Columbia: The Rosario Islands

Mike is an excellent vacation planner.  After starting off our Colombian Honeymoon with adventures in BogotaSanta Marta, and Minca, he made sure that the latter half of our trip was all about relaxing.

Next, we were headed to the Hotel San Pedro de Majagua for 4 nights on Isla Grande in the Rosario Islands, a very quiet and remote place.

Isla Grande certainly lived up to its reputation as having some of the most beautiful & peaceful beaches we saw in Colombia – there was no crowds, plenty of shade, and at least 50 Shades of Blue.

The photo below was taken with my phone’s junky camera and does not do this beach justice.

We had a wonderful time and the laziest of days, though for anyone considering a trip here it’s important to note that this was a very small and quaint resort.  The laid-back island lifestyle was very apparent, at times making the whole operation seem somewhat disorganized to my type-A point-of-view.  But what better time is there, than when on a remote tropical island, to practice going with the flow?

The trip started with a sleepy 45-minute speed boat ride to the island.  

The boat was full of day-trippers headed to the island, but once we arrived, they all dispersed and the resort was surprisingly quiet.

The resort’s main hub is its one restaurant which had the most beautiful shaded seating area.

Of course, my first order was checking out the menu to see what food I’d be enjoying over the next 4 days.

Imagine the sense of PANIC I felt when I saw only ONE VEGETARIAN DISH on the menu…and it wasn’t even a balanced meal: Vegetable Fried Rice.

Even worse, the menu didn’t have much that I could work with – no sides or a la carte items that I could mix-and-match… and not a single bean on the menu (gasp!).

I was worried this was going to feel like a very, very long stay on the island… The rice was tasty, but there was no way I could eat this for lunch & dinner for the next 4 nights.  

Heck, this plate of simple-carbohydrates barely held me over to dinner.

I set to work and spoke with the Assistant Manager, the Resort Manager… and finally to the Chef himself, explaining that I didn’t need anything fancy – just something simple and balanced.  I gave examples of what I had eaten (and loved!) in Minca – Lentils, Beans, Plantains, Potatoes, Salads…    

Then, on each visit to the dining room, I had to explain my order again.  As our rotating cast of servers came to take my order, In my broken Spanish, I explained that I wanted to order a vegetarian meal – but not the Veggies & Rice dish on the menu- and that I had spoken to the chef and he’d be making me something special.  It was a mouthful!

While I did have to jump through a few hoops to request my special vegetarian meals, they made it well worth my while.

It turned out that the chef knew a thing or two about healthy, vegetarian meals and had quite a bit of creativity up his sleeves!

From then on out, I never had the same entree twice.

My lunches included Lentil Croquettes, Bean & Rice Patties, and a Lentil Stew + Heart of Palm and Avocado Salad.

Dinners included Pear Soup, Homemade Hummus, Cous Cous Salad … and my two favorite dishes of all:

  • The most delicious Roasted Veggie Sandwich with Herbed Roasted Potatoes – This one would be such a crowd-pleaser that I even told the chef he should add it to the regular menu!
  • And the most surprising dish – A Raw “Noodle” Salad with Carrot & Zucchini Noodles, Peanuts, and Asian flavors

We also enjoyed their assortment of fresh Colombian-Style juices each day (Fruit, Water & Sugar blended together) – my favorites were the Strawberry Juice, the Mango Juice, and the Maracuya (Passionfruit) Juice.

On the last day, the Chef surprised us by sending out a complimentary dessert – a flour-less cake of carrots, pineapple, raisins, and coconut.  So good!

Besides eating, we really didn’t do very much.

We spent a lot of time in our room – the “Estrella de Mar” (Starfish) – which was simple but modern, with a freshwater shower, air-conditioning, and cable tv – all of which I consider to be true luxuries on an island this remote.  I especially loved the thatched roof and wooden shutters.

We spent most of our days reading under umbrellas at the beach.

Every couple of hours, a friendly islander would approach us to show us the hand-made coral necklaces or stone carvings that were their families’ livelihood.  I did quite a bit of shopping from the comfort of my lounge-chair.

The resort had a nice yoga room and a couple of mats, so Mike & I were able to take classes most mornings with a visiting Yoga instructor.

One day, we went out snorkeling for an hour.  The pricing for the resort-sponsored excursions was very, very high so we negotiated with a local who took us out in his private boat for a fraction of the price.

Most days we also took a walk to the village (“Poblado De Orika”) on the island, a quiet 20-30 minute stroll in each direction.

At $3 per 20-oz bottle, we were spending a fortune on the resort’s bottled water, so we started making daily treks to the village to purchase our own water.  While there, I also picked up a bunch of bananas to snack on in between meals.

The scenery was beautiful and included a Mangrove ecosystem, back-yard chickens at every house, a campsite… and more papayas than I could count!

Look closely at the tree trunk below – it is covered in papayas!

The village was even smaller than I had expected.  In fact, according to this video – there are only 68 residents!

There wasn’t really anything for tourists to do in the village, but we enjoyed walking around taking in the scenery…  

…A group of men working together to haul large tubs of drinking water.  

…Two young twin boys, wearing nothing but dust and underwear, pausing their wheel-barrow pushing to wrestle.

…A few young women, sitting out on their porch and painting each others’ nails.

There seemed to be so much happiness and sense of community here.  

But by far my favorite discovery on the island was this girl:

This curious cat, while she appeared to be a stray, seemed to be much loved by the housekeepers.  When we put out a dish of fresh water for her, she nuzzled against us begging to be petted, and even tried to take a tour of our hotel room on a few occasions.

The housekeepers would smile and talk to us (in Spanish) when they saw us with the kitty.  It seemed like each housekeeper had a different name for her.  One told us that the cat’s name was “Oof”, which she seemed to respond to.  But I much preferred the name another housekeeper had given her – Pasha.

On our last night, just as I was thinking about how sad I was that I could not bring Pasha home with us, she put on a talent show for Mike and I – running up and down several tree trunks in rapid succession.

I realized then how truly wild she was, and how much she belonged right here… on the island.

I’d love to hear from you!

Was your honeymoon traditional, adventurous, or both?

Have you ever had any trouble or successes in obtaining vegetarian or vegan meals?