Although there are far more than 7 reasons why Cartagena, Colombia should be your next trip, I’ve put together my list of the top reasons why you should book a flight to this jewel of the Caribbean immediately. Cartagena truly has it all: stunning colonial architecture, beautiful beaches and islands, world-class cuisine, and romantic vibes at every corner. Plus, it’s a relatively short and inexpensive plane ride from major North American hubs like New York. I found a roundtrip flight from New York for about $400 on Skyscanner.
Cartagena was the first international destination my boyfriend and I visited together, and it made for the perfect romantic escape. As Anthony Bourdain once said, “it’s ludicrous that this place exists and everybody doesn’t want to live here.” Keep reading for my top 7 reasons why you should travel to Cartagena, Colombia ASAP!
1. Getting Lost in the Colorful Colonial Architecture
Wandering Cartagena’s old city will transport you to a different time. Horse-drawn carriages, colorful doors with ornate knockers, and stately colonial courtyards fill the historic walled city. Cartagena’s old town, as well as nearby areas such as trendy Getsemani (where we stayed) are very walkable, making it easy to explore. One of my favorite memories of Cartagena was wandering the old city without a map and no particular destination in mind. Plus, the city becomes even more magical when the sun goes down and the day-tourists empty out—truly one of the most charming, romantic places I’ve ever been.
2. Stunning Boutique Hotels
Cartagena boasts tons of beautiful hotel options for a wide range of budgets. I stayed at Allure Bon Bon in the neighborhood of Getsemani just outside of the walled city. Allure Bon Bon is the more budget-friendly sister hotel to Allure Chocolat located just down the street. One of the best parts of staying at Allure Bon Bon was we were still able to use the stunning rooftop pool at Allure Chocolate (pictured above).
At the top of my wish list for my next trip to Cartagena is staying at the stunning Hotel Casa San Agustin (pictured above and below). Although Hotel Casa San Agustin wasn’t in our budget this time around, we did get a chance to explore the lobby/pool area and eat dinner at the hotel’s Alma Restaurant, which features live music in the historic courtyard from Wednesdays to Sundays.
More options to consider:
- Movich Hotel: luxury (view from the rooftop bar pictured below)
- Mansion Tcherassi: luxury
- Ananda Boutique Hotel: luxury
- Sophia Hotel: luxury
- Casa La Fe: midrange
- NH Cartagena Urban Royal: midrange
- Casa India Catalina: budget
- Bourbon St. Hostal Boutique: budget
3. Delicious Street Food
Did someone say arepas? Because I’m crazy for arepas after having them in Cartagena. Cartagena’s street food scene is seriously on point, with a variety of street food carts located all over the walled city and Getsemani. Two of the best spots are Colombitalia Arepas in Getsemani pictured above left (located across from Cafe Havana) and Elaine Lozano Arepas pictured above right (she operates her cart just outside the Mega Express Pharmacy at the corner of Calle 38 and Carrera 11). Both locations are marked on the map below. If you’re looking for a quick snack between meals, pick a busy looking street cart and try something new!
4. Island Hopping Adventures
A common day trip from Cartagena is taking a boat island hopping to the Islas del Rosario, Isla Grande, and Isla Baru, for white sand beaches such as those at Isla Baru’s famous Playa Blanca. It’s a decent distance to go for a day trip, so if you have the time, staying on the islands for a few days is even better and lets you escape the day-tripper crowd.
A great alternative for those looking to avoid the long, choppy boat ride out to the Rosario Islands is Tierra Bomba, located in the Bay of Cartagena. Opting to skip the crowds, touts, and garbage that plague the busier islands, my boyfriend and I instead did a day trip to Blue Apple Beach House, a beautifully designed boutique hotel located on the more remote Bocachica side of Tierra Bomba. Blue Apple Beach Club is truly an island oasis, reserved for a small handful of overnight guests and a few day-visitors like us. Spending the day at Blue Apple lounging on the beach, playing corn hole and giant Jenga, and sipping cocktails by the pool was one of our favorite experiences of our Cartagena trip.
5. World-Class Dining in Historic Courtyards
I was absolutely blown away by the incredible restaurant scene in Cartagena—in fact, I would even go as far as saying it’s worth a trip for the food alone. Everywhere we turned, there was a new culinary discovery hidden away in a charming courtyard serving up fresh seafood and ceviche. Highlights include Bohemia, Carmen, and Alma (pictured above).
6. Locally-Grown Colombian Coffee
Colombia is renowned for its coffee, and Cartagena has no shortage of coffee shops featuring locally-grown beans. One of the best spots to grab a coffee is bookstore-turned-cafe Abacus Books and Coffee (pictured above right). I could have browsed the books here for hours (and not just because of the AC)!
Another great option you’ll find all over the city is Juan Valdez. Juan Valdez coffee shops are basically the Starbucks of Colombia, and I probably went to a different Juan Valdez location every day I was in Cartagena. The best Juan Valdez cafe in my opinion is located on the second floor just opposite the big yellow clock tower, Monumento Torre Del Reloj, and offers an amazing view (pictured above left) of the Plaza de Los Coches.
7. Vibrant Nightlife
Whether your scene is craft cocktails or lively dance parties in the streets (or both!), Cartagena’s night life will not disappoint. Be sure to check out Alquimico for amazing cocktails and Cafe Havana for live salsa music. Cafe del Mar, located on the old city wall, is a fantastic spot to watch the sunset with a drink in hand.
I hope you enjoyed reading my top 7 reasons why you should book a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Cartagena really is a magical place and I hope that this post will convince you to discover it!
Through Kelsey’s Lens
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