My first time in Cartagena was in January 2016 for our annual January girls trip. I went with several girl friends including Carolyn Stine, our official itinerary planner. To me Cartagena felt like you stumbled onto a movie set. The buildings are brightly colored with balconies adorning them and giving off a New Orleans type feel. My favorite part of the trip were the amazing street vendor offerings. The mochilla bags illuminated the street with their vibrant colors and affordable prices. In addition to doing some serious shopping we did some serious eating. The food was heavy on seafood to reflect its coastal positioning. Check out our itinerary and snaps from the pic, all courtesy of Carolyn Stine. To see more travel and food inspiration follow her @Carobaker1.
Where To Stay:
I highly recommend staying in the old city of Cartagena; this is where you will spend the majority of your time exploring. We opted to Air BnB for convenience and cost purposes, but there are some beautiful hotels in the walled city as well. My tops picks are Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa and the Tcherassi Hotel and Spa.
Where To Eat:
El Boliche Cebicheria – I hope you like fresh fish, because you will eat the ceviche of your dreams in Cartagena, and more specifically, at El Boliche. Don’t be put off by the tiny space and limited decor, the food is amazing. My favorites were the green mango ceviche, tamarind ceviche, and fresh fish steamed in banana leaves.
Pasteleria Mila Vargas – Our go-to spot for breakfast (and by breakfast, we mean dessert), as well as a mid-afternoon sugar buzz. Do not under any circumstances miss the dulce de leche-topped chocolate cake, coconut cake, or the coconut milkshake. Please and thank you.
La Cevicheria– I loved the casual vibe at this low-key cevicheria, which features large portions and killer mojitos. Don’t miss the Peruvian ceviche, as well as the coconut lobster curry, and the warm mozzarella with guava for dessert (sounds weird, tastes like heaven).
Carmen - Located in the stunning Ananda Hotel, we swung by Carmen for a lovely lunch. Sit outside in the shaded courtyard and enjoy coco loco cocktails accompanied by ceviche, grilled octopus, and mini tacos.
La Paletteria - The best spot for fresh fruit popsicles (I was seriously crushing on the key lime).
Abaco Libros y Cafe – A coffee shop and a bookshop in one place? Count me in! This tiny corner shop featured wall-to-wall books and some pretty excellent Colombian coffee.
Oh La La – This little husband and wife-run bistro is an amazing fusion of French and Latin American flavors.We sampled everything from ribs to mussels to risotto, and each dish was yummier than the next.
What To Do In Cartagena:
Walls of the Old City - Cartagena’s waterfront stone walls are still in remarkable shape, and can easily be explored by foot. Take walk up along the walls for views of the old city (feel free to bring up some cervezas for a sunset stroll).
Getsemani neighborhood - Hop in a cab and head over to Getsemani, a very up-and-coming neighborhood outside of the old city center. The highlight is Calle de la Sierpe, which is a winding street plastered with some of the most eye-catching and colorful street art I have ever seen. Another highlight is Plaza de la Santisima Trinidad, which is a beautiful little square featuring an idyllic yellow church.
Convento de la Popa - On the highest hill outside of the city sits this majestic old monastery with the most stunning views of the city. Catch a cab up the winding roads and spend an hour exploring this beautiful, historic space and looking out over the city and water.
Iglesia de San Pedro Claver – This magnificent stone church overlooking a quiet square was lovely to happen upon in the old city.
Plaza de Bolívar – Get some fresh fruit (I chose mango and melon) from the street vendors surrounding this green park and sit inside to enjoy a quiet moment.
Plaza de los Coches - This sunny square features an arcade that is filled with artisanal candy vendors. Sample local favorites such as tamarind candy, coconut clusters, and dried bananas.
Hotel San Pedro de Majagua on Isla Grande, Rosario Islands - We wanted part of our trip to be exploring a new city, and part of our trip to be relaxing by blue waters. This hotel is an eco lodge featuring waterfront bungalows and a quiet central restaurant, and feels miles away from the mainland. Boat service from Cartagena to the island is provided, and once you get there, you can spend your days relaxing at the beach, swimming in their quiet lagoon, midnight paddleboarding (there are lights on the bottoms of the boards), and reading in the hammock on the front porch of your bungalow.