Isla de Barú may be just 45 minutes from Cartagena by boat, but it feels a world away. Here, monkeys play in the lush jungle and the sea teems with barracudas and other fish. The island’s Playa Blanca—one of Colombia’s most famous beaches—lives up to its name with pearl-white sand and sparkling azure water. In fact, the island is so untouched that the local community didn’t have electricity until fifteen years ago. Forget about luxury hotels—Hotel Las Islas is the first five-star resort on the island and it’s all about appreciating the natural eco-system.
During the hotel’s two-year construction period, not a single tree was cut down. Arriving by boat or helicopter from Cartagena, guests will find a resort fully immersed in nature. After checking in at one of the two reception areas, a member of the hotel’s team will escort you by golf cart or foot to your bungalow, which is clad in teak and furnished simply with a plush canopied bed, a desk, and chair. The resort comprises just 55 bungalows, 22 of which are located at sea level and have their own private pool, while the other 33 are nestled among the trees and have a jacuzzi. All the bungalows have their own private deck, perfect for relaxing on a lounge chair or hammock, and two bicycles that you can use to get around.
During the hotel’s two-year construction period, not a single tree was cut down.
As you wander from your bungalow to the restaurants and the spa, you’ll notice that the architecture seems to blend in with the natural surroundings. Palapa-style buildings with thatched roofs make you feel like you’re staying in a tree house. Many buildings—including the three restaurants—don’t have walls, just wooden decks and beams holding up the pitched roof. But the resort doesn’t just look natural—it was designed to be very sustainable and eco-friendly. No plastic straws or plates are used and the resort has ample recycling initiatives and its own desalination plant used to purify the water.
You don’t have to go far to fully immerse yourself in nature, either. For most guests, the beach is the main attraction. In the sea surrounding the resort, you can go snorkeling or scuba diving, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking with a local guide. Around the nearby Rosario Islands, the visibility is optimal for admiring the beautiful coral reefs and tropical fish while snorkeling or scuba diving. One of the most popular activities is a bioluminescent tour by boat, which the hotel offers on a complimentary basis.
The hotel’s parent company, Aviatur, also helps support the local community by employing local guides and other staff, including 400 locals who were involved in the hotel’s construction. They collaborate with the community of Barú to preserve the local eco-system. The Fondación Aviatur also works with single mothers who make handicrafts sold in the hotel’s shop. Even the spa treatments use local ingredients, including coconut oil and sea salt.