How to get from Cartagena to Isla Grande (and back)?
Isla Grande is the most beautiful of the Rosario Islands, an archipelago located 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.
Isla Grande has a collection of stunning white sand and turquoise-water beaches, unlike Cartagena’s. This is what makes it 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.
The only way to get from Cartagena to Isla Grande is by boat. Speedboat ferries only take about 45-60 minutes to reach Isla Grande and all ferries depart before 9:30 in the morning. Ticket fares range from 55,000 COP ($12) and 90,000 COP ($20).
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 are doing just a day trip, you will have only about 6 hours to enjoy Isla Grande, which is why we recommend staying not just one night, but 2 nights.
Return ticket to Cartagena
For your return journey from Isla Grande to Cartagena, it’s best to purchase a return ticket before going to Isla Grande as there is no main port on this island. The pick-up points are usually agreed upon beforehand between the boatmen and the passengers.
Note that 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.
The ferry tickets from Isla Grande to Cartagena cost the same as the vice versa tickets. Travel time is usually around 45-60 minutes unless you take a Delfines Tour speedboat. Delfines Tour makes a 2.5-hour layover at Playa Blanca on Baru Island.
TIP: After your visit to Isla Grande, we can highly recommend to visit 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)
Tour operators sailing on this route include Delfines Tours, Mary Cartagena Travel, CTG Tours, and Juan Ballena. Note that all ferries operate only in the morning.
For the transport-only option, fares generally start from 55,000 COP ($12), plus a mandatory port tax of 20,000 COP ($4.50).
The ride from Cartagena to Isla Grande takes only 45 minutes to 1 hour, excluding any extra stops. Be aware though that most boats operating from Cartagena to Isla Grande only depart when they have enough passengers. This can sometimes mean the ferries are delayed by 1 hour.
The same boats are also often used to transport people to other islands such as Baru or Cholon, so there can be an extra stop without any notice.
Departure & Arrival port
All boats from Cartagena to Isla Grande depart from Muelle La Bodeguita, located right outside the old city’s walls.
Drop off for CTG Tours is Sol y Papaya Restobar, located on the north coast. As for the other ferries, drop-off can be at any hotel on the island.
There is also an option to arrange the service by yourself with the vendors at the port.
Keep in mind though that Cartagena’s port authority is pretty strict on when the boats are allowed to depart. Therefore, make sure that you are at the port no later than 09:00, as departures are not allowed after 09:30.
Isla Grande to Cartagena by Speedboat Ferry (the way back)
Duration: 45 minutes – 4 hours
Cost: 55,000 COP ($12)
Duration: 45 minutes – 4 hours
Cost: 55,000 COP ($12)
The way back to Cartagena is a little bit cheaper since you won’t need to pay another port fee.
At Isla Grande, there is no main port, so most speedboats will pick up passengers from places where there is demand. This means you need to arrange your ticket for the return speedboat beforehand. The easiest way is to book your return boat directly with the same company that brought you to the island.
Speedboat ferry rates from Isla Grande to Cartagena start from 55,000 COP ($12). Most hotels and hostels can also do it for you but for a higher price.
Boats only depart from Isla Grande to Cartagena in the early afternoon, as the port in Cartagena closes after 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).
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 2.5-hour layover in the beautiful 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.
The Delfintes Tours boat departs at 12:00 from Isla Grande and arrives in Cartagena around 16:00. Travel time including the layover is 4 hours.
Ferry schedules from Isla Grande to Cartagena (the way back)
Only the Delfines Tours includes a layover in Baru island. As for the other ferries, the speedboats will directly take you to Cartagena within 45-60 minutes.
Day Trip to Isla Grande with Speedboat Tour or Private Yacht
If you only have one day to spare, you can also buy a day trip ticket from a tour operator. Most tour operators and hotels offer group day-trip options known as ‘pasadías,’ which include the use of hotel facilities, lunch and some pre-arranged activities at an extra cost.
These day trip tickets can directly be purchased at the port with prices starting from 100,000 COP ($22.50) per person.
When choosing which ticket to buy, bear in mind that generally, the lower the price, the lower the quality of the trip, which also usually includes a larger group. Rates for a decent quality pasadía from Cartagena to Isla Grande will start from 200,000 COP ($45) per person.
Note that most tour operators will try to sell you packages or day passes that include lunch and the use of hotel facilities. However, it is possible to go without these packages and save some money by eating at the local restaurants located in the island centre.
There’s also an option to rent a private speedboat or yacht, with prices starting from $500 a day. This option can be a good idea if you want to sail around the islands at your own pace, want some privacy, or if you’re travelling with a larger group. If you’re looking for this private experience, contact the tour operators directly or check with your hotel.