Rincon del Mar, Colombia: A Corner of the Sea

It’s late afternoon in Rincon del Mar and after a sun-induced siesta, I step out of my hostel to explore this small Colombian fishing village. As I follow the dirt road, I pass a table of men playing a game of dominos, each piece laid on the table with a hard clack. Heading towards me is a man leading a donkey loaded with a hand of freshly harvested bananas and a young boy with a prideful smile. I pass by a busy barbershop, turn to my left, and slip between two buildings towards the beach to find myself in the middle of a friendly soccer game. Such is life here in this corner of the sea and I’m absorbing every moment.

A couple walk into the ocean holding hands as the sun sets in Rincon del Mar

As the sun dips further towards the horizon, I find a spot in the sand and point my attention towards the sun setting over the ocean. I watch a couple flirting in the waves and I begin to wonder how this community feels about their cherished corner suddenly filled with new faces as it becomes the latest backpacker destination in Colombia. I imagine the majority of residents recognize the opportunity as well as the challenges. The dogs know no strangers and it’s clear they happily accept the extra rubs from travelers.

My concerns are eased the next morning when I meet Dania and Daniele of Dos Aguas Lodge – the newest accommodation in Rincon. Inspired by the welcoming village they discovered, this Colombian-Italian couple has created more than just a place to stay in Rincon del Mar. It is a peaceful oasis that embraces the community and cultivates the idea of sustainable travel.

Hammocks hang under the palapa structure overlooking the mangrove lagoon.
The hammocks overlooking the mangrove lagoon is the best place to watch the sunrise at Dos Aguas Lodge.

The elements of Dos Aguas are all made by local craftsman. Dania and Daniele were delighted to discover the nearby village of Higueron is known for their expertise in wood construction and furniture making – skills passed down from their elders. Every piece, from the bed frames to the tables were constructed by local craftsmen and perhaps the most stunning feature is the doors. Tall, dark, and natural, they slide open effortlessly to reveal the inviting outdoors. Pepe and his team built them using sticks of lata, a native plant that grows similar to bamboo and turns brown when peeled.

When Antonio, the concrete mason, finished laying the foundation he sadly realized no one would see his work since the remainder of the building process planned to use sustainable materials. Dania and Daniele challenged him to create art pieces using his trade and it resulted in the concrete lamps and sinks in each room. This commitment to creating a sustainable community is what makes Dos Aguas Lodge a special place by the sea.

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Where to Stay in Rincon del Mar

The town consists of just a few unpaved streets as well as a long stretch of beachfront bungalows, restaurants, and hostels. As you come into the village you’ll pass by the community center where the main road casually curves right and into the heart of town.

In Rincon del Mar, a hammock hangs next to the bed which is protected with a mosquito net.
A private room at Dos Aguas Lodge.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I strongly suggest you book a stay at Dos Aguas Lodge where each space is designed to embrace the outdoors. Nestled between two bodies of water – the Caribbean Sea and the mangrove lagoon, you can enjoy both sunrise and sunset from the premises.

In the oceanfront dining and lounge area, large doors open to reveal picture perfect views of the Caribbean Sea. While this view is common for a hostel in Rincon, few have such a private beach feel as Dos Aguas. This is a place to truly relax and enjoy this corner of the sea.

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A beach view of the Caribbean Sea from Dos Aguas Lodge.
Ocean view from the lounge, bar, and dining area at Dos Aguas Lodge.

When I booked my stay, Dos Aguas was not open yet, so I chose one of the next best hostels in Rincon del Mar. Hostel Beach House has a mix of dorm and private rooms, but it was the A-frame open dorm overlooking the ocean that drew me in. Each bed is draped with a mosquito net and has a designated locker.

At one of the best hostels in Rincon del Mar, single beds arranged next to each other, each protected with a mosquito net hanging from the ceiling.
The large dorm room at Beach House Hostel. The A-frame room overlooks the beach and ocean.

Downstairs you’ll find fresh coffee in the morning and a spacious, though often busy kitchen to use. A large palapa seating area with tables and hammocks opens to the beach, which draws travelers seeking sun in the day and sunset views in the evening.

Check prices and availability for Beach House Hostel on Booking

I recommend booking 3-5 nights in this area and perhaps splitting your time between Rincon and one of the San Bernardo Islands. For a relaxing island stay, check out Isla Mucura or Tintipan. During our boat ride to the San Bernardo Islands, we dropped a traveler off on Isla Mucura before going to a different area of the island designated for day trips. It looked just as you’d expect a remote tropical island would – turquoise waters leading to powdery white sand with hammocks hung in the low brush and tall palms in the background. Paradise.

