How to Get From
Cartagena to Isla Grande (and back)

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How to get from Cartagena to Isla Grande (and back)

Isla Grande is the most beautiful of the Rosario Islands, an archipelago 34 km (24 miles) off of Cartagena’s coast. It’s a popular destination for day trips, but we highly recommend spending at least two nights to get a proper chance of exploring the island.

The island has a collection of stunning white sand and turquoise-water beaches, unlike Cartagena’s. This is what makes Isla Grande the perfect destination for relaxing at the beach and practising water sports like kayaking and scuba diving.

PRO TIP: The number of accommodations in Isla Grande is very limited. There are a few amazing places to stay in Isla Grande, but be sure to book early as they get fully booked quickly.

Ferries from Cartagena to Isla Grande (and back)

Speedboat RouteDurationCostsAvailability
Cartagena to Isla Grande1 hour65,000 COP ($13.50)Check Ferry Tickets
Isla Grande to Cartagena
(the way back)
1-4 hours65,000 COP ($13.50)Check Ferry Tickets
Day Trip8.5 hours200,000 COP ($42.50)Read article for more info

The only way to get from Cartagena to Isla Grande is by boat. Travel time is about 1 hour and fares range from 65,000 COP ($13.50) to 83,000 COP ($17.50).

The last ferry from Cartagena to Isla Grande leaves at 09:00 in the morning, and the last ferry from Isla Grande to Cartagena leaves at 15:00. If you’re planning to do a DIY day trip, you will have only about 6 hours to enjoy Isla Grande — not enough time to explore the island, in our opinion.

A note: Cartagena is Colombia’s most visited tourist destination. Cartageneros will try to add a gringo tax on everything, so beware of tour promoters on the street.

Return ticket to Cartagena

For your return journey from Isla Grande to Cartagena, it’s best to buy a return ticket before going to Isla Grande because there is no main port on this island. The pick-up points are usually agreed upon beforehand between the boatmen and the passengers.

The ferry tickets from Isla Grande to Cartagena cost the same as the vice versa tickets. Travel time is around 1 hour unless you take a Delfines Tour speedboat. Delfines Tour makes a 2-hour stopover at Playa Blanca on Baru Island.

TIP: After your visit to Isla Grande, we highly recommend visiting Tayrona National Park. You can travel straight from Cartagena to Tayrona by minivan or bus, without having to stay in Santa Marta.

Itinerary from Cartagena to Isla Grande (and back)

Cartagena to Isla Grande by Speedboat Ferry

Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 65,000 COP ($13.50)
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 65,000 COP ($13.50)

You can choose from a few tour operators for the Cartagena to Isla Grande route. Some of them are Mary Cartagena Travel, Delfines Tours, CTG Tours, and Juan Ballena.

Ferry rates start from 65,000 COP ($13.50). But note that you also need to pay a mandatory port tax of 20,000 COP ($4.25) per person.

Travel time is 45 minutes to 1 hour, excluding any extra stops. The same boats are also often used to transport passengers to other islands such as Baru or Cholon, so there can be an extra stop without any prior notice.

Also, be aware that most boats operating from Cartagena to Isla Grande only depart when they have enough passengers. This means that ferry departures can sometimes be delayed by up to 1 hour.

Departure and arrival port

All boats from Cartagena to Isla Grande depart from Muelle La Bodeguita, right outside the old city’s walls.

Drop off for CTG Tours is Sol y Papaya Restobar on the north coast. As for the other ferries, you can be dropped off at any hotel on the island.

Ferry schedule from Cartagena to Isla Grande

Speedboat OperatorScheduleCosts
Mary Cartagena Travel09:00-10:0065,000 COP ($13.50)
Check Ferry Tickets
Delfines Tours08:30-09:3065,000 COP ($13.50)
Check Ferry Tickets
CTG Tours09:00-10:0081,000 COP ($17)
Check Ferry Tickets
Juan Ballena09:00-09:4583,000 COP ($17.50)
Check Ferry Tickets

There is also an option to arrange the service by yourself with vendors at the port. But we recommend booking online beforehand for fixed prices — because you might still need to negotiate for cheaper rates at the port.

IMPORTANT: All ferries from Cartagena to Isla Grande operate only in the morning. There are no ferry departures allowed beyond 09:30. Cartagena’s port authority is pretty strict on this rule so make sure to arrive at the pier no later than 09:00.

Isla Grande to Cartagena by Speedboat Ferry (the way back)

Duration: 45 minutes – 4 hours
Cost: 65,000 COP ($13.50)
Duration: 45 minutes – 4 hours
Cost: 65,000 COP ($13.50)

Speedboat ferry rates from Isla Grande to Cartagena start from 65,000 COP ($13.50) when you book online through BookAway. You can also buy through your hotel, but usually for a higher price.

Note that unlike the journey from Cartagena, there is no port fee when coming from Isla Grande.

Departure and arrival port

There is no main port at Isla Grande. Mary Cartagena, Delfines Tours and Juan Ballena pick up passengers directly from their hotels. CTG Tours departs from Sol y Papaya Restobar, which is also its drop-off point on the way to the island.

All boats depart from Isla Grande in the early afternoon to arrive in Cartagena before its port closes at 16:00. The ride to Cartagena takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour and ferries arrive at the same port where the trip started (Muelle La Bodeguita).

