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February 4, 2020

cartagena, colombia travel guide

Cartagena Colombia Travel Guide

December 2019

Right before Christmas, Mike & I headed on our most recent adventure– Cartagena, Colombia! Mike is fluent in Spanish and we knew that we wanted our next destination to be a Spanish speaking country. Both of us have had friends travel to Cartagena and only had amazing things to say about it, so we booked ourselves a 5-night stay in this Caribbean city.

Getting to Cartagena: There is an airport that’s just a 15 minute drive from the old city (the best place to stay). The total flight time from Boston was about 6 hours and a HUGE bonus is that Cartagena was in the same time zone, so no jet lag! We arranged ahead for airport transfer from our hotel, which costs us about $20.

Where We Stayed:

Staying at Casa Claver Loft Boutique Hotel was one of the BEST decisions we made on this trip! The Old City in Cartagena is filled with soooo many small hotels, it was a little overwhelming at first. I ended up choosing this place because of its central location, included breakfast, and let’s not forget the gorgeous rooftop pool. The staff was so friendly and gave us local recommendations, helped us book a spa day, & set up transportation. This place was middle-of-the-road price wise compared to other hotels in the Old City, and we found it to be a great value.

Favorite Bars:

  • Rooftop: Movich Hotel – The sunset views were stellar our first night in the city! (see photo below)
  • Dancing: Cafe Havana – We went on Thursday night, got there early to get a seat at the bar, and had an amazing seat to watch the live salsa band & people dancing. Don’t miss the mojitos here!
  • Atmosphere: Alquimico – This 3 story bar has a different vibe on each level and is the type of place where the bartenders have probably earned the name “mixologist.” On top of good drinks, we also had great tapas here.
Movich Hotel Rooftop Bar

Favorite Restaurants:

  • Restaurante La Casa de Socorro – This was recommended to us by 2 different people and ended up being one of our favorite places! We went there for lunch one day and it was fun to see how locals really took time to make lunch a big, important meal of the day. I had a shrimp & rice dish that was to die for.
  • La Cevicheria – This place has Anthony Bourdain’s stamp of approval, and we’d have to agree. It can get busy here, so making a reservation or going early is the move.

Things to Do:

  • Day Trip to the Islands: There are many choices when it comes to spending a day on the islands off the coast of Cartagena, but 2 friends recommended the same place so it made for an easy choice. Blue Apple Beach House is a resort about 30 minutes off the coast of Cartagena, where you can spend the day lounging by their pool & on the beach. Y’all, this place is what Instagram dreams are made of. We had such a relaxing day reading & napping by the beach on our day bed… would definitely recommend this day trip!
  • Coffee Shops: It was hot during the days. Like in the 90’s with what felt like 1000% humidity. After lunch, we loved ducking into coffee shops to enjoy an afternoon Colombian coffee while relaxing in the A/C. Our favorite was Cafe San Alberto.
  • Wandering the streets of the Old City: As I was researching our trip to Cartagena, I kept seeing all of these beautiful photos of the vibrant streets of Cartagena. But like anything on the internet, it’s always hard to tell if these photos were taken super early in the mornings before crowds, or if they only look like that during a particular season of the year, or if there’s just one or two beautiful blocks and the rest of the city is meh. But SO not the case! The Old City in Cartagena is street, after street, after street of beautiful & colorful buildings with florals and greenery everywhere. One of our favorite things to do was just wander the streets (you really can’t get lost within the walls of the city, so it makes it easy to aimlessly wander), taking photos & admiring the sights.

Things to Know:

  • Street Vendors: One thing to know ahead of time is as you’re walking in the busy parts of Cartagena, there are LOTS of street vendors trying to sell you everything from water to street food to clothing & jewelry. With a simple, “no gracias” they’ll let you be, but it can definitely be overwhelming at first.
  • Safety: A lot of people asked us if we felt safe while we were there and the answer is yes! We pretty much stayed within the walled city and Getsemani neighborhoods, and definitely felt safe as we walked around day & night.
  • Popular Spot to Skip: Cafe del Mar is a popular bar along the wall of the Old City that’s a well known place to watch the sunset. We found it to be really crowded and a bit pricier than other spots. Our recommendation would be that you can skip this spot.

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