You may not think luxury when you think of Colombia, but Cartagena has a bevy of chic, boutique hotels. This deluxe room with a terrance at Hotel Casa San Agustin will make it hard to leave to explore! But if you manage to, you’re welcomed back after a day of sweating with cool wet hand towels, a dip in their fresh water pool, and their cucumber house drink.
Details at Hotel Casa San Agustin.
The pool at Casa San Agustin is flanked by a 400 year old wall originally built to keep pirates out of the city.
On every street there seems to be art-laden sidewalks with bright poppy paintings of colonial buildings, women with fruit on their heads, and beautiful beach and jungle scenes. And the prices are even better!
The city also boasts impressive collections in galleries and musuems, as seen here at Museo de Arte Moderno (Musuem of Modern Art) in the city center.
You can’t go to Colombia and NOT have a cup of their smooth, famous coffee.
Sip on a delicious cafe in heart of the Getsemani district.
Due to its colonial history, Cartagena is a mix of many influences and it shows in its buildings.
Feasts for the eyes include Spanish rooftops, vibrant churches, balconies bursting with vines and flowers, and railings that seem straight out of the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Door knockers are also prevalent in the walled city. Back in colonial times, the kind of door knocker showed what your trade was (Fish for fisherman, lizards for the wealthy, and lions for generals and soldiers).
Every street has vendors haggling hats, necklaces, and random bits and bobs. But if you’re looking for a more posh way to spend your pesos, there are high end boutiques that are wedged between homes, schools and restaurants. Casa Chiqui, pictured here, is an eclectic mix of Colombian, South American and South East Asian collectables. Spend hours drooling over things like candles, hand-woven baskets and furniture.
Colombia produces the majority of the world’s emeralds, so if you have a bit to splurge, buy them here! These raw emerald earrings, from a store named Lucy, are set in 24k gold and have a more artistic feel than their polished counterparts (and a better price!).
Get prepared to stuff yourself silly with local favorites like coconut rice, smashed and fried banana, and the fresh catch of the day. All their vegetables are amazingly tasty, even plain salads.
Nothing like waking up to fresh breakfasts every day. The fruit there is so delicious. I ate bread every day and didn’t gain an ounce, thanks to none of their fresh food being processed.
Cartagena’s coast is dotted with islands waiting for the weary traveler to take a day of relaxation. Find your way to the Ports (muelle de los Pegasos) and you can take a boat to one for about $20 a person.
Not all islands are created equal so do your research. We used Cartagena Connections to set up a day trip to avoid the hassle of the harbor.
They set us up with one of their most exclusive islands, Isla Carolina, which only accepts a few people a day to maintain the peace, quiet and personal attention. A gourmet lunch and wine was included!
This island doesn’t have your usual sandy beaches, but docks with ladders to climb down into the crystal clear water.
Take a stroll through the island (it will take you about 10 minutes, it’s very small!) to check out the mangroves, birds and other wildlife.
Ah, the many doors of Cartagena. Each one is unique in design and color. You will find it hard not to stop and snap a pic of every single one.
The colors of the city will shoot new energy into you!
You can venture outside the city limits (I suggest booking through Cartagena Connections) to try new things, like climbing to the top of this volcano, climbing down into it, and floating in its weightless, bottomless pit of mud. It is said the mud has healing properties and is great for the skin.
Climb down (CAREFULLY, you will now be very slippery) and walk 2 minutes to the lake to have local women help you rinse off. Make sure you tip them!
Lastly it’s the people. They come in all shades from tan to the deepest of browns, and are truly happy with what they have.
They are warm but will not be taken advantage of. This beautiful woman selling fruit will chase you down if you take her picture without buying fruit first. But don’t let that discourage you, it’s less than $2 USD and the smile is worth it! If you attempt to speak Spanish, the locals are even nicer. They will cook for you, hug you and tell you to enjoy their country!