Jul 10

2 Week Colombian Itinerary: Caribbean Coast

Providencia

For our 2 week culture and history trip itinerary: click here

Over the next few weeks we will be writing a series of posts containing sample 2 week Colombian holiday itineraries (including additional activities for those with 3 weeks or a month); these itineraries are designed to give readers an idea of how they can make the most of their time and see the best that Colombia has to offer. Each itinerary will focus on a particular region or aspect of Colombian tourism i.e. Caribbean coast, wildlife lovers, culture-vultures etc. Whilst Colombian travel is still dominated by backpackers, people are increasingly seeing Colombia as the perfect destination for short vacation.

Colombia’s Caribbean coastal region is perhaps the most visited part of this beautiful country, and a popular destination for people with only a few weeks to spare, due to it’s variety and wonderful climate. But how to make the most of 2 weeks in the Caribbean? This sample itinerary includes a range of activities and experiences to make it the best 2 week holiday ever:

 

Cartagena - The Jewel of the Indies
Cartagena – The Jewel of the Indies

 

Day 1-3 – Cartagena

Spend these days in Cartagena and it’s surroundings. The old-walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the jewels of the Caribbean; a couple of days wandering around it’s cobbled streets is the perfect introduction to the beauty of Colombia’s Caribbean. On one of the 3 days, you might consider a day-trip out to the Rosario Islands: a simple boat journey from Cartagena’s docks, these islands lie in a national park, and contain gorgeous sandy beaches and perfect reefs for diving and snorkeling. Alternatively, you could take a day-trip to San Basilio de Palenque, a former freed slaves city, and a fascinating slice of Afro-Colombian life.

CHECK OUT OUR TOP 5 DAY-TRIPS FROM CARTAGENA HERE

 

santa-marta-beach
The beaches around Santa Marta

 

Day 4-5 – Santa Marta

Travel to Santa Marta (planes or buses are an option; allow more time with buses), and enjoy the history of one of Colombia’s oldest cities. The historical waterfront is beautiful, and there are some fascinating museums, in particular the house where the Liberator, Simon Bolivar, died. If one day of history is enough for you after Cartagena, then take a day-trip out to Taganga, and the nearby beaches.

 

Cabo San Juan Tayrona
Nice, eh! Cabo San Juan in Tayrona

 

Day 6-7 – Tayrona National Park

Hop on a local bus and head to Tayrona National Park: after a few hours hiking in the pristine coastal rainforest, get yourself a tent or hammock down by the beach and fall asleep with the waves crashing in your head. During the day, the choice is yours: relax on one of the many beaches or hike into the jungle in search of ancient ruins, birds and monkeys.

CHECK OUT OUR COMPLETE 4-PART GUIDE TO TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK HERE

Day 8-9 – Palomino

Once you’ve left Tayrona, continue up the coast until you reach the little beach-side town of Palomino. The beach here is stunning, and the town gives access to the mountains and indigenous villages of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Also on offer is the chance to tube down the river; beginning in cloud forest you meander slowly downriver over a few hours until you reach the sea. It’s an amazing experience.

CHECK OUT OUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO TUBING IN PALOMINO HERE

 

Playa del Pilon La Guajira
La Guajira, one of the many gorgeous sides of Colombia

 

Day 10-12 – La Guajira

From Palomino take the bus north along the coast to Riohacha, the gateway to the Guajira Peninsula, South America’s most northerly point, and one of the most surreal landscapes in Latin America. From Riohacha you can jump on a truck up to Cabo de la Vela, and spend a few days enjoying the coastal desert; with it’s gorgeous sunsets, rolling sand-dunes, and delicious fresh seafood.

HERE’S OUR TRAVEL GUIDE TO VISITING CABO DE LA VELA

From Cabo you can either return to Santa Marta or Riohacha to fly home. If this all seems a bit too busy you could always drop a day in Cartagena or Santa Marta.

 

Minca Colombia
The view from the ‘largest hammock in the world’ in Minca

 

Extra Time?

