Hey guys! I’m so excited to tell you about Cartagena. If you haven’t yet, be sure to go to my Instagram or Facebook page and check out all of the pictures there as well!
This past year, my cousin got engaged to an amazing woman who was born in Colombia! She and my cousin went to Colombia to visit her family and they really fell in love with the city of Cartagena. So, they decided to return there to get married – lucky for all of us who were invited! 🙂
You might have heard some disparaging things about traveling to Colombia. While the country as a whole does have some safety issues, I can promise you that Cartagena is a safe and beautiful city! We didn’t have any issues that you don’t encounter in New York City or any other major city in the United States. We felt safe walking out and about day and night. Cartagena is a very tourist friendly city. If you do some research, you’ll see that. The Old City is walled in, so you are particularly more safe inside of the walls. They have done an incredible job of restoring the city. There are some of the most beautiful hotels, buildings, and restaurants you will ever see! So, please don’t be hesitant to explore traveling here. As always, if you look for trouble, you can find it. But, we stayed in highly regarded places and had no problems.
We flew to Cartagena from Pittsburgh, PA. There are flights out of the U.S. to Cartagena from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We flew from Pittsburgh to Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale. From Ft. Lauderdale it is less than a 3 hour plane ride to Cartagena. The planes were large and quite comfortable. We had an easy time getting in and out of customs, too. We did have some trouble with our bags not making it onto the connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale. We ended up having to stay overnight in Ft. Lauderdale because of this. There is only one flight to Cartagena a day and we missed it because my big bag didn’t make it to Florida, of course! Haha. I would say that it’s probably best to plan to stay overnight in Florida and then fly to Cartagena the following day, because you do have to go through security again in Florida after getting your bags from your flight there at baggage claim. There’s about a 35 minute window for you to do that and catch the plane. It’s a bit tight. I think it can be done in one day, but that’s if all goes your way! 🙂
If I had to describe Cartagena in one word it would be VIBRANT! The city is so full of life! The people have a contagious energy, the colors are so bright everywhere you look, there’s gorgeous greenery and flowers on almost every building, and music and dancing in the streets! The food is so colorful and flavorful, and the drinks are delicious, too, haha! There are so many different kinds of shops to explore as well. You can find high-end fashion here as well as affordable boutiques and lots of souvenirs! We had so much fun just exploring the city every day and night. There is a ton of history in this city, so if you enjoy history as much as I do, you will love this place. Although it is really hot in Cartagena, it’s also right on the ocean, so you do get a nice breeze and feel that irresistible tropical vibe!
Where To Stay
There are so many incredible places to stay in Cartagena. I would highly recommend staying inside of the city walls. You really get a feel for the city and it’s history by staying in one of the restored homes or larger hotels. There are lots of old homes that have been transformed into gorgeous small, boutique hotels. We were lucky enough to get to stay in one of these called Hotel Casa del Arzobispado.
Hotel Casa del Arzobispado is perfectly located in the city. There are amazing restaurants, historical sites, and shops within feet of the hotel. Everything is close enough to walk to, but you can always catch a cab for much cheaper than you would in the U.S. There are also horse and carriage rides circling around and the hotel provides bikes for those who want to get some exercise, too!
The hotel has 10 rooms total. We stayed in the Grand Suite, which is the biggest of the rooms in the hotel! It was one of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed. The room had gorgeous high ceilings, marble, wood, and coral detailing, an imperial king size bed, a balcony, huge walk-in closet, an enormous bathroom, and views of the pool, as well as access to the rooftop where you can look out over the entire city! It was so relaxing and luxurious. I wish I could have moved in!
The hotel can arrange for you to a have massage therapist come to your room and give you a massage! I did this. It was amazing! There is also breakfast served in a dining room right outside of the room until late morning which is so great. If you are anything like us, we like to enjoy dinner later in the evening and end up sleeping in. So, a late breakfast was perfect! We did not have any noise complaints at all. It was so quiet and tranquil at this hotel, I would give it 5 stars!
Another amazing hotel in Cartagena that you should look at is the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. This is where the wedding took place, so we got to spend some time here as well. It is beyond beautiful! The Spanish colonial architecture is just stunning. It used to be an old convent! It has a gorgeous pool, ocean views, and a fabulous restaurant as well!
