We found a driver to take us to Playa Blanca one afternoon. I was excited to relax on a beach and play in the warm water. Playa Blanca is located 50 minutes from Cartagena. On the drive there, you are stopped several times by police offers. Our I.D.’s were checked once and the other times, the officers waved us through. We did see other cars being stopped and searched. Upon arrival to Playa Blanca, you will find lots of young men running around your car and screaming into your windows. We didn’t understand what they were saying but their behavior came across as very belligerent. One of the young men directed our driver to a parking spot. Our driver paid for the parking spot at a booth being controlled by very stern looking men. We walked down to the beach area and were immediately greeted by a man who sold us our beach chairs and canopy for the day. All of the chairs on the beach are owned by various restaurant owners. They will try to sell you a beach chair and a meal. We didn’t want any food so we just paid for the beach chair. Although we explained we weren’t going to be eating lunch at the beach, the man came to our chairs about 3-4 times to ask us if we wanted to order food. The menu consisted of tropical drinks, fish dishes, coconut rice and plantain chips. We settled into our chairs and met our neighbors. They were nice young men from Colombia who offered us beer.
We settled into our spot and before we could even get up to go into the water, we were approached by the first vendor. I say the first vendor because we were probably approached by over 30 vendors. They are allowed to walk up and down the beach. They stop at everyone’s chairs and offer you anything and everything. I am not exaggerating when I say that you will be offered massages, bracelets, inner tubes, hair braiding services, temporary tattoos, alcoholic drinks, fruit, jet ski rides, boat rides, and sunglasses. At first, it was interesting to see what was being sold but you can only say “No Gracias” so many times before you want to punch something. The police also walk up and down the beach but they do not interact with you or the vendors. You can drink on the beach so I think they were just there to show their presence.
Playa Blanca itself is truly beautiful. The water is so clear and warm. The scenery is absolutely stunning. I was shocked that the vendors are allowed to aggressively sell on the beach. I would have no issue if there were markets or stalls set up that you could visit and browse. It was frustrating to be forced to pay for a beach chair, only to be bothered every 5-8 minutes by a vendor, often the same vendor, over and over again. The amount of vendors walking along the sand really took away from the natural beauty of Playa Blanca. It was hard to enjoy ourselves when you have someone interrupting you constantly. By the middle of the afternoon, we just had to laugh at the insanity of Playa Blanca.
My other issue with Playa Blanca is the activity in the water. The boat and jet ski companies zoom in and out of the water directly where you are swimming. There was more than one time that I was worried that we were going to be hit by a jet ski. They ride around the shallow waters, asking people if they want to ride a jet ski or a banana float. I was genuinely worried for the safety of small children swimming in the water. The water was stunning but the air smelled of fumes and gasoline due to the close proximity of the boats and jet skis. I was disappointed that I didn’t feel safe swimming in the water. I kept imagining being underwater and a jet ski driving over my head.
I am glad that we experienced Playa Blanca. It is a very authentic experience. I have never been anywhere like it in the world and I am grateful for the time we spent there. Do not go there to relax. You will not be relaxed at all. You will constantly be watching your stuff while you swim in the ocean. You will be constantly politely saying “No.” You must go to Playa Blanca to people watch, swim in clear water and laugh a lot.