Situated some 80 kilometers from Cartagena in Colombia’s San Bernardo Islands National Park is the world’s most unique hostel, Casa en el Agua, a hostel surrounded by water in the middle of the Caribbean sea. Yes, it is every bit as surreal and amazing as it sounds.
I saw a really cool Buzzfeed video on Facebook about this hostel a couple months before my trip, and when I searched the comments to find out where in the world this crazy place was, it turned out that it was in Colombia, right where I was going. What are the odds! I knew I had to make it happen.
However what I didn’t realize but should have figured is that due to it’s popularity, they only take bookings for the next 30 days, and they fill up immediately. I didn’t think I was going to be able to get in as I found this out only a few weeks before I was hoping to go, but some fellow travelers I met who had been there recommended that I keep checking the page constantly for cancellations, so I did and lo and behold, after checking back several times over a week I was able to get three nights in a row. If you are a solo traveler like me than there is hope for you to grab a spot last minute as well(of course it’s always easier for them to squeeze you in if you’re only one person. This has worked to my advantage many times already in Colombia). However, I also missed the memo that there is no boat out to the island on Sundays, so I had to forego the first night of my booking and wait until Monday to get the boat out there, so keep this in mind when you book (and also when you try to do anything in Colombia on a Sunday. It’s usually much more complicated). It ended up being a fortuitous mistake on my part, because two nights was just perfect and I think 3 might have been toeing the line of too much. So I spent my last two nights on the coast smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean sea in this dream-like setting, with the coolest group of people that I could have asked for.
You really only have one way to get there, which is by a private boat contracted by the hostel that leaves from the main port of Cartagena, “Bocagrande”, and brings you directly to Casa en el Agua. They list two other alternatives on their website for getting there but in my opinion they are far too complicated and not worth it- a lot more time and travel and the same amount of money. Just go with their boat. It takes two hours and it’s a pretty smooth ride, or at least it was the day I went. It’s quite expensive- 100,000 pesos each way or $35- but all of your discrepancies about money will be laid aside when you pull up to this:
Once you get to the hostel you really have everything you need to get by for a few days (which does NOT include Wifi. Cuz you don’t need that when you’re here!). There is a kitchen serving mostly freshly caught fish and seafood, but also vegetarian meals if you prefer. Breakfast is included with your accommodation and it’s awesome, as well as unlimited hot coffee and fresh water. There is a very expensive bar on sight, but no one seemed to care if you bring your own booze. The hostel has one dorm that sleeps 8, a hammock dorm (which I am becoming quite a fan of this trip) and several privates, which are all on the second floor. One of the things they boast is being able to wake up and jump right from the door of your room and into the sea, which is exactly how I began each day.
Of course, as they are an eco-hostel in the middle of the sea, they have to do things differently, and I’m referring particularly to the toilet and shower system, which is as they put it “amusing” (see explanation below. This was funny to look at every single time you have to go to the bathroom). The entire place is completely solar powered, as well. Honestly, they have a really amazing system going there and it works great. You can read more details about their eco-system here if you’re interested.
If you’re worried you might get bored being stuck in a hostel-island for various days, don’t be, because they have plenty of options for getting out and exploring around the hostel. I just did two of them; the trips to Islote and Tintipan beach, which you can read about in separate posts (both are a must). They also offer an nighttime excursion to a nearby lagoon in which you can swim with plankton that glow and light up around you in the water (I didn’t go because I already did a plankton tour in Isla Grande, but I heard this one is very good).Besides that, just hanging out and relaxing at the hostel is sufficient for a couple of days, especially if you have a good group of people. Really, as you are all stuck together in an isolated space for a few days, the group of people you’re out there with can determine your experience at the Casa. I got lucky with an amazing group of people from Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia who taught me how to dance like a Latina and drink Mate tea. I would think it’s hard to get stuck with a bad group, as anybody who shows up to this place is going to be in a pretty good mood considering their surroundings.
Slack Line and Splash the days away
If you are going to be in the area, you really have to make Casa en el Agua happen. It’s a unique lodging/life experience and something that will always stick out in my travels.
Read more about Casa en el Agua and book your trip on their webpage here (you can only make reservations through their website)