Check prices and availability for places to stay on Isla Mucura

From the boat, a view of the side of the island with places to stay in Isla Mucura with tall palms in the background.
The beach access when you stay on Isla Mucura.

What to do in Rincon del Mar

There’s not a lot to do in this tranquil fishing village and that’s exactly why you should go. While most hostels have wifi (Daniele told me high speed just arrived a few months ago), it’s also the ideal spot to unplug and disconnect from the world. The south end of the beach curves around the water and is often void of people. It is the perfect place to go on a long walk or enjoy the beach to yourself.

The north end of the beach is where most of the action happens. Along the beachfront are hostels interspersed with homes and restaurants. It also makes for a nice walk – follow the beach path until you reach a small bridge that crosses where the salt water flows into the mangrove lagoon. In the morning the lagoon is full of white birds feeding and enjoying the sun. Continuing north you’ll find a few more homes and hostels as the beach quiets down again.

Silhouetted by the sun, a boat sits in the sand next to fishing nets hanging from a post.
Fishing nets hung up for the day in front of the sea in Rincón del Mar.

Tour the San Bernardo Islands

One of the best things to do in Rincon is a boat tour of the San Bernardo Islands. Our boat of eight people left at 8 am so that we could be back around 2 pm and before the afternoon winds picked up. The tour started with a 20-minute snorkel near an uninhabited island. If you have your own snorkel and mask, I recommend bringing it since the options were a mixed bag. Some snorkels were fine but mine was leaky and I was constantly dumping water out. You shouldn’t need fins since you’re snorkeling near the boat and the current is not strong.

The next stop was optional. Isolte de Santa Cruz is known as the most densely populated island in the world with around 1200 inhabitants on two and a half acres – about the size of two football fields. Our guide offered an option to visit the aquarium for 5,000 COP and while none of us had an interest in seeing animals in captivity, I wish we had pursued exploring the island. Instead, we passed by close enough to see a few houses, each built practically on top of one another.

From the boat, a view of Islote de Santa Cruz, one of the San Bernardo Islands.
Islote de Santa Cruz, known as the most densely populated island in the world.

The next stop on our San Bernardo islands tour was Isla Mucura. We stayed for 40 minutes which was just enough time to enjoy a swim in the crystal blue waters with a Colombian beer or cocktail of your choice. On this part of Isla Mucura, the best area to swim was a small cove where the water flowed gently in and out.

Back in the boat, we headed to the largest San Bernardo island, Tintipan. The beach area on Tintipan offers a larger area to swim but there were also more people. Under the shade of palapas, tables and chairs face the turquoise sea where you can enjoy a seafood lunch or opt for a siesta in one of several hammocks. We spent two hours on Tintipan before returning on a slightly wet boat ride back to the village.

During a stop to Tintipan, a man enjoys a siesta in a shaded hammock hanging between a palapa and palm tree.
During a boat tour of the San Bernardo Islands, enjoy up to two hours on Isla Tintipan.

Other things to do include an evening swim in the bioluminescent bay during a new moon, hiring a guide to take you spearfishing, or diving the coral in the area.

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What to Bring

The most important thing to bring is cash! There is no ATM in town and most places do not accept credit cards, including the hostels. Depending on how many tours you want to do and how much you eat out versus cook, plan to bring 75-100,000 COP per person per day plus the cost of your hostel and transportation. Round trip transportation will cost about 80,000 COP.

Your packing list should include the usual things you’d bring to the beach – sunscreen, bathing suit, hat, and flip flops. You may want to add bug spray to your packing list. While there weren’t many mosquitos during my stay, they will likely come out in the rainy season or when it’s less windy.

How to get to Rincon del Mar from Cartagena

First, take a bus from Cartagena to San Onofre (2.5 hours). Inside the Cartagena bus station, you’ll be bombarded with men in uniforms trying to sell you a seat on their bus. Depending on how you’re feeling, you may want to take the time to shop around, looking for signs to San Onofre. Expect to pay 20,000-30,000 COP each way.

TIP: The Cartagena bus station, Terminal de Transporte, is located on the outskirts of town. Save money by using TransCaribe bus X104 to get to there. It’s the last stop on that route and pulls directly in front of the station. The fare was 2,500 COP, plus 1,000 for the bus card.

