Experience the highlights along Colombia's northern coast in this active 8-day Caribbean adventure. You'll soak in the culture and fairy-tale romance of Cartagena's Old Town, join a fishing trip, explore the beautiful Tayrona National Park, hike through mountainous jungles, go birdwatching, visit a coffee farm, and finish your trip with a relaxing trip to the Rosario Islands by speedboat.

Highlights

  • Stroll the cobblestone streets and ancient ramparts of Cartagena
  • Explore beaches in Colombia's incredible Tayrona National Park
  • Discover the secrets to Colombian coffee in the mountain village of Minca
  • Laze on the white sand beaches of the Rosario islands

Brief itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Cartagena Cartagena
Day 2 La Boquilla Fishing Trip Cartagena
Day 3 Cartagena - Transfer to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona Tayrona
Day 4 Tour of Tayrona National Park  Tayrona
Day 5 Drive to Minca: Coffee Farm and Village Tour Minca
Day 6 Sunrise Birdwatching - Transfer to Cartagena Cartagena
Day 7 Rosario Islands day Cartagena
Day 8 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Cartagena

Cartagena's historic Old Town
Cartagena's historic Old Town

Welcome to Cartagena! This colonial fortress city on the Caribbean is rich in culture, architecture, romance, and even pirate history. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your four-star hotel. 

Depending on the time of your arrival, you'll have a few options for activities. You can relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or get right into the mix with a neighborhood walk, either on your own or with an English-speaking guide (optional add-on). Here are some other ideas to consider:

  • Wander the narrow streets of the historic Old Town, snapping photos of the lively plazas and colorful houses with bougainvillea-draped balconies.
  • Check out the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo, stopping at key sites like Plaza de los Coches, Plaza de la Aduana, Parque Bolívar, and Plaza de Santa Teresa.  
  • Walk along the Old Town's original fortress walls (dating back to 1586), constructed to protect Cartagena from sea attacks. These ramparts also afford panoramic views of the city and make great sunset-viewing spots.
  • Visit Santo Domingo, which, having been erected in 1552, is reputedly the oldest church in the city. 
  • Explore Getsemaní, the bohemian neighborhood just outside the walls of Cartagena's Old Town. Once a seedy area, Getsemaní is now a cultural enclave filled with Spanish colonial architecture, graffiti art, boutique hotels, and street food vendors.

Finish the day with mojitos and fresh gourmet ceviche in one of the city’s trendy restaurants or rooftop bars.

Overnight: Cartagena

Day 2: La Boquilla Fishing Trip

Fishing boats in La Boquilla
Fishing boats in La Boquilla

After breakfast at your hotel, a driver will transfer you to the mangroves and rivers outside of Cartagena. Here you'll experience a small sampling of Colombia's diversity. The inhabitants of this region are predominantly Afro-Colombians who subsist on the abundant fish that populate the delicate fresh-and-saltwater ecosystem here. A local fisherman will take you by boat to catch some of these fish, and you'll assist in checking cages and nets to see what delights will be served later on. 

After reaching the local community of La Boquilla, you'll chat with the locals as they teach you how to prepare the fish you've just caught. Enjoy a feast for lunch before heading back to Cartagena. The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to explore the city however you wish.

Day-trip duration: Four hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Overnight: Cartagena

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: Cartagena - Transfer to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

Canaveral Beach, Tayrona National Park
Canaveral Beach, Tayrona National Park

After breakfast, you'll be picked up from your hotel in Cartagena for your private car transfer to the area just outside the entrance of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona's (Tayrona Park), where you'll stay overnight.

You'll have the rest of the afternoon to relax and enjoy your hotel, located on a peaceful spot overlooking the Caribbean Sea at the foot of the mountains. Wander down to the nearby beach, which has a beautiful sunset view, before dinner is served for all guests of the hotel.

Overnight: Tayrona Park

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Tour of Tayrona National Park

Arrecifes beach, Tayrona Park
Arrecifes beach, Tayrona Park

After breakfast, you'll begin a half-day tour of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Park). This protected area is known for having some of the most virgin coastal landscapes in the entire country. Indeed, when you see promotional images of Caribbean Colombia, often you're seeing images of Cabo San Juan, which is located in Tayrona. You'll experience much of this coastline with a local guide while touring the white-sand beaches and rainforests further inside Tayrona.