If you have more days to spare there a many more activities you could add to this itinerary:

Minca: From Tayrona, instead of heading north straight away, consider travelling inland into the mountains to stay in this pristine little mountain village. With unparalleled views of the sea and snow-capped peaks, some of the best birdwatching in Colombia, and the opportunity to take a dip in a series of waterfalls, Minca is the perfect place to relax and cool-off after the beach.

Punta Gallinas: From Cabo, instead of returning home, take a bus or boat a few hours further north to the very tip of the continent for increasingly Dali-esque spectacles: flocks of flamingos, huge sand-dunes that crash right into the sea, and the best fresh lobster you’ll ever taste.

WANT TO VISIT PUNTA GALLINAS? FIND OUT HOW HERE…

Capurgana and Sapzurro: For those with plenty of time and a sense of adventure, you can head West from Cartagena to Turbo, jump on a speedboat and spend some time on the beaches of the Darien Gap, right on the Panamanian border. Capurgana is a bit more touristy, and Sapzurro is incredibly peaceful, but both present the chance to dive and snorkel of one of the best-preserved reefs in the country, and hike in the diverse jungles of the Darien. Plus, how often can you walk out of one continent into another? A traveller’s dream destination!

 

Providencia Beach
A Providencia Beach

 

San Andres and Providencia: Grab a flight from Cartagena and spend some time on Colombia’s two paradise Caribbean islands. San Andres is more touristy, while Providencia has retained an old-world Caribbean charm, along with it’s gigantic coral reef.

So there you have it: the perfect Caribbean coast itinerary for anyone with limited time but a real thirst to see as much of Colombia’s diversity and beauty as possible. Obviously this itinerary is simply a suggestion, and is certainly a busy two weeks, but it allows for maximum experiences in minimal time. If you have any questions or need any clarification please get in touch, we always love to hear from our readers.

Chris

23 thoughts on “2 Week Colombian Itinerary: Caribbean Coast

    Rachel on

    Hi! Thanks for all your great writing. How would you condense this if you only had one week, in and out of Cartagena? We are most interested in beautiful outdoor scenery and authentic experiences. The time would be Dec 16-23rd. Just two adults (29). Thanks!!!

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Rachel,

      I would recommend heading out towards Santa Marta for a few days from Cartagena: either visiting Minca for the mountains, coffee, birds etc. or Tayrona for more of a Caribbean jungle experience. With the distances and times, it’s tricky to do much more in a week and still enjoy a couple of days in Cartagena.

      Reply

    Adam on

    Thanks for some great tips. Thinking of visiting with two teenagers at Xmas. Concerned about getting buses at that time of year. Have no problem driving – is that a viable option between Cartagena and Tayrona? Second: Beaches. Are Providencia beaches/snorkeling that much better than the islands offshore Cartagena to justify the extra time/flights to get there? Finally, if you could add another inland destination to access from Bogota, what would you add? Medellin? Some eco mountain area? Thanks!

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Adam,

      Buses shouldn’t a problem, especially local ones along the coast. They will be busier but there are loads of them. Providencia’s beaches really are stunning, and I would say they were a lot more beautiful than the ones closer to Cartagena. Inland, I personally love the Coffee Region.

      Reply

    Aishling on

    Hi Chris,
    Great article. Really helpful – myself, my partner and our 2 children aged 14 and 9 are planning to stop in Cartagena for 10 days en route to family in Cali. Is there any advice you have for us as a family travelling with children? They are 2 boys who are very outdoorsy! I guess for my peace of mind, I would also like to know if I should be worried about travelling this area with children?

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Aishling,

      Thanks for your comment. First of all, don’t worry about travelling in this area with children, it’s a very safe area to travel, and Colombian love kids! We have a post on some good day trips from Cartagena which I think will be helpful: http://seecolombia.travel/blog/2015/08/5-amazing-day-trips-from-cartagena/

      YOu could easily spend a couple of days on the islands and beaches around Cartagena, and do some good outdoorsy activities, like snorkelling and diving, as well as some watersports.

