Imagine listening to the sound of crashing waves as you fall asleep in your own open-air seaside hut… Or gently swinging on your hammock on your private patio while enjoying tranquil views of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea…
These visions of tropical paradise can be yours at Dahlandia on Isla Mucura – but there are a few quirks to be aware of. Here is our Dahlandia hotel review:
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Accommodations at Dahlandia Hotel
Dahlandia is a small seaside hotel on the west end of Isla Mucura in the tropical San Bernardo Islands. It’s Colombian-run and is a popular resort with Colombians. It’s no Four Seasons by any stretch, but it’s a nice option if you are looking for seaside Caribbean accommodations.
We were among the only native-English speakers there. None of the staff at Dahlandia spoke a word of English, but we got by with the help of other guests who could translate.
Your choice of accommodations at Dahlandia consist of three elevated huts on stilts and a few larger structures with small rooms built into them. The elevated rooms have a beautiful line of conch shells on the stairs as you climb up.
Facilities at Dahlandia Hotel
None of the rooms at Dahlandia have air conditioning, which I thought wouldn’t matter in an open air, seaside hut, but when we closed the door to our family hut at night, it blocked the ocean breeze and it got uncomfortably hot inside most nights.
The single fan (shared over three beds) helped of course, but it had trouble keeping up on some of the hotter nights. The mattresses were made of thick foam, which trapped heat and didn’t help matters.
There is no Wi-Fi at the Dahlandia resort, but if you have a local SIM card, you can get decent, albeit slow 3G, cell service. I bought my Colombian SIM Card at the Extra food chain and I was able to get 2-4 bars of service on most occasions.
Most of the rooms do not have private toilets and showers. There are shared bathrooms and showers near the dining area. The showers are cold-ish and the water is a trickle, but in truth they are way better than most of the bone-chilling, freezing cold and/or scalding hot showers we encountered elsewhere in Colombia.
Cute little lizards live in the thatch roofs above the rooms. This is a double-edge sword; the lizards are excellent bug killers, but you will occasionally find a tiny little lizard poop on your blankets.
We could hear really loud music coming from the village next door until well past midnight on December 24 & 25. Given this didn’t happen any other night, let’s chalk that up to it being a Christmas celebration?
There are roosters living in the village next door, so if you are a light sleeper, you’ll hear them crowing as the sun rises sometime between 4-5am. Other things which woke us up were music from the resort workers cell phones walking to work, goats bleating, etc.
Daily Schedule at Dahlandia
Power is not available 24 hours a day at Dahlandia. The official schedule is that you will get power from 6PM to 7AM, but on most days the power was turned on in the early afternoon. I imagine this is a function of how well the solar panels are working.
The showers are available from 4PM.
Breakfast is served around 7:30am, lunches at 12:30 and dinner at 7pm.
All times are approximate and are subject to island time adjustments of +/- 1 hour. We found waiting for food to be annoying sometimes, especially at lunch when we’d leave the beach to be at our 12:30 lunch, only to have to wait until 1:15…
Food at Dahlandia
We purchased the full board package at Dahlandia, meaning breakfast, lunch and dinner were included. Overall, the quality of the food was quite good – it was tasty and fresh.
Our only real complaint (and it’s a big complaint) was the very small portion sizes – we are not large people and the small meal portions left us hungry after most meals. We’re fortunate we had small kids who didn’t finish their meals, so we filled our tummies by eating their leftovers.
Chances are you’ll need to buy snacks in-between meals to top up. It’s a shame that they are so chintzy with the food as it was actually quite good (with the possible exception of the meal on our last night – see below for details).
The open air dining area is in a beautiful location, very close to the water. The resort was full to capacity when we stayed and the restaurant was crowded. We elected to dine at our private table underneath our Family Hut to free up room for other guests in the small dining area.
We each got a glass of free juice with every meal but purified drinking water (agua pura) was not included in the full board package. The beach bar at Dahlandia sells small bottles of water for roughly 4,000 COP (~$1.20USD). If you don’t mind a 3-minute walk to the adjacent town, you can buy 3L bottles at the store for 6,000COP (~$1.80USD).
Very strong coffee is available to drink in tiny little coffee cups at breakfast for free.
