Playa Blanca is probably the most famous beach near Cartagena. There are however, two drawbacks to visiting Playa Blanca. First, it is a bit excluded and transportation can be either uncomfortable and cheap, or comfortable and expensive. Second, it gets very crowded. However, both of those things can be rectified if you take the Playa Blanca Shuttle to the Ocean Blue Beach Bar at the less crowded end of Playa Blanca. We recently did this and it will almost certainly be our go to way to visit Playa Blanca. Read on to learn how to take the Playa Blanca Shuttle and enjoy Ocean Blue Beach Bar yourself.
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program as well as other affiliate programs and may earn a commission on qualifying purchases made after clicking links from this site. There is never any additional cost to you. We were also given complementary shuttle, lunch, and snorkeling in exchange for sharing our experience. The opinions expressed here are still my own and I would definitely recommend the Playa Blanca Shuttle. For more information, please consult my Disclosure Policy.
Why Take the Playa Blanca Shuttle Bus?
In a word, convenience.
Yes, it is cheaper to go by bus, then mototaxi or collective taxi, and then walk down the beach find a place that isn’t too crowded, and then walk back to the entrance before it’s too late to get transportation back.
With the Playa Blanca Shuttle, you used to still have to do the last 2 parts of the above. But as of early 2020, it is more convenient than ever.
That’s because, now you can take a boat down to almost the very end of the beach, where there are hardly any crowds, to their partner restaurant Ocean Blue Beach Bar, at no additional charge!
Honestly, saving yourself the 30-45 minute walk both ways it would take to get down to the uncrowded end of the beach and back to the entrance alone might be enough to justify spending a bit more than using public transportation.
Of course, you’ll also save considerable time getting to the beach and back as taking the shuttle bus to Playa Blanca from Cartagena takes about half the time as taking public transportation. You also have the option of staying much later with a night shuttle back.
In short, the shuttle bus from Cartagena to Playa Blanca offers convenience and flexibility. That leads me to say that going to Playa Blanca from Cartagena with the Playa Blanca Shuttle is undoubtedly the best way to get from Cartagena to Playa Blanca
Read on to learn more about our experience and all the details of both the shuttle to Playa Blanca and the restaurant.
Playa Blanca Shuttle Bus
The shuttle bus to Playa Blanca from Cartagena leaves from Hostel Mamallena.
There are three departure times for the shuttle bus from Cartagena to Playa Blanca:
- 8:30 am
- 1 pm
- 5 pm (this is more for the Plankton tour, but could also work if you plan to spend the night).
You’ll want to arrive at least 10 minutes before your departure time.
If you’re just going for the day, then I’d recommend going on the early bus. If you’re planning on spending the night, then you could do one of the later ones (although I’d still make sure to go on at least the 1 pm one so you get to see sunset at the beach!).
Actually, I’d still encourage you to go on the early bus to have more beach time, but I know sometimes getting up early is tough, especially if you’ve been taking advantage of all the things to do in Cartagena.
The Cartagena to Playa Blanca shuttle bus has A/C and decently comfortable chairs (I napped a bit on the way). The trip takes approximately 45 minutes.
Return Trips on the Cartagena Playa Blanca Shuttle Bus
One of the things I really like about the shuttle bus to Playa Blanca is the flexibility it gives you. You can choose to come back the same day or another day if you stay the night and at the time that’s best for you. Again, convenience and flexibility!
There are also 3 return trips on the shuttle bus from Playa Blanca to Cartagena:
- 10:30 am (if you do decide to spend the night)
- 3 pm
- 8:30 pm (this is great if you want to see the sunset and not spend the night, and of course also for the Plankton).
The cost of the Cartagena Playa Blanca Shuttle Bus is round trip and you can choose when to come back, just be sure to let them know when you plan to come back from Playa Blanca to Cartagena.
This flexibility is for me is undoubtedly one of the best things about it. You can go for just the day and still see the sunset even if you don’t spend the night and come back on the late bus.
You can spend the night and still be back in town by noon if you have something else to do, if you’re just sick of the sun, if you’re too hungover to handle the sun, or if you just need a shower.
That flexibility makes the Shuttle Bus to Playa Blanca a real value even if you’ll spend a bit more than going the cheaper bus-mototaxi way (plus you can nap, something you can’t do on a mototaxi).
