A Disappointing Day at Playa Blanca
I’m too doped up with Dramamine to care that our speedboat feels like it’s about to split in half. The water isn’t even all that choppy, but our little boat creates violent swells as we hasten towards Islas del Rosario, a chain of isles about 60 miles off the coast of Cartagena.
I find comfort in the thought that if our boat breaks and we end up in the middle of the ocean, at least we’ll have some reprieve from the heat and humidity. Clearly, I’m not thinking straight.
I’m also too incoherent to care when our boat slows down near Tierrabomba so that we can get a glimpse of Castillo San Fernando de Bocachica that was used as both a fortress and a prison.
Our guide goes on and on in Spanish about the significance of the fort as I make a pillow out of Jave’s shoulder and enjoy the sea spray on my face and our boat moves on.
We drift along as our guide points out some of the tiny islands that make up this archipelago which collectively forms one of Colombia’s national parks and is home to a crucial coral reef on the country’s Caribbean coast.
In bits and pieces, I hear our guide mention that Colombia’s infamous cocaine kingpin, Pablo Escobar, had a fabulous home on one of these islands – Isla Grande, to be exact – that’s now in ruins.
Eventually we dock at an island that’s home to an aquarium and an open sea oceanarium and we’re told that we can either get off the boat to visit the aquarium, or stay on to go to another location for snorkeling.
Thinking it would be unwise to snorkel in my condition, we get off and decide to sit around and wait for our boat to return in an hour or so. I read my book, Jave finds a vendor selling cheap yet fresh ceviche, and we wait.
As promised, our boat returns to pick us up and we head off to the main attraction – Isla Baru and its touristed beach, Playa Blanca. As we approach the shore, I’m instantly energized and lured out of my haze by the sight of palm trees in the distance, powder white sand, and some of the most refreshing looking turquoise waters I’ve ever seen.
But I’m simultaneously turned off by the rainbow of tents and umbrellas on the beach protecting tourists like me from the harsh rays of the sun. Based on travelers’ reviews, I was expecting to encounter other tourists, but I guess I wasn’t expecting quite so many.
Once off the boat, we’re instructed to go find the table at a beachside restaurant where the rest of the people from our boat are sitting, waiting to be served lunch; I’m beginning to feel like I’m on a grade school field trip.
After lunch, we’re free to enjoy the sun and the sand for what amounts to a little over an hour. For a beach lover like me, it’s not enough time, and it seems that no matter which way we turn in the water, there’s someone within arm’s length, depriving us of any real quality beach time.
I can’t say I wasn’t forewarned – I did my homework and read blog posts and reviews advising travelers to skip the cookie cutter packaged deals to Isla Baru and to instead hire a speedboat that runs directly to the island. Many other travelers also advised that it would be best to spend a night on Isla Baru as opposed to just making it a daytrip destination. But because we were short on time and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of trying to find suitable accommodations on the island, I didn’t listen.
Don’t get me wrong – our day at Playa Blanca wasn’t a total fail. It’s just that apart from the beauty of the beach itself, the itinerary and the crowds left me feeling a bit underwhelmed.