Visiting the Rosario Islands is pretty much an absolute must during a trip to Cartagena!
The crystal clear waters and less crowded beaches make getting out of the city to this Caribbean paradise just about an hour’s boat ride away completely worth it.
Doing a private boat rental, day tour, 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 best Rosario Islands hotels, and even better to spend several nights!
Living in Cartagena for over a decade, I’ve done countless day trips to the islands. Susana and I have also spent a number of nights at different resorts, lodges, and hotels in the Rosario Islands and have always loved it.
Read on to see my suggestions for where to stay in the Rosario Islands based on our experiences, including picks from luxury Rosario Islands resorts to more moderately priced beach bungalows to even a relatively budget friendly Rosario Island hostel. I’ve also included some practical tips to consider when planning your stay.
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Best Rosario Islands Hotels – Contents
- Quick Tips
- 11 Best Hotels in the Rosario Islands
- Is it Worth it to Spend the Night in the Rosario Islands?
- Some Practical Tips for Planning Your Stay at a Rosario Islands Hotel
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Quick Tips for Where to Stay in the Rosario Islands
So, first things first, while I’ll cover why in a bit more detail below, I only recommend spending the night in the islands if you have more than 4 nights total in Cartagena. The fact they are only accessible by boat means it’s not practical to spend your first or last night there, nor can you go and spend the day or half the day in the city.
So, if you have less than 5 nights, I recommend staying in the city and doing a day trip to the islands. You can see my picks for the best Rosario Island day trips here.
Keep in mind as well these are fairly isolated islands.
There’s not much out here, so don’t expect to go clubbing at night. Really, staying at any of these Isla del Rosario hotels is about rest and relaxation on the beach, with perhaps a side of snorkeling and/or tasty cocktails.
Amenities at most Rosario Islands hotels are also nice, but fairly basic.
You won’t be connecting on a Zoom call to the office, hitting the hotel gym, or hanging out in a fancy air conditioned lodge. I have included 3 larger, more luxury style hotels near the Rosario Islands (they are technically on the nearby Barú Island) that offer more amenities like A/C and pools.
Most of the other places to stay in the Rosario Islands offer more rustic beach bungalow style accommodations. That includes our favorite, IslaBela, which I think is a great value too.
Finally, for those looking for a hostel in the Rosario Islands, I recommend Secreto. It has a good mix of amenities, including a small pool, and value. There are some very basic and cheaper hostels, but Secreto would definitely be my first choice.
Below, you can see the full list, including more details on those I’ve mentioned here.
After the list, you can find some more things to consider when planning your visit, including a longer discussion of why I think you need at least 5 night to enjoy staying to a hotel in the Islas del Rosario, some discussion on budget, and also some tips on what to pack.
11 Best Hotels in the Rosario Islands
I like to do top 11s, 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.
I’ve tried to include a bit of everything here, ranging from our personal favorite place for where to stay in the Rosario Islands that I think has the best combination of quality and price to the top luxury resorts in the Rosario Islands to a few cheaper options.
I feel confident you will have a great time at any of these places to stay in the Rosario Islands, although there are some that are better fits than others depending on what you’re looking for so be sure to consider which ones are most like what you’re looking for in choosing accommodations in the Rosario Islands.
Ok, now let’s get to the list of the best hotels in the Rosario Islands!
1. IslaBela – Our Favorite Rosario Island Hotel
We’ve been to several places on this list, and IslaBela is by far our favorite of all the Isla Rosario hotels we’ve stayed.
It is, in my opinion, the best combination of niceness and value of any of the Rosario Island hotels.
You can see more photos and read about our experience at IslaBela here, but to summarize what we loved the most when we stayed here is that there is a good beach area, fairly large and not nearly as rocky as most of the beaches in the islands.
We really liked the food here too, and kayaking out in the little bay in front was also fun.
The bungalows are also gorgeous and each has their own little waterfront view. They are also a short walk from the main beach area and sort of secluded. We felt like we had our own private sliver of paradise.
