Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar – What to Do and How to Get There

This is your best guide to Rincon del Mar – the hidden paradise beach destination on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. A list of the best things to do in Rincon del Mar, where to stay and why you need to visit this magical beach town!

Rincon del Mar is the best beach destination in Colombia. Period.

I could finish this post here and let you go and find out for yourself.

But I won’t because you probably don’t believe me. So let me tell you.

Imagine a perfect beach where no one is trying to sell you a thing! White sand and blue sea where you can walk for hours along the shore, swim all day and eat as much seafood as your stomach can handle. Imagine a small town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, where life is slow, and it feels like time stopped a long time ago. You can swim with fluorescent plankton at night and watch fisherman fixing their boats just before the sunset. Oh, and every single sunset is breathtaking.

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

Imagine a beach hostel with beds on a rooftop where you fall asleep to the sound of the waves, and after you wake up, you can literally walk into the sea without putting your shoes on. In fact, you won’t need your shoes most of the time.

If you visit Rincon del Mar, you won’t have to imagine it any longer – you will stay in a paradise that not too many tourists and backpackers know about.

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

And Rincon del Mar is not easy to get to. But isn’t it true about many other hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path pieces of paradise? Trust me, you will not regret getting to San Onofre ( a town that no one talks about) and then venturing on the bumpy moto-taxi ride.

But let’s start from the beginning. 

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar, Colombia

Visiting places like Rincon del Mar is a quintessence of what backpacking is for me.

First, you need to find out about its existence. Rincon del Mar hasn’t made it to Lonely Planet yet, although I have heard this is about to happen in 2024. It is also more known among foreign travellers than the Colombians. The majority of Colombians actually never heard of this place.

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

Ten years ago, Rincon del Mar wasn’t even on a map, so the population of this small fishing village is only getting used to the new touristy reality. You won’t find hoards of vendors on the beach. The streets of Rincon del Mar are full of locals going about their life and the weekend street party is very much how it used to be years ago.

But don’t be fooled. There are many fantastic beach hostels and accommodations available, as well as tons of activities in Rincon del Mar. That is if you want to do something apart from lazing in the hammock and eating fish all day long.

Is Rincon del Mar, Colombia Worth Visiting?

Hell yes!

If you are tired of overcrowded beaches and crave an authentic Colombian Caribbean experience then you should visit Rincon del Mar. Also if you would like to visit some of the most beautiful Colombian islands and swim with the fluorescent plankton, look no further! Rincon del Mar is your destination. 

But mostly it’s the relaxed vibe and authenticity of the town that stole my heart. And of course the best beach on the Caribbean mainland of Colombia. 

The tranquil paradise, perfect beach and authentic vibe will make you wonder how this place stayed so unspoiled by tourists.

How to get to Rincon del Mar, Colombia

Wondering which are the most legendary hostels in Colombia? Here is the complete list of the crème de la crème of the best hostels in Colombia. When you visit a Colombian city for the first time, it can be overwhelming and choosing the right accommodation is crucial. Find out all about the best places to stay in Cartagena and Bogota.

How to Get to Rincon del Mar, Colombia

I must admit, until the last minute, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make my way to Rincón. The journey seemed long, a place out of the way, and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. In hindsight, I would strip myself of one of the best memories I have from Colombia if I decided not to go!

Although it’s not the easiest to get to Rincón del Mar, it is definitely worth it. And the travellers you will meet there will match the vibe of the place. You have to have an adventurous and curious heart to get to Rincon. It will be so worth it!

  • How to get to Rincon del Mar from Cartagena

There are a couple of ways to get to Rincon del Mar from Cartagena.

You can actually book direct transport with GottoGO (The same company as GuateGo in Guatemala which I personally used) which will take you from Cartagena Terminal de Autobuses to San Onofre for around $13. Or alternatively, you can book private transport with them which will literally drop you at your hotel in Rincon. If you are travelling in a small group or as a couple this might be the best option. You can check their prices and timetables on the GottoGO website. 

You can also get the bus ticket to San Onofre at the bus terminal in Cartagena. The bus journey takes around two hours. The ticket price for a Unitransco coach is 30, 000 COP one way. 

