Isla Grande, Colombia

Photo: Hotel San Pedro de Majagua
Photo: Hotel San Pedro de Majagua

The last boat is getting ready to depart. The sunburned day-trippers climb aboard. The captain revs up the engine. Then they head off toward the mainland. But not you. You stand and wave as the wake waves rush to the beach. By the time the boat is out of sight, the water is calm, and you have a big smile on your face. You have an island (practically) to yourself.

You’re on Isla Grande, one of the Islas del Rosario (Rosario Islands) off the coast of Colombia. Most of the 27 islands are uninhabited. All of them are part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park, which was established to protect the country’s largest coral reef. The islands are full of white beaches and majagua trees; clear water, schools of fish, and that reef surround them. Since they’re only 45 kilometers southwest of Cartagena, it’s a popular trip for both locals and tourists.

But most people only visit the islands for the day. They arrive around 10 am and depart around 3 pm, leaving you plenty of time to leisurely explore. Swim over colorful angelfish, butterflyfish, and parrotfish as you snorkel in calm lagoons. Dive farther underwater to see sea turtles, octopuses, and barracudas. Go fishing for mackerel and grouper. Canoe around the mangrove-lined island. Hire a guide to take you to Laguna Encantada at night, when bioluminescent sea creatures light up the lagoon. And claim your spot on the fine, white sand to relax when the boats start to arrive.

Photo: Hotel San Pedro de Majagua
Photo: Hotel San Pedro de Majagua

You can also relax in your beachfront room at Hotel San Pedro de Majagua. The hotel’s name combines the home’s original owner (a French painter in the 1950s) with the majestic trees that surround it. White walls, natural wood, and decorative wooden oars fill the interior of the stone bungalow. The living space extends outside with built-in couches with bright, aqua cushions and a hammock. The salty sea breeze keeps you cool. The sound of the waves keeps you calm. While the endless Caribbean Sea keeps you mesmerized.

The rest of the hotel is just as open and relaxing. The spa and the dining room are both open air. The breeze, the waves, and the view are never far away. Colombian coffee and tropical fruit are served for breakfast. A picnic lunch can be brought to the garden. Dinner features the catch of the day, possibly snapper, with coconut rice. While the dock is the perfect place to watch for shooting stars . . . especially when you don’t have to share it.

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