I find myself looking back at the gorgeous photos from Cartagena. It’s one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever been. Cartagena is a blogger’s dream. Every street, every cafe, and every rooftop is perfect for a photo opt.
I’ve never been on vacation I didn’t love, but there are always a few things I would change or do a little different the next time around. In my opinion, you can explore Cartagena in 2 full days. So, If I could do it over again, I would stay in Cartagena for two days and then spend the remaining two days at a beach resort at one of the neighboring islands.
Places to Stay
Airbnb: There are a ton of affordable and super lovely places to rent through Airbnb in Cartagena. But fair warning, bring some extra toilet paper. Toilet paper is a luxury in this country, so the host only gave us one roll for the whole week. Other than that, we loved our Airbnb experience.
The Tcherassi Hotel: If you are obsessed with The Bachelor like me, then you must check out this hotel. This hotel is where Amanda Stanton and Lauren Bushnell stayed on their trip to Cartagena. I started looking into Cartagena as a vacation destination after seeing all of their fabulous posts. You can find Amanda’s blog post on Cartagena here. Jon and I attempted to have dinner at Vera, a restaurant located in this hotel. Amanda raves about the crab ravioli in her blog post. Unfortunately, the restaurant was undergoing construction while we were there.
Movich Hotel: This hotel has the best pool view in the city. You can see the old town and the new town (Bocagrande) all from their infinity pool. However, if you are not staying here, they do charge a day pass to use their pool. You are allowed to order drinks and food at the rooftop bar that’s by the pool. I had read on a few other blog posts that you can get away with using the pool. Jon and I attempted it since no one was there, but we were sadly kicked out.
Townhouse Boutique Hotel: This hotel was by far my favorite to visit. The whole staff is super friendly, and the atmosphere is trendy. We loved the rooftop pool here and even returned to enjoy the sunset here.
Blue Apple Beach House: If I could plan our trip all over again, I would stay at this place for at least two nights. Jon and I purchased a day pass here, but after seeing the property and talking to the other guests, I wish we would have planned to stay here. The room prices were super affordable, and you can even stay in a little hut with a private plunge pool looking out to the ocean. I highly recommend looking into this hidden gem.
Cartagena is known for fantastic coffee and is the third highest coffee producing country in the world. The coffee here is said to have a sweetness with a nutty undertone. Every morning we started our day at a coffee shop for breakfast. Check out my favorites below.
Abaco Cafe y Libros: Coffee + books= very happy me. This little coffee shop has a fun vibe. They don’t have much for breakfast, but the coffee is great, and so is the wifi.
Epoca: We visited this place twice during our stay. Jon loved their bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, and I adored their lattes. Every latte comes with a little shortbread cookie on the side. Small details get me every time.
Se Volvio PrisPri Coffee Shop: Jon and I stumbled upon this cute place. I loved their menu, giant bowls of fruit and yummy cappuccino. The decor in here was favorite. I told Jon I wish we had a beach house to decorate just like this cafe. Teal, white, wood and brick with a ton of distressed details. You must put this on your list.
San Alberto: We spent our last morning in Cartagena at this coffee shop. They only have pastries for food, but they make a great latte. We sat upstairs in a little loft area to enjoy our last Colombian Coffee.
Places to Eat
Juan Del Mar: This place was recommended several times to us, and ironically enough it was on the same street as our hotel. They have an extensive cocktail list and fancy food. Jon loved his seared tuna steak.
Alma: I think this was my favorite meal the entire trip. I’m still dreaming about the lobster empanadas and tomato soup. Jon was craving a steak this night, but whats new. He has come a long way from craving hamburger helper during our honeymoon. He highly recommended the Ribeye at Alma. The staff here is very professional, and the restaurant is gorgeous.
Don Juan: If you want to eat here, you must have reservations. They were very prompt with returning my emails, but it was a little challenging since they would only correspond in Spanish. After we walked in, we quickly realized this is a local’s restaurant. Their sister restaurant is Maria which is right next door. We had a pre-dinner cocktail at Maria before Don Juan opened. I loved the mushroom ravioli with truffle oil at Don Juan. Jon opted for the spring rolls and liked them as well. My entree of chicken pesto pasta was mediocre but not anything I would order again. It was a neat experience to dine in a fancy restaurant in the mix of the locals, but pick better food choices than us.
La Paletteria: This little hole in the wall will make you smile on a hot and humid day. Pop in for a sweet treat. They make fresh popsicles daily with a ton of different flavors. Jon and I turned down the nutella popscile for the fresh fruit.
Places to Hang Out
Cafe Del Mar: If you read any other blog posts about Cartagena, this spot is undoubtedly to be on there. It is where all the tourist goes, but it is worth seeing. It’s right at the wall with views of Bocagrande and the old city. It’s the place to go to watch the sunset. We enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail here since I read the food was pricey and lacked quality.
El Corro Lounge: We stumbled upon this gem when Jon refused to sweat through his shirt for another second. It was definitely upscale, dark and sophisicated in here. I about died when Jon unbuttoned his shirt completely to cool off, and the bartender just looked at him with a puzzled look. Hey, the Colombia heat will do things to you. We ended up coming here almost every night, and each night they gave us a small appetizer to enjoy. I love a good detail from a business, and Jon loved the free shrimp cocktail and sea bass.
Cuba 1940: Jon picked this place out weeks in advance during his research. This place has a pool with a stage on top for the band in the middle of the restaurant. Pro tip: the band begins playing pretty late (usually around 9 pm). Jon and I did order food here one night but did not like it at all. So plan to hang out, not eat.
Alquimico: This bar/restaurant is a must-see. It is 3 levels with different vibes at each floor. We ended up meeting up with a few friends we meet earlier that day at the Blue Apple Beachhouse. We began at the bottom floor and worked our way up. The first floor is very vibey with amazing cocktails. The second floor had a small bar and pool tables, and the third floor was a rooftop area.
Things to Do
- stroll the beautiful streets
- take a carriage ride around town
- take salsa dance lessons
- rent tandem bikes
- eat fresh fruit from the fruit ladies
Our trip to Cartagena was full of culture, laughs and beautiful scenery. We enjoyed the friendly people of Cartagena and always felt safe walking around town. It was definitely an culture shock at times with attempting to speak spanish and trying to convert our money, but I am so glad we experienced this beautiful country.