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Cartagena, Colombia, is a port city along the Caribbean coast famous for beautiful architecture, rich history and culture, delicious cuisine, and stunning nearby beaches. I knew as soon as I arrived it was one of the best places to visit in Colombia.
So why did I fall in love with this city? The history around every corner for starters.
One of the city’s most interesting spots is known as Old Town Cartagena. It’s surrounded by a stone wall built hundreds of years ago to protect Cartagena from pirates! Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with new things to see around every cobblestone alley.
The vibrant colors, sights, and sounds will draw you in and are only made better by the friendly locals. Whether it’s learning how to salsa dance at one of the local spots or trying the BEST (no joke!) ceviche I’ve ever tasted, I left a little piece of my heart in this city for sure.
There are so many things to do in Cartegena that I knew I had to spend more time here than just a couple of days. I actually decided to live in Cartagena for a while to really immerse myself in the city.
I never get tired of exploring here and I want to help you discover this amazing spot too! Read on for all the top things to experience in Cartagena and you’ll see why I fell in love with this part of Colombia.
- The Best Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia
- 1. Old city walking tour
- 2. Explore Castillo de San Felipe
- 3. Visit the Gold Museum
- 4. ATV tour
- 5. Eat at La Cevicheria
- 6. Spend the day at Bora Bora Cartagena Beach Club
- 17. Go on a cruise
- 7. Stay at Casa en el Agua
- 8. Go dancing at Cafe Havana
- 9. Explore Getsemani
- 10. Spend the day at the beach
- 11. Go on a food tour
- 12. Horseback riding
- 13. Visit the Naval Museum
- 14. Day trip to Playa Blanca
- 15. Visit the Rosario Islands
- 16. Go for a drink at El Muelle beach club
- 18. Go scuba diving
- 19. Enjoy the most awarded coffee in Colombia
- 20. Visit the mud volcano and pink sea
- 21. Walk the fort wall at sunset
- 22. Join a dance class
- 23. Shop till you drop
- 24. Ride in the party bus
- 25. Explore the city on a bike
- Where to Stay in Cartagena
- Thanks for reading!
The Best Things to do in Cartagena, Colombia
1. Old city walking tour
Before you visit Cartagena, it’s important to note that there are two distinct sides to the city – the modern, high-energy part and Cartagena Old Town, which is home to preserved mansions, character-filled town squares, and colorful buildings. In fact, the old part of the city is where most tourists start their visit here.
The best way to see the historic walled city of Cartagena, also known as the “Old Town,” is on a guided walking tour. That way, you can truly understand the mix of cultures and the history of this area. As you can imagine, there are plenty of walking tours available in the old town and which one you choose will depend on your budget and how much time you have!
I’ve done the free walking tour, and I think it’s a fantastic choice if you’re on a budget and don’t mind a larger group tour that’s less personalized. That being said, it offers a great introduction to the Old Town, and you will learn a lot. This particular tour is 3 hours long. It starts at Torre del Reloj, and your time slot must be booked online in advance!
If you’re after a more personal experience, this private walking tour will take you to some of the most popular sights here, such as Plaza Aduana, Torre del Reloj, and Plaza Santo Domingo, as well as some lesser-known gems. It’s about 2 hours long and you’ll have a knowledgeable guide to show you around. The tour is offered in English, as well as Portuguese, Spanish, and French, and costs only $54 USD per person.
No matter what walking tour you choose, a guided walk around Cartagena Old Town is a must-do and one of the best activities in Cartagena!
Related read: Before you head to Colombia, make sure to check out our ultimate Colombia travel guide. It has all the tips and info you need before booking your plane ticket.
2. Explore Castillo de San Felipe
Another site you definitely have to stop at while exploring Cartagena Old Town is the Castillo de San Felipe which sits atop the Hill of San Lazaro and is almost 500 years old!
