The first thing that catches my eye as the van pulls up to Playa Manglares are the chickens; they are roaming around in families, even climbing trees (who knew that chickens could climb trees?). The next thing to catch my eye is Playa Manglares itself–an airy, 3-level home that is just steps away from the ocean. I am about 45 minutes away from Cartagena but for all intensive purposes in another world altogether–it’s quiet out here on Isla Baru albeit the sound of an occasional chicken cluck or a car passing by.
The hotel I am staying at feels like visiting the beach home of a family friend; there is an open air kitchen with an honor system of taking snacks and drinks, there is a communal dining table surrounded by billowing white curtains where homemade arepas and fresh fruit will be served later. There are hammocks hanging by the water invitingly on a quiet beach that is deserted albeit a lone fisherman gliding by on a canoe.
My bedroom has one large bed that is draped in mosquito netting and a balcony that overlooks the property and sea. The bathroom (by far my favorite part) has an open air rain shower with tropical foliage hanging down like an Herbal Essence commercial. Everything about Playa Manglares is simple–simple accommodations, simple homemade food, simple check in and check out. It is the type of place where everything is taken in stride. An island wide blackout? Laugh it off, light some candles and join the other guests for Colombian beers at the dining table. Hand-sized “evening butterflies” hovering by your window? Laugh it off and thank God it’s not a bat. Playa Manglares is not the type of place to bring stress and high maintenance needs, it is not the type of place to expect a menu at dinner (you’re served whatever is made) or a concierge with a front desk; it is the type of stay that requires an open mind, easy attitude and copious amounts of bug spray. While some may wrinkle their nose at the thought of a hotel with mosquito nets, open rooms and homemade meals, it is unique and memorable to stay at a place that is authentic, local and has a personalized feel vs. that of the corporate, big name hotels of the world.
Book a stay at Playa Manglares if you are looking to spend the night on Isla Baru and enjoy both the island and nearby Playa Blanca without the hoards of tourists that gather there each day between the hours of 12 and 3pm. A one night stay at Playa Manglares is perfect to give you a taste of the island, that sense of adventure and still have you leaving the hotel with a sense of nostalgia and fondness. Tip: Book the second floor room (where I stayed) if available as it comes with its own balcony!
If planning a visit to Cartagena, check out my ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CARTAGENA and THE PLAYA BLANCA CHEAT SHEET FOR BEACH GOERS to make the most of your visit! Share your comments, questions and stories below!