Tolu is my favorite sleepy Colombian beach town. Very peaceful, uncrowded even during so called busy periods and Colombian holidays. By far it's the most economical and laid back beach town I've ever experienced. A great place to relax, eat beach food and to count your blessings for life.
I recently traveled from Bogota to Tolu. Although car rental is very costly, it's well worth the price to travel through Colombia. The trip takes about two-and-a-half days, but wow, what fantastic views. Stopping every night in a hotel along the route -- no problems and low cost -- it's very safe these days. We found the best beach was San Francisco Beach -- very clean and good service with beach umbrellas and good food. Tolu is now undergoing a tourist boom and prices are half the price of Cartagenia. Also French Beach is nice and the walk along the beach is superb. You can also go on a power boat trip and visit a few small islands -- have lunch and enjoy the Caribbean at a modest cost. Go now before prices start to increase with tourism. Make sure you take a bike taxi -- the drivers are fun and they know everything.
Tolu (also known as Santiago del Tolu) is a small Colombian town in the Sucre department on the Caribbean coast. It is in the centre of a beautiful horseshoe shaped bay on the Morrosquillo Gulf. Tolu is popular with Colombians who come for fishing, diving, and island treks; it is one of coastal Colombia’s busiest local destinations and you’re see very few foreign tourists.
The biggest reason to come to Tolu is to visit the Archipelago de San Bernardo. The islands are similar to the nearby Islas de Rosario, but with less tourists. The two island groups make up the Parque Nacional Natural Corales. If possible, stay on Isla Mucura for a night or two to really experience the national park. You can snorkel, fish, or scuba dive.
You can get to Tolu by bus from Cartagena; it takes about three hours. Once you’re in town, you will need to take a bicycle taxi (bicitaxi) to your hostel. Don’t worry if you think you have too much stuff - they are converted and can handle luggage and people; they’re also almost always kitted out with a stereo. Hostels in Tolu are basic but clean and staffed by friendly locals. Most hostels are in the main town and fairly accessible to the cafes, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that populate Tolu’s city centre. You may find hostels listed under guesthouses, but budget accommodation in Tolu is easy to find.
If you’re staying in Tolu instead of camping out on Isla Mucura, you also need to get out of town to the natural attractions. One of the most popular attractions in Tolu, besides the islands, is El Volcan de Lodo. You have to take a bus out here, but its worth it. Locals say the mud has healing powers, or at least some youthful regeneration powers. Expect to get slathered in mud by an attendant and then sent to the river to clean off. There is an admission charge, and your hostel can arrange transportation for you.
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Tolú hostels. Welcome.