So excited to finally share the guide for Cartagena! I went to Cartagena to celebrate my cousin’s bachelorette and it was my first time in Colombia. I had such an amazing time and already want to go back with Thomas! The city is as vibrant as its people – and you will want to take photos in every corner. The food scene was probably one of my favorite parts of this trip – I can’t recall having one bad meal. Cartagena is definitely booming in the world of hospitality – you can basically eat your way around the city and learn so much. I was there for 7 days which was a long time – next time I would definitely split the trip between Cartagena and Medellin. Seven days is a long time and by the end of the trip, I was a bit overwhelmed with the heat and excessive amount of vendors in the street.
I would also advise you to make as many day trips to the islands as possible. The beaches in Cartagena are not nice but getting to the islands is super easy! No trip to Cartagena is complete without escaping to the Islas del Rosario or Islas de Baru – so plan your days wisely so you make the most of it. As always, please feel free to leave me a comment with any questions you might have!
Casa San Augustin – A dreamy property and one that I highly recommend especially if you’re traveling as a couple. If you can’t stay here – then definitely have dinner at Alma. Scroll down to read more on that.
Airbnb – Probably the best option for the cost and location. There are a ton of great options online and super affordable. The homes in Cartagena are beautiful so why not! Just make sure you stay inside the walled city for safety reasons. I felt very safe the entire time but I do think is all about the location.
Casa Pombo – Okay, I’ll warn you now. This place is VERY expensive but it’s absolutely beautiful so I had to share lol. Maybe for a special occasion?? 🙂
Alma – We celebrated my birthday in this restaurant…it’s inside the Hotel Casa San Augustin and it’s absolutely beautiful! The walls are made of rustic stone and the entire space is just breathtakingly beautiful. Definitely make reservations here for a special night.
Cevicheria – This spot is on every list as a must and I agree. I’m not even sure how we got seated so quickly since the wait time is usually 45 min! You can’t make reservations ahead of time so get there early and make the line because the dishes are totally worth it.
Carmen – This was our final dinner in Cartagena and one of my absolute favorite. The dishes were inventive, creative and the cocktails were top-notch!
Maria – We didn’t eat here but it was on my list! Check it out and add it to yours because the reviews are great.
Harry’s Bar – I arrived earlier to Cartagena than anyone else in our group so I chose this spot for dinner and drinks for the people watching! I recommend ordering ceviche and calamari.
Alquimico – We basically went here every night for drinks and good vibes. This spot has three floors and a rooftop! The whole thing seemed like a place you would find in Brooklyn – totally hip and fun. Make sure to check out El Baron as well!
Epoca Espresso Bar – Great breakfast and coffee. We came here a couple of times during our trip. It’s also a great spot to take a break! I sat at the bar with a cup of coffee and a book – a perfect start to my morning. 🙂
Restaurant Palenqueras Getsemani – This spot is outside the walled city but if you’re strolling the neighborhood of Getsemani than stop by this restaurant for drinks and snacks.
El Kilo – Another great seafood spot! This is the place for you to order a ceviche dish and cocktails. Make reservations a few days before you plan to eat dinner.
Shop, Shop, Sh0p – There are tons of shops in Cartagena so leave some room in your luggage. 🙂 A few of my favorite shops were Agua De Leon (bought my mother a beautiful head wrap), Casa Chiqui for home decor and jewelry, Cano Jewelry, for books go to Abaco Libreria Cafe, Loto Del Sur for delicious smelling skin and bath products.
Street Art In Getsanami – This lovely neighborhood is outside of the wall but safe and easy to get to. Don’t miss out strolling through this area because it definitely had a more local vibe. It also has great street art!
Explore The Walled City – This is probably where you will be staying but if you’re not, don’t forget to take time to walk and get lost in the beautiful streets of Cartagena (with caution, of course!). There are a lot of street vendors so I advise you to get up early so that you can walk the streets in peace. Getting out early was my favorite part of the day…you can catch a glimpse of what life is like for the locals who live in Cartagena and take photographs.
Go Dancing at Cafe Havana for old-school salsa or La Movida for a younger and more modern crowd.
DAY TRIPS FROM CARTAGENA:
Bendita Beach – I call this a slice of heaven. This private island is part of the Rosario Islands and only 45 min away from Cartagena by boat. This is a MUST – we loved it so much that we went two days in a row. The island is tiny but the grounds are beautiful and tranquil. It’s also a wildlife conservatory with two monkeys just hanging around the island (I carried and played with my first monkey!). The local workers do an amazing job of keeping the grounds clean and the service was wonderful. Don’t expect luxury but do expect the most beautiful turquoise waters and peaceful island.
Blue Apple Beach House – We didn’t make it here but we heard great things about it! This is perfect for groups because you can just rent a day bed/cabana and hang out for the day. Just make sure to make reservations a week or two in advance.
Take a boat to Playa Blanca – A super popular public beach so get there early because it gets very busy. It also has a ton of vendors but if you don’t mind – this is a great option. I particularly prefer a beach with fewer people!
Day trip to Isla Baru – This is also a popular destination. Be aware that unlike Isla Del Rosario, these are public beaches and the quality as expected is not the same. For example, our hotel suggested we go to Cholon which is known as the “party island” so since we were here for a bachelorette, I thought it would be perfect! Well, it didn’t turn out so well – when we arrived, the water looked dirty and the stench was terrible. The locals were even charging us to use the restroom – luckily one of the guys in charge of the boats was able to take us out of there and bring us to a better beach. So what is the moral of the story? DO NOT GO TO CHOLON. Instead, visit Playa Azul which is part of Baru Islands and hang out at Agua Azul Beach House. The staff was lovely and the food was great!
Most restaurants accept credit cards but it’s good to have cash on hand for vendors and day trips.
I was in Cartagena for 7 days and found it to be a little too long. So maybe do 4 days in the walled city and the rest in one of the islands! People also recommended visiting Medellin or Cali which are a short plane ride away.
I felt safe the entire time I was in Cartagena but I always advise people to travel with caution. Don’t walk around poor lit streets late at night and make sure to stay with your group, especially when you go out dancing etc.