So, if you’re looking for a great place to stay in the Rosario Islands for a romantic getaway, this is a good place for it!
There’s also a larger cabin with multiple beds that would be a great and practical choice for a small family.
If you want a slightly more luxury experience and need A/C in the room, the next three Islas del Rosario resorts might be a better choice for you, but I think IslaBela offers the overall best bang for your peso for accommodations in the Rosario Islands.
2. Las Islas – Best of the Luxury Rosario Islands Resorts
Las Islas is one of the places we haven’t made it to yet, but getting out here to stay a night or two is high on our list of things we still need to do in Cartagena.
This is the most highly considered beach resort in all of Cartagena, and it is by far the best choice for those looking for Rosario Islands luxury hotels.
This, as well as the next two luxury options on the list, I guess better qualify as hotels near the Rosario Islands, since they are all on the far tip of the peninsula of Barú Island. They are within the national park, and honestly, have nicer, sandier beaches along with crystal clear water. It’s also easy to arrange snorkeling tours and excursions out in the islands that are just a short boat ride away.
But back to Las Islas.
They have gorgeous and pretty unique bungalows. Some even offer private beach access, and many of them have private mini pools/jacuzzis. The ones that aren’t beach front are nestled up in the mangroves. It’s a perfect balance between rustic and luxury and definitely offers the most exclusive place where to stay on the Rosario Islands.
It is quite pricey, the priciest on this list. 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 – Another of the Top Resorts in the Rosario Islands
We have stayed at Isla del Encanto, and we were super impressed.
In fact, it’s probably one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed in, and makes a great choice for those looking for luxury hotels in the Rosario Islands that is a bit more affordable and more akin to a traditional hotel than Las Islas.
You can see lots of photos and read about our stay at Isla del Encanto here.
The bungalows at this hotel in the Rosario Islands of Colombia are like little townhouses with an upstairs and downstairs room. The rooms themselves look like what you would expect in a nice star hotel. They were really comfortable and there was a lovely walk in shower. There was even television. Also, we enjoyed the sweet balcony.
There is also huge and really nice beach area and two pools, one of which is exclusive to overnight guests.
This is also one of the better choices for a hotel in Rosario Islands for families with children. There is a play area and even a kiddie side in the larger pool exclusively for overnight guests.
While it’s not as expensive as Las Ials, it is still definitely on the pricier side. However, I really appreciated that the price for accommodations includes the boat ride there and back, not to mention meals. After accounting for that, our stay here really wasn’t all that crazy more expensive than our stay at IslaBela.
I really 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 – Newest of the Luxury Islas del Rosario Hotels
Both Las Islas and Isla del Encanto offer beach bungalow 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 Islas del Rosario luxury hotel 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 in mid-2021, and aims to offer a modern 5 star Rosario Islands 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. That in particular makes it the best choice for families with children as there’s more to do than just enjoy the beach.
Also, in a nice touch, this Rosario Islands resort gives you transportation on a big catamaran rather a speed boat. That definitely gives it a more exclusive and luxury feel!
I think I’d pony up for the cabins in Las Islas if I had the budget, and I am keeping Encanto ahead of this because we’ve actually been there, but this place looks really top notch, and I’ve heard some really good things about it.
They also do have space for conferences and events. So, if you’re planning an event or a destination wedding or something like that, this would make for a terrific place for it.
Regardless, if you want a more traditional luxury beach resort style experience, this makes arguably your very best choice for Rosario Islands accommodations.
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.
I like this area’s view because it overlooks several of the smaller islands. It’s a good area to kayak too.
Maybe the nicest part of this spot though is that the sun sets directly in front, and photos of the sunset here are absolutely gorgeous!
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 docks overlooking the crystal clear water definitely look like a nice place to hang too.
The rooms here also look quite nice. They also have one larger bungalow that has multiple beds, meaning this could be a good choice for Rosario Islands accommodations for families or groups too.
6. San Pedro Majagua – Best of the Hotels on Isla Grande
We have never been to San Pedro Majagua, but every time we go by on a boat, I think to myself, that looks like a great beach spot!
