An unforgettable vacation awaits in Cartagena, a coastal Caribbean city with cobblestone streets, fabulous beaches, world-class restaurants, historic places and outstanding entertainment. Set in sunny, tropical weather, Cartagena hotels are some of the finest in Colombia and cater year-round to an energetic international crowd.
Things to See
Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of its most popular attractions is the walled-off Old Town, an area with a 16th-century Spanish ambiance attained from several architectural gems. Here you’ll find 400-year-old plazas, meticulously maintained Colonial-era mansions, stunning, 300-year-old fortresses, plus historic churches and museums.
Head downtown and stop to marvel at the massive Puerta del Reloj (“clock gate”), which is the entry point to Plaza de Los Coches square. Stroll and shop for Colombian chocolates and sweets at Portal de Los Dulces, then visit La Plaza de San Pedro to admire fine art at the renowned Museo de Arte Moderno, or military exhibits at Cartagena Naval Museum. At Plaza de Bolivar you can walk through La Biblioteca Bartolome Calvo, Cartagena's most important library, then gazing at the 450-year-old Iglesia/Claustro Santa Domingo church, before pausing to enjoy lunch at a sidewalk café in the Plaza Santa Domingo.
For further exploration, travel by taxi to La Popa, the city's highest point, or spend a day on lower ground at Las Islas del Rosario, Cartagena's national park, surrounded by pristine beaches, coral reefs, and sapphire water. The islands are about 28 miles from the city, but you should be able to book a boat easily through your hotel or the Muelle Turistico harbor. Be sure to include a trip to the Acuario San Martin for a dolphin show.
Hotels in Cartagena
Cartagena hotels range from sleek, modern skyscrapers and luxurious high-end beach resorts to boutique rooms in historic buildings. As Colombia's top honeymoon destination, Cartagena also has plenty romantic bed and breakfasts, and hotels catering to new couples. You'll even find refined Colonial hotels in Cartagena if you’re looking for a truly singular stay.
December and January are exceptionally busy; consider booking your hotel well in advance if you're planning to visit during these months. Also consider booking outside of the period between mid-October throughout November, to avoid having your vacation impacted by seasonal flooding.
Where to Stay
Most foreign tourists prefer staying in Old Town when visiting Cartagena. The backpacking Bohemian crowd might prefer staying in burgeoning, budget-friendly Getsemani, the inexpensive outer-walled city, while Capilla del Mar is favored by beach lovers wanting the convenience of an all-inclusive resort or luxurious oceanfront hotel.
How to Get to Cartagena
Rafael Nunez Airport is just two miles from Old Town Cartagena. Bus transportation may be ideal if you’re traveling from another Colombian city, although for comfort’s sake you may want to spend the extra cash for a plane ticket if coming from Medellin or Bogota, which are 13 hours and 20 hours away via ground transportation, respectively.
Once in Cartagena, you'll find exploring the city on foot is a great way to get around, particularly in Old Town. Taxis are best if you plan to explore popular sites and attractions outside the area. You can also find great tourist information at La Plaza de la Aduana, and the Torre del Reloj to help make your Cartagena getaway an amazing experience.
Leave the well-paved streets of Cartagena for the gravel roads of fishing villages and turquoise waters of the Caribbean.