This Idyllic Peninsula Off Colombia's Coast Is A Tropical Paradise Of White And Pink Sands

Close your eyes. Now whisper the word "beach." Are you picturing soft pink and white sands, crystalline blue water, waving palm trees, and maybe a cabana built for two? What you just saw with your mind's eye is exactly what you'll find along the coast of Barú Islas del Rosario, or Barú for short (pronounced Bar-oo, like tattoo), on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, just an hour from Cartagena.


Barú began as a narrow peninsula before it was separated from the mainland by Canal del Dique, so it is now a rare wonder: A Caribbean island you can actually get to by ferry or taxi. Since it's so easily accessible, day trippers often flock to Barú's Playa Blanca by shuttle boat from Cartagena's port for a quickie beach day. However you arrive, there are lots of ways to spend the day, whether you're a sun worshiper, a birdwatcher, or a reef-seeking snorkeler.

Barú's Playa Blanca provides a perfect, relaxing beach day

After bustling Cartagena, a top tourist destination and Unesco World Heritage Site known for its vibrantly colored colonial architecture, a day at the beach sounds divine. You can book a round trip on a speedboat launch or ferry from the port in Cartagena to Playa Blanca. Just be aware that this will likely put you on the beach among peak midday crowds — fun if you enjoy people-watching. If you don't, you can take a shuttle bus or taxi later in the day and stay until sunset, which is a simple hack to avoid crowds at busy beaches. Another approach is to book a visit through one of the local beach clubs. Or you can splurge on an inclusive, luxurious trip that combines stays in Cartagena and Barú — a package that lets you experience the city and the sea.


For those who simply enjoy lounging on the beach, Barú is the spot to be. In fact, there are scientific reasons why Barú's beachy color palette is so relaxing. Water absorbs most colors except for blue, so against the snow-white sand (Playa Blanca means "white beach"), the water's shade of blue can be particularly intense and pure here, and the sight of blue is scientifically proven to promote relaxation. As for the stretch of beach that appears to be millennial pink? Pink beaches are created by the grinding down of rosy little organisms called planktic foraminifera. But all your brain knows is that we are socialized to associate pink with pleasant experiences. 

Things to do and where to stay in Barú

Once you arrive, you can choose to be as active — or as relaxed — as you like. Colombia is home to more species of bird than any other country, and a visit to Barú's National Aviary of Colombia will let you commune with cockatoos, colorful toucans, pearlescent pink flamingoes, and preening parrots. Tip: The aviary opens at 9 a.m., and you'll want to visit early in the day before hitting the beach because the birds are busiest then — hence the phrase "early bird." You can hop on a snorkel boat right from Playa Blanca (visitors report it may be cheaper to book there than in Cartagena) or loaf the day away in a rented cabana.


While Barú is a popular day trip, an overnight stay is the best way to take in the pretty pastel sunset or swim with bioluminescent plankton by moonlight. At the top-rated Hotel Isla Del Encanto, winner of a 2024 Tripadvisor Travelers' Choice Award, you can fall asleep in your own thatch-roofed bungalow. Nena Beach Club and Hostel is also a very popular choice, receiving a "Superb" rating on Hostelworld for its security, value, facilities, staff, and atmosphere. Or, if your tastes run toward a more Robinson Crusoe-style stay, many visitors spend the night in a casual beachfront hostel.