Everything You Need To Know About Casa en el Agua: An Island Hostel Paradise

by Rachel Story
Casa en el Agua

About a year ago, I was aimlessly scrolling through Facebook and saw a video about an island hostel. “Sasha, you have to see this!” I exclaimed. Our jaws dropped further and further as the video played. The video showed people gleefully jumping off the porch of a hostel called Casa en el Agua straight into the ocean, along with snorkeling, kayaking, and other water sports.

“Where is this? We have to go!” A quick Google search showed that it was in the Caribbean just off the coast of Colombia. How perfect was it that we were in the midst of making our South American pipe dream come to life? It quickly put Colombia at the top of our list as our starting point for this adventure.

What is the Casa en el Agua?

Casa en el Agua is an eco-hostel located in the San Bernardo Islands. The archipelago has ten tiny islands dotted with white sand beaches and surrounded by crystal clear water. The hostel itself is actually an island, as in you can literally jump into the ocean (and we did, many times). It’s part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park (a mouthful of a name).

The San Bernardo islands.

The Casa isn’t that big. It’s two stories – the bottom floor is an open, common space with tables, chairs, and sun loungers, as well as the kitchen and bar. The second floor is just the private rooms and dorms.

They separate all the garbage for easy recycling. There’s no running water so you take a shower by using a bucket of fresh water. Each person is only allowed one bucket which can make things tricky. I had to forgo using conditioner to make sure I had enough water to rinse off the shampoo and body wash.

They have composting toilets, with separate holes for #1 and #2. If you’re confused, there’s a hilarious picture on the door that shows you how it’s done. You’ll just have to go and see for yourself, though. Here’s the science behind it, according to their website:

Number 1s are filtered in a tank under the house, breaks down fast and is then swallowed up by the big blue sea. Number 2s on the other hand contain phosphor. Yes, even the floral lady ones made up of unicorns and fairy dust. Phosphor isn’t popular with the big blue and its inhabitants, therefore, we collect your creations in a big tank and take it to Tintipan Island. There we have space for compost. This system doesn’t flush the conventional way so we ask you to throw some chalk and saw dust mixture into the tank once you’re done. Chalk has a ‘drying’ effect and in combination with phosphor encourages plant growth.  The saw dust is simply there to protect your nose and creates a nicer environment.

Prices N Such

Climb up the ladder and jump!

Food and Drink

It’s comparatively more expensive than other hostels in Colombia but still cheaper than hostels in the USA or other developed countries.

Breakfast is included but lunch and dinner are extra. You’ll need to sign up an hour or more in advance if you want either. They have a few different options.

The normal lunch and dinner are whatever they’re cooking on a particular day. It usually consists of fish or other seafood, rice, plantains or arepas, plus a vegetable. Although one night we had crab pasta. Delicious! Lunch always comes with a bowl of soup as well. We were never disappointed with the normal options. It costs 30,000 COP per person (currently $1 USD = 2,900 COP).

Chill out in a hammock with a book.

If you’re in the mood for something a bit more exotic, you can get ceviche or other seafood such as octopus, crab, or lobster. They actually have a lobster “conservation” tank, if you will. Rather than fishing for lobster on a daily basis, they built a little tank under the house where they put a pregnant lobster. Now they always have fresh lobster.

These special meals cost between 50,000 and 80,000 COP (~$17 – $27 USD). For you non-animal eaters, don’t worry. They have a vegetarian option, too. We saved a little on the food cost by sharing a normal lunch and then getting one normal and one special meal for dinner.

2 for 1 drinks all day, every day!

The Bar en el Agua is open all day with an all-day happy hour. Score! Cocktails are 2 for 1 for 30k COP. Beers start at 6k COP.

In addition to booze, they also have fresh juices and snacks if you’re feeling hungry in between meal times. You could save some money by bringing your own bottle of booze and snacks. However, you won’t have access to a fridge or the kitchen.

Beds and Hammocks

Have you ever been to a hostel where you can rent a hammock? This was a first for us! While the idea of sleeping in a hammock is rather novel, it’s not something I really want to do at this point in my life (I know, getting old is lame). Perhaps five years ago, I would have been all about it, but now my back is really happy I didn’t.

The hammock dorm.

Bookings can only be made from their website (see prices below) and they open 60 days in advance.

