One of the best aspects of visiting Cartagena on Colombia's northern coast is having close proximity to nearby Caribbean Islands for the ultimate culture/beach adventure. On this 5-day trip, you'll start off experiencing the city's narrow streets with palaces, churches, and mansions painted in pastel colors (not to mention hip hotels and galleries that are popping up). Then, boat over to San Bernardo's beautiful coral islands for white-sand beaches and watersports. Finish the adventure back in Cartagena for one more night of colonial romance.

Highlights 

  • Hike around Mucura, an island in the San Bernardo archipelago
  • Snorkel or dive the coral reefs around San Bernardo
  • Take to the sea on a kayak or windsurf board
  • Explore the Walled Inner city of Cartagena, filled with cobblestone streets, mansions and museums

Overview

This 5-day trip to Cartagena and the San Bernardo Islands is a great itinerary for honeymooners, couples and families looking for a Caribbean adventure that includes history, culture, beautiful beaches and water sports. In just a few short days you can see the highlights of historic Cartagena and visit the San Bernardo Islands, a little-visited piece of paradise in the Caribbean Sea. This is a great itinerary to combine with a trip to another part of Colombia, such as Bogotá or Medellín. 

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cartagena (optional city tour) Cartagena
Day 2 Snorkeling at the San Bernardo Islands San Bernardo Islands
Day 3 Hiking & Watersports at Mucura San Bernardo Islands
Day 4 Exploration of Cartagena Cartagena
Day 5 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cartagena (optional city tour)

Cartagena Blue Hour

Welcome to Cartagena! This picturesque colonial city on the Caribbean Sea is rich in culture, architecture, romance – and, yes, even pirate history. Head to your hotel from the airport, and depending on the time of your arrival, consider a few options. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or jump into action with a walking tour, either by yourself or with an English-speaking guide. Here are some things that you should see:

  • Wander the narrow, winding streets of the inner-walled city with a camera to photograph colorful houses and lively squares overflowing with bougainvillea.
  • Visit the Palace of Inquisition, which despite its original use, is one of the finest buildings in the city
  • Tour Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards.
  • Pay respects at Santo Domingo, reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Walk along the original fortress wall and see panoramic views of the city. 
  • Check out La Vitrola – the city's most famous restaurant in a 400-year-old colonial home. 

Finish the day on your own with mojitos and fresh ceviche in one of the city’s hip restaurants or rooftop bars.

Day 2: Swim and snorkel on the San Bernardo Islands

Boat dock on tiny San Bernardo island

After breakfast, a driver will pick you up from your hotel in Cartagena and head to the pier with your luggage. You will depart from the mainland in a speedboat to Mucura – one of 10 small islands in San Bernardo's little-known archipelago off the Caribbean coast. Have lunch at your hotel and then spend the afternoon swimming and snorkeling in the calm turquoise water, or just relax on the white sand beach.

Day 3: Hiking and water sports on the San Bernardo Islands

Aerial view of one San Bernardo island

Spend an active day in beautiful Mucura. Enjoy a peaceful breakfast at the hotel before hiking around the entire island. Lunch will be served back at the hotel, followed by a boat tour in the afternoon to visit other islands in the chain such as Tintipan and the Islote.

The rest of your afternoon is free for the taking. You can rent kayaks, go windsurfing, or explore marine life underwater with snorkel gear or scuba dive equipment (night dives are also available)

Day 4: Departure from San Bernardo Islands and city exploration of Cartagena

White sand beaches on Mucura

It's time to say goodbye to Mucura! Have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and take the opportunity for one final swim in this glorious turquoise water. Your transfer back to Cartagena by boat will take two hours. Keep your eyes open and your camera close, as you'll pass by the beautiful Rosario Islands on the way. The boat returns in the early afternoon, so you'll have more time to explore Cartagena and have dinner out on the town. 

Day 5: Depart Cartagena

Cartagena old town

It's time to say farewell to Colombia! Enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a relaxing café, or (if you have not done so yet) take a walk around the city with an English-speaking guide to gain a new perspective of the city from a local. 

This optional tour covers Cartagena's enchanting maze of colorful houses and lively squares from the 16th century. Meander through the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while learning about main sites like the Popa Monastery, Saint Philip's Castle, and El Museo del Oro. 

A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home.

 

Map

Map of Cartagena & the San Bernardo Islands - 5 Days
Map of Cartagena & the San Bernardo Islands - 5 Days