A short boat ride from the bustle of Cartagena the Rosario Islands are self-contained jewels of natural beauty in a gentle turquoise sea. This archipelago of twenty-seven islands on Colombia’s Caribbean coast are designated as their own national park and one which is unique as the only such protected area in the country almost entirely underwater. The Rosario Islands are renowned for their stunning coral formations. The coral reefs host an incredibly diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life with vast shoals of brightly coloured fish in particular making them perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving. At 4633 square miles (12,000 square kilometres) of sea and ocean floor there is much to explore in The Natural Park Corales Islas del Rosario.

Rosario Island beaches are by no means all the same. There are rocky, mangrove-covered ones and others with glorious white sand dotted with palm trees, ideal for swimming and sun bathing. During your stay at Casa San Agustin in Cartagena you will be taken to Barú Island which is the hotel’s own private beach reserved solely for guests. If you feel like doing more than lazing in the sun there are a number of organised activities to enjoy including sport fishing and diving. For a trip to what seems like another world, take a kayak out to explore the strangely twisting tunnels created by the intertwining mangroves.

To learn more about the denizens of the deep to be found around the islands there is a natural aquarium, the Oceanarium on Isla Parajales which is well worth a visit. The occupants, including sharks and dolphins, can all be seen up close in naturally-formed salt water pools and there is an excellent museum illustrating countless local marine species. Visitors are not the only ones to benefit from the wealth of the islands’ sea life. Local fishermen enjoy excellent catches of crab, lobster and other shellfish and if you’re in a boat they’re likely to come alongside to offer to sell you their wares as fresh from the sea as could be.

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