Other blogs will tell you 30 days. That was the case until very recently. I had an alarm set on my phone for exactly 30 days before we wanted to go to remind me to get online and book our room. One day, Sasha got on their website to see how much we would need to budget for the boat to get there and back. He found that they had just changed their bookings to open up 60 days before.

This is new as of July 2017. We had to change our plans a little, but we were still able to get the room we wanted.

Our room, the Alegria Double.

Hammocks are 70k COP (~$25 USD) per night. A bed in the 8-bed dorm room is 80k COP (~$27 USD) per night. The private rooms range from 180k – 380k COP (~$62 – $130 USD) per night depending on the number of people as some of the private rooms have two double beds. We paid 200k per night for the Alegria Double room.

How to Get to Casa en el Agua

There are a few ways to get there.

The fastest and easiest way is to come from Cartagena. The Casa en el Agua boat picks up at the harbor at 9 am every day. They just recently got a new boat that is quite big. The ride was comfortable and only took two hours. It costs 200k COP per person for a round-trip ticket. The boat is operated by their sister company and that is how they’re able to guarantee the price and safety.

All smiles as we board the big, new boat to Casa en el Agua.

If you’re coming from other parts of Colombia, it might be easier for you to come from Tolu or Rincon del Mar. However, the prices and boat sizes fluctuate depending on the time of year and your bargaining skills.

Some other travelers we met there came from Tolu, which they said was fine. Getting to Cartagena via Tolu, however, was a long journey as it takes two buses once you’re back on land.

Things To Do

Islote – the most crowded island in the world.

If you’re already feeling anxious about being stranded with nothing to do, never fear! They can arrange a boat for you to do just about anything.  Here are just a few of the options:

  • A day trip to Tintipan beach
  • An island tour of the three biggest islands
  • A tour of Islote – the most crowded island in the world
  • A nighttime snorkeling trip to see the glowing plankton
  • A daytime snorkeling trip in the surrounding mangroves

Our tour guide handed me this baby and said “It’s a gift!”

They do not have wifi at the Casa. Take the opportunity to sit in a hammock and read a book or make new friends with the other travelers. We really needed that digital detox. It was very relaxing and nice to disconnect for a few days. The only time we got a phone out was to play with our new drone, which as you can see from the pictures and video, is pretty sweet.

We made the above video using a DJI Spark drone (check the current price on Amazon) and a GoPro Hero 5 with a Gimbal Stabilizer.

Make sure to grab your own before your trip so you can make a similar video!

A Few Tips

The vibe of the Casa depends on the crowd currently inhabiting it. If you’re there with partyin’ peeps, the staff is more than happy to facilitate a club-like atmosphere. They have a huge loudspeaker that will blast reggaeton until the wee hours of the morning if it’s what the people want. As the entire house is made of wood, come prepared with a good pair of earplugs or simply join in the fun!

Testing my balance.

Personally, I don’t think you should decide to not come because of the possibility of loud music. Come with an open mind and plan to stay two nights. This will give you enough time to do any activities and not lose too much sleep due to loud music or bad weather.

What To Bring

Be sure to bring lots of cash! They do not take credit cards. Everything you order is written down on a sign-up sheet. They keep track by adding up everyone’s spending at the end of each day and you pay when you check out. It’s best to keep your own record of what you eat and drink so there are no surprises at the end. This will also ensure that you don’t accidentally pay for someone else’s drinks.

You don’t need a lot of clothing. You spend most of the day in your swimsuit. You’ll just need to bring comfy clothes for the evenings. Depending on the time of year, it might be wise to bring some warmer clothes as it can get a little chilly on windy nights. We were there during rainy season and I was very happy to have my rain jacket. It did rain each day but only for about an hour. Most importantly don’t forget, you should always bring a towel! Towely would be proud.

We travel with small, microfiber towels that are easy to pack. Check them out on Amazon.

Leave your big bags on the mainland, if you’re coming from and returning to Cartagena. We stayed at Patio de Getsamani because they have luggage storage. They assured us our electronics would remain safely locked in one of the rooms. The staff there were so friendly and helpful. Our stuff was even waiting for us in our new room when we returned.

Sunset at Casa en el Agua

The sunsets are pretty nice.

