Medellin Has No Beach But Here Are Some Alternatives

The City of Eternal Spring has perfect year-round weather, is surrounded by nature and has a rich culture. It is almost the perfect vacation spot but for many a summer holiday really needs to include a stroll on golden sands and a dip in the sea.

You will not find that in Medellin but in this article, I will propose some solutions and alternatives to make sure you get everything you want from your break. That may be taking a short, direct flight to an exotic or popular beach spot or going for some alternative refreshing water fun.

I have lived in Medellin for over 15 years and these are my favorite places to take a swim and cool off in and around the city.

Does Medellin Have Beaches?

Medellin, known for its warm climate and sunny weather, does not have beaches. Although the city’s main downtown street is named “la playa” (the beach), actual beaches with sea and sand are located about a 7-hour drive away from Medellin.

The Reality of Medellin’s Geography

No beach around Medellin

Medellin is set alongside a river and runs up the hills of the Aburra Valley. The surrounding area has rich green hills, intercepted by rivers and mountains. When you stand in the center of the city everything heads upwards into the hills.

The city is the capital of the Antioquia department of Colombia which does reach out to the coast with beach towns such as Turbo, Necocli and Arboletes close to the Darién Gap and the border with Panama.

Accessible Beach Destinations from Medellin

Bus routes to the beaches of Antioquia

The coastal cities of Antioquia are a fairly popular option for locals who are looking to visit the beach on a budget. You can get from Medellin’s Terminal del Norte to Turbo for around 100,000 (US$25) or Necocli which is further up the coast.

The beaches are far from the best you will find in Colombia and in my opinion for most people it isn’t worth the very long, uncomfortable trip for a slight saving over a flight.

The town of Necocli can also be quite dangerous, with many migrants looking to escape the hardship of Venezuela to walk across the wild and lawless jungles of the Darién Gap up to Panama on their way to the US.

Buses in general can be a good option to travel between major cities but I would avoid this on the unpredictable roads to small towns of Antioquia’s coast.

Direct Flights to Coastal Cities

From José María Córdova International Airport (MDE) you can reach a dozen national and international beach destinations. The main airport is located around 40 minutes outside of the city through the newly constructed mountain tunnel close to the town of Rionegro.

You can take a taxi, Uber or the bus from San Diego mall to the airport.

José María Córdova has regular daily flights to:

  • Cartagena
  • Barranquilla
  • Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast
  • San Andres, a beautiful island that is politically part of Colombia but that is situated closer to North than South America.

There are also direct flights to international coastal destinations such as:

  • Panama City
  • Punta Cana
  • Lima
  • Miami
  • Santo Domingo.

You can also get flights to the coast from Medellin’s Olaya Herrera Airport (EOH) which is within the city. The airport is a very brief 10-minute drive from Poblado and is an excellent option which can save up to an hour and US$20 each way on airport transfers from the main airport.

Clic Airlines operates direct flights around the country including to coastal towns:

  • Nuqui
  • Tulu
  • Bahia Solano
  • Cartagena.

Clic flights often don’t appear on Google searches but I always visit their website first when booking a domestic flight. You save a lot of time and money getting to the airport, check in is very quick and I have always had excellent service.

Flights from the local airport are often a little more expensive but when you factor in the time and cost of traveling to Rionegro, it is usually worth it. They also have direct flights to many smaller towns around the country which were once only accessible by long, overnight bus rides.

List of Top Beaches Easily Accessible from Medellin

Santa Marta

santa marta beach
Santa Marta Beach (Source: sergejf, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Santa Marta is my preferred destination for a long weekend from Medellin. It takes 1 hour and 15 minutes from MDE airport with LATAM, Avianca and Wingo offering daily flights.

This is my favorite spot because it is slightly less touristy than Cartagena, they have some great boutique hotels and it is the perfect jumping-off spot to visit some of Colombia’s best beaches.

You can spend the day in Parque Tayrona (a nature reserve with beautiful beaches), you can head up into the hills of Minca to swim in waterfalls or take the challenge of hiking to the Lost City (a 3-5 challenging trek to an ancient wonder).


nuqui beach
Beach in Nuqui

Nuqui is still a bit of an undiscovered treasure and the best spot for untouched beaches. You can take a Clic flight to Nuqui from the city airport for between 200,000 – 250,000 (US$50-US$65)  if you book in advance, with 4 flights per week.

You could also get a flight to the Quibdo, the capital of the Choco department, and then take a 30-minute transfer

Nuqui is one of the best beach spots in the country if you want to experience nature and tranquility. You can see whales along the coast and relax on the beach between deep jungle and ocean. The weather is warm all year but be prepared for regular and heavy downpours.

This is a real exotic jungle adventure and just a 55-minute flight from the heart of the modern city of Medellin.

Related read: More Colombian hidden gems ideas to travel to

San Andres

San Andres beach
San Andres is an island located in the Caribbean

 San Andres is very different but equally spectacular. The small island has a rich, unique and fascinating culture with some of the world’s best beaches.

You can get a flight from Medellin’s MDE airport to San Andres direct daily with LATAM or Avianca. Journey time is just under 2 hours and it costs around US$60 each way if you book in advance.

The island is the largest of an archipelago which in 2000 was named a UNESCO biosphere Reserve. The perfectly crystal clear ocean is known for shining with seven shades of blue while there are perfect sandy beaches and coral reefs full of exotic fish.