Once you arrive in San Onofre, you will have the option to take a taxi for 30, 000 COP or a moto-taxi for 10 to 15 thousand COP (depending on your negotiation skills).

You will not have to look for those opportunities as there will be a bunch of drivers waiting right in front of the bus stop.

If you think your luggage might be a problem and a cheaper moto-taxi isn’t an option, don’t worry. I went on a moto-taxi with my 55-litre Osprey and a day bag. It is a 30-minute bumpy ride, yet it isn’t half as bad as some would describe it. It was quite fun, actually. The taxi will drop you right in front of your hotel in Rincon.

  • How to get to Rincon del Mar From Medellin 

There is a direct night bus from Medellin North Terminal to San Onofre. It takes around 11 hours to get from Medellin to San Onofre, and the ticket as of summer 2023 costs between 176, 000 and 176 COP with the Rápido Ochoa or Expreso Brasilia company. As of this year, they also run daily routes but I believe for this length the overnight bus is the best option.

The last bus from Medellin to San Onofre leaves at 10.45 pm, which in my opinion is a good time. Once you arrive in San Onofre, take a moto-taxi to Rincon as per above. 

If you are considering the return the same way, it is not as convenient. The last bus from San Onofre to Medellin leaves at 4 pm, which would make you arrive in Medellin at 3 am. 

I was considering taking the bus from San Onofre to Medellin, yet the times of arrival didn’t suit me well, and the cost of the ticket didn’t seem to justify the hassle of sitting on the bus for possibly 12 hours and arriving in the city at 3 am. Instead, I took a bus to Cartagena, and from there, I took a plane to Medellin the first thing the following morning. 

  • How to get to Rincon del Mar From Bogota 

The best way to get to Rincon del Mar from Bogota is by taking a plane to Cartagena (Or Barranquilla) first. From Cartagena, you will be able to take a bus to San Onofre and then a taxi to Rincon. See the above ‘How to get to Rincon from Cartagena.’

If you considering taking a bus from Bogota to San Onofre, you would have first to take a 13-hour bus ride to Sincelejo and then change for a bus to San Onofre. I seriously cannot justify this kind of journey.

The best way to get to Rincon from Bogota would be to take a flight to either Cartagena or Barranquilla first and then take a bus to San Onofre.

So you arrived in Rincon, checked in to your hostel and realised you arrived in paradise. You can easily spend all your days there lazing on the beach. Bus if your feet each and you want to do and discover more, you’ll be surprised how many awesome things you can do in Rincon del Mar.

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Amazing things to do in Rincon del Mar, Colombia

Although it is perfectly acceptable to visit Rincon del Mar and just do nothing at all, here is a list of a few things you might want to do in Rincon. 

Discover the Town of Rincon del Mar and Its Never-Ending Beaches 

The charm and beauty of Rincon del Mar are not immediately obvious. As you arrive in town after the moto-taxi ride you will most likely find yourself in the central part consisting of the main road (dirt/sand road, in fact), where all the hostels and shops are located. Right behind it, you will find a neverending stretch of glorious beaches – this is where your discovery will start. But undoubtedly, it will not end here.

There are actually two parts of the Rincon del Mar.

First, you will discover the central part of the town. As you walk along the dirt road, you will pass numerous hostels and lodges, little village shops, kids playing on the street, men playing dominoes and cards and people going about their slow village lives.

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there
Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

As you continue walking, you will come across a cute little bridge. After crossing it, you will find a surprisingly tranquil, very well-kept beach where the sand is even whiter, the sea calmer, and slightly more upmarket establishments are located. This is the ‘posh’ part of Rincon del Mar. 

Continue walking. This beach goes forever. The further you go, the more beautiful and more tranquil the scenery and beach will become. When I found myself there for the first time, the words that came from my mouth were: ‘I found it! I found my perfect piece of paradise!’

The true attraction of Rincon del Mar is the existence of those two sides of the town wrapped by the most glorious beaches like a perfect gift.  But wait for it …

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there
How to get to Rincon del Mar, Colombia

If you think this is the only surprise – you are mistaken.

