It’s no secret that tourists are increasingly aware of the importance of the environment. This not only translates into the search for a friendly behavior with nature but in the choice of their destinations having as a background the existence of certifications that guarantee good practices. This is how the Blue Flags program was born.


Ocean view in Tayrona National Natural Park, Santa Marta.
Playa colombiana con certificación de sostenibilidad Blue Flags


The Blue Flags program is an award granted annually since 1987 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) to beaches and ports that meet a series of environmental conditions and facilities. The program's jury is made up of different environmental and tourism organizations, among them the following stand out: United Nations Agencies for the Environment (UNEP-UNEP) and Tourism (UNWTO), the International Life Saving and Rescue Federation (ILSE); the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); an expert in Environmental Education and the International Council of Port Industry Associations (ICOMIA).

The criteria for obtaining the blue flag are divided into four fundamental areas:

  1. Bathing water quality: compliance with the requirements and standards for excellent bathing water quality.
  2. Environmental information and education: Information on coastal ecosystems, sensitive natural areas, and protected species in the coastal zone must be made available to the public.
  3. Environmental management: The city promotes the use of sustainable alternative means of transport the private vehicle in the beach area, such as cycling, walking, or public transport.
  4. Safety, Services, and Facilities: The beach has qualified lifeguards, first aid equipment, easy and safe access, and local emergency plans to deal with accidents or ecological disasters.

Currently, more than 44 countries have Blue Flag certification, certifying the good sustainability practices of some 4,000 beaches around the world. 

Having a beach with a Blue Flag award is a synonym of pure water and clean coasts for everyone to enjoy, this international recognition is granted annually during the last 35 years and now in Colombia you will enjoy the beauty of some of these beaches that you can visit all year


Blue Flags in Colombia

The good news is that Colombia has joined this select club. Three beaches in the country have this recognition: Johnny Cay (San Andrés), Playa Azul (Cartagena), and Bello Horizonte (Santa Marta).

This not only translates into greater international visibility but also into better income that can permeate to the inhabitants and workers of the areas of influence.  


Johnny Cay, San Andrés

An islet is located to the northeast of the San Andres archipelago. It is a worthwhile excursion, and it is very close, just fifteen minutes away by boat. 

The white beach contrasts with the deep blue sea, and the palm trees in the background make this destination a "postcard" for its visitors. In addition, the seafood, with reggae music in the background, complements the experience. In this islet we also suggest you visit the aquarium where you can observe multiple species and even swim with them.  

Some of the unique experiences you can do here are:

  • Kayak tour, in a glass-bottomed boat, through the mangroves.
  • Aquatic gardening where you can cultivate and care for corals contributing to the proper care of the area and preventing erosion.


Johnny Cay - San Andrés, Colombia


Playa Azul, Cartagena 

This beach is located at the exit of the city, on the road that connects Cartagena with Barranquilla. In addition to the majestic view, this area had an important investment, providing it with an infrastructure suitable to receive the most demanding tourists, including components that allow it to cater to people with disabilities. There, besides sunbathing in tents and parasols, it is possible to practice beach and nautical sports.

The unique experiences you can have here are:

  • Ecotourism tours led by the local community through the mangrove areas near the beaches of La Boquilla.
  • Diving and planting corals in the islands of the rosary.
  • Create souvenirs by making handicrafts in La Boquilla.


Young woman snorkeling at barrier reef in tropical sea.


Bello Horizonte, Santa Marta 

Santa Marta's beaches have always been said to have the best sunsets in Colombia. Bello Horizonte is one of them. In addition to enjoying the incomparable view of the Caribbean Sea, it has a particularity, its location is quieter and more private than other areas of the bay. 

This beach is adjacent to the best resorts in the area. We recommend El Zuana and Irotama, which have a great infrastructure to offer you the best stay, and the design of unique tailor-made experiences.

Some of these experiences are:

  • Encounters with the indigenous communities allow a deeper approach to nature and the self.
  • Protection rituals
  • Backpack-making workshops


Fashion accessories for women.


New certifications for the Blue Flags program in Colombia

In the plan of the Colombian government and multiple local authorities, there is a plan to expand this list. It is expected that more than ten beaches will soon have this certification. 

In this way, Colombia offers its visitors, in addition to the beauty of its beaches, world-class practices, oriented to allow sustainable experiences from the environmental point of view. We invite you not only to know about these four certified beaches but also about the many beaches that our country has in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.



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