Playa Blanca is a white sand beach on the northern coast of Colombia, about 1 hour from Cartagena. It’s one of the more popular things to do while in Cartagena, and for good reason…it’s beautiful.
We have been to Playa Blanca three times now, and every time we took a different mode of transportation. If you want to read more about our trips, you can find the specifics here.
Here are our three tried and true ways to get to Playa Blanca:
1. By car
If you have rented a car in Cartagena (or, if you know someone who has), you can drive straight to Playa Blanca! It takes a little over an hour to drive there. The drive takes you through the industrial part of Cartagena and then through a weedy landscape that is either bright green or brown, depending on the time of the year. Not the scenic beach drive you would expect, but cool nonetheless.
Before you go, here are some things to be aware of:
1. You may be stopped at a police checkpoint. I’m not sure what they ask when they stop you – because we weren’t stopped – but as long as you’re not smuggling drugs or people, I’m sure you’ll be fine!
2. You will be ambushed by “helpers” who want to direct you to a parking spot. We literally had guys jump on our car to try to get us to stop. They expect to be paid for their “services”.
He was pretty proud of himself for jumping on our car.
3. The road to the parking lots is deeply potholed packed sand. Little cars really struggle, and it may take you 15 minutes to go 1 mile. If you get carsick, bring some Dramamine.
4. The parking lot “attendants” want to be paid as well. Their “job” is to look after your car. Pay them.
2. By boat
Our second trip was by boat. We knew from a previous trip to the islands that it would be best to buy our tickets the day of.
When you go to the islands or to Playa Blanca, you leave from the dock, or the muelle, in Spanish. The muelle is just outside of the city walls in the center of town, almost in Getsemani. It’s just a little further down the road from the big Pegasus statues and large party yachts.
There are usually guys standing with clipboards trying to coerce you to buy from them…that’s fine, as long as they give you a good price. Usually, after you agree to their price, they will take you over to a window, where you will get tickets from a reputable resort/company. I would be hesitant to deal with a guy who doesn’t take you to a window or who gives you tickets that don’t have a logo of some sort.
We arrived at the dock at 8:00 and my husband found us some cheap tickets. We paid $60,000 pesos each. The lowest “gringo price” we had been offered before was $75,000. Asking around will definitely save you some money.
The boat ride is awesome. They try to squish 45+ people on a boat with a capacity for 40, so if you don’t get a good seat, you may be squished into the front or back like sardines.
The boats go very fast and hit the swells pretty hard, but it’s more fun than scary. I always take Dramamine beforehand, and that 100% prevents me from getting seasick at all.
Luckily, the ocean air is not freezing like it is in the States. I wore my bathing suit and a coverup and I was totally fine (and I am ALWAYS cold). The ride is about 1 hour long, but they stop a few times to tell you about Tierra Bomba and the other Rosario Islands that you pass. This is the more scenic and fun way to get to Playa Blanca, but also the most expensive.
3. Bus and taxi
Our last trip was by bus and taxi. While in Cartagena, hop on the bus to Pasacaballos (it will say Pasacaballos across the top). You can hop on by the India Catalina statue, or anywhere between MegaTiendas and Ara on Avenida Santander (the beach road), going towards the airport.
While in Cartagena, hop on the bus to Pasacaballos (it will say Pasacaballos across the top). You can hop on by the India Catalina statue, or anywhere between MegaTiendas and Ara on Avenida Santander (the beach road), going towards the airport.
This option was by far the cheapest. For $2,000 pesos each, we were able to get most of the way there. Unfortunately, it also takes the longest. The bus to Pasacaballos makes about 8,000 stops and doubles back on its route a couple of times. It was about a 2-hour ride to the outskirts of Pasacaballos.
From there, you have to find a mototaxi or regular taxi to take you to Playa Blanca. Our bus driver knew we were going to Playa Blanca, so he dropped us off just outside of Pasacaballos where a taxi was waiting.
It was a little sketchy, but I think he ultimately saved us money. We didn’t have to drive all the way into Pasacaballos and pay for the taxi driver to drive us from that extra distance. But be cautious, because this taxi driver could have charged us anything, being that we would have been stranded on that road until another bus came along. Luckily, his price was reasonable and we felt comfortable getting into his car.
We paid the taxi driver $16,000 for 4 of us, and he took us the last 30 minute stretch to Playa Blanca. Again, we had to drive on that terribly bumpy road, but he took us all the way to the mouth of the beach, which was nice!
We didn’t have a solid plan for getting home, other than doing the taxi/bus in reverse. Luckily, there are plenty of taxis and luxury buses waiting at the top of the beach to take people back to Cartagena.
We initially tried to find another taxi to take us into Pasacaballos. Because we were in more of a desperate position, being that we were stranded on the beach, miles from anything, the rates increased. Shocker!
After rejecting a few drivers, we found one taxi driver who would take us all the way back to Cartagena! Because it was getting late in the day, and he eventually would have to drive back to Cartagena with or without passengers, we were able to talk him down a lot. He thought it was better to get something than nothing, and we benefited from it! I highly recommend leaving later in the day (we left at 4 PM) so that you can find a desperate taxi driver as well!
We decided that the convenience was worth the extra cost, and he took us straight to our apartment for $50,000 for the four of us. The taxi ride was much more pleasant than the bus ride.
However you plan on getting to Playa Blanca, don’t get taken advantage of. Plenty of gringos get charged more just because the Colombians overquote and we accept it. Push back, even if it’s only once for a slightly better price. If they don’t accept, I would ask someone else. If you’re getting the same price quote from everyone with no wiggle room, then you can feel comfortable knowing that’s the lowest price.
It’s not offensive to haggle in Colombia. If the price is marked, you accept it and pay it. If it is not, then see if you can get the cost down more. My husband often tries to get them to knock off half or more, and most of them think it’s hilarious. They occasionally accept. Remember that it’s a totally different culture and that you shouldn’t be timid or embarrassed about trying to get the best price.