With daytime temperatures reaching the mid 30’s in Cartagena, a trip to the beach was a pretty obvious activity. Fortunately, Katy had planned for this. While there are many beaches around town, they’re not the nicest and several people suggested we make the trip out to Playa Blanca.
It turned out to be advice we’ll happily pass on to others.
Playa Blanca is about an hour from Cartagena by bus. A trip made easier by the construction of a bridge three years ago which saves the costly and time-consuming ferry ride. You can get there by boat as well, but why start your day with a seasick kid (or spouse) if you can avoid it?
We booked our trip to Playa Blanca through Cartagena Connections. A quick look at the tone of the trip description and you’ll understand why we chose them. The only catch was we had to make our way over to Mamallenas Hostel to meet the bus. The starting point being a hostel should be your first clue that a couple quickly approaching 40 with a 5 year old in tow were not the norm in our group.
I have to say, while the rooms didn’t look as nice as our hotel, the breakfast looked better. They also had some feline inhabitants that kept Ella entertained while we waited for the bus.
The drive to the beach was relatively painless. While it provided an opportunity to see a little of the Colombian landscape outside Cartagena, I’m still left with the feeling that we’ll be back before long to visit places like Medellin.
As we got closer to the beach our host, for lack of a better term, explained that he would walk us as a group to a specific hostel/restaurant further down the beach. This would give us a safe haven from the vendors trying to sell you things on the beach, and free access to a bathroom.
In different circumstances my cynical side might have worried that he was trying to ensure he could be the one to try and rip us off, but I’m pretty sure he was above board. As he pointed out himself, while the locals on the beach don’t worry about recommendations, the business he works for in Cartagena needs them. That Katy and I had both been warned about the aggressive sales on the beach, this didn’t come as a total shock.
They weren’t kidding about aggressive either. During the walk from the bus to our destination on the beach, our ‘host’ got into a shoving match with another guy trying to pick off some of our group. Both our host and the other guy were prepared to go at it as we tourists gawked but cooler heads stepped in. After that, the intensity level of our day steadily declined.
We shelled out the 30,000 Colombian pesos (approx $12 CAD) to get a little shelter for some shade by the water. We only spent about 20% of our time there, but it was still worth it.
As I mentioned above, we weren’t the norm on our bus to the beach, or the beach as a whole. Though there were some locals and a few other families, the majority were young backpackers. At least one of the hostels we walked by featured rows of hammocks in the open rather than rooms of any kind. Fun, but not really kid friendly.
I can’t say we added to it, but the beach has a general party vibe to it. As you can see above, Katy did give it a good try with her corner store purchased bottle of wine. The vast majority of our time was spent bobbing in the waves with Ella. We spotted the occasional fish, but mostly she was just content to float on her inflatable pool noodle and ride the waves.
Our only mistake was that all the time in the water meant we all got a little too much sun, despite wearing rashies, hats, and sunscreen. We’ll be making a stop at the local pharmacy for some upgraded water-resistant sunscreen.
Despite the sun, we had a great time at the beach and would highly recommend it. Ella was pretty shattered by the end of the day and enjoyed a good nap on the bus ride home. After some dinner at a restaurant near the hotel we all crashed.