Isla Grande Rosario Islands Colombia
I’m splitting my Colombian trip recap into 2 posts, because there’s just too much beauty and excitement to stuff into one. This post will cover Isla Grande, one of the Rosario Islands in the Colombian Caribbean, and next week’s post will cover Cartagena, Colombia.
Isla Grande, Rosario Islands, Colombia:
Woo! First trip to South ‘Mercuh and it was everything and more that we had hoped it would be (didn’t even get deaded or sick). And, wow, what a tranquil, hidden gem Isla Grande is. I’ve explored many Caribbean islands, enjoyed my share of Mexican sun & sand, sauntered down pink Bermuda beaches, glided with Hawaiian waves, and even swam with sharks in Tahiti (not the drugged kind ha, real ones), so I have a lot to compare this place to, and it ranks high on my list, BUT mostly for it’s down-to-earth peaceful qualities. No, it doesn’t have the picture perfect blue water of St. John, or world’s best snorkeling, or the ritzy vibes you may find elsewhere (a refreshing thing, really), but it is special in its own right.
For starters, it’s only a short 45 minute boat ride from Cartagena, which is THE cutest place omg!! The Colombian Caribbean would certainly be an odd destination if you were not planning on visiting one of the Colombian cities as well (Bun’s viewing of Drug Lords on Netflix kept us away from Medellin on this trip ahaha..next time though). Although, if you were trying to decide on a quick, purely beach vacay to Florida or the Colombian Caribbean, then that’s a no-brainer. For Memorial Day Weekend, Hbun and I made a trip to Sarasota, Florida (see that travel post here), but after this trip to Colombia we decided that it’s pretty much just as easy to get to the Rosario Islands as it is to Florida (we had two flights that were 2.5 hours each, one of which connected in Florida), and WAY more exciting, anddddd everything is so inexpensive!! Our flights were only like $400 each roundtrip; the food and excursions were insanely cheap; the resort and Airbnbs were very reasonably priced; the food was AMAZING (fresh blended juices every morning with Colombian coffee, fresh fruit, eggs, bread.. ughhh gimme); and everyone was so kind and helpful. Although, I don’t speak Spanish so the IG-hubs had to get us by on that. It is fairly necessary that you travel to Colombia with someone who can speak a bit of Spanish.
We spent three glorious nights (four full days) at the Gente de Mar resort, uttering to each other each day that “this really is paradise”. It’s important to mention that we hit it at the perfect off-season time. We stayed during the first week of September (booked through Expedia), which was after the high season, so there was only one other couple staying at the resort with us at any given moment…unreal. There was a boat each day from Cartagena that dropped the day-trippers off at our resort (and other popular day-trip spots, like Isla Baru and Playa Libre), but they did not arrive until 10:30AM and departed at 3:00PM each day, AND aside from our very first day there, only a handful of visitors bothered to come each day (we stayed after Labor day weekend and on into the week, so people probably scurried back to work). I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such quiet, nor had my pick of sun-beds, beach chairs or beaches.. There were three small (perfectly sized) beaches on the beautiful grounds of Gente de Mar, so even with the handful of day-trippers present, it still felt secluded. And when 3PM rolled around, it was just us living it up, sipping Colombian beer or Lulada- made with lulo, a traditional Colombian fruit (order it!) and watching the staff cook our delicious, fresh meals in the open air kitchen.
To touch on the non picture-perfect blue water I mentioned above– it was still absolutely beautiful, can’t complain! The ocean was warm and clear, with its own special shade of blue-green, and we spotted quite a few fish on our mini snorkel trip from our resort on Isla Grande (it was only about $15 a person for the boat ride, equipment and one hour of snorkeling).
A bike ride through the island (which we paid almost nothing for) led by an adorable prepubescent local, added such value to our experience here. This was a major highlight for both of us, as we got to pedal past the locals going about their daily lives, while taking in the “town” of small homes, eco hotels and not much else, along the dirt paths that broadened and narrowed, past a group tiny boop pigs, through the forest of palms and greenery until we reached the bar/restaurant Sol Y Papaya alongside the water, next to one of the scattered eco hotels on the island. We enjoyed another incredible (and inexpensive) meal, and I couldn’t believe I had such ease in finding fresh vegetarian dishes on the island. The perfectly sautéed veggies! The coconut rice! The grilled polenta cakes (tostonas)! …Missing this life greatly.
After biking by the other accommodations on the island (and recognizing them from our initial hotel search when planning our trip), we felt that we 1,000% made the right choice in picking Gente de Mar. We were hesitant to book it due to the less than enthusiastic reviews, but we chose to focus on the good reviews and woahh wuu wee woo, glad we did! Our resort stay was everything we could have asked for. Spacious, well manicured and maintained grounds, complete with colorful parrots named Bonnie and Clyde; three beaches to rotate between (which they swept each morning to restore to a clean, uncluttered state), with an ample supply of beach chairs and beds; a perfect breakfast every morning, included in the stay; very kind and eager to please staff who kept our room clean, provided us with fresh towels each day, and arranged any tour or excursion we desired; a massage hut on a hill overlooking the beach below, with seriously amazing masseuses; a boat ride to and from Cartagena, organized by the hotel and included in our stay price; truly fantastic meals at crazy good prices, fresh frozen drinks.. Ah, but a note on the bevz– although still decently priced, the mixed drinks are about as much as the food, so limit your drink purchases on the island and pack your own rum to add to the fresh juice blends! They didn’t seem to mind whenever we did this (or notice), and we packed a couple of bottles of wine as well (no fridge in the room though). I read that in some of the other hotels on the island, power use is limited to 6AM – 6PM, but we certainly had no restrictions on electricity, and the AC in the room worked perfectly. Also- you don’t need a converter to use the outlets, they are the same as our ‘Mercuh.
The Hbun and I couldn’t have been more pleased with our time here and even considered extending a day, but that would have meant missing out on more Cartagena exploration, and we already knew how much we loved Cartagena. We managed to plan the best order of adventures for this trip– 2 nights in the old walled city of Cartagena, 3 nights on the island, 2 more nights in the artsy neighborhood of Getsemani (walking distance to the walled city). At the end, we were not at all ready to leave, and a return trip is imminent.
Next week I will recap the romantic, colorful city of Cartagena.