First, it's a hike in the tropical foothills near Playa Cañaveral, at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Then visit the exotic beaches of Arrecifes and La Piscina, the latter of which is an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling. Continue to Cabo San Juan and enjoy the bay of white sand surrounded by large volcanic rocks. On the way here, you can observe several species of flora and fauna pointed out by your knowledgeable guide. The afternoon is yours to enjoy on your own. Have a bit of lunch and relax on the shore.

You'll return to your hotel in the late afternoon with time to enjoy the sunset and dinner served on-site.

Tour duration: 4-5 hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Overnight: Tayrona Park

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Drive to Minca - Coffee Farm and Village Tour

Sunset in Minca
Sunset in Minca

After breakfast, a driver will meet you for your transfer to Minca, a mountain village located on the coastal hillside. Tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains, remote Minca is seemingly a world away from the bustling city of Santa Marta just down the Caribbean coast. It's also at altitude, so remember to bring an extra layer or two as the temperatures here are cooler than they are at sea level.

Your Minca adventure includes a half-day tour by 4x4, and you'll start at one of the working coffee farms in the region. After learning about the production process (and enjoying complimentary tastings), you'll visit the natural swimming hole of Pozo Azul for a refreshing dip, so bring your bathing suit!

Enjoy some free time and have lunch on your own before you embark on an afternoon walking tour of Minca's town center. Alternatively, visit the hummingbird balcony at Hotel Minca, where you can relax and observe the hundreds of hummingbirds that feed there.

(Optional add-on.) There's also a full-day excursion that includes a trip to the stunning waterfall of Marinka, as well as a driving tour of the area with beautiful views of Santa Marta.

Tour duration: 3-4 hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Overnight: Minca

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 6: Sunrise Birdwatching -> Transfer to Cartagena

Hummingbird in Minca
Hummingbird in Minca

After an early breakfast, experience the biodiversity of Minca's surroundings with this unique birdwatching excursion. The area's dry tropical forest is a haven for many species of the country's whopping 2,000 species of birds. You will leave from Minca at dawn on a moderate hike through the forest. During this time your local guide will point out a wide variety of rare and exotic species such as the keel-billed toucan, golden-winged sparrow, black-backed antshrike, and the rosy thrush-tanager.

After lunch on your own in Minca's village, you'll transfer by vehicle to Cartagena de Indias.

Tour duration: Three hours (with an English-speaking guide)

Overnight: Cartagena

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 7: Rosario Islands Day Trip

Blue sea and sky near Cartagena
Blue sea and sky near Cartagena

After an early breakfast, you'll transfer from your hotel to the pier where you will board a speedboat for an hour trip to the Barú Peninsula. Along the way, you will see Tierra Bomba Island and Boca Chica, ancient forts that once protected Cartagena from hostile invaders.

After arriving at the Rosario Islands, change into your swimwear and head to Playa Azul, a crescent beach with soft white sands hugging the turquoise Caribbean Sea. After enjoying a buffet lunch, you will have time to relax and sunbathe. An optional add-on is to rent a kayak and embark on a two or three-hour paddling excursion before returning to Cartagena in the late afternoon. A car will pick you up at the pier to take you back to your hotel.

Day-trip duration: Seven hours (including transfers)

Overnight: Cartagena

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Depart Cartagena

Cartagena
A last stroll through the streets of Cartagena before your departure

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia! After breakfast, enjoy your last moments of Cartagena in a patio café. Or, if you haven't already, explore the bulk of the city on a guided tour. Otherwise, take one last stroll along those cobbled streets.

Enjoy Cartagena's cobbled maze of vividly colorful houses and ancient squares dating from the 16th century. Meander through the colonial neighborhoods of San Diego and Santo Domingo while learning about important historical sites like Saint Philip's Castle. Maybe pay a visit to the Palace of the Inquisition in Plaza de Bolívar, which was once the seat of the Holy Office of the Inquisition and is now a macabre museum.

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

Meals included: Breakfast

Map

Map of Colombia Coastal Adventure - 8 Days
Map of Colombia Coastal Adventure - 8 Days