La Boquilla is a fishing village on the outskirts of Cartagena, Colombia. It’s not a top tourist destination. It’s not beautiful in the conventional sense. It has deserted beaches, but not the sandy white ones implied by that statement. The food is fantastic, but you won’t be dining at a Michelin-rated restaurant. La Boquilla is more low key than that. The beaches are deserted but have dark sand and water. The food is fantastic, but is served by a local fisherman from the daily catch. Like Old City, La Boquilla appears to be frozen in time.
Deserted beach of La Boquilla. Small beachside restaurants to the left.
View from one of the open-air restaurants.
Many boats rusting on the beach.
Colombian boys share a bike.
No hot dog stands on this beach. Instead, a traveling ceviche cart.
A closer look at one of the local restaurants. Barely a roof covering the establishment.
If you choose, you can eat at a covered table or on a hammock.
Or, you can pay a small fee to relax, eat and drink on the beach.
Enjoying a Club Colombia.
Tomas Gonzalez, proprietor from La Langosta Roja.
When you arrive in La Boquilla, expect to be hassled a bit by restauranteurs as you will be one of the only non-locals on the beach. We had the pleasure of randomly setting up shop right outside La Langosta Roja. We were glad we settled where we did, because the daily catch was fresh and Tomas was a fantastic host. If you visit La Boquilla, I highly recommend attempting to locate this small establishment.
Choosing our meal from the daily catch.
Tomas heading back to prepare the food.
Impeccably cooked fish with a side of rice, plantain patties and soup. One of the best meals we had in Cartagena.
View further up the beach.
Following lunch and the departure of my travel buddy, I decided to take a slow stroll up the beach. I crave local culture when I travel and I suppose, after traveling so much, my fear of the unknown is almost non-existent. As I proceeded further up the beach, I looked back and saw Tomas running after me. He was so pleasant during lunch that I stopped in my tracks and waited for him to catch up. In broken English, I could tell he was trying to warn me that I shouldn’t proceed any further. He made some motions letting me know my handbag or camera may be pulled off me. He motioned for me to follow him back down the beach.
At that point, I figured it may be time to head back to Old City. Unfortunately, there were no taxis in sight and, as it was later in the day, little expectation of one arriving to drop someone off. Tomas motioned for me to follow him, letting me know he would find me a taxi on the nearest road.
Tomas took me through the restaurant…
Across a local property…
Through an alley…
And through another alley…
I usually trust my gut and consider myself a fairly good judge of character. I trusted Tomas. Despite this newly formed relationship, I had that feeling I long for where I am pushed just far enough out of my comfort zone to feel nervous. Sure, it may have been a semi-dangerous position to put myself in, allowing my male companion to leave and waiting until so late in the day to head home. But it’s during those times when I feel most alive. And that’s one of the things I love about traveling – that sensation that I am experiencing something I am unable to experience in my daily life. It’s an oddly addictive behavior that I liken to other people’s love of extreme sports or skydiving.
Shack on main road in La Boquilla.
After much trepidation on my part, we finally reached the main road. Like so many other times, I looked completely out of place. But I took comfort in the fact that I was accompanied by someone who knew what he was doing. Why would Tomas have rescued me from the unsafe end of the beach if he didn’t plan to put me in a taxi and send me home? After some time, a taxi did arrive, and I was safe again within the walls of Old City.
If it’s one piece of advice I could give to someone when traveling, even to those who prefer the lifestyle and amenities of a 4-star resort, it’s to get out of your comfort zone for just one day, to experience something you wouldn’t otherwise experience at home, and to see how the other half lives. Sure, visit your Mexican resort. Travel all the way to Thailand to hole yourself up in a hotel in Phuket and never experience the culture. Do what works for you and makes you happy. This is what makes me happy. And I long for it constantly when I am home. I have a nice apartment, and working plumbing, and heat, and air conditioning, and cable, and nice clothes, and it really doesn’t mean very much to me.
I loved visiting this street in La Boquilla. It’s so easy to forget that to many, living in a shack is normal. That some people know no other way of life. This is what I love about traveling – the opening of your mind to parts of the world you never knew existed or failed to consciously recognize. There is so much beauty in this world, even in the things you would not classify as traditionally beautiful, and your mind expands every time you take in a new experience. Experiences will always make you a better person. They open your mind. They free your spirit. And they are completely addicting.
You can get to La Boquilla via taxi, which should cost you around 15,000 pesos (approximately $8.28) and take you around 15 minutes. You can also take a local bus.