7 Oct 2014

The White Sands of Playa Blanca

The weather has turned pretty gloomy the last few days and as they say north of the wall “Winter is coming!”. This summer we haven’t travelled and have spent many sunshine filled days enjoying the rolling hills of Yorkshire with our beautiful dog, Poppy. I’m actually surprised that I’m not itching to get away again, our backpacking adventure definitely cured my travelling bug! However, with the season finally turning to Autumn, and my recent return to full time employment, the phrase “I need a holiday” is edging closer to my lips. 

playa blanca cartagena colombia

Technically, I don’t need a holiday. Just five months ago I was on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, in Colombia, a country I‘d never associated with Caribbean sands before.

Playa Blanca is a peninsula of gorgeous white sandy beaches just south of Cartagena, easily reached in less than an hour by speedboat or a couple of hours by bus. There were very few blogs about this beach and those who’d visited its shores were mesmerised by its beauty and tranquility. Playa Blanca offers a rustic beach experience due to its lack of running water and electricity, only a few visitors choose to stay overnight. Most tourists visit for a couple of hours in the afternoon as part of an island hopping day cruise from Cartagena that also takes in the Islas del Rosario. As soon as they depart, about 4pm, tranquility reigns. 

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"Drilling for....?"

Whilst we were staying in Cartagena we decided to venture to Playa Blanca for a couple of days. We were staying at Casa Ebano and made plans to leave our big backpacks with our hosts and only take a few essentials with us. The morning of our departure we experienced a major drama: we could not open the safe in our room. Inside were our passports, bank cards, camera, cash aka our life! Over breakfast we decided not to panic and looked away when the owner turned up with a *gulp* massive hammer.

We’d built up a good rapport with the ladies at Casa Ebano, they offered to lend us some cash and promised to have the safe open on our return from the beach. Playa Blanca sounded irresistible so we accepted their offer and rushed off with just a book, bikini and some pesos. 

Cartagena harbour playa blanca

Our original plan was to get a boat from Cartagena’s unofficial harbour and get a cheaper boat, our taxi driver had other ideas and took us to the main harbour where his friend would sort us out. She was very helpful so we haggled our way on to her speedboat of island hopping tourists and within 40 minutes we were jumping off the boat into the warm, shallow, turquoise Caribbean waters! It wasn’t even 10am and there was only handful of people on the beach. We made our way up the beach in search of a bed for the night.

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"How to decorate a dead palm tree."

We quickly realised that prices had increased a lot in the last two years, with many charging about 80,000 pesos a night (£24). That’s almost as much as our room in Cartagena that had cable TV, bathroom and air con! It was really poor value for money especially as we  were expecting to pay a tenner a night. We walked quite far up the beach and our search led us to the brightly coloured Zion. 

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Working front of house was a quirky American-Colombian and an equally quirky tree house style room that we instantly loved. And at just 50k a night, it was a bargain. It was very simply furnished too with just a bed and a table. There was no mosquito net or fan but we were assured that it was too cool at night for either. Entry to our room was via a wooden ladder and saloon door. Our room price also included 5L of water per person to pour over our heads, also known as showering. The other plus point of Zion was that the shared loos were the best on the beach i.e. clean.

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Our plan was to stay for two night but we quickly realised the money we’d borrowed was not going to last that long, we fancied beers and a seafood supper - and they didn’t come cheap on Playa Blanca.

The rest of our stay was pure bliss. We read, sunbathed and were in awe of the sea, it was so gorgeous we dipped in and out every 20 minutes! Our spot on the beach was really peaceful too with no day-trippers in sight.

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We also made friends with a lovely British couple, Nick and Maddie who we’d later travel a little with too. Unfortunately their journey to Playa Blanca took a little longer than ours. They had arrived via the giant cruise ship which took four hours and sounded pretty hellish. A word of warning to future travellers: make sure you get on a small speedboat otherwise you’re going via the tacky dolphin show island and will have to endure a hot, sweaty wait on the boat. The drunken 11am pole dancing sounded a little funny though.

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There was very little difference between menus on Playa Blanca and options were limited. We’d read tales of freshly grilled crab and lobster but found none. We did find BOGOF cocktails though and Zion served delicious grilled fish and pizza. That night wasn’t a late one as we were all counting our pennies and retired to bed at a sensible hour. 

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"A dreamy pink sunset!"

A heavenly morning of sunbathing and swimming followed. We were all in awe of Playa Blanca’s beauty. It would have been nice to stay longer but we were down to our last few pesos with just enough for our boat fare back to Cartagena. Getting back was easy and cheap, there were men touting seats on their speedboats for just 15k each. It was super quick too and we were back in Cartagena in about 30 minutes.

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Playa Blanca was definitely worth the effort as it's beyond beautiful. We enjoyed over 24 hours of beachy bliss and got to immerse ourselves in the gorgeous Caribbean Sea for the very first time. Playa Blanca has developed rapidly in the past two years yet still holds its rustic charm. Sadly, there are rumours of hotels taking over this serene patch of beach soon so our advice is to get there quick! 

We're glad to report that our hosts at Casa Ebano opened the safe and we got our valuables back exactly as we’d left them.

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