After a week of exploring the very humid Cartagena, Colombia, we wanted to spend a relaxing day in the Caribbean Sea. Earlier in the week we island hopped around the Rosario Islands. We got a taste of what the islands had to offer and had to go back to see more. It was time for us to kick back, relax and get on island time.
We booked a tour through our hotel to take a boat to the Rosario Islands. Based on the amenities, availability and price; we decided on Eco-hotel Isla Del Sol. Our hotel clerk booked our tour to Isla Del Sol through Caliente Tours. The tour cost $130,000 COP, which is approximately $45 USD. There was an additional dock tax of $13,500 COP, which is less than $5 USD. This price included hotel transport, the ferry ride from Cartagena to the Rosario Islands, lunch and access to the hotel amenities and services. To book the same tour online through Viator cost double the amount. I’m glad we waited to book until we got to Colombia.
The shuttle picked us up from our hotel in Bocogrande at 8:30 a.m. and we were crammed into a tiny van. With each hotel stop, more and more people piled into the van. As we waited outside each hotel, hawkers knocked on the van windows with sun hats and wet shoes. I pointed to the hat on top of my head, already prepared for the day at the beach. We got to the boat port and waited on a crowded deck then entered onto a pontoon ferry-boat. I somehow escaped to the spacious front of the boat, where I had an unobstructed view ahead of me. The ride took about an hour but there was so much to see that it flew by. I took in the views, with the wind on my face as we passed islands and forts along the way.
We were in paradise at Eco-hotel Isla Del Sol on Isla Grande. Isla Grande, as its name suggests, is the largest island in the Rosario Island chain. The island did not let me down. Hotel Isla Del Sol was describes as a beach resort. I pictured a modern hotel on a long stretch of sand. Rather, Hotel Isla Del Sol had the feel of a private beach bungalow. Stepping onto the dock, I felt that I was in a screen saver. Now this is a beach I could get used to. I grabbed a beach chair as close to the water as I could and made my way into the sea. The Rosario Islands are coral islands. There is even a coral reef right off the coast the beach. The coral reef made the water exceptionally clean. Be wary of the coral washed up on shore, it can be a little painful to step on. The best spot to swim was in the open water. We jumped off the dock and were able to swim freely. There is nothing better than floating in the Caribbean. It eased my mind to know that the water is so hot in this area that there are no sharks. Knowing this makes floating in the deep-sea as relaxing as can be.
Unlike other beaches in the Rosario Islands, Hotel Isla Del Sol is private. That mean that you can swim or lay on the beach without being hounded by people trying to sell you things. There were still people selling jewelry, yet they didn’t bother you. They waited patiently for you to approach their stand.
Upon arrival on the island, the staff prepared a fresh fruit spread. We were able to enjoy a light afternoon snack of the freshest pineapple and melon slices I have ever had.
Lunch is included when you stay at Hotel Isla Del Sol. We ate at the pavilion, only steps from the beach. The pavilion offered a great view and a necessary breeze from the sea. Lunch was served buffet style and featured pescado frito, a Spanish style fried fish. If you’re not found of fish, you can substitute for chicken. Make sure to ask the director upon arrival for the substitution. Your fish (or chicken) is served with fish soup, coconut rice, salad and fried yuca, which is a crispier version of french fries.
I spent most of my time in the sea, yet I couldn’t leave without a dip in the pool. This pool is the closest thing you can get to the beach without actually being there. It’s perfect for people who want to take in the view of the sea but prefer the luxury of a pool. You can swim in the soothing salt water, relax on the tanning ledge or even splurge on a mojitos (or a few) at the swim up bar.
Relaxation is key at Hotel Isla Del Sol in the Rosario Islands. Indulge yourself in a message in a cabana for only $30,000 COP. That’s equivalent to $10 USD for a full body message. The message, the warm Caribbean breeze and the soothing sound of the sea is bound to relax even the most stressed traveler.
In order to get a little more acquainted with the Rosario Islands, Isla Del Sol offers a variety of excursions. Break the surface and explore the coral reef. Come face to face with the tropical fish of the coral reef with a snorkel excursion ($40,000 COP/ $14 USD). Or delve even deeper with scuba diving ($140,000 COP/ $48 USD).
I choose an experience out of the water. We went on the ecological walk/ canoe trip through the mangroves ($30,000 COP/$10 USD). The walk began along a path through the rain forest. Underneath the rainforest canopy, I saw exotic birds and reptiles. Our guide pointed out the iguanas camouflaging with the trees. They were so large yet I had trouble spotting them. The rainforest cleared as we approached the town. There were some vibrant buildings scattered about but many of homes here were worn down and falling apart, some built out of pop bottles. Talk about resourceful.
Then we were off to the main attraction, the mangroves. Mangroves are trees that grow in coastal water. I’ve never seen something so incredible before. The trees sprouted up through the water. It was very enchanting. We boarded the small canoe and made our way through the mangroves. The guide did all the rowing. We didn’t have to do anything. We just sat back and enjoyed the experience. Occasionally we would have to duck under the mangroves. The mangroves brought us through a series of lagoons that eventually let out into the Caribbean Sea.