Take a walk to the other side of the town. As you pass the main street’s hustle and bustle, continue walking by the beach where all the camping sites are located and all the lovely cabanas and fincas for rent. This beach goes forever and offers an unspoilt swim and a fantastic sunset walk.

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there
Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

Join the Weekend Party

There are a few pretty good restaurants in town, and although it gets rather quiet at night, comes the weekend, you will be able to join a very authentic Colombian street party.

You have to check it out – you won’t be able to find many parties like this, even during your Colombian travels. I will not say more – I will let you discover for yourself. 

The party is going on in the main part of the town right on the main road. Follow the sound of the music!

You can also get a cocktail or beer on the beach and just chill in the hammock and admire the perfect starry sky – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Swim with Bioluminescent Plankton 

This is one of the most popular things to do in Rincon del Mar. And it is a truly magical experience.

The boat will pick you up right before sunset, and you will make your way to the island located roughly 15 minutes away from Rincon.

While you watch the sunset, the boat will go into the mangroves of the island and search for plankton. When it gets dark, you can jump into the water and have this unforgettable experience, because the movement triggers a chemical reaction that makes the algae glow. This is an unforgettable adventure.

The trip will cost you 50, 000 COP, and any of the hotels will be able to arrange it for you.

A tip: On some nights the water in Rincon del Mar would glow as well. Not as much as in other places the tour takes you to, but still. You can test it by just going into the sea and waffling the water. I bet it will glow a little!

Go Paddleboarding in Rincon del Mar, Colombia

The waters around Rincon del Mar are calm and perfect for the paddleboarding experience. Whether you are a pro or just want to give it a go – you definitely should! It’s great fun!

You can find this small shop called Anfibio Sports Adventure on the main road of Rincon del Mar, which also offers bike tours (this also sounds like fun). Who said there is not much to do in Rincon?

Try Scuba Diving

There is an excellent Dive Centre in Rincon, and whether you would like to dip your feet in the activity (no pun intended) or you are a pro diver – you will be in good hands. 

Also, if you are looking to become a certified PADI diver, why not do it in paradise?

Take a Trip to San Bernando Islands (Is it Worth It?)

San Bernando Islands are one of the most beautiful islands in Colombia and offer a spectacular beach experience. 

The trip itself is quite interesting as you will be able to visit the most densely populated island in the world and admire beautiful hostels floating on the water. 

What can you expect from the experience of touring the San Bernando Archipelago?

The boat will cruise around the whole archipelago and then will drop you off at the Múcura and then and the Tintipan Island.

I must admit, as much as I cannot deny the beauty of those islands and their beaches, I found this tour to be very touristy, and I would probably rather stay the night to truly enjoy it, just like I did in Playa Blanca. 

If I knew then what I know now, I would skip the tour and book myself a night on one of the islands instead. But if you are short on time and want to see some of the most beautiful islands and beaches in Colombia, then the tour is worth it.

The Santa Cruz del Islote will be your first stop, and you will be given the option to take a (surprisingly short) tour around one of the most densely populated islands in the world. This artificial island the size of a soccer field is home to a little over 1500 inhabitants. 

The tour cost 10, 000 COP, and for what it was, it wasn’t worth the money. I did it anyway as a support to the community rather than a thrilling experience. It would definitely be better if we were told more about the island and had more opportunities to browse around. 

It is one of those situations when there are two sides to the story. On the one hand, I understand that you want to keep the tour structured for such a small and dense community. Yet if this community decided to reap the benefits of the growing tourism, there must be some kind of value to the tour.  

Nevertheless, I did it and 10, 000 COP is not a fortune. Tourism is still a new thing in many parts of this part of Colombia, and maybe I am just spoilt. I am not even sure if things should change around there. 

An Important Note: I do not recommend swimming in the so-called ‘Aquarium’ where harmless sharks and other fish are kept in the caption. Those animals should live in the wild. Again, if I knew at the time I probably would not go to visit this island. Feel free to voice your concerns as only via education these practices can stop.

As we continued towards the other two islands, I witnessed the ever-growing tourism and ‘sales-oriented’ attitude. This is what happens to paradise once it is discovered. San Bernando Archipelago is a popular trip not only from Rincon but also from Tolú or Coveñas. 

