta
Coralina Island Hotel is located just around the corner from IslaBela. It has a privileged position just at the tip on a little point, nestled among the mangroves.
The sun sets directly in front and photos of the sunset here are gorgeous (the photo at the bottom is taken from a dock near Coralina).
It’s also a smaller place, which gives it an intimate and private atmosphere. The only downside is there isn’t a huge sandy beach here, but the gazebo and dock overlooking the crystal clear water more than make up for that.
The rooms at this hotel in the Rosario Islands also look spectacular. They also have one larger bungalow that has multiple beds, meaning this could be a good choice for Rosario Islands accommodations for families.
6. San Pedro Majagua – Best Isla Grande, Colombia Hotel
We have never been to San Pedro Majagua, but every time we go by on a boat, I think that looks like a great beach.
It is located on Isla Grande and would be my choice for the best of the Isla Grande, Colombia hotels. It has a really large beach area with lots of chairs. Despite that, it never seems very crowded.
The accommodations also look very nice with nice little bungalow style houses with little front porches and hammocks.
They also offer diving lessons, so this would be a great choice for a Islas del Rosario accommodations if you want to dive as well. But even if not, seems like it would make a great place for where to stay in the Rosario Islands!
7. Gente de Mar – Great Small Rosario Islands Resort
Like San Pedro, I always think Gente de Mar looks like a great spot when we have gone by it on boats. It is on a little point at the corner of Isla Grande, and has a nice sized beach area.
It actually looks directly out at another island known Isla del Pirata, giving this hotel on Isla Grande in Colombia a terrific view. Photos of the place online and on Instagram also make it look great.
The rooms look really nice and so do the common areas.
In short, I think it makes for another great choice for a Islas Rosario hotel although I think their prices are a little high compared to a place like IslaBela.
8. Isla del Sol – Nice Isla Grande Hotel
We have been to Isla del Sol, although only for a day trip. You can read about our experience there and see photos here.
I thought it had a great space. There’s a nice little pool, and the beach area is nice.
However, it’s clear they carved out that beach area out since it’s quite rocky. It’s a terrific spot to hang out, get a tan, and enjoy a piña colada, but it’s not as great for swimming in my opinion.
It’s still not bad though, and we did a great tour of the mangroves with a guide here too. The bungalows here also looked nice, making it a decent choice for accommodations in the Rosario Islands if you can live with a smaller beach area that isn’t the best for swimming.
9. Fragata Island House – For an Intimate Feel
Fragata is located not far from Coralina and IslaBela.
It is more of a vacation home that is rented out either to groups or by individual rooms than a traditional Rosario Islands hotel.
It’s a sweet looking house, and it has a great deck area overlooking the little bay where it’s located. There is a nice beach area right next to it as well.
Rooms look great, and if you are a large group or family, you may even be able to rent out the whole house, which would make for very neat accommodations in the Rosario Islands.
10. Centro Ubuntu – Newest Islas del Rosario Hotel
I honestly hadn’t heard of Ubuntu until researching for this article.
It looks spectacular though, and similar to IslaBela a nice blend of nice but rustic. There are nice little bungalow style cabins here, and a big dock area overlooking the crystal clear water.
The early reviews up online are also great. It’s also designed to be sustainable and benefit the local community.
While very new, it may very well end up higher on this list of best Rosario Island hotels once it gets some more reviews or we have a chance to get there and check it out ourselves!
11. Secreto Hostel – Best Rosario Islands Hostel
I wanted to include at least one more moderately priced place on this list of best hotels in the Rosario Islands.
Secreto is a good value, and it is a lot nicer than some of the other very basic cheaper accommodations in the Rosario Islands.
There is a nice pool here and the area has access to the beach but is not located directly on the beach.
There are dorms and private rooms here.
If you’re looking to spend a night or three in the islands without breaking the budget, this is the best place to do it.
Best Rosario Island Hotels Conclusion
There you have it, a list of my picks for the 11 best Rosario Island hotels!
The truth is, you can’t really go wrong here.
If you are planning a trip to Cartagena and will do some beach bumming in the Rosarios, I hope you found this post useful and even more importantly, you have terrific time, regardless of which hotel in the Rosario Islands you choose.
Cheers and Happy Beaching It!
Did you like this post?
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Travel Guide to San Andrés Island
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Travel Guide to Hip Beach Town Palomino
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Visiting the Rainbow River of Caño Cristales
Planning a trip to Cartagena?
Be sure to check out the rest of the site to help you plan! In particularly, you might want to check out my guide to the best areas to stay, my list of over 75 things to do, my suggested packing list, my guide to the Rosario Islands, and my guide to all the beaches of Cartagena.