Thanks to its two coastal regions, Colombia has some of the most incredible beaches in South America. They line the Caribbean and Pacific seashore of the country, offering visitors white sands, clear blue waters, and scores of charming restaurants, boutique hotels, and shops within reach.
Experience the best parts of Colombian culture, including trying locally sourced fish and other inviting dishes, seeing breathtaking sunsets and sunrises, and even having a few fun adventures in the process. The following list offers you urban and rural options and outlines the best beaches each community has to offer.
1. San Andres
San Andres is one of Colombia’s most popular beach destinations. Spend just a few weeks in Colombia and you’ll hear all about this small island. San Andres is located 500 miles (804 km) off the Caribbean coast and can be accessed by plane from most of the main cities in Colombia, including Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin. The beaches on the island offer exceptional snorkeling and the water is known for having seven shades of blue. The surrounding landscape is filled with beautiful palm trees and white sands.
With 61,280 residents, the small island has several beaches along its coast. One of the most popular is the downtown beach of Spratt Bight. This wide strip of sand is located on the northern coast of San Andres. It has crystal-clear water with calm waves, making it safe and easy to swim there. Later, you can take a walk to the downtown area and enjoy one of several restaurants and cafés. Visitors say the beach vendors in San Andres are less pushy than in Cartagena or Baru Island.
For a more private experience you can visit La Piscinita, a natural pool carved into the choral rock. When you dive into the water you’ll be surrounded by tiny fish. If you want to explore the surrounding islands, take a short boat ride to neighboring Johnny Cay-Windswept Island Beach or Rocky Cay Beach. San Andres has several options for hotels, although you may find the prices are slightly higher than in other parts of Colombia. Try GHL Relax Hotel Sunrise, Hotel Casanblanca, or Hosteria Mar y Sol.
2. La Guajira
La Guajira is located in the northeast region of Colombia on the Caribbean Sea. Admittedly, this is an entire region, not just one beach. However, the region is so special it deserves its own spot on our list. Home to the Wayuu people of Colombia, it is also strongly influenced by Afro-Colombian and European cultures. But La Guajira is best known for its sand dunes and amazing beaches.
One of its most famous beaches is El Pilon de Azucar Beach, accessible by taxi ride from Cabo de La Vela. Pilon de Azucar translates to “pile of sugar.” The beach is positioned between two hills and its sand is a lovely shade of orange. Surrounded by green limestone, the ocean water is a dazzling turquoise color. El Pilon de Azucar Beach is a great option for anyone who wants to avoid large tourist crowds and loud vendors.
Don’t discount Playa Cabo de la Vela which is one of the best beaches for swimming in La Guajira. The water is warm and calm, and the beach is popular with kite surfers. You can also access La Boquita Beach in Punta Gallinas, the northernmost part of the region. Take a moment to admire the lagoons nearby which are home to large gatherings of flamingos. There are plenty of rustic hotels, villas, and short-term rentals near these beaches, including Rancheria Utta close to Playa del Pilon de Azucar, and Villa Mallen near La Boquita.
3. Baru Island
Although Baru Island is considered one of the more touristy places in Colombia, it was made popular for good reason. Home to Playa Blanca, Baru is famous for its pink and white sands and crystal-clear water. In fact, the water is so clear you can see the colorful fish below you when you dive. The island is also surrounded by mangrove trees, and you can arrange for an ecotour.
If you enjoy bird watching, Baru has much to offer. Visit the Baru Bird Sanctuary while you stay in nearby Cartagena and enjoy everything the city has to offer. Baru is just a 45-minute boat ride away. There are daily yacht tours and ferries, and you can cross by vehicle through the Canal del Dique, also known as the Baru Bridge. You can also book a tour to Playa Blanca and make a stop at nearby Islas del Rosario. The water is warm and great for snorkeling.
Arrange for a hotel or short-term rental in Cartagena and plan your day trip to Baru. Boats leave from the Old City port regularly. Accommodations in Cartagena are plenty. Try booking Almirante Cartagena Hotel, Hotel Bocagrande. You can also choose to stay in Baru. Hotel Las Islas offers a beautiful seaside accommodation option with a grass roof and a delicious restaurant. Pura Vida Baru features a beautiful terrace with ocean views, comfy hammocks, and an American-style breakfast. Enjoy the rustic no-frills restaurants on the island. They serve fresh, locally sourced seafood and other typical Colombian dishes.
4. Nuqui and Guachalito Beach
Located in the Colombian department of Choco, Nuqui is perhaps less known for its tourism and is still considered a gem of largely untouched oceanfront. The town is rich with Afro-Colombian traditions and amazing nature. If you’re looking for a true getaway and some peace and quiet, you’ll find it here. To get to Nuqui, you will need to fly in from Medellin. Once you’re there, visit the beautiful Guachalito beach, only a 30-minute boat ride outside of town. Make sure to arrange the boat in advance. Once you’re there, you will unearth appealing waterfalls, mountains, and jungle landscapes.