It is located on Isla Grande and would be my choice for the best of the hotels on Isla Grande.
It has a really large beach area with lots of chairs and space. Despite that, it never looks crowded when we go by.
The accommodations also look very nice. They have nice little bungalow style houses with little front porches and hammocks. It’s definitely on my list of places I’d like to spend a night at some point.
They also offer diving lessons, so this would be a great choice for Islas del Rosario accommodations if you want to dive as well.
7. Bora Bora Beach Club – Popular Beach Club Now Offers Rooms
Bora Bora has long been a favorite for day passes. It offers a bit of a unique vibe with a more party style atmosphere. There’s usually a DJ, and there are lovely beach beds here overlooking a nice beach area.
I feel like it’s an especially popular Instagram spot!
In just the last year or so, it also opened overnight accommodations. The rooms look really terrific. It’s certainly not quite as high end as Las Islas, Encanto, or the Sofitel, but not far behind either. Honestly, the rooms here look nicer than anywhere else on this list besides those big 3, and the comments and reviews are all very positive.
For those looking for a more party style Rosario Islands resort, it’s definitely the best spot. While there is usually a larger crowd here during the day, I imagine it’s a good bit more chilled out at night. Still, I would think it would tend to attract a more lively type of traveler for overnight stays as well, so I wouldn’t think you’ll be bored either.
Therefore, if you want a hotel in the Rosario Islands with plenty of action during the day and chance to keep the party going into the night, this is a great option.
I think it’d make an especially good fit for groups, couples, younger travelers, and younger at heart travelers. Families or those looking for a more chilled out, relaxed vibe might be better off considering one of the other places on this list of best Rosario Islands resorts.
8. Isla del Sol – Solid Isla Grande Hotel
I thought it had a great space. There’s a nice little pool, and the beach area is nice, if a bit on the small side.
However, it’s clear they carved out that beach area out since it’s quite rocky. You will definitely want water shoes here. The water was also not as clear here and there was a fair amount of sand churned up in the water. Not sure if that’s always the case or was due to weather or temporary though.
So, I didn’t think swimming in the sea here was as nice is at Encanto or IslaBela. It’s a terrific spot to hang out, get a tan, and enjoy a piña colada, but it’s just not as great for swimming in my opinion.
All that being said, it’s one of the only places to stay in the Rosario Islands I know of besides the big three resorts that also has a pool.
So, I guess life is really all about trade offs!
Also, we did do a great tour of the mangroves with a local guide here too. I definitely recommend it if you stay here.
If you like laying on the beach with a view but prefer to swim in a pool and don’t want to break the budget at the larger resorts, this makes a good choice, but if you’d like to swim in the ocean and do some snorkeling, I’d look at one of the other places on this list.
9. Fragata Island House – Rosario Island House Hotel
Fragata is located not far from Coralina and IslaBela on Isleta.
It is really 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 that overlooks some of the other tinier islands.
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 Ecolodge in the Islas del Rosario
Ubuntu is one of the newer ecolodges in the Rosario Islands.
It looks quite good with a good blend of rustic but nice, similar to IslaBela. There are nice little bungalow style cabins, and there is a big dock area overlooking the crystal clear water.
Reviews online online are also quite positive. It’s also designed to be sustainable and benefit the local community more than most of the other Islas del Rosario hotels which is a nice touch and also similar to IslaBela.
While still fairly new, it may very well end up higher on this list of best Rosario Island hotels if it continues to get rave reviews and/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 cheaper priced place on this list of best hotels in the Rosario Islands. In this case, it’s the best hostel in the Rosario Islands.
Secreto is located on Isla Grande. It is a really good value, and it is a lot nicer than some of the other very basic cheaper accommodations and hostels in the Rosario Islands.
There is a nice pool here, and the area has easy access to the beach even though it is not located directly on the beach.
There are both dorms and private rooms here so it could work for couples or solo travelers.
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.