The bus will drop you off in front of the gas station in San Onofre where you’ll be met with eager moto taxis offering to take you 30 minutes down a dirt road to Rincón. You may need to use your negotiating skills, but the cost should be 10,000 COP. I spoke with another solo traveler that hired a car for 30,000 COP – a good option if you’re unsure of the motorcycle ride. My previous rental graciously allowed me to leave most of my clothes so my belongings fit in a daypack, but the moto taxi offered to balance my bag on the gas tank between his legs. I’ve heard they can do the same with moderately sized bags.

Getting gas in San Onofre. A man pours gas from a glass bottle into the tank using the top of a plastic soda bottle as a funnel.
Making a stop for gas in San Onofre on the way to Rincón del Mar.

As a solo female traveler, I was wary of being taken through San Onofre and 30 minutes down a dirt road with nary a person in sight. In fact, when we pulled over in front of a house my heart started racing. It turns out, we were just stopping briefly for gas. My moto taxi driver could not have been more hospitable. As we neared the town, he pointed out the first ocean sighting through the trees. It reminded me of my childhood trips to North Carolina and how special it felt to spot the first mountains.

How to get back to Cartagena

Just as you arrived, you’ll first need to make your way back to San Onofre. Your hostel can call a moto taxi for you to arrive within 20 minutes. If you prefer a car you may need to give more advance notice. My ride back was a little more precarious, with the driver turning back twice to ask about propina (tip). I ensured him I would include a tip in my payment because what is the other option when your life is in his hands?

I was dropped off in front of the gas station, the same place that I arrived. There you will find a few tables and chairs under the shade of a metal roof. The van to Cartagena was 30,000 COP and left within 30 minutes. We were met with a lot of construction on the road, which frustrated the driver and passengers. Ultimately we still made good time, but I wouldn’t plan on leaving the same day you’re trying to catch a flight or another bus from Cartagena. When we arrived at the Terminal de Transportes in Cartagena, I declined several offers from moto taxis figuring I’d had my fill for the day. I quickly found a city bus back to cento for 2,300 COP.

If you’re traveling to Cartagena, I hope you make the time to visit this corner of the sea. It’s a unique experience to explore and get a taste for life in a Colombian fishing village. As Dania told me, Rincon del Mar is going to change no matter what. It’s our job to make sure it does so with a sustainable future.

Like this post about Colombia? Save it to Pinterest!

In the evening light, a man feeds the frigate birds over the ocean. Use this image to save this post about Rincon, Isla Mucura, and Tintipan on Pinterest.Remember Isla Mucura and Tintipan for your Colombia travels by pinning this guide.

18 comments

Natasha L March 30, 2019 at 12:54 am

This is such a great guide with a really thorough description answering all my questions about accommodation and transport. The mosquito net beds remind me of when I was a kid and went to bed in Trinidad. I woke up in the morning and my hand had rested against the net – I had over 30 mosquito bites on the back of my hand. Still makes me shiver.

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Cultures Traveled March 30, 2019 at 1:13 am

Wow! It’s interesting adjusting to the mosquitos in each area. I remember the big welts I got when I first arrived in Maui, despite coming from the southern US where they are large and plentiful! But I’m used to their juices I suppose. Luckily there were hardly any mosquitos in Rincon. If your travels take you to Colombia soon, definitely put it on your list!

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Annick May 3, 2019 at 12:43 am

What an incredible adventure to Rincón! I appreciate the tips on how to get there and the cost estimates as well. I would have been terrified of both the motorcycle ride and car hire. I wish you’d stopped at Islote de Santa Cruz since it looks so funky. And I’ve been on the search for bioluminescent adventures so I’ll have to check this out.

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Cultures Traveled May 14, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Thanks Annick. It’s certainly an adventure getting to Rincon, but that’s half the fun! If you find yourself near Cartagena, Colombia you should definitely make the effort.

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Parnashree Devi May 3, 2019 at 1:29 am

Wow…I didn’t have any idea about Rincon del Mar until I read the article. I have a thing for quiet places and also fishing villages across the globe. I loved the vibes of the place. It looks peaceful and calm. I would love to spend a week easily, doing nothing rather exploring places and probably reading there. It’s a beautiful place. Thanks for introducing me to this amazing destination.

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Cultures Traveled May 14, 2019 at 7:17 pm

Peaceful and calm are definitely great words to describe Rincon del Mar, Colombia. It’s a great place to relax and unwind into a good book. Put it on your Colombia travel list!

