We landed in Cartagena completely unprepared for our long-haul South America trip. We’d had a few Spanish lessons, bought a money belt like the paranoid travellers we are, and gotten most of our vaccinations (except Yellow Fever, that you can get for free in Colombia!). But, we knew one thing for sure: beach weather!
If you also speak the language of over 30 degrees C, we may just be friends. We set out on a bangin’ day trip to Playa Blanca, the famed beach of white sand, to get our beachie fix. Here’s how you can go to Playa Blanca, Colombia, and make the most out of it!
Before you hit the beach, ya gotta got there! Check out the full guide on how to get to Playa Blanca from Cartagena!
Is it worth going to Playa Blanca, Colombia?
First things first: Playa Blanca is not untouched beach – at all. The coastline has makeshift restaurants packed in like sardines, there are beach hawkers everywhere, and it’s a bloody popular destination for Colombians and tourists alike.
YOU NEED TO KNOW: There are no ATMs on Playa Blanca, and credit card facilities are not common. Bring all the cash you’ll need for the day!
We read a lot of reviews about whether it was worth going and opinions varied wildly. In the end, we took a risk and it paid off! Yes, it was busy, yes there were beach hawkers, but it’s still a great day at the beach.
On the topic of beach hawkers, they’re there and they will try to sell everything. Ice-creams, fresh fruit, bracelets, drinks, souvenirs, snacks, massages, spray-tattoos, henna, anything you could possibly desire. There’s two upsides to the beach hawkers of Playa Blanca though:
- they’re not particularly pushy. A simple ‘No gracias‘ with a smile is enough to get them moving on to scout out someone else (except the masseurs – they’ll just start grabbing you).
- they’re actually super handy! Picture this: you’ve found the perfect piece of sand to plonk your butt on and catch some rays, but BAM – thirst hits. No worries, mate! A friendly hawker is on his way with ice-cold water (or, you know, beer), to quench that pesky thirst of yours. It’s basically Uber Eats on the beach – with no delivery fee!
Remember: Playa Blanca has exploded in popularity recently, most of the beach hawkers are indigenous and don’t have a lot of money. They’re trying to feed their family, and don’t necessarily mean any ill will.
When should you go to Playa Blanca, Cartagena?
If you’re looking to avoid as many tourists as possible, try to go on a weekday. We chose Wednesday, and it was very laidback. Additionally, most of the tours arrive between 11am and 3pm. If you take the midday shuttle bus, you’ll arrive around 1pm, so within two hours the crowds will have dissipated majorly.
Playa Blanca: where should you set up?
When you first arrive on the beach it may seem like there’s not an inch of spare space. Like most popular beaches, businesses have staked out the best spots and claimed the sand in front of them with sun-loungers, cabanas, and umbrellas.
If you want to get away from the hubbub, turn to your right after you’ve arrived at the sand. A walk 10-15 minutes down the beach is enough to thin out the traffic and give you some space.
You’ve got three options for where to plonk ya butt: cabana, lounger, or sand (or by the bar, if you’re that way inclined).
Option One: Cabana
Unlike beaches in Spain, southern France, or anywhere else, a cabana is ridiculously cheap.
We paid 30,000 COP ($13 AUD/$8 EUR/$9 USD) for a four-poster bed with billowing white curtains and a cordoned off swimming area. The last part is particularly helpful because boats and jetskis roar up the shore at all times of the day.
Remember: haggle EVERYTHING in Playa Blanca! Our cabana was originally 70,000 COP, but one minute of haggling dropped the price by over 50 percent. In saying that, you don’t need to take them for broke: find a price you’re willing to pay and be happy if you achieve that.
Option Two: Sun Lounger
We didn’t get a price for sun loungers, but I can imagine you could get one for 5000 COP based off the price of a cabana. Do you know? Drop the price in the comments below!
Option Three: Sand
The OG option, and the irrefutable cheapest. Find a spare patch, throw down a towel, and claim it as your own.
What to eat in Playa Blanca
If you’re dreaming of a four-course Michelin star menu, Playa Blanca is not the place for you. While there are more restaurants than you can poke a stick at, we didn’t find anything particularly good. Most of the choices are pizza, burgers, seafood, or pasta. Eat for sustenance, not for taste here.
My favourite thing to eat (and this goes for most of our travels through Colombia) was fresh fruit! A fruit salad from a hawker ran us just a dollar or two, so stock up and enjoy!
What to do in Playa Blanca, Colombia
You’re surrounded by sun, sea, and sand, so you better make the most of it! No, really, there isn’t that much else to do at Playa Blanca, apart from hopping on the back of a jetski. This is a place for relaxation, so order a cocktail, settle back, read a book, and enjoy the warm water.
However, once the sun begins to set there is one activity that we highly recommend: a Phytoplankton tour, otherwise known as bioluminescence.
Playa Blanca: Phytoplankton tour
If you haven’t heard of bioluminescence, whew! It is amazing. It’s plankton that lives in the water, and when it is disturbed it goes an incredible lightning-blue colour. If you swim in it, the whole water glows a blue that you’ve only ever seen in Pokemon cartoons.
We were a bit late with finding a tour, so our only requirement was that they spoke English. It was pretty easy to find one after asking around, and while there were only a few other English-speakers in our group we managed to get by okay with our tour guide. We paid 30,000 COP each for the tour, which we didn’t even bother to haggle with because it took us by surprise that it was so reasonably priced.
Once it was dark we were thrown lifejackets and guided to a speedboat where we sped off towards a cove where the bioluminscence typically hangs out. Then, we jumped off the boat into the warm water and had a fairy-tale experience. Honestly, this was so cool. Your whole body glows like a ghost underwater, and when you move it’s like a bright-blue, glittery mess. Incredible!
TIP: Spend some time floating on your back and looking at the stars – the light pollution is almost none!
Sadly, you can’t take pictures of bio without having a fancy camera and crap-ton of experience, but they brought along a photographer
It turned out that the tour also included transport back to Cartagena, but we chose to take our shuttle bus instead.
That was our dreamy day-trip to Playa Blanca, Cartagena – we loved it! Did you go? Any other tips? Leave them in the comments below!