2am. It was late. Too late, I thought for any of us to happily wake up to head to the beach in the morning. Our call time was terrible. We needed to be down by 7:45am at the latest. I was so sleep deprived that I considered suggesting we move the beach to the next day, but groggy and late as we were (we actually asked the bus driver to wait, the nerve) we made it to the bus that would take us to the famed Isla Barú. The vehicle was far from fancy but it was air-conditioned, and we were taken from our hotel to the beach and back for 65,000 pesos ~$24.As the bus pulled into a large sandy make-shift car park, it started to rain and all I could think was “great, you wake up unusually early to head to a beach and the one thing that shouldn’t be happening happens”. It was the end of the rainy season but when has the climate done anything we’ve expected it to this year? Thankfully I was told by a local massage therapist – who started to give me a much-needed back massage to preview her services- that the rain would only last a short while, and she was right. Before we had time to properly sulk about our dampened day, it became sunny & hot – both things a beach day should be.We ordered drinks, got fake tattoos, (the vendor situation here is real, they’re everywhere you turn, you’ll say no to one tattoo artist only to turn around and see another one vying for your pesos or dollars) and ate a lunch of coconut rice and fish (arroz con coco y pescado) before our boat tour of the surrounding beaches. This cost an extra 35000 pesos ~$12. You can also jet ski or ride a banana boat!With our guide Fernando, we visited the much less crowded and appropriately named playa Tranquilo (calm beach), snorkeled in the waters in front of the luxury hotel Barú and fed the fish in those waters. I refused to wear a snorkel mask since they did not provide new ones and I’m a germaphobe, but my friend Mofi did.Back on the beach, while I lay close enough to the water that the tepid waves rolled off my feet each time, one of the tour employees – Americo – who had been hospitable since we stepped foot on the beach informed us of the complimentary drinks in which we happily indulged. Disappointingly, the drinks tasted like they were mixed with cough syrup. I couldn’t understand what else would have needed to go into a rum and coke besides rum and coke. Maybe it was the quality of the rum? Maybe it wasn’t even coke?Despite being someone who doesn’t fancy crowds, I didn’t find this populated beach unpleasant. In fact, it’s one of the cleanest, most picturesque beaches I’ve visited this year.
Colombia’s Caribbean coast doesn’t only make for great beaches, it’s also a prime location to grow cacao. Cacao gives us chocolate and chocolate – not surprisingly – makes me more care-free. Happy, if you will. I had been on a chocolate tour before in Ecuador and was excited to share the experience with my girls Mofi & Ekama at Cartagena’s Choco Museo.For 35,000 pesos ~$12, our guide Alfonso took us through the process of making chocolate and the history of chocolate, treated us to shots of chocolate liqueur in varying flavors (my favorite was the chili flavor) and helped us make molds of our own flavored chocolate.According to Alfonso, Colombian chocolate is the best kind. While I can’t confirm that yet, the samples of chocolate we tasted were delicious so we bought a few to take home.
Fun facts – 100% pure cacao is bitter but smells incredible. – White chocolate has no cacao in it and so isn’t actually chocolate. – “Chocolate” comes from the Nahuatl word “Xocalatl”.
With the scent of chocolate and the past day’s adventures lingering in our packed bags, we walked to the airport to catch our 9:30am flight to Miami. We had already begun to talk about Cartagena in the past tense.
Isla Baru – Estrella Tours
Cacao – Choco Museo
thank you for reading!
All photos shot and edited on iPhone 8+
Same footprints, Different Sands