Meals at Dahlandia Hotel
Here is what we ate during our 6-night stay:
Breakfast at Dahlandia
- two fried eggs on an arepa, with an unripe orange on the side.
- scrambled eggs with potato, a sweet bun with apple filling and plantains
- egg & potato omelet, with fried plantain strips and a half-peeled, very tart orange.
- scrambled egg with sausage and onion on an arepa with watermelon on the side.
- scrambled eggs with potato, a very yummy donut shaped deep fried corn dish and a small portion of papaya.
- scrambled eggs, apple bun and an orange.
Considering Colombia is a tropical country, there was shockingly little fresh fruit served. We’d occasionally get an unripe orange at breakfast or a small portion of papaya, but that’s all. No mango, no bananas, hardly any papaya… these fruits are literally everywhere you look elsewhere in Colombia.
Lunch at Dahlandia
- Fried fish (head on), white rice, fried plantains, salad
- Fried fish (head on), coconut rice, salad and two plantain cakes
- Fried fish (head on), coconut rice, salad and fried plantain slices
- Fried fish (head on), rice, beans, plantain cake, pineapple salsa (randomly, this meal was unusually large)
- Fried fish (head on), coconut rice, salad, plantain cakes with a small, but yummy coconut dessert.
- Fried fish (head on), white rice, salad, fried plantain slices, and the yummy coconut dessert again.
Dinner at Dahlandia
- Goat curry, potatoes with onions and peppers
- Fried fish (head on), white rice, cheese and potato soup
- (Christmas): Goat curry with yucca topped with peppers and onions (very small portion, especially considering it was our Christmas dinner)
- Fish soup and rice (the portion size of this meal was so small I was literally angry).
- Goat curry with potatoes and cheese.
- Fish soup with roasted potatoes – see story below
8 guests at Dahlandia threw-up overnight on our final night. I can’t say for sure it was food poisoning, but the affected guests we spoke to all believed it was the fish soup.
We did notice the fish soup tasted a little ‘fishy’, which was unusual. Up to this point, the freshness of the fish was a highlight. We were fortunate to have made it through with no illness, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this occurance.
Dahlandia has a small, but nice little beach on its property. There are hammocks, deck chairs, benches, etc. to sit on, or you can just plunk down on the beach. The water is quite warm and was nice and calm the days we were there. For ambiance, a pelican is often perched on the tree overlooking the beach.
The kids didn’t mind that the beach was a bit small. They had enough room to play and build sandcastles, so they were happy. The beautiful white coral sand was a great consistency for sandcastles. The water stays shallow for a good distance, meaning kids can play in the shallows without much issue.
For a small beach, it had a surprising amount of character and every day it was a bit different. The water temperature changed quite a bit, ranging from a bit chilly to being quite warm.
The waves & tides shift around where the soft sand bottom is found, while the beach itself was always a bit different. Sometimes the tides would leave a bunch of shells and coral on the beach, while others it would leave perfectly clean.
There is also a small bar at the beach which sells beer, water, cocktails and snacks. Some days when business is good, they will play music all day.
Dahlandia with Kids
We visited Dahlandia with our two kids aged 4 & 6. We rented a Family Hut – an open air thatched roof hut built on stilts right next to the ocean. A Family Hut has a double bed and two singles.
It has a single fan, which becomes usable when the power comes on in the afternoon/evening. We fell asleep to the sounds of lapping waves every night.
There’s a “tourist beach” on the opposite end of the island which you can use as well. The 10-15 minute walk there is a lot of fun. First you walk through the island’s little town, then through a small patch of forest/jungle and then along the coast through some beautiful mangroves.
There isn’t a lot of “beach” at the tourist beach as all the real estate is taken up by tables and chairs from all the bars selling drinks and snacks. With no sand for the kids to play on, we didn’t stay long. We turned around and went back to our better beach at Dahlandia.
There’s plenty of wildlife on Isla Mucura to keep the kids interested. They’ll love the large iguanas, pelicans, frigate birds, beautiful red & blue Sally Lightfoot crabs, green lizards in the trees, turkeys, chickens, and a set of dogs and a cat which belong to the property.
