Cartagena de Indias is the city where tourism, high society weddings and company events flourish like the smell of fish in the Caribbean. Located in the state of Bolivar its a city with two worlds. The modern side filled with majestic hotels rising next to the shores and an the classic old city, surrounded with enormous antique walls. This place is one of the few positive heritage assets left from the Spanish colony who were in controlled of this ancient ports. It’s not perfect though. The beaches aren’t anything special. Small waves, dark sand and a trashy look is what you get in the city.
But Cartagena has an attraction that not many non-locals know, a number of small docks with yachts and sailboats ready to be hired for long and short trips. You just need to ask the cab driver for La Marina of Manga or the Club Nautico de Cartagena in the Manga, a real sailor hostel were you can meet Colombians bitten by the sea or crazy Europeans brave enough to enter Colombian sea shores. This strange mix is interesting and helpful enough if you want to get away.
If you have the money and the time, you can go for a long adventure on an old 42-feet sailing boat for about US$ 600. The ship will take you on a round trip to the San Blas coast in Panama, a place lost in time, preserved by the Kuna indians. Getting there and back takes about nine days, but it will take you far away from the city and it’s noise and the islands are possibly the last remaining virgins you will encounter these days.
If you are not a sailor or a desperate backpacker, nine days of continuous sailing may be too much for you. Capurgana may be a better choice, its just one and a half days of traveling the open sea. You can find a place to relax and complete the sun and beach wallpaper fantasy. Scuba diving, three stars hotels, fresh sea food, will make a great tripper’s vacation. In case you puke on your way there and refuse to sail back, there’s always a plane ready to leave if you have the US$ 250 in your backpack to spare.
In case you don’t have this much time to enjoy the trip, there’s always a cheaper ans less time-consuming option nearby. Islas del Rosario its just six to ten hours sailing away from your hotel. Making it a two day journey of waves, sun and wind, and if you’re lucky maybe some bottlenose dolphins will want to escort you there. Charter boats called Alcatraz can also be taken to complete this trip and for about US$ 50 and within teh hour you can be playing with white sands, have your feet up and a cold coco loco in your hand to gently stir your brain.
Tierra Bomba, another nearby island, may have a scary name, but it’s nothing more than another little paradise. Since this land its just in front of Cartagena, 20 minutes is all it takes to find a simple but relaxing place to stay. The locals will offer you drinks and food for moderate prices, in case you want to spend more, there’s always a guy trying to sell you necklaces of color beads. Taking a complete day of the crowded beaches and noise of city.