Here is my go-to travel guide to a perfect vacation full of touring, drinking, relaxing and eating your way through this coastal Colombian gem. Cartagena is one of the most picturesque and culturally inspiring cities I have ever visited. I HIGHLY recommend looking into booking a trip! A little about my stay and a to the point Cartagena travel guide…
What to do in Cartagena
Explore Old Town
You have to stroll around the beautiful stone-walled Old City. It is located right along the Caribbean coast. It has an amazing historical story, but I’m not a historian, so take a look for yourself. You need at least one full day to get lost around the Walled City and fall in love. It was so romantic, colorful, oh and the plazas and cobblestone streets!
Try a Kola Roman
You can find these literally anywhere, it’s a delicacy. It was their special cola. Wasn’t a fan, but I’m sure people out there will love it. But just go ahead and check it off of your Colombian Bucket List.
Try Local Fruits and Fresh Juices/Meet the Palenqueras
When researching things to do in Cartagena, I saw all of these beautiful photos of these beautiful ladies! So I went on a mission to find them. Luckily, they aren’t that hard to find. They are all over the Walled City, ready to get you fat with fruit and ready to pose for a photo. I paid 12,000 COP for more fruit than I could ever imagine eating and a mini photo shoot between myself and my boyfriend!
Take a Horse Carriage Ride
For a romantic sight seeing tour of the Walled City, try a horse carriage ride. Catch one anywhere around the Walled City in the evening. Don’t be scared to negotiate the price for your ride.
Watch the Sunset at Cafe del Mar
My boyfriend and I went the first night we were in Cartagena. It gets crowded fast! But the views are spectacular. They have a full drink and dinner menu, however you are probably best off grabbing dinner after the sunset at another restaurant. Grab a couple of drinks at Cafe del Mar, and get there early so that you can grab a good table right along the wall and prime view to watch the sunset!
Take a Day Trip to an Island
This is an absolute must! The beaches in Cartagena aren’t that nice, but luckily there are a ton of islands right around the coast. Most blogs recommend Playa Blanca, but after reading a lot about the pushy vendors, I decided that I wanted something a little more relaxing where I wasn’t fighting vendors off. I opted for Blue Apple Beach House. And I am happy to say that I made the right decision. Blue Apple provided a boat to take us out to the island. We opted for the earlier pick up time to take advantage of the full day at their resort. We picked chairs by the pool, however, looking back I probably would have reserved the beach cabanas instead. But there is honestly no bad area on their resort. We were served a beautiful lunch on their patio overlooking the infinity pool and the beach. I would highly recommend Blue Apple to anyone visiting Cartagena.
There is only one vendor on the beach, it seemed like they had an arrangement with the hotel to rent out use of their jet ski. My boyfriend and I went out for a ride on the jet ski, I came to the realization that either I don’t like jet skis or i don’t like riding in the ocean. But overall we had such a good time. You can also negotiate the price of the jet ski too!
Visit the Local Monuments, Plazas and Churches
We spent a whole day touring famous landmarks in Cartagena. The city has its touristy side, so we were sure to check out some of the big landmarks. We made our first stop at San Felipe’s Castle. The views from the top were breath taking. We opted not to do the audio or guided tour and decided to explore the castle ourselves. Another great sightseeing must is St. Pedro Claver’s Sanctuary, it’s in the Walled City. Read up on the story before you go, but it was very interesting.
Side note: Cartagena is hot, and humid. Very humid. Dress accordingly, wear minimal makeup, bring water and possibly a towel to wipe sweat.
Where to Stay
Allure Chocolat Hotel by Karisma
Conveniently located just a couple blocks outside of the Walled City. We stayed a couple nights at this hotel before going to explore the other side of the city. I loved Allure! The building had an elegant Colombian cultural vibe, but beautifully renovated. The staff was extremely friendly and took care of our every need. Breakfast was included with our stay and they displayed a huge buffet every morning on the rooftop. All of the outdoor living areas were to breathtaking.
Hyatt Regency, Cartagena
We spent the second half of our vacation at this resort. We wanted to see the other side of Cartagena, Bocagrande. Turns out that there is a lot more to do near the Walled City, but Bocagrande was beautiful with views of the ocean and more modern side of the city. The Hyatt was an amazing resort. I have never seen such beautiful views. I am extremely happy that we stayed on this side of town towards the end of our trip, it allowed us to be a little bit more lazy and just enjoy the resort.
A Few Things to Know Before You Go
Is It Safe?
I felt completely safe! Yes, there are dangerous areas, but sorry to share some bad news… but there are dangerous areas right here in the U.S. Just like anywhere else, be aware of your surroundings and have some street smarts. Go out and explore the world, don’t let fear overtake you.
They Speak Spanish Right?
Yes, yes they do. I knew a good handful before going, but I am not that great at speaking. Luckily it is a very touristy city, so there are many people that speak English. There are a good handful of basic things that you should know how to say though. But don’t stress yourself. We got around just okay with our translate apps when we really needed it.
Is the Water Safe to Drink?
Hmm, yeah. For the most part, I think it’s okay to say the water is okay. Choose bottled water when you have the option and don’t forget to be mindful of your other favorite bottled drinks.
How is the Weather?
Hot. Very hot. Not crazy hot. But hot enough. Oh and humid. Very humid. My pressed hair didn’t last very long. The week we went, it showed that it would rain just about the entire trip. Fortunately the forecast every morning would change and we had the chance to explore Cartagena in the beautiful sun.
How Long Should I Stay?
Anywhere between three to six days. Three will give you enough time to see everything that you need to see. No more than six if you want your vacation to be a little more relaxing.
I hope you enjoyed my Cartagena travel guide! I hope to do a ton more of these in the future!