A few words about Cartagena
Cartagena is a vibrant, beautiful city, perfect for exploring on foot. If you haven’t yet planned your accommodation, make sure it’s located in either Manga (more quiet), Getsmani (more hippie, artsy & touristic) or Bocagrande (where rich people live & close to the beach). I only stayed in 2 of them and I must tell you, I enjoyed them both.
Most of your time you will spend it in the city centre, Old Town and Getsmani is just 5 mins walk from there. All the bars, clubs, good restaurants, live music & street food are happening in Getsmani anyway, so you can’t really miss it.
The nearest safe & clean beach is in Bocagrande. You will find stylish Colombian restaurants, Japanese restaurants, casinos (if you fancy any) & lots of good restaurants.
Tip: If you are walking all the way to end of Bocagrande, all the sun beds are free & you only need to buy something from the bar which is cheap anyway. You can thank me later 😉
Table of Contents
1. Walking around the historic centre of Cartagena
Start at the walled city of Cartagena and explore the historic centre by foot. There are lots of parks, monuments and churches to visit along the way.
Start at Santa Clara Square and then walk down Carrera del Reloj to the Baroque church of San Pedro Claver. Stop by the Casa de la Aduana to find out more about the history of smuggling in the city. Continue walking through the streets to the Plazuela de Las Bovedas, one of the most beautiful plazas in Cartagena.
Then head over to the Plaza Santo Domingo where you can see the tomb of Admiral Antonio Bueno de Cordoba, a symbol of the city’s resistance to the Spanish conquerors. Here, you can stop for a well-deserved lunch at one of the many cafes in the square.
Finish the day by heading to Eivissa — one of Cartagena’s most famous nightclubs. Make sure you show up before 10pm otherwise they will charge you $30,000 COP ($6) to enter the club.
2. Exploring Bocagrande and La Boquilla
After breakfast, head north to Bocagrande to visit the Pueblo Viejo neighbourhood. This area of town is known for its high-end restaurants, bars and clubs. From Bocagrande, you can hop on a boat to get to La Boquilla — a picturesque fishing village that’s popular with tourists and locals alike. Spend the afternoon exploring the village and catching some rays on the beach.
3. Relaxing on Isla Barú
After an early breakfast, take the 5am boat from Cartagena to Isla Barú where you can spend the day swimming and snorkelling in the crystal-clear waters. You can also rent a bike and explore the beautiful beaches of the island. After that, you can return to Cartagena for dinner at around 8pm.
Another option would be to book for this AirBnB experience and get the most of the day without planning anything.
4. Take a private boat party
The nightlife in Cartagena is legendary — the city has more than 100 discotheques with music to suit all tastes. For a truly unforgettable experience, why not book your own private boat party? Enjoy cocktails while you watch the sun go down over the Caribbean Sea. Your night will be finished off in style with a gourmet dinner on board your boat.
You don’t need to book beforehand. Just make sure you show up around Muelle de la Bodeguita and you will find a lot of boats ready to sail. The average pay for free bar and 2hs of music and fun is about $60,000 COP ($12).
6. Visit Castillio San Felipe de Barajas
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a trip over to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas — an abandoned fortress built by the Spanish during the colonial period. You can reach the castle by taxi or by taking one of the public buses that run between Cartagena and Las Terrenas.
I personally walked there since my hostel was 12 mins walking distance. It’s a pretty safe area given the fact that I was walking from Getsmani to Manga, so need to think about that. The entrance fee is $30,000 COP ($6), but it’s totally worth it to see the top view of Cartagena and all Bocagrande.
7. Enjoy the local cuisine
“Enjoy the local food” may not sound like an exciting option at first, but Cartagena is home to some of the best restaurants in the entire country. Be sure to sample a variety of regional dishes during your stay, including bandeja paisa — a popular dish consisting of rice, beans, chorizo and vegetables. For dessert, be sure to try carimañolas — a delicious coconut pudding topped with whipped cream.