Isla Mucura is the smaller of the remaining two on the list, and as much as I loved the beach, the tourist part of it was a bit overwhelming. If you would like to try Ceviche – do it on Mucura, however. It was very fresh and delicious-looking, and it was cheaper as well. I left this experience for Tintipan, and I regretted it. Also, you can stay at Mucura overnight. From my experience once the tours are gone, the experience becomes a lot more tranquil and less touristy. 

The prices on Tintipan island are extortionate. But the island and the beach are gorgeous! This is definitely the highlight of the whole trip.

I also loved cruising around the smaller island and among the mangroves with small islands hosting colourful hostels. I think spending a night in one of those establishments would be the thing I would do on my next visit! One of the most famous ones is Casa en el Aqua (House on Water). You should definitely check it out! It looked fantastic!

Isla Palma is one of the best islands on the San Bernando Islands Archipelago, yet we could not visit it during the tour as it is privately owned. You can, however, stay for the night (or more), and the Mistica Hostel is a very popular choice among those who do. You can also book an organised tour to Palma with a pick-up from Cartagena.

Are the San Bernando Islands worth a visit?

To be honest with you – the islands are beautiful, and the tour is interesting. It is probably a great thing to do if you are staying in Cartagena, where the beaches aren’t the greatest. But I much prefer spending time on the unspoiled and tranquil beaches of Rincon del Mar, so if you don’t go, don’t feel bad about it. I wouldn’t 🙂

The tour is half a day experience so you will be back in Rincon del Mar for lunch. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on the islands, I recommend packing some snacks and having lunch on your return.

The trip to San Bernando Archipelago from Rincon del Mar costs 50, 000 COP and it can also be arranged from your hotel. 

At first, I walked around looking for better deals (as I learned in the past, you can often get a better deal if you browse around or try to get a better price). But it is not the case in Rincon del Mar. All the tour operators belong to the association, and the prices are set. So spare yourself some time and book your tours with your hostel.

How About Just Doing Nothing?

I would think this thing can get boring. In fact, after four nights in Rincon del Mar, I extended my days for an additional three nights. I just couldn’t get enough of waking up in the morning to the waves of the sea and spending my siestas in the hammock reading or just napping.

I was meant to get a lot of work done while there. Guess what? I didn’t. Something about Rincon del Mar’s slow pace strips you completely of the guilt of not doing anything. I loved it, and I miss Rincon greatly!

Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there

If you are looking for more hidden gems of Colombia’s Caribbean coast you should consider visiting Mendihuaca! Following the Colombia backpackers trail? Here you will find the best Colombia itinerary, completely customisable depending on the length of your travel. Finally read about iconic places to visit in Colombia like Palomino, Salento or Jardin.

Where to stay in Rincon del Mar

There are quite a few great accommodation options in Rincon del Mar no matter your budget or travel style.

I stayed in a fantastic Hostel Beach House, and I loved it. Its massive dorm room is located on the top floor terrace and offers spectacular views of the ocean. Beds are comfortable and equipped with mosquito nets, premises are clean, and well looked after. The kitchen was one of the best-equipped kitchens, and we cooked a lot. And the best part is that the hostel is located right on the beach. I highly recommend it.

Hostel Beach House - Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there
Hostel Beach House - Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar / What to do and how to get there
Hostel Beach House – Backpackers Guide to Rincon del Mar

Another popular choice for travellers to Rincon is Dos Aquas Lodge. It became very trendy due to its eco and sustainable approach to tourism, and I must admit it looked amazing. Yet it was fully booked, so if this would be your choice of lodging – book well in advance.

Other budget options in Rincon del Mar:

Mamallena on the Beach is also one of the very popular hostels in Rincon and if you are looking for a true eco-camping experience you should definitely consider Mango Feliz Rincon del Mar. It is an awesome sustainable accommodation that gives back to the community. 

If you are looking for a comfortable or more luxurious stay Rincon has some great options for you too!

