World-famous sustainable beaches

It’s no secret to anyone the fact that tourists are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of caring for the environment. This doesn’t just mean people will engage in eco-friendly practices when on holiday, but also that they’ll make sure to visit destinations with a certified commitment towards conservation. This is the reason programs like Blue Flags exist in Colombia.

Partial view of Johnny Cay in San Andrés, Colombia. This is part of the Blue Flags’ project in Colombia.
Photo by Mario Carvajal

Partial view of Johnny Cay in San Andrés, Colombia. This is part of the Blue Flags’ project in Colombia.

The increasing importance of conservation in sun and sea tourism has motivated both UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) to support the Blue Flags program, which offers a highly coveted yearly eco-certification to beaches and marinas that meet four specific criteria:

First of all, maintaining high-quality bathing water through monthly measurements according to criteria established by FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education); second, uphold an environmental education and information policy; third, establish and carry out an environmental management plan; and finally, offer a safe experience through adequate infrastructure, safety, services and facilities.

There are currently over 45 countries that have achieved Blue Flag certifications for more than 4,000 beaches around the world.

Blue Flags in Colombia

The great news is that Colombia belongs to this exclusive club, with four beaches in the country currently boasting the certification: Magüipi (Buenaventura), Johnny Cay (San Andrés), Playa Azul (Cartagena) and Bello Horizonte (Santa Marta).

This doesn’t just translate into a better image abroad and a larger number of visitors, but also into an increased high-quality income that better supports the area’s workers and inhabitants.

Magüipi, Buenaventura

In Colombia’s western coast, you’ll find one of the Pacific Ocean’s most beautiful beaches: Magüipi. You can reach it from Cali, via Buenaventura, where you’ll board a boat that will take you to this secluded paradise between the rainforest and the ocean.

Besides the beach itself, we highly recommend the various hiking and kayaking experiences across the nearby rivers and mangrove forests. 

Johnny Cay, San Andrés

This small islet just off northeastern San Andrés is definitively worth the detour, which ultimately amounts to a quarter-hour boat ride.

Crystal clear water in Johnny Cay, San Andrés (Colombia). This is part of the Blue Flags’ Project.
Photo by Mario Carvajal

Crystal clear water in Johnny Cay, San Andrés (Colombia). This is part of the Blue Flags’ Project.

The white-sand beach beautifully contrasts the numerous blue hues of the sea, while the swaying palm trees render this place all the more postcard-esque. The delectable seafood and chill reggae rhythms only enhance the overall experience. We also strongly suggest you visit the aquarium, where you’ll get to swim among numerous beautiful fish species.  

Playa Azul La Boquilla, Cartagena

This beach lies just off the main highway connecting Cartagena and Barranquilla. With a majestic view of the Caribbean Sea, the area has received a notorious investment in order to provide even the most demanding tourists with world-class infrastructure, which includes wheelchair access. Here you can spend your days relaxing under the shade or practicing water sports under the sunshine.

Bello Horizonte, Santa Marta

Santa Marta’s world-famous beaches are claimed to get the best sunsets in all of Colombia, and Bello Horizonte is one of them. If you dream of staring out into the Caribbean in a calm, private paradise, this is the place for you.

This beach is also located quite near the city’s top resorts. The Zuana and Irotama hotels are among our top recommendations, what with their top-tier infrastructure and a wide array of unique experiences to choose from.

Upcoming Blue Flag certifications for Colombian beaches

The Colombian government and other local authorities are working together to add further Colombian beaches to this exclusive list. Ten of them are currently in the process of being certified and will surely soon join the rest.

This is just one of the many ways in which Colombia displays its commitment towards offering destinations that go beyond sheer natural beauty by making sure they’re complemented by sustainable, eco-friendly experiences. Don’t hesitate to come down and visit these four certified beaches and many more that line our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.