Ocean Blue Beach Bar
The kicker for taking the bus though, is the free boat ride down to Ocean Blue Beach Bar. Located nearly at the end of the beach, there are very few crowds at that end of Playa Blanca.
When arriving on the bus, the driver or guide Richard should explain and escort you down to the boat, just inside the main entrance to the beach (about a 5 minute walk from the parking lot).
The boat and going to the restaurant is by the way entirely optional. However, considering it’s free of charge, and you’ll avoid most of the crowds, I’d recommend doing it. The 6 minute boat ride surely beats a half hour plus walk to that end of the beach.
The set up at the restaurant is also nice. There are some beach chairs out front, a downstairs seating area, and an upstairs deck with some swings and a great view. There are also bathrooms.
You can also do snorkeling and plankton tours from the restaurant. These can be bought in a package deal at Mamallena when you go to board the bus.
We did the snorkeling, and enjoyed it. Funny enough, after 9 years here, this was the first time I had been snorkeling at Playa Blanca.
While it isn’t the Great Barrier Reef, you do get to see some coral, and we saw some neat, brightly colored fish, including one fat rainbow colored one. There’s also a cool little rope tied to a rock if you want to snag a photo underwater of you snorkeling. It made us wish we had a good underwater camera like a GoPro or Olympus TG-6.
You can also do a Bioluminescent Plankton Tour. We didn’t do this, as we had done it before in the San Bernardo Islands. It is a really neat experience, and if you’ve never done it before, I would definitely recommend it. Pro tip: be sure to kick and splash around to see the most of the plankton lighting up!
We were really impressed with the lunch at the restaurant. We both got your typical mojarra fried fish plates along with coconut rice, patacones, and salad, but the fish were really big! Beers and cocktails were also fairly reasonably priced for the beach, and there is always 2×1 on select cocktails.
While you could probably find a cheaper fish and cheaper Aguila somewhere on the beach, the convenience getting down to the less crowded end of the beach on the boat is well worth it. And there are a few places with nicer beach beds and the like, but you’ll be spending a whole heck of a lot more on food and drinks.
Of course, if you do go down to the restaurant, the boat will take you back about half an hour before your departure time on the bus. Again, it’s very convenient!
- There are no ATMs at the beach. So take plenty of cash.
- Don’t forget to pack your beach gear, especially sunscreen.
- Beware vendors, especially massage ladies. They’re not as prevalent at the end of the beach, but there still are some, and they can occasionally be pushy. Remember there is no such thing as a free sample, not of massages or oysters. That being said, if you want a cocada, mango, piña colada in a coconut, or a massage or oysters for that matter, there aren’t lots of opportunities for people that live in the towns near the beach, so get one. Otherwise, just do your best no gracias and finger wag, and if necessary be insistent you aren’t going to pay for anything.
And If I Want to Spend the Night at Playa Blanca?
Ocean Blue does not have overnight accommodations, at least for the time being. Still, given the flexibility of being able to come back on the bus another day, you could choose to spend the night.
There are places nearby that have overnight accommodations. Most will have both private and group rooms. Ask around and be willing to negotiate. You can also not take the boat down to the restaurant when you arrive and walk down the beach comparing places. A lot of places will give you a package deal on accommodations and meals.
You can learn more about spending the night as well as see a packing list and other practical tips at my complete guide to Playa Blanca.
How to Book the Playa Blanca Shuttle from Cartagena
You can see the latest information and save money by booking directly here.
You can also email [email protected] or contact them by phone or Whatsapp at 314 500-8842.
Finally, you can walk in to Hostel Mamallena on Calle la Media Luna in Cartagena. You may be able to get a spot on the shuttle day of, but especially on weekends or high season, you’ll be better off booking ahead.
When you arrive to Mamallena before your departure, you can also add on lunch, snorkeling, and/or the plankton tour in a combo ticket to save some pesos.
There you have it, a complete guide to taking the Playa Blanca Shuttle Bus from Cartagena. Overall, we had a great experience and will almost certainly use it for our future trips to Playa Blanca. The convenience and flexibility is just too good to beat, and I highly recommend it.
I hope you found this review and guide useful and if you do go to Playa Blanca on the shuttle, you have just as good an experience and just as big of a mojarra for lunch!
Cheers and Happy Exploring!
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