If you are looking to use hotel points, there are hotel chains just outside of the walls of the city. A lot of my family members stayed at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena. It is a really nice hotel as well! The room rates are great. It also has an infinity rooftop pool that overlooks the city and the ocean!
Things To Do:
As I mentioned earlier, Cartagena is full of history! Cartagena is a major port city founded in 1533! We got to do a walking and car ride tour with a local citizen who was born and raised in the city. His name is Sandy Cuadrado. Our hotel set up the tour. He is so well known in the city, everyone was waving hello! So, I’m sure if you ask for him by name your hotel can help you find him and book a tour with him. He showed us around the city, the historial sites, where the schools used to be, the Spanish Inquisition, the cathedrals, popular restaurants, bars, and shops, and so much more! Then, we got in his car and he drove us to the fortress, Castillo de San Filipe de Barajas, outside of the city walls, as well as Las Bovedas, which used to be a dungeon but is now filled with souvenir shops!
There are an endless amount of shops to browse through. There’s also a lot of street vendors around selling souvenirs. You will find lots of shops have really cute straw bags, hats, and other items that are unique to Cartagena. They also have really great quality emeralds! You’ll find them all over the city. Cartagena is a very stylish city. You’ll notice that the shops carry very fashionable clothing and the people who live there and visit are dressed to the nines! It was so fun to go shopping here! One of my favorite boutiques was Laetitia. I bought quite a few items here. Such beautiful quality, too! You’ll also want to check out St. Dom and Goretty Medina. They have gorgeous clothing and accessories you won’t find at home in the U.S.!
Since you are in the Carribean, you gotta go to the beach!
There are beaches right outside of the city walls. We were told you can go here, but you must should leave your valuable personal items in your hotel. There are a lot of vendors that stroll the beaches and can be a bit of a nuisance while you are trying to relax.
The local tour guide, Sandy, told us our best bet for a beach experience while visiting Cartagena is the Rosario Islands. The islands are an hour away by car or boat, but so worth the trip – we’ve heard, haha. We didn’t make it out to the islands on our trip. But, my family did, and I trust their judgement. Plus, everyone in the city says it is a must! So, when we return, we will be sure to hit up these islands for some sun and sand time. The snorkeling I’m told is amazing there! The Rosario Islands are a Natural National Park that protects one of the largest coral reefs in the Colombian Caribbean Coast. There are aquariums and open sea oceanariums found here as well, so there are lots of activities to do if you make your way out to the islands.
Where To Eat:
There are so many incredible restaurants in Cartagena, it’s seriously hard to go wrong. We had a few favorites, though so I’m going to share those with you! The seafood and ceviche in Cartagena is amazing! My favorite thing there though are the plantains. I’ll eat them any way that they will give them to me! Fried, sweet, baked, you name it. I can eat plantains all day long, LOL!
First up is Maria. We loved this restaurant so much! The decor is so cute! I love their chandaliers. Very instagrammable. I had a shrimp dish here on top of some fried plantains, and it was to die for! I actually went back for it again because it was THAT good. It’s great for lunch or dinner.
For a romantic evening, you must go to Restaurante 1621. Located in the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara hotel, the ambiance here is second to none! It is so beautifully decorated and intimate. We were seated in the garden area where there is lush greenery and open air. It’s absolutely stunning. The food was incredible. They cater very well to dietary restrictions, too. It was one of the most exquisite nights of my life!
We had a lovely little lunch at Candé one afternoon. This is such a cute restaurant. It’s so airy, and light! The menu is fantastic as was the food! Ryan got a whole lobster here for lunch! It’s the perfect spot for some rosé and ceviché!
We ended our stay at the lovely Restaurante Club de Pesca. This is another very romantic location, especially in the evening! It sits right on the water. It is a short cab ride outside of the city walls, but so worth it! We had the most private, candlelit little spot just inches away from the ocean. We could literally hear the fish diving right below our feet. They were so accommodating to my dietary needs, too! They specially made some gluten free bread, and even did a gluten and dairy free dessert plate with several different desserts on it! It was the perfect end to our amazing trip!
Overall, we absolutely loved Cartagena. It has a special place in our hearts now! I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to have been able to travel and see this beautiful city. It really makes you feel alive! If you have the chance to go, I would highly recommend it! If you have any questions at all, I would be more than happy to help you answer them. Safe travels, my friends! <3