Casa en el Agua: a hostel recommendation
Welcome to the Ultimate Guide to Casa en el Agua. Are you planning on visiting this beautiful hostel? It can be quite a task to prepare and book everything, so I though I’d help you with that. In this guide, you’ll read everything you need to know: from the preparation, to the packing list, to the actual stay. Have fun!
Table of Contents
What is Casa en el Agua?
Casa en el Agua is literally translated to House on the Water. And that is exactly what it is! This is a hostel build on a small island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. The hostel is part of the San Bernardo Islands, and it is located closely to Tintipán.
You can visit Casa en el Agua from Cartagena, Colombia. A boat will bring you from the mainland to the hostel.
Casa en el Agua preparation
When it comes to the preparation, there are several things you need to know and do. I will walk you through them step by step.
Book your stay
Casa en el Agua is a very popular destination, both for Colombian people as for travellers. If you want to stay at this beautiful hostel, make sure to book your stay well in advance! More often than not, dates close to the present are fully booked.
There are multiple rooms to choose from in the hostel. The most expensive ones are the private rooms. Then there are the dorm rooms, which are popular with backpackers. Lastly, there are also hammocks to spend your night(s) in. These are the cheapest ones.
The private rooms are suitable for one person, or for multiple.
I recommend that you stay two nights. Most travellers stay either one or two nights: a longer stay is not needed. Two nights will give you time to rest and enjoy a little more, so you don’t have to leave the day after you arrived.
Included in the price are three meals and one tour. The specifics of what is included in your stay, will be shown in the booking process.
Book your transportation
Since Casa en el Agua is an island in the Caribbean, it is only reachable by boat. Therefore, you will need to book your transportation in advance. This is not included in your booking.
You can book your transportation with Tranq It Easy. They will bring you to the island on the morning of your arrival. On the day that you leave, they will pick you up on Casa en el Agua and bring you back to the mainland.
For a return ticket with the boat, you pay 260.000 COP. Depending on the current exchange rate this amounts to €63,63 or $68,72.
Take care of your luggage
Since you’ll be traveling by boat to a small island, you cannot take all of your luggage with you. Casa en el Agua asks you to pack a smaller bag, of maximum 8 kilos.
I’ve seen a lot of people not adhering to this request. Huge suitcases and full backpacks have been transported to and from the hostel – as far as I know without any trouble. However, space is limited on both the boat and Casa en el Agua. Therefore, I want to ask you to respect the limitations.
Besides, you won’t need a lot anyway! You’ll spend most of your stay in a bathing suit.
Because you cannot take all of your luggage with you, you need to store your other stuff somewhere during your stay. For this, you have two options.
- Store your luggage at a hostel. Most travellers choose to book a hostel in Cartagena the night before and after Casa en el Agua. They arrange with the staff to store their luggage there for the nights they are away.
- Store your luggage at the Tranq It Easy luggage storage. You can also choose to store your luggage at the luggage storage of the transport company. I opted for this option, because I was not staying in the same hotel before and after my stay. For this option, you pay 20.000 COP, which is around €4,89 or $5,29
Packing list for Casa en el Agua
So what do you take with you to an eco-friendly hostel in the middle of the ocean? I have included a packing list for your stay. I recommend to take with you:
- A small water-resistant backpack.
- Bathing suit.
- Shorts & shirt (mostly for the boat ride to and from Casa).
- One set of underwear.
- Sun glasses.
- Mosquito repellent.
- Toothpaste and a tooth brush.
- Beach towel (they are included in some rooms!).
- Sweater/vest for when it gets colder at night.
- A book or waterproof e-reader.
- Your camera or GoPro (+ chargers).
- Power bank.
- Enough cash.
Good to know before you go
Staying on an eco-friendly hostel in the middle of the ocean can be a little different from your average hostel experience. Therefore, there are some things you need to know. I have written them down in this guide to Casa en el Agua.
Bring enough cash
There is (naturally) no ATM at the hostel, and there is no way to pay with card. Bring enough cash with you to the island!
First of all, you will pay (part of) your accommodation costs at the end of your stay. Make sure you know before going how much this is, and get it at an ATM.
Secondly, you might spend some more money during your stay. Of course, meals are included in the price, but… You might want to go on tours, rent a paddle board, buy some snacks or drinks some cocktails. At Casa en el Agua, it is happy hour all day every day!
Keep in mind that there is no wifi at Casa en el Agua. There is, however, internet signal when you use the sim cards of Claro. You will find that you rarely use it though.
The staff members want to encourage you to socialise with the other guests and enjoy your stay in nature as much as possible. Time to disconnect!
Perfect combination between party and relax
I personally didn’t know that Casa en el Agua is famous for being a party hostel. I expected a nice, chill getaway in the middle of the ocean, with good food and nice people… and it is!
You can party every night at the hostel, but that should not be the main reason you go here. It is the perfect location to explore the Caribbean, to see another side of Colombia and the ocean. I spend one of the nights I was there in my room, reading and going to bed early. Sure, you can hear the music of the party in the background, but it was not bothering me at all.