It was built by African slaves under Spanish rulers in 1536 and was involved in many battles between the 17th and 19th Centuries. It’s often referred to as the greatest fortress built by the Spanish.
Because of its important role in the city’s history and the awesome views of the town from here, it’s one of the most popular things to do in Cartagena.
You can explore the fortress and its tunnels on your own or hire a guide for approximately 20,000 COP ($4 USD). You will find the guides at the entrance to the Castillo, and you don’t need to book them in advance. For me, I try to hire a guide at most historical sites that I visit because I learn so much from them, and they can show me parts of these sites that I wouldn’t see on my own.
The entrance fee to the fortress is 25,000 COP ($5 USD), and I recommend allowing 2 hours to fully explore this place!
3. Visit the Gold Museum
If you’re on a tight budget, then a visit to the Gold Museum of Cartagena, in the old town, is a great way to kill some time and save some money because it’s completely free to enter. I found it really fascinating too and spent around an hour here.
The museum showcases works from the Indigenous people of Colombia, with lots of ancient gold artifacts (530 to be exact) on display too. Most of the artifacts here, including a very impressive golden jaguar, were made by the Zenú people who inhabited this coastal area around Cartagena.
What’s nice about this museum is that the information boards have English translations, so I learned a lot about the history of the area and its people without the need for a guide.
The museum is located in Bolivar Plaza and is open every day except for Mondays. If you’re going to visit just one museum during your time in Cartagena – make it the Gold Museum!
4. ATV tour
Get outside the walls of the city on a tour that will have you enjoying the scenery and an adventure all at the same time!
This ATV tour takes you along a trail to see stunning cliffs, rock formations, and three different beaches. It’s so much fun to drive across the beaches and really pick up speed!
There are lots of scenic spots to stop for photos and the guides are great at offering to take pictures for you so you can remember the trip.
One of the best parts is pulling into your own private spot on the beach to relax while one of the locals cuts open a cold coconut for you to drink from. There’s also some yummy fresh seafood you can buy at the beach as well.
The tour lasts about 2.5 hours and goes rain or shine – what’s ATVing without a little mud?! The tour cost is $135 USD and includes everything you need from instruction if you’ve never driven an ATV before to a helmet and water.
5. Eat at La Cevicheria
Would you believe I spent two months living in Peru, aka “the capital of Ceviche,” prior to coming to Cartagena?! Yet, the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted was at La Cevicheria in Cartagena! Aptly named, this eatery on Calle Stuart is most renowned for its delicious ceviche!
If you’re not familiar with ceviche, you should know this – it is a dish made from raw fresh fish cured in citrus juice. It was first invented by African slaves in Colombia and Peru. The Colombian and Peruvian versions of the dish are similar, but the Colombian version contains coconut, which I love!
La Cevicheria is one of the most famous and renowned restaurants in Cartagena, and here they serve a wide range of seafood dishes, and of course, ceviche is one of their specialties!
It’s so popular that on busy days you’ll likely be waiting a few hours for a table. But luckily for us, we swung by around 3 pm and managed to nab a table without issue. I will add that if you plan on dining here at peak times (weekends or holidays), book in advance!
La Cevicheria is, without a doubt, the best place in Cartagena for fresh seafood, and their prices are very fair, considering the high quality of their dishes.
6. Spend the day at Bora Bora Cartagena Beach Club
Bora Bora Beach Club is located on the beautiful Island of Rosario (Islas de Rosario), just one hour from Cartagena. I love the hustle and bustle of Cartagena, but the escape to this tranquil place to be spoiled for the day was fabulous!
The best way to get here is with this specific tour. For only $70 USD, you’ll be whisked away on a speed boat for the 45-minute ride to the island.
Once you arrive, a welcome cocktail (yes, please!) and beach bed are waiting for you. Then you have the entire day to enjoy the sunshine, fun beach activities, and a tasty Colombian lunch before the speed boat takes you back in the late afternoon.