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Sreekar May 3, 2019 at 10:51 am

This seems like a great place for a summer vacation. I especially loved the hammocks overlooking the mangroves. Can’t get much better than that.

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Cultures Traveled May 14, 2019 at 7:19 pm

The hammocks at Dos Aguas Lodge in Rincon del Mar are definitely the prime spot! It’s a great place in summer but also to escape the cold of winter – definitely put it on your travel list!

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Amar Singh May 3, 2019 at 11:08 am

A country that I have not yet visited but would love to for various reasons and this post only makes we want to book a ticket and fly. It’s not the most tourist friendly places when it comes to logistics but its the rustic approach that makes it even more appealing. The views of the lagoon from the hammocks is just breathtaking and I could imagine myself sitting enjoying the views from there. Great tips on taking cash as there are not many ATMs. Overall a great place and one added to my diary / thanks for sharing a piece of paradise in Colombia.

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Cultures Traveled May 14, 2019 at 7:21 pm

Book the ticket, just do it! The people in Colombia are some of the most friendly that I’ve met during my travels. Rincon del Mar, Colombia is a little off the beaten path but that’s the beauty of it. You should have no troubles traveling there.

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Michelle M May 3, 2019 at 2:03 pm

I love all of the hammocks everywhere. The views of the ocean are gorgeous as well. This seems like an amazing place to just sit back and check out from the world.

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Cultures Traveled May 14, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Thanks Michelle. Yes, it’s definitely the place to go for a relaxing vacation. The ocean is beautiful and uncrowded and Dos Aguas just puts the cherry on top!

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Martha May 3, 2019 at 7:21 pm

Some of my favorite vacations have been on a beach relaxing in a hammock. This post reminded me so much of those lovely times! Rincon del mar looks like the perfect beach getaway with authentic villages nearby. I think it’s so great that your hostel emphasizes sustainability. It’s so important to remind travelers of our privilege and how we should try to improve the world around us.

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Cultures Traveled May 14, 2019 at 7:26 pm

In this age of easy travel, it’s so important, I absolutely agree. At Dos Aguas Lodge, their commitment to sustainability and the community is incredible. As travelers themselves, they realized there is something more meaningful that can be done to minimize the impact when you travel. On top of that, the lodge they created is a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary.

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Emily May 28, 2019 at 6:12 pm

Sounds great! Approximately what is the cost of meals in Rincon? Beer?

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Cultures Traveled May 29, 2019 at 10:46 am

Thanks Emily! It depends where you go and what you order. Lobster or shrimp with the usual rice, salad, and patacones was 35,000 pesos (about $10) at Mar Blanco – a restaurant on the beach. Fish or chicken was less at 28,000 pesos. There I met someone that lives part of the year in Rincon del Mar and he told me about another place down the beach that offers a chicken meal for 5,000 pesos (less than $2). It was a great value and decent meal of chicken and rice with salted tomato and red onion as the salad. I don’t have the exact location but it was south of Beach House Hostel, two doors down from a fish market.

I think beers at a beach restaurant are 5,000. There are also several stores where you can purchase items to cook yourself as well as beer and rum. While they are small stores, I didn’t find prices to be outrageous. Prices were a little more inflated on the island boat trip to Tintipan where beers cost 6,000 and an overly sweet pina colada was 15,000. There was also a promising looking vegetarian restaurant about to open on the main road. I spoke with the owner and prices seemed to average 30,000 pesos.

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ADELYS POURANTRU July 9, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Hello !
First, thank’s you for your article very interesting.
Moreover, I will go to the San Bernardo Archipel this summer. I want to leave to Carthagèna to go to San Bernardo but for the return, I would like to arrive to Rincon del Mar.
Do you thinks it’s possible ? Does I need to reserve a boat ticket before to go or I can buy a ticket in the Islands ?
Sincerely,
Adélys Pourantru.

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Cultures Traveled July 11, 2019 at 12:31 am

Hi Adelys,
I think it would be best to arrange the boat to Rincon del Mar once you are on the islands. Are you planning to visit Isla Tintipan or Mucura? It probably won’t be as official as your ticket from Cartagena to the San Bernardo Islands (more just arranging a ride on a boat) but perhaps you can ask your hotel? I would inquire about the boat from Cartagena to the islands ahead of time and ask if it’s best to buy in advance. That trip I would like to do but I am not familiar. Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

-Julien

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