A Case for Forging Your Own Path on Isla Grande, Colombia (and everywhere else!)

caribbean ocean isla grande colombia

Who’s been here before, debating between traveling to a destination you’ve never heard of before, or saving your time off for something else?

After living in Medellín, Colombia for just five weeks I was faced with this decision.

Almost immediately upon arriving in Medellín I was busy with a month long yoga internship, leaving little time for other work (except with current clients, of course).

When the program ended I was looking forward to kicking working into high gear but a few incredible women I met during the program invited me to go to an island off the coast of Cartagena with them.

I had never heard of the island before. Although the beach sounded nice, and spending more time with these women sounded nicer, I wasn’t particularly desperate to go. So, I was stuck between saving my free time for another destination or just going for it and joining them in an experience where I had no expectations.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about popular destinations.

For example, a canyon in Iceland is closed to tourists after Justin Bieber shot a music video there and the number of visitors skyrocketed, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming is asking people to tag responsibly as to not incite more tourists.

And why are people so obsessed with going to Mykonos and Santorini when they go to Greece?

They’re stunning, yes. But why those two islands when there are thousands of islands in Greece! Plus, there are more than 200 islands in the Cyclades alone - the chain of islands home to both Santorini and Mykonos.

They’re so popular because they’re famous, people talk about them and post pictures of them. And other people are often driven by a fear of missing out. That’s it. Is that right? Is it worth the over crowding and all of the side affects that comes along with it, i.e. increased rent for locals, damage to the land, etc.?

These places are not particularly better than their counterparts, people have just heard about them so that’s their frame of reference.

I fell pray to this the first time I went to Greece in 2012 where I only visited Santorini & Mykonos. I loved it - the white buildings set against the blue water, the food - although it was touristy then. And having been back to Greece since then visiting different islands I’m convinced they are not the two islands to visit. I digress…

I understand that you can’t want to go someplace you don’t know exists, that’s obvious. But I think there’s more to it than that.

I think people should be more open to traveling for the sake of traveling, for the lessons you learn and experiences you have while you’re away. And not to be apart of the crowd, to say you’ve been some place, too.

Being conscious of this pattern of travel, I decided, heck I’ll go!  

Two days before we were meant to fly to the coast I bought my flight. We first spent a few nights in Cartagena as one of us had never been and it’s such a beautiful city I’m always up to re-visit!

It wasn’t until the boat ride from Barú to the island, navigating the mangroves as the sun was setting that I felt truly at peace with the decision to come to the north coast of Colombia – the kind of peace where you are sincerely connected to the moment, where you can feel the aliveness in your heart, in your body, in your energy-field. I knew I made the right decision to go.

mangroves colombia
boat ride to isla grande colombia.jpg
sunset isla grande colombia.jpg

I ended up spending 10 days on this island where most people only visit a few hours; I could count the number of other tourists I ran into in those 10 days on my hands… let that sink in.

10 days without Wi-Fi, where the only thing on the agenda other than food (hah!) was swimming in the ocean, kayaking, paddle boarding, watching the sunset over the Caribbean Ocean, drinking coconut water fresh from the tree, doing yoga, reading, and enjoying the company I was with .

10 days of mental space to relax, to disconnect from the external stimulation of the internet in order to connect inwards and to the experience of Isla Grande.

I hadn’t heard from everyone I needed to go to Isla Grande, I just had one connection there. It wasn’t a place I had been hearing of for years or decades, not a place popularized by media but it was exactly what my soul needed.

It’s in the places that are lesser known that we can approach the experience with more open-mindedness, less judgement, and less expectation.

These are the true pillars of travel.

Not photos, not stamps in a passport, not bragging rights. But genuine connection and insight to another way a life, and being changed for the better because of it.

private beach isla grande colombia
Stephanie on Playa Libre Isla Grande Colombia
beach isla grande colombia
town isla grande colombia
sunset kayaking isla grande colombia
palm tree forest isla grande colombia

Life Lesson

Venture away from the known, recommended locations. You don’t need need to rely on the advice of thousands, or even a dozen, other people to have an incredible adventure nor to feel fulfilled in your trip. Take the road less traveled. Forge your own path.

Practical Information

You can reach Isla Grande two ways; one is a boat direct from Cartagena to Isla Grande which takes approximately 1.5 hours as it stops in several locations along the way. The other option is you can take a taxi to Baru and then a 20-minute boat to Isla Grande. If you’re prone to seasickness this is absolutely the better option!

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