Gente de Mar – Nice Small Islas del Rosario Resort
*Please note, Gente de Mar was shut down in early 2023 for alleged license, tax, and property ownership disputes (source in Spanish here). As of the most recent update of this post on January 17, 2024, it remains closed as far as I can tell.
It appears it will reopen at some point, but it’s hard to say when and if it will be under the same management. For that reason, I’ve left it here at the bottom as sort of an honorable mention, if you will.
I previously had it number 7 on this list, and I’ve always heard pretty good things about it, and we’ve passed by it on boats lots of time. I would double and triple check its status before making any reservation here, but it’s a nice property and I decided to leave its description below for if and when it does reopen:
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. A smaller property, it has a very intimate feel.
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.
Which Rosario Island Hotel Will You Choose?
There you have it, a list of my picks for the 11 best Rosario Island hotels! Hopefully there is in fact something for just about everyone on that list.
The truth is though, you can’t really go wrong here.
Now that I’ve given you my picks for where to stay in the Rosario Islands, I’ll cover some other practical considerations, FAQs, and tips in more detail below as promised at the start.
Is it Worth it to Stay in the Rosario Islands?
Well, it depends.
I think there are a ton of advantages of staying at one of the hotels in the Rosario Islands.
Many of the ecolodges and hotels that offer Rosario Islands accommodations are less crowded than the popular beach clubs for day passes. Even the larger Rosario Islands resorts clear out a lot after the day trip people go home, so you can have the beach and crystal clear water all to yourself.
One of the big disadvantages of going on a day trip only is boats usually head back to Cartagena between 2 and 3 due to rough currents later in the afternoon.
Trust me, the day goes by a lot quicker than you think!
If you only do a day trip, I feel pretty confident betting you’ll be wishing you could stay just a little longer. At least, that’s how I’ve always felt when we’ve done a day tour or day pass at any of the hotels in the Rosario Islands.
Not to mention if you spend the night at a hotel in the Islas del Rosario, you’ll get to enjoy the incredible Caribbean sunset!
So, why do I say it depends if it’s amazing?
Based on our many experiences on day trips and stays at hotels in the Rosario Islands, I would say it depends on three things:
- How much 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 or resorts in the Rosario Islands is time.
The islands are a 90 minute boat ride away from Cartagena.
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, I don’t recommend planning on staying all your time in Cartagena at a hotel or resort in the Rosario Islands, because you won’t get to see all of the many 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.
Keep in mind, your first night won’t be worth spending in the islands because you won’t get a full day. Plus, most Rosario Islands hotels’ boats depart early in the morning, and it’s both hard and usually expensive to arrange a later boat.
Ditto for your last day, but in reverse.
Unless you have a flight after like 9 pm, I would highly discourage staying in the islands your last night.
Most boats are back to Cartagena by 4 pm, but there’s always the possibility of delays.
I remember one time, actually when much of my family came to our wedding and we did a boat rental for the day, one of the engines had problems and we had to climb aboard another one. Luckily we had made it safely into the calmer waters of the bay.
Point is, I wouldn’t want to risk cutting it close by staying in the islands my last night.
Finally, remember a night in the islands is basically committing to 2 full days there.
There are a couple places that have afternoon departures and morning returns, but most have a very early boat that goes to the islands and an afternoon boat that returns.
And, well, in my opinion, you get full value that way anyways and get to maximize your beach time.
So, if you only have 4 nights, you end up without a full day in the city itself!
At a bare minimum you should give yourself at least one full day to explore the city. Ideally, you also have at least one night to enjoy the best Cartagena restaurants and perhaps the Cartagena nightlife.
So that’s four nights in town as a minimum.
I’d actually probably even recommend anyone staying 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. I do think if you have 5 nights, you can squeeze in one night staying in the islands if it’s a priority for you though.
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 in and around Cartagena 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.
Can’t Swing an Overnight Stay? Here are Some 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 Islas 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.
- Day Trip at IslaBela – This is our favorite Rosario Island hotel. The day pass is perfect for a relaxing beach day if you don’t have time to spend the night.