Practical Tips for Visiting Rincon del Mar, Colombia

  • There are no ATM machines in Rincon del Mar. And I really mean it. As much as you have options in other ‘no cash machine’ destinations like Palomino, in Rincon, you will be very much stuck if you do bring the cash. In the worst case, you can travel back to San Onofre, but it will cost you 30, 000COP return, and there is no guarantee the cash machine will actually have money in it (true story!)
  • You cannot drink tap water in Rincon del Mar. The best option is to buy a large 5-litre bottle and keep refilling your water bottle. You will be able to find it in a few of the small shops.
  • There are no big supermarkets, but you will be able to find most of the essentials in the small tiendas.
  • Prices in Rincon del Mar are very reasonable, to say the least. The majority of the restaurants serve delicious food for very reasonable prices, and if you would rather cater for yourself, you can stock up on veggies and other food items pretty cheaply in small shops.
  • Occasional power cuts will happen. As in many smaller coastal destinations in Colombia – the occasional power cuts are a norm. The internet in Rincon del Mar is pretty good yet if you are planning to work, be prepared for it to go down during the power cut.
  • Be prepared for cold showers only. But if you are accustomed to travelling along the Colombian Caribbean coast – you would not expect anything else. If this is your first destination of this type – trust me you will not miss warm showers even for a bit.
  • Take a towel if you stay in the hostel. Although many hostels in Colombia offer free towels (hostels in Colombia are generally of excellent quality) the hostel I stayed in didn’t. Oh and stock up on mosquito repellant for those warm evenings on the beach!

What can I say? Rincon del Mar is my favourite destination in Colombia. It is a true beach paradise and even if you will have to detour a bit to visit it – I guarantee you will not regret it! 

I will be looking forward to your stories and experiences. Please comment below if you have visited and share your thoughts with me! 

Explore more of Colombia!

If you are seeking some adventure you should hike and stay the night in Tayrona National Park. For ultimate Colombian adventure consider Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallina tour!

Travelling solo in Colombia and wondering how safe it is? Read my complete guide to solo female travel in Colombia which will mostly be relevant to any solo traveller. 

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  1. Just finished 6 nights in Rincon and absolutely loved it. Such a chilled out place and exactly what we needed. Your blog was super helpful for us to have a smooth experience so thank you! Only criticism of Rincon would be locals not cleaning up their plastic after a big weekend. Really sad to see a lot of that going into the sea following their big parties.

    1. Hi Matthew! I am so happy you found this post helpful and that you had a great time in Rincon! It is one of my favourite places in the world! And I am sad to hear the trash situation is not improving. I have seen this issue across Colombia, especially in poorer regions and it is a massive concern. I totally agree. I do believe it’s the lack of both education and infrastructure in this matter. Sadly, not enough effort is being made towards educating a nation that being proud of where you are from, and your land, means taking care of it and ensuring it lasts for generations to come. I am still hopeful this will change one day.

  2. It’s people like you who destroy these special places. Why, why why do you feel the need to advertise this hidden jewel to the world. Ego gratification? Money? Share with your friends of course but do Rincon a favor and delete this post.

    1. I partially agree with you and often face this dilemma when writing posts about those hidden gems. But there are so many layers to this issue. First, do you think that if I delete this post, no others will write about Rincon? Second, did you consult your request with all the small businesses in Rincon and if they are happy to lose the income that comes from tourism? Finally, I do believe that (maybe I am wrong, so feel free to correct me) I wrote an honest post about Rincon and I wholeheartedly promote conscious and mindful travel. I myself, am a slow traveller and backpacker. I write those posts from a passion for travel and places I discover. It is neither to tickle my ego nor to make money. I appreciate your comment but people will come anyway, so the best we can do as travel writers is to promote responsible tourism. And I genuinely hope I do it here, on this blog. I wish you all the best! Pati

  3. Hello Pati. Your guide to Rincón is right on the money!

    I would have wanted to go island hopping but found myself lying in my hammock melting away some afternoons. “Mañana” is definitely in spirit here.

    A recommendation for budget accommodations includes Mango Feliz, an eco-hostel on the other side of the lagoon.

    If I may share, here is a Food Tour from Rincón. Enjoy!

    1. Thank you, Matt! I know what you mean! I stayed in Rincon for over a week and wanted to get so much done but instead just enjoyed this little paradise. Nothing wrong with that lol I will add your accommodation recommendation to the article. Happy travels!

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