As much as I said in my previous post Cartagena is a magical place and definitely one of my top recommendations for visitors to Colombia, it is a small town and can get a little bit boring after a few days.
So it’s great to know there are a number of beautiful places you can visit nearby for a daytrip or even to spend a night or two.
One of the easiest to get to is the little fishing village of La Boquilla. It’s only about fifteen minutes from town so you don’t even need to plan much in advance, and can just head on out for a change of scenery and different experience.
It’s not a top tourist destination, which makes it a great escape if you are feeling like you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Cartagena and want to experience something a bit more authentic.
Local buses run up and down the coast, so you can hop in one of those for very little or you can take a taxi or ask about tours at your hotel or hostel. If go for the bus option, be sure to ask what time the last bus coming back is, otherwise you might have to take a taxi.
One of the best things about La Boquilla is the food. Ok, it’s not gourmet or anything like that, but if you want a typical meal from this area with the freshest fish, then it doesn’t get much better.
The beach along La Boquilla has a string of open-air thatched restaurants where you can sit at a table or hang out in a hammock, and someone working there will come and show you the catch of the day so you choose the fish you want to eat for lunch.
He’ll probably also try to entice you into a boat trip through the mangroves and to visit a pre-Colombian island. The typical deal will be that you go for the boat ride and lunch will be ready for you when you come back, but you can choose if you want to eat first, or however you want to spend your day.
I think we took the option to have our soup first and then the boat ride and the main meal when we got back. Lunch menus in Colombia usually include soup, the main dish and a juice.
The boat trip through the mangroves …
Well, it was very relaxing, but I have to say as far as mangroves go it was not overly impressive. However, it was fun and a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, and our guide was very nice, taking great care of us and never once tried to charge us extra for anything.
He also explained everything to us along the way, for example when we saw fishermen casting their nets, or tiny villages on the side, and what the different birds were that we encountered.
The pre-Colombian island was kind of a joke. We were expecting to find some incredible ruins of ancient statues and artefacts, but it was actually just quite poorly done replicas of pre-Colombian statues and depictions of culture.
After walking around there, we lay in the hammocks for a bit until it was time to head back through the mangroves to La Boquilla where our lunch was waiting for us.
Our lunch included a whole fish each, arroz con coco – coconut rice, patacones – plantain patties, and salad.
It was so delicious, and immediately became our new favourite meal. After that my friend and I kept looking for fish with arroz con coco and patacon in restaurants around Cartagena.
NOTE: After reading a few negative comments about La Boquilla on Lonely Planet forums, I feel it necessary to point out that this is not a beautiful place in the conventional sense. If you are the type of tourist who only wants to see resorts with white sand and feels uncomfortable in areas where you don’t see other foreigners walking around, then this is probably not the place for you. However, if you do like to get off the beaten track and experience something different, and have some time to spare, then go and check it out with an open mind. My friends and I loved La Boquilla, but we always try to stay with and meet local people when we travel as well as seeing the touristy side.
We would love to see your comments if you have been to La Boquilla, or even if you have been to another place that you loved that was not a usual tourist spot, or somewhere that was recommended that you hated.