Location: National Park
It is good to know that Casa en el Agua is located inside a National Park. This is really special, because nowadays, there is no way someone would be permitted to build a hostel in the middle of nature! However, the story goes that this hostel was once an old fisherman’s hut, and it turned into a hostel.
Staying in a National Park means that you have to respect the environment around you. Make sure to listen to the rules of Casa en el Agua and obey them.
Please, please, please do not litter! It can even happen unintentionally. The wind can be quite strong, especially at night, which can make empty water bottles or candy wrappers fly onto the water. Make sure to take care of your stuff!
Also, you might see some beautiful creatures of nature in and around the water. Sea animals, coral, huge sea shells… Please leave them alone and do not take them out of their natural habitat.
The hostel Casa en el Agua is eco-friendly, to help maintain the natural environment as much as possible. This comes with a few consequences.
There are no showers: only buckets with water. The water of the showers can be used between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. daily. You get one bucket per day. In all honesty, I did not shower while I stayed at Casa en el Agua. You can get the sweat off you in the ocean, and that is enough for the two nights you stay there.
The toilets are also a little… different. When you go on the toilet, there are two holes. One is for #1 and the other one is for #2. After a #2, you “dust it off” with some dust as a way to flush. It all sounds a little strange, but you get used to it pretty quickly.
Also, Casa en el Agua works on solar power. This means that sometimes, the power might go out and does not work. I’ve found that often, it does. However, make sure to bring all your items (cameras, phones, etc) fully charged, just in case. A power bank might also come in handy.
Staying at Casa en el Agua
It is time for your stay at this paradise! I will tell you exactly what to expect of your stay.
Transportation to and from Casa en el Agua
You will go to Casa en el Agua by boat, which you booked in advance. You arrive at the Bodequita Pier in Cartagena at the agreed time. In my case, this was 8.15 a.m. The boat leaves at 9 a.m. This gives you enough time to check in.
The boat ride from Cartagena to the hostel takes about 1.5 – 2 hours. It is possible that you also stop at other destinations in the San Bernardo area. I was a little scared that I took the wrong boat when we stopped at another island, but then it continued its way to Casa en el Agua.
Facilities at Casa en el Agua
You arrive at Casa en el Agua, and are welcomed by the friendly staff. You check in and show your passport, and you enjoy a free empanada as a welcome snack! Then, you get a tour of the hostel, with explanations about the different facilities. The staff will explain how the toilet and showers work, at what time the meals are served, and how you can best enjoy yourselves.
After that, it is time to get your key (if there is any) and see your room. All the rooms are upstairs, and here you can leave all your stuff. The downstairs area is the main area, with the front desk, kitchen, bar, toilets and showers, and several spots to sit and relax.
Food at Casa en el Agua
Meals are included in your stay. Breakfast is served between 8.30 a.m. and 9.00 a.m. Lunch is served between 12.30 p.m. and 1.00 p.m. Dinner is served between 7.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. For lunch and dinner, you will be asked to make a choice between the regular meal and the vegetarian meal.
Breakfast typically consists of scrambled eggs, some fruits, and something with carbs, like an arepa. Lunch always starts with a soup, and then with your chosen meal. Dinner is also your chosen meal. During my stay, I had delicious stuffed paprika with vegetables and eggs, accompanied by rice and a salad.
Any time between breakfast and 5 p.m., you can also buy snacks at the reception or kitchen. For example, you can get empanadas or fries. There are also fruit and chocolate, but I haven’t seen anyone order them.
Additionally, there is free hot and cold water, and coffee, all day long. No need to bring your own water bottles and risk the littering!
Activities at Casa en el Agua
Staying at Casa en el Agua means that you will be relaxing a lot. The weather during the day is usually very hot, so there is not much else to do. You can swim around, jump from the hostel in the water, or lie in the sun. You can also rent a snorkelling set or kayak and explore the area.
Tour to Santa Cruz del Islote
Casa en el Agua also organises tours. During my stay, we went to Santa Cruz del Islote. This is an island that you can see from the hostel. Santa Cruz del Islote is the most densely populated island in the world. During the tour, one of the locals will show you around. A staff member will be there to translate.
During the tour of Santa Cruz del Islote, you also get a chance to swim with sharks. I was really excited when I heard about this, but this excitement was quickly turned into disappointment. On the island, you can find a basin with two sharks, a turtle and many fish. You can swim amongst them. However, it is clear to me that the habitat is way too small, and therefore, I did not want to support this activity by joining in.
This tour was included in my stay. If the tour is not included in yours, you pay 15.000 COP, which is roughly €3,67 or $3,96.
Bioluminescent plankton tour
Another fun tour to do while you stay at Casa en el Agua, is the plankton tour. During this tour, you will swim in the bioluminescent plankton. This means that, when you move the plankton, it will emit light. This is truly a magical experience and I would recommend it to anyone! It does require you to swim in the ocean in the dark though, which might be kind of scary.
This tour is at 7 p.m. each night, depending on the light of the moon (or so I’ve been told). You pay 40.000 COP for this tour, which is around €9,79 or $10,57.