      Chris 🙂

      Reply

    Ashley on

    Hi Chris,

    Isla Baru didn’t make your list? Do you just prefer these options over that? I only ask because it came highly recommended to me. I’ll be in Colombia for 2 weeks next year but will only be in the coast for one of those weeks so I’m trying to decide what my top places to visit will be.

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Ashley,

      It’s not that I don’t like Baru, it just didn’t make this itinerary primarily for reasons of time and space; if you have a spare day or two in Cartagena it’s worth a visit. But avoid it on weekends and holidays, it gets very busy there!

      Reply

    Angela on

    Hi Chris,

    What would you recommend as an itinerary for a good balance of beach and culture? We are thinking of coming in June for 10 nights. I have no problem driving, if that’ recommended. I’d love to see some monkeys too! Great site you have here. Thank You

    Reply

      Chris on

      Beach and culture: I would certainly include Tayrona National Park on the list (you should see monkeys there too; check out this post for all my tips on the best way to see monkeys in Tayrona – http://seecolombia.travel/blog/2015/11/the-complete-guide-to-tayrona-what-to-do-in-tayrona/). Cartagena should be on the list as well: you can combine beach trips from the city with culture in the city. Minca is a nice spot to visit for nature and hiking as well. If you fly in or out of Bogota I would include a day or two there as well for the cultural side of things. If you visited those 4 places you’d have a nice balance and it would be about 10 days

      Reply

    Rhiannon on

    Thanks so much for this – can’t tell you how useful it has been. Very excited to travel to all of these lovely places now! Thank you

    Reply

    viajandotogether on

    Thank you for such a complete itinerary I’m planning to go 2 weeks during December. Should I rent a car if I want to do the Caribbean coast? Thanks again

    Reply

      Chris on

      Honestly, renting a car can give you some more freedom, but driving here takes some getting used to, and the bus network on the coast is extensive, I would just stick to buses and flights if you have the time.

      Reply

    Preston on

    Great itinerary, thanks for the hints! One question: how do you travel to those places if you are traveling by airplane? Do you find direct flights to these places or do you need to go first to Bogota? And if from Bogota, then how do you travel to those spots? Car, flight, train? Thanks again!

    Reply

    Dorene on

    Great itinerary! I guess I should give Santa marta another effort, in my view Minca is a must — you are right great spot to unwind, but a cool vibe too. thanks!

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Dorene,

      I like Santa Marta for a day and a night; the atmosphere in the old town at night is really nice, lots of live music and people-watching. However, it would still be the place I’d drop from the itinerary if time is tight or to accommodate a visit to Minca for example, which is an amazing spot to visit. Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Chris

      Reply

    Bart I Hasta la Proxima on

    Only had 2 days in Colombia – but this itinerary is helpful for next time. Only visited Cartagena en Bogota so far (and even not everything). I am living in Montevideo currently, hopefully will return soon.

    Reply

    Amparo on

    Colombia is an amazing country to visit. Please plan to visit it in the near future. You will not regret it. I love it!

    Reply

    Nicole on

    Hello!
    Thanks so much for sharing these tips, this has been so helpful in planning my first trip to Colombia. I absolutely love the idea of tubing down the river in Palomino! Is there anywhere with more information on that or would it be best to ask around once I get there?
    Thanks in advance, your pictures and descriptions are making me so excited for my trip!

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Nicole,

      No worries, glad to help! In terms of tubing in Palomino, it’s pretty informal, just turn up and the place you’re staying will provide the directions and the (crucial) tube. Then you just have to sit back and enjoy. I’d recommend taking a dry-bag so you can take some pictures along the way and keep your camera safe: it’s a truly stunning stretch of river.

      Enjoy your trip and please get in touch if you have any other questions.

      Chris

      Reply

    Fred on

    Hey Chris, nice write up, but can you actually fly direct to San Andres from Cartagena?

    Reply

      Chris on

      Hi Fred, thanks. You can indeed, Avianca and COPA both have direct flights

      Reply

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