San Andres has a range of luxury hotels and the culture has a strong mix of Caribbean and Colombian influences. Local music is a mix of calypso, soca and reggae while the Creole language combines official Spanish with Afro-Caribbean English.


isla grande cartagena
Isla Grande, Cartagena – Photo credit: ER’s Eyes – Our planet is beautiful. on

Cartagena is another good option for a long week trip from Medellin with direct flights from MDE with Wingo, Avianca and LATAM daily.

You can find tickets for around US$60 if you book in advance. Flights from the city airport are also available with Clic, although they are more expensive.

While Bocagrande, Cartagena’s city beach, isn’t great, there are far superior options in Baru, a short boat ride away. You can enjoy the untouched beauty of Isla Grande or party in the sea surrounded by boats in Cholon.

The walled city is spectacular and you can get great seafood at some of the country’s best restaurants.

Day Trips From Medellin to Nearby Waterfronts

If you want to get out and swim in nature, there are dozens of options in and around Medellin.

You can do white water rafting or tubing as part of a 6-8 hour excursion to one of the many rivers surrounding Medellin in the Antioquia region.

Rio Verde, Samanal, Arenal, Rio Caldera have fast and slow sections depending if you want adrenaline and a physical challenge or to stare up at the sky as you drift through the jungle. You can book these day trips online with pick up and drop off back in Medellin.


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Samana River
Samaná River (Photo credits: Andrew Neild via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED)

Alternatively, you can head to a town and then take a dip yourself or enjoy some watersports.

The town of Guatape has dozens of reservoirs with many swimming spots in the shadow of the remarkable El Peñol rock perched at the top of a mountain. In Guatape you can jet ski, wakeboard, kayak, flyboard or take a boat tour.

views from el penol
View at the top of El Peñol de Guatapé looking out at a beautiful view of the lagoon.

The nearby town of San Rafael is a great place to spend the weekend swimming in the cool, clear waters of the rivers and relaxing.

You can take very affordable buses from the north terminal with Guatape just under 2 hours and San Rafael closer to 3 hours away.

San Rafael river
San Rafael river (Photo credit: juanktru on Visualhunt)

Urban Aquatic Options in Medellin

If you want to swim in Medellin then there are a lot of public pools available which can be used for free. The huge Atanasio Girardot Sports Complex, located next to Estadio metro station at the end of la 70 street, has 8 swimming pools with the largest a full Olympic size.

atanasio girardot pools
Pools at Atanasio Girardot Sports Complex

There is also a smaller public swimming pool at La Unidad Deportiva de Belén Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga which is close to la 33 at the other side of Laureles.

Another free public pool is at Piscina La Ladera, in Villa Hermosa close to central Medellin.

Remember to bring photo identification and be prepared as the smaller pools can get busy at the weekend on sunny days.

Hotel and Rooftop Pools in Medellin

If you want a pool with a view, then there are many good options at hotels or residential units in Poblado. It is typical for apartment blocks in the more expensive areas to have shared pools, some at ground level surrounded by gardens or on the roof.

In terms of hotel pools, Envy is a popular favorite and is a great option for Sunday brunch. Envy is on the top of the Charlee Hotel next to Parque Lleras in Poblado. In the evening the pool is closed as the spot turns into a sophisticated bar but during the day it is a great place to swim and relax with friends.

If you want a similar experience on a budget, then Masaya and Los Patios have rooftop pools while Rango has a smaller plunge pool and Viajero has a jacuzzi.

Alternative Water-Related Activities in Medellin

There are also a number of water parks in and around Medellin.

Aeroparque Juan Pablo II

The most centrally located is Aeroparque Juan Pablo II which is situated close to the South Bus Terminal and the city airport. The 17-hectare area was turned into a recreational zone when the international airport was opened in Rionegro and Olaya Herrera Airport was reduced in size. Today there are children’s play areas, parks and event venues on the site.

Juan Pablo II has slides, a wave pool, sports fields and restaurants. Entry to the water park costs 7,000 COP (US$1.80). You can easily get to the park in around 10-15 minutes from Poblado in a taxi or Uber.

Parque de las Aguas

Parque de las Aguas on the road between Medellin and Barbosa was once far superior but the slides have closed and not reopened. The repairs and maintenance required is reportedly huge, so for the foreseeable future one of the key attractions at the park will remain closed.

The park is still worth a visit although it is a little rough around the edges. They have a large wave pool, a lazy river, small slides, children’s play areas and cafes serving food. It is also sent to a beautiful spot surrounded by mountains with weather that is always a little warmer than Medellin. It can get busy on the weekends but during the week nobody is there.

You can get to Parque de las Aguas by taking any bus north towards Barbosa from outside Niquia station on the metro line.

Parque Los Tamarindos

If you head towards San Jeronimo you will find Parque Los Tamarindos, another country waterpark. This one still has their large slides intact and it is much better maintained. The weather there is warm throughout the year and entrance for non-members is 45,000 COP (US$12).

Acuaparque Ditaires

Finally, there is Acuaparque Ditaires which is next to the stadium in the municipality of Itagui. It takes around 20-25 minutes to get from Poblado in a taxi or Uber.

The park is quite compact but they pack a lot in with large slides, a wave pool, children’s play area, a sauna and jacuzzis. Entry costs 7,500 COP (US$2) for non-members and it can get quite busy at the weekend or on national holidays.

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