Ferry schedule from Isla Grande to Cartagena (the way back)

Speedboat OperatorScheduleCosts
Mary Cartagena Travel13:30-16:0065,000 COP ($13.50)
Check Ferry Tickets
CTG Tours15:00-16:0080,000 COP ($17)
Check Ferry Tickets
Juan Ballena14:15-15:0082,000 COP ($17.50)
Check Ferry Tickets
Delfines Tours12:00-16:0065,000 COP ($13.50)
Check Ferry Tickets

Extra stop at Baru Island

There is also an option to make a side trip on your way back to Cartagena. If you book a return ticket with Delfines Tours, your boat will make a 2-hour layover in Playa Blanca on Baru Island.

We think this is a great opportunity for a short visit and to have lunch there if you’re not planning on visiting Baru separately.

Total travel time from Isla Grande to Cartagena via Delfines Tours is around 4 hours.

Day Trip to Isla Grande with Speedboat Tour or Private Yacht

Duration: 8.5 hours
Cost: 200,000 COP ($42.50)
Duration: 8.5 hours
Cost: 200,000 COP ($42.50)

If you only have one day to spare, you can also book a day trip from Cartagena to Isla Grande. Many tour operators and hotels offer group day trip options known as ‘pasadía,’ which include the use of hotel facilities, lunch and some pre-arranged activities at an extra cost.

Day trip prices start from 100,000 COP ($21) per person. You can also book this directly at the port.

PRO TIP: When choosing which day trip package to book, bear in mind that generally, the lower the price, the lower the quality of the trip. This also usually includes a larger group. Rates for a decent quality pasadía from Cartagena to Isla Grande start from 200,000 COP ($42.50) per person.

Most day passes already include lunch and the use of hotel facilities. On a budget? You can choose not to include meals in your tour package and save some money by eating at local restaurants on the island.

Day Trip from Cartagena to Rosario Islands

Looking to explore not just Isla Grande but also other destinations in the Rosario Islands?

Viator offers day trip packages that include return speedboat transfers, snorkelling gear, lunch and drinks. Rates start from 370,000 COP ($79) for the 7.5-hour tour.

Book a Day Trip with Viator

Cartage to Isla Grande by Private boat

There’s also an option to rent a private speedboat or yacht, with prices starting from 2,400,000 COP ($510) a day. This is something to consider when you’re travelling in a larger group, if you want to sail around the islands at your own pace, or if you just want some privacy.

Ask for your hotel’s assistance beforehand to book a private boat between Cartagena and Isla Grande.

Alternatively, you can book one online beforehand through Viator with rates from 2,640,000 COP ($560).

Our favourite places to stay in Isla Grande

Day trips from Cartagena to Isla Grande are a popular choice for tourists, but if you want to experience the island at its best, we recommend staying on Isla Grande for at least two days,

If you decide to do so, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. It’s an island after all, which means that accommodation options are limited.

Accommodation prices tend to be higher in Isla Grande than on the mainland. Expect a bit less luxury compared to what you will get in other destinations in Colombia.

But hey, who needs the fanciest hotel on the island? You’ll want to be enjoying the white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters most of the time anyway!

Now let’s hope one of these gems is still available:

Hotel Coralina Island —Treat Yourself

If you’re looking to go all out and treat yourself, then Hotel Coralina is the place to do that.

Some of the bungalows are actually set on the water. Guests get to enjoy three delicious and free meals a day from the onsite gourmet restaurant. Eat, swim, repeat!

The rooms are large and luxurious, but you’ll probably want to be spending your time on one of the docks overlooking the sea. This place is somewhere that you’ll never forget!

  • 3 free meals a day from their gourmet restaurant
  • Private beach area
  • Large and luxurious beachfront rooms
  • Lots of activities available

Double rooms start from $80 per night

Check Latest Price

Hotel Islabela Isla Del Rosario — Mid Range

You’ll need to book this place at least a month in advance. It’s one of the best places to stay on the entire island. Situated right on its own private beach, you can’t ask for a better location.

The bungalows are luxurious and open up onto the beach. The local staff are just incredible. They will help to organise fun activities through the hotel that will make your stay even more memorable.

  • Private beach
  • Onsite bar and restaurant
  • Beach front bungalows
  • Incredible breakfast included

Double rooms cost between $40-$80 per night

Check Latest Price

Eco-Hotel Mar Adentro — Mid Range

While not directly on the beach, Mar Adentro fully encapsulates the beach vibes. Here you’ll be staying in beach-style huts, each with its own patio.

Only a 5-minute walk from the beach, you can experience true tranquillity without anyone else around. Apart from the staff of course, who are incredibly helpful and friendly.

  • Beach-style huts
  • 5 minutes from the beach
  • Onsite restaurant and terrace
  • Great breakfast included

Double rooms cost between $40-$80 per night

Check Latest Price

Casa Lola Ecohouse Isla Grande — Budget Friendly

There aren’t many budget options on Isla Grande. Casa Lola is one of the best ones. The hotel boasts a tropical vibe, with bursts of colour throughout the place and plenty of plants.

Here you’ll be located in the centre of the island, meaning you’ll be no more than a 15-minute walk from all of the beaches on the island! It’s a wonderful place to just relax and let the staff help you with all of your needs.

  • Colourful and clean rooms
  • Amazing staff
  • Onsite restaurant and bar
  • Delicious breakfast included

Double rooms cost between $20-$40 per night

Check Latest Price

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About the author(s)

Travel Planning Expert

Ela is a storyteller, content producer, solo traveller and a mermaid-in-training. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you will find her barefoot and living her best tan on some island in the Philippines… Or exploring the depths of its seas as a budding freediver. An island girl at heart, she’ll be happy anywhere there is sea, sand, sun and coffee.

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