There’s a herd of goats which wander the Dahlandia property grazing on the grass and plants. The kids loved it when the goats walked under our Family Hut a few times a day. As for us, we didn’t like the piles of goat poop around the property, but on a very positive note, the goat curry was delcious!!
Our kids did not get enough sleep while at Dahlandia. Their sleep schedule back home is 7PM – 7AM. As dinner is not served here until 7, they often were not in bed until 8am.
Our kids would wake at the sound of hotel workers talking and/or playing music, or roosters crowing or goats bleating. Almost every night we stayed at Dahlandia they were getting 2 hours less sleep than usual.
Bugs at Dahlandia
During our late-December stay at Dahlandia, there were hardly any biting insects at all. We each got a bite-or-two over our six day stay, but that was it.
The “Welcome Talk”
Upon arrival you’ll be ‘encouraged’ to listen to the owner do a little talk. Most people in the audience looked thoroughly bored; it was completely in Spanish, so we were incredibly bored.
Apparently the owner is a retired biology teacher and it seemed like he was talking about the islands. He ends his talk with a pitch for the snorkeling tour.
Things To Do around the Islas de San Bernadro
The staff at Hotel Dahlandia can arrange the following experiences for you. Their prices seemed slightly higher than the prices we’d seen posted at other hotels, but this could be due to the extra distance involved.
There is an amazing natural phenomenon a 20-minute boat ride from Dahlandia. In the Laguna Illuminata there are plankton which light up when disturbed. You take a moonlit boat ride there and you don’t see a thing in the water until you jump in.
Once you are in the water, the areas around your moving limbs light up brilliantly for a very short time. It’s an incredibly cool effect.
Our kids did really good, even though it didn’t leave until 6:30pm and had them in the water past their bedtime. Our 4-year old son was in the water for about 10 minutes, before asking to get in the boat, while our 6-year old daughter lasted about another 5 mins.
We couldn’t get any decent pictures in the darkness, but you can see what it’s like with this similar bioluminescent plankton tour from Cartagena.
The snorkeling tour from Dahlandia is a fun 3-hour morning trip. All your snorkeling gear and lifejackets are provided.
The first stop is at a shallow coral reef nowhere near land. It’s a decent sized reef, so there’s room for the many snorkelers to find their own spot. The variety and number of fish was impressive and there is some good coral to admire as well.
The second stop was at a very shallow, decimated coral reef. This reef may have been beautiful many years ago, but now it’s completely blanched – likely from being so shallow that swimmers cannot avoid touching the coral. The guides used this as a spot to show us starfish and sea urchins.
The third stop was a daytime visit to Laguna Illuminata. The water is dark and murky here, but when you jump in the water you are immediately surrounded by tons of plankton (which look like 1-2 inch wide jellyfish). Upon closer investigation, you can see the strips of light illuminate within the plankton, which is the effect we saw at night on the Plankton Tour.
The rest of the group left the boat to swim along the shore of the nearby mangroves, but we stayed to watch the plankton and some real (non-stinging) jellyfish for a while longer.
The final stop was a 20-minute stop at a party beach on a nearby island. The beach is lined with bars, tables and chairs. The beach is crowded, but still quite nice. The water is crystal clear and the water a perfectly clear turquoise.
Christmas at Dahlandia
We stayed at Dahlandia over Christmas. We had seen lots of Christmas decorations all over Colombia leading up to our stay here, but there were no Christmas decorations to be found here. I had held out hope that they’d serve something special for Christmas dinner, but no such luck – just a very small portion of goat curry with yucca (which we call “yuck-a“).
Dahlandia Hotel Review Recommendation
Had we only stayed 5 nights instead of 6, we would have recommended Dahlandia to you without hesitation. It’s a quirky Colombian resort which is a little rough around the edges, but the place is fun and relaxing, and it really grows on you.
But… we did stay 6 nights, and we can’t ignore the sounds of multiple guests getting ill overnight.
Dahlandia is well reviewed (currently with a score of 8/10) on Booking.com, so this type of issue isn’t likely a regular occurrence. We recommend you read the Dahlandia reviews and decide for yourself.
Alternate Isla Mucura Hotels
Isla Mucura and the surrounding Islas de San Bernardo are a beautiful tropical paradise and should be part of your Colombian itinerary.Booking.com
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Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.
When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).