La Isla Baru: A few tips for a great trip

Isla Baru - Playa Blanca
Christmas morning off the coast of Cartagena, on Isla Baru

My mouth is saying no thanks, but my tone isn’t quite serious because this woman’s fingertips have somehow found a magic spot in my shoulder that is rendering me incapable of shooing her away.

Knowing better, I cave and ask how much.

Apparently, a half hour massage on Isla Baru will run you 150 000COP. At today’s exchange rate that’s about $45 USD,  the same price you’d pay at a fancy hotel spa—complete with ambiance and a legitimate massage oil—for an hour massage. Inwardly wagging a finger at myself, I try and negotiate a price more along the lines of those I’ve seen at the spa/salon combos lining the streets of Bogotá (around 30 000COP) before giving my no thanks more gusto and trying to untangle myself from her tranquilizing grip.

Baru is an island just off Cartagena’s coast and is touted as having some of the best beaches in the country. But—as you’ll find upon the teeniest bit of research—reports are polarizing.  I had heard it’s a must-visit in Colombia, beautiful with a stunning beach; I’d also heard that it was crowded, dirty, and filled with aggressive vendors. It would be one thing if it were just Cody and I making this decision, but we were in Cartagena for Christmas and were showing his parents a bit of Colombia outside of Bogotá.

In the end, it was street vendor Edgar Forever (yes, last name Forever) who convinced us that we should give Baru a chance. Edgar, as it turns out, was born and raised on Baru. According to him, Christmas morning is usually spent at home while the adults are recovering from the previous night’s festivities and would be a perfect time to enjoy the beaches, sans the masses.

Between the opinions of Cody (repeating suggestions from colleagues that we must visit) and myself (repeating every horror story I’d read on TripAdvisor), his poor parents were imparted with high hopes and low expectations. And so, the plan was set.

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Cartagena and Love in the Time of Cholera

city gate

It’s difficult to read about Colombia without stumbling across the name Gabriel García Márquez. Colombians talk about him with a sense of reverence and ardor. I brought with me a few of García Márquez’s works to Colombia and because of the deference that is given to this man, I purposely read none of them before we moved.

I felt that by first experiencing the country that so greatly inspired the author, I would also feel his work as I read it.

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