The climate and water on the Pacific coast are warm, the sand is brown, and the beaches are often deserted. Nuqui is also known as a whale watching destination between July and November, when the whales migrate from southern Chile to Colombia’s Pacific coast. The highlight of the experience is the food. Nuqui has some of the best dishes Colombia has to offer. Local restaurants supply the flavors of the Pacific coast including traditionally prepared fish, shrimp ceviche, and patacones (fried plantain). Fresh juices are also abundant.
Perhaps less developed in terms of tourism infrastructure, the community of Nuqui offers a handful of hotel options to visitors. For example, the Pacific Nuqui Lodge and the Hotel Obega Pacific are two of the most popular with tourists. Most accommodation offers beach access but be aware that some may not have Wi-Fi and you may encounter restrictions on electricity consumption. Even so, the hummingbirds will make it all worth your while.
5. Playa Castillo Grande
If you’re looking for a more urban experience, Castillo Grande, one of Cartagena’s most popular beachfront locations, will offer it to you. This beach overlooks the island of Tierra Bomba and is busy, but less so than neighboring Bocagrande Beach. Castillo Grande offers its visitors several restaurant options as well as water sports for those who have an adventurous streak. The beach has crystalline waters, white sands, and for a small fee you can rent an umbrella and chairs for the day for some much-needed shade from the hot Caribbean sun.
As one of Cartagena’s most affluent neighborhoods, you’ll find many hotels and short-term rentals in Castillo Grande. Most will have panoramic views of the Caribbean Ocean and a comfortable hammock for you to read a book or take a nap in after your afternoon at the beach. Be aware that Playa Castillo Grande will have beach vendors selling drinks and snacks. That said, they are less aggressive than other beaches in the area.
This zone of the city is accessible to anyone who wants to explore nearby neighborhoods like El Laguito and Getsemani. These areas will have several restaurants, shops, and cafés for you to choose from. At night, you can take a short taxi ride to the walled city in the old town and experience the magic of Cartagena. Later, take a boat ride to Tierra Bomba Island and visit Punta Arena Beach.
6. Parque Tayrona
Tayrona Park is about 21 miles outside the city of Santa Marta and is one of the most important natural parks in Colombia. This nature sanctuary has plenty of fauna and flora thanks to its closeness to the Sierra Nevada. Tayrona Natural National Park is a Caribbean paradise with clean beaches, panoramic views of the ocean, and several nearby waterfalls and rivers. The park has many beaches at your disposal, including Playa Brava which is ideal for camping and laying around in a hammock, and Playa Guachakyta, a smaller beach with calm waters that allow visitors to swim easily.
Many visitors choose to stay in Santa Marta and visit the park for a day trip since accommodation and restaurants are not as “abundant” and the villages are somewhat isolated. That said, nearby accommodation options include beachside hotels and cabanas. Canana Arrecife offers guests small cabin rentals and is ideal for people who want to walk the park or visit the ruins of Pueblito. The lodge has a restaurant but is a 45-minute walk to the town of Arrecife.
Further down the coast, you can also rent traditional Indigenous houses overlooking Canaveral Beach. Another option is Ecohabs Tayrona Park. It has Jacuzzis, access to the nearby beach, and a restaurant with tasty local fare. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to enjoy nature and still have access to the comforts of modern accommodation. The beaches of Parque Tayrona are surrounded by mountains and palm trees, making for impressive views and photo ops. Their granite rock formations in and around the water make the region even more special.
East of Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona is the small town of Palomino. Located at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain, this seaside community offers some of the most eye-catching and often deserted beaches on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. You can get to Palomino by renting a car and driving two hours outside of Santa Marta towards La Guajira. An Indigenous community, Palomino is home to Playa Palomino, a 3.1-mile-wide strip of white sands and oceanfront that connects to the Palomino River. Technically, Palomino Beach is part of La Guajira, but the town of Palomino in itself offers such a wonderful experience that it earns its spot in this article.
Visitors and locals can enjoy floating on a tube down the river, starting from inside the jungle of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta all the way to the beach. Nature lovers will appreciate the beauty and tranquility of this experience. The region is also known for providing big waves to surfers. You should be cautious of possible strong currents when swimming here. After spending some time on the beach sunbathing and gazing at the palm trees, a stay in town will offer quaint boutique shops, hotels, and restaurants.
After dining on fresh local seafood, enjoy the sunset and settle into one of the local hotels, eco-resorts, or villas, such as the Villa Eden Palomino, the Palomino Sunrise, or the Senda Casalina Ecolodge. These places promise a relaxing atmosphere with outdoor pools surrounded by palms, with easy access to the local beaches.