- 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 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 Islas del Rosario resorts or hotels is for you.
There’s no two ways around this, staying at one of the hotels in the Rosario Islands is expensive. While that’s especially true for Rosario Islands luxury hotels, even the more reasonably priced places can be pretty pricey.
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 usually help you coordinate it, but getting to the hotels in the Rosario Islands sometimes 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 though.
Therefore, I think most people will have a better time skimping somewhere else on the trip to have the extra pesos for the islands whether it be on just a day trip or spending a night.
The Rosario Islands are tiny coral islands with no proper running water or electricity.
Most of the eco-lodges, bungalows, and hotels in the Islas del Rosario have wells or water tanks and generators, but you should generally not expect 5 star style accommodations in the Rosario Islands. It’s not unheard of that power goes out, and only a handful of places offer A/C.
As I mentioned, the number 2, 3, and 4 places on the list of Rosario Islands hotels above offer something closer to a luxury hotel in the Rosario Islands resort style experience with more modern amenities. That’s in part because they are on Barú, which is connected to the mainland.
However, most places to stay in the Rosario Islands themselves are more rustic style eco-lodges, bungalows, and cabins.
That’s not to say they are like little ramshackle shacks like what you’ll find at Playa Blanca, but they aren’t exactly the Ritz-Carlton either.
I only bring this up to make sure you know what to expect.
I think all the places for where to stay in the Rosario Islands I have above offer a great chance to get away from it all, and every place on that list has very nice, clean, comfortable, and well reviewed accommodations for the Rosario Islands.
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 more akin to 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 More 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:
- If the boat departs Cartagena later in the day, ask your Rosario Islands hotel if you can come early in the day on the boat with the day pass customers.
- If there’s multiple return boats, also ask for the latest boat the day you go home 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 resorts and hotels offer rates that include food, so consider if that is worth it to go ahead and reserve with your accommodations in the Rosario Islands or if you prefer to order as you go.
- There aren’t any ATMs in the islands and while most of the hotels should be able to take a card, it’s a good idea to have at least some cash.
- Be sure to take any medications you might need.
- Ask your hotel in town if they would be willing to hold on to your luggage (preferably locked up), and just take a small overnight bag. While most of the Rosario Island hotel boats have luggage stows, it is a bit of a pain lugging around large bags and suitcases.
- Don’t drink tap water at hotels in the Rosario Islands or Barú.
Packing List for Staying at a Hotel in the Islas del Rosario
- A good bug spray and sunscreen are absolutely necessary!
- A good dry bag to stash things is never a bad idea when on a boat.
- It’s also nice to have along your own snorkeling gear.
- These are coral islands, so a good pair of non-goofy looking water shoes for the rocky beaches are also useful to have along.
- And just in case you get any cuts and scrapes, a mini first aid kit can come in handy.
- So can a flashlight since there isn’t a ton of light at night.
- And of course, you’ll want all your normal beach gear!
- The ladies might like this fun bikini or this one piece for the islands, this cute dress coverup, and this packable sunhat.
- They guys might like these board shorts and this packable panama hat.
- Oh, and a quick dry beach towel can be really nice to have along.
Best Rosario Island Hotels Conclusion
Now you know just about everything you need to know to have an awesome stay at a hotel or resort in the Rosario Islands!
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!
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You might also consider planning a trip to the wonderful beaches of San Andrés Island during your time in Colombia. Also, Tayrona National Park has unspoiled beaches up the coast. There’s also the Hip Beach Town Palomino further up the Caribbean coast. For a unique experience, consider going Whale Watching on Deserted Beaches in Nuquí or seeing where the desert meets the sea at Punta Gallinas, South America’s most northern point.
Planning a trip to Cartagena?
Be sure to check out the rest of the site to help you plan!
In particular, you might want to check out my guide to the best areas to stay, my list of over 75 things to do, my picks for the best Cartagena tours, the best day trips from Cartagena, my suggested packing list, my guide to the Rosario Islands, and my guide to all the beaches of Cartagena.