Cartagena, Colombia: Here’s what you need to know
When you travel as often as I do, both for work and leisure, you start to look out for places a little bit out of the norm. While Cancun and Ibiza are beautiful in their own right, they are frequently overrun by tourists. I decided early on that I would start to seek out the lesser walked lands in an attempt to see more of the world than just your cliche tropical travel destinations.
That’s when I came across Cartagena.
This city is the perfect mix of vibrant and old town charm. The streets are often lined with old cobblestone walkways, but it is never a far walk from the coast.
The best part? Cartagena is truly unique, as it is surrounded by 13km of centuries-old colonial stone walls.
The walls were originally constructed in an effort to defend the city from possible pirate attacks and still stand tall today. Although construction concluded in 1796, the seven miles of stone still make for the perfect place to watch the setting sun over the Caribbean Sea today.
Where is Cartagena?
A city in Bolivar, Colombia, Cartagena has a population of 952,024 and is best known for its historic buildings, beautiful beaches, and old architecture.
What is the weather like in Cartagena?
One of the best things about Colombia is that it truly is a year-long destination. That said, December through March are Colombia’s “dry” months, which means that you will be far less likely to get caught in a rain storm if you visit during these times.
Much like any other place unfamiliar to you, Cartagena is about as safe as you make it. As long as you stay aware of your surroundings and play it safe, you should be okay. As a matter of fact, at least according to many tourists, Cartagena is one of the safest places that you can possibly visit in Colombia, as it has thousands of police officers working in the city alone.
According to the 2016 Colombia Crime & Safety Report, the most common types of crime include, but are not limited to, muggings, assaults, cell phone theft, credit card fraud, and burglaries. These crimes can be avoided if tourists walk in groups, always stay on guard, and familiarize themselves with the city.
Can you drink the water in Cartagena?
Here’s the deal when it comes to water: It is a simple fact that water is more difficult to source in tropical regions. However, Cartagena’s water supply IS technically safe to drink. According to Acuacar, “the water that comes from taps from the Cartagena aqueduct system complies with what is established in the regulations described in Decree 1575 in Resolution 2115 of 2007 of the Ministry of Social Protection, which set the criteria to ensure that Water quality is “drinkable”.
Still, many tourists live by the “better safe than sorry” philosophy, so the choice is ultimately up to you. Although it is technically safe to drink, there is always a risk when you are consuming something you are not used to consuming. Bottled water is a guaranteed safe bet.
Although Cartagena is primarily known for its beautiful colonial buildings, there is a fairly lively nightlife scene as well. Here is a short list of some of the best bars and clubs to hit up when you’re in town.
- Bazurto Social Club– Open Thursday – Saturday: 7:00 pm – 4:00 am
- Cafe Havana– Open Wednesday – Sunday: 8:30 pm – 4:00 am
- Donde Fidel– Open Monday: 4:00 pm – 12:00 am, Tuesday – Sunday: 12:00 am – 12:00 pm, 4:00pm – 12:00 am
- Mister Babilla– Open Monday – Sunday: 7:00 pm – 4:00 am
Cartagena is truly a sight to behold. With gorgeous temperatures year-round and almost constant sunshine, it seems only natural that the beach be a stop on your tour of the beautiful Colombian city. That said, there are plenty of beaches to choose from, each with their own distinct vibe. Depending on what you are looking for, there is definitely something for everyone.
Here is a short list of the beaches you should absolutely consider checking out while on vacation, both for their amazing views and their relaxed, chill vibe.
- Rosario Islands
- Playa Blanca
- Tierra Bomba
- La Boquilla
How to fly to Cartagena
Rafael Núñez International Airport, Cartagena’s main airport, happens to be the largest airport in the country’s northern region as far as passenger movement goes. It is located between the Caribbean coast and the Ciénaga de la Virgen marsh, in the center of Crespo, which is a neighborhood in northern Cartagena.
Several United States airlines fly direct to Cartagena, making it a convenient trip without pesky stops and layovers. The following airlines offer non-stop flights from the US to Cartagena:
- Delta Airlines
- JetBlue Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Avianca Airlines
The flight takes just over 5 hours from New York City’s JFK airport, and round trip tickets typically cost around $500.
Cartagena’s Best Hotels
Description: This 51 room luxury hotel located in the heart of Cartagena is built in the style of a 16th century building. Just a few features that set this apart from other hotels in the area are the rooftop terrace and swimming pool, the shared lounge, an on-site gourmet restaurant, and free Wi-Fi for all guests. Each guest room comes with a 40″ flat-screen television, a private bathroom with complementary toiletries, and a large wardrobe.
Rate per night: $235
Description: Voted one of the best hotels in Cartagena of 2017, Hotel Casa San Agustin is worth every penny spent on a room. Its unique architecture will charm you from the moment you step out of the sweltering Colombian heat, and the convenience of being right in the center of the city cannot be beat. With an overwhelming number of positive reviews, it is difficult to pinpoint just a few things that make this hotel so great. Between food, drinks, staff, location, and cleanliness, Hotel Casa San Agustin receives high marks across the board.
Rate per night: $378
Description: If you are looking something a bit more budget-friendly, look no further than San Pedro Hotel Spa. Guests receive poolside breakfast, as well as a complementary 30 minute foot and hand massage so they truly feel like luxury. Many guests reviewing the hotel have stated that the San Pedro is a small, relaxing oasis amid the chaos of Cartagena. One complaint, however, is that the hotel’s pool is a bit small in size and slightly exposed, so it may not be for everyone. But for the price point, I would say that this boutique hotel is a definite contender for all to consider when booking their Cartagena vacation.
Rate per night: $179
Cartagena AirBnB’s and Luxury Villas
Pets are allowed. Home is suitable for events, includes Wi-Fi, and comes equipped with all essentials.
Close to the supermarket, a convenience store, street food, restaurants and immediate cabs. Pets are allowed. Home includes Wi-Fi, and comes equipped with all essentials.
Housekeeper included. Stunning ocean views. Includes private pool, internet, and a formal dining room with seating for 9 people.
Freshly remodeled villa. Cook and maid service included. Includes private pool, internet, balcony area. Perfect for families.
Rooftop terrace. Housekeeper included. Also includes private deck/balcony area and internet.