 

A Snapshot of Our Costs

Alegra Double Room – 400k COP for two nights

Food/Drink/Activities – 4 normal meals, 2 special seafood meals, several beers and micheladas, 2 tours to Islote; 380k COP total.

Boat – 200k COP each for a round-trip ticket

Total – 1,180,000 COP ($406 USD)

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Would you like to stay at Casa en el Agua? Have you been there? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through our link we will earn a commission at no extra cost to you! The earnings go towards running this site. Thank you for your support!

 

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14 comments

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14 comments

Nayith Pedroza September 15, 2019 - 11:04 pm

Do you know if you can stay with kids or is just adults

Reply
Rachel Story September 16, 2019 - 2:43 pm

I’m not sure but I personally don’t think it’s a good place for kids. There’s too much risk with their being no real railings around the lower level. Plus it’s a party hostel and they blast the music late into the night.

Reply
Mehdi June 7, 2019 - 10:20 am

This article is just amazing! It just makes me want to stay for a longer time in Colombia! Thanks for sharing! I wanted to ask in which month you visited the hostel, and whether you know in which time of the year is advised to visit it? Thaaaank you.

Reply
Rachel Story June 9, 2019 - 11:02 pm

Hi, Mehdi! Thanks for the kind words! We visited the hostel in September. I think any time of year is good. Rainy season is May to June and then again October to November. Just remember that bookings open 60 days out and it’s a small place. Let me know if you have other questions!

Reply
Marieke November 1, 2018 - 10:52 am

Did your mobile phone work at the Casa (could you receive calls)?

Reply
Rachel Story November 1, 2018 - 1:12 pm

My phone didn’t work but I saw someone else using their phone so maybe some work? ?

Reply
Monica Humphries July 25, 2018 - 9:49 am

Hello Grateful Gypsies! I’m I’m a video producer for INSIDER in New York, and we’re doing a video on Casa en el Agua. We love your video (especially the shot at :48)! Can we feature your footage in our video? We’ll, of course, give you clear onscreen credit. I Please let me know if you’re interested or have any questions. Thanks!

Reply
Rachel Story July 26, 2018 - 7:07 am

Hi Monica! Thanks for reaching out! Let’s move this conversation over to email 🙂

Reply
Kelli H March 23, 2018 - 3:09 pm

We are traveling to Colombia for 10 days and we have a LOT we want to see. I booked the Casa for 2 nights, but we are now debating if we should just stay for 1 night instead. Do you think that would be a waste if we only stayed for 1 night? Also, do you remember what time you arrived back to the Cartagena port from Casa?

Thanks!!

Reply
Rachel Story March 23, 2018 - 3:28 pm

Hey Kelli! Thanks for reaching g out! It depends on what you want to do at the Casa. If you plan on going to the beach or seeing the plankton then 2 days is good. If you just plan on hanging out and relaxing then one day is probably enough. I don’t remember exactly what time we got back but the boat takes 2 hours. It was some time in the afternoon. Let me know if you have other questions!!

Reply
Kelli H March 23, 2018 - 3:44 pm

Great thanks!!! 2 nights it is 🙂

Also, regarding storing your larger bags in Cartagena; do you know if there are multiple places that store luggage? We were going to do an Airbnb prior to Casa, but I doubt they would store our luggage for us while we are gone.

Reply
Rachel Story March 23, 2018 - 4:12 pm

Yeah, in my experience an Airbnb won’t store luggage. I’m not sure about places that will store luggage as we stayed in the same guesthouse before and after the Casa. My advice would be to try and find a hostel or guesthouse near your Airbnb that offers luggage storage and see if they would store your bags for a small fee. If you change your mind and decide to not stay at an Airbnb I would highly recommend staying at Patio Getsamani. The owners are super nice and they have a cold jacuzzi on the roof with a pretty cool view! Breakfast included?

Reply
Amber September 30, 2017 - 4:33 pm

Oh man! I really want to go here now. I don’t love the potential party atmosphere, but I bet I could get over that if it’s just a few days! 🙂

Reply
Rachel Story October 1, 2017 - 12:28 pm

Awesome! Glad we could inspire your wanderlust. I didn’t necessarily love the party atmosphere either but I was stoked for the people who did. I can deal with just about anything if it’s only a few days. Thanks for reading!

Reply

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