Lunch is included at the beach club restaurant and has chicken, fish, and veggie options. You can choose to spend the entire time on the beach or add on activities like paddleboarding, kayaking, or a relaxing massage.
Related read: For another perfect beach day, head to the remote shores of Costeño Beach. It’s quickly becoming one of the best beach destinations in Colombia!
17. Go on a cruise
One of the best and most memorable things to do in Cartagena is a cruise on the stunning Cartagena Bay.
There are so many great cruises to choose from, and again, which one you choose depends on your budget and the type of experience you’re after. Whether it be a romantic sunset cruise or a dinner cruise, you’ll be treated to some awesome views of the city and plenty of photo opportunities!
This particular sunset cruise takes place on board a catamaran and offers an open bar for 1.5 hours, and costs just $25 USD per person. It’s a small group tour – capped at just 12 people, so it’s a great way to meet fellow travelers, but not feel too crowded. Plus, you’ll take in spectacular scenery as the sky turns pink.
Alternatively, this dinner cruise is highly-rated and includes a delicious 4-course dinner for only $70 USD. The cruise is on a double-decker ship with AC on the lower deck and open-air space on the upper deck. The cruise lasts for 2 hours and departs the port at 7:30 pm, meaning you have time beforehand to wander through the Old Town. You can even upgrade for a romantic date on the boat with a private table and bottle of wine.
Related Read: Heading to Panama? Consider cruising through the San Blas Islands on your way there!
7. Stay at Casa en el Agua
Imagine staying in a hotel completely surrounded by the ocean so the sound of the waves can put you to sleep. That’s Casa en el Agua!
I’ve stayed in a ton of hostels during my travels, but this is one of the most unique! You can only reach it by boat and this “House on Water” is in the San Bernardo Islands, completely surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.
To stay here, you’ll need to catch a “fast” boat from the Cartegena harbor for the two-hour ride which is around $20 USD each way.
There are a variety of rooms available from private rooms to bunk beds or even hammocks on the upper balcony where you’ll get a beautiful breeze in the evenings. Hammocks are only $33 USD per night and private rooms are closer to $70-100 USD. The price includes all your meals too!
You’ll eat a lot of seafood here, although there are vegetarian options. I recommend bringing your own water to drink, though, as we’ve heard some people get sick from drinking the water they provide.
If you’re looking to party, this place definitely is a party spot! The music goes until late and there’s an all-day happy hour, so bring along earplugs if you’re hoping to sleep before the wee hours of the morning.
Expect to rough it a little bit too … with no running water, that means washing your hair in a bucket of water! You only get one bucket daily to “shower” … but luckily, you can jump in the ocean any time. I recommend packing light too – there’s not a ton of room to store stuff, so basically, bring an overnight bag.
This is a fun place to share stories with fellow travelers, enjoy the ocean and feel like you’ve escaped to your own private island for a day! It’s a unique adventure and something we recommend to most travelers.
8. Go dancing at Cafe Havana
Put on your dancing shoes and head to Café Havana! It’s right in the heart of Cartegena and with live salsa music and fabulous Cuban cocktails, you’ll want to dance the night away.
It feels like you’re transported back to Cuba in the 1950s. The decor really sets the mood and with a mojito in hand, you’ll be pulled onto the dance floor and shown how to salsa in no time!
There is a cover charge of around 40,000 COP ($8 USD), but it’s worth it for a fun night out. This isn’t a large place, so I recommend arriving around 9 pm (things get going late around here!) to find a good spot before it starts getting crowded.
There’s live music from Wednesday to Sunday with two bands that play until 3 am. I had such a blast and definitely had sore feet in the morning from all that dancing!
9. Explore Getsemani
If you’re keen to keep the party going while in Cartagena, look no further than the Getsemani district. This vibrant, trendy part of town is just a 10-minute stroll from the walled part of the city and has a friendly vibe – everyone is welcome here!
My favorite thing to do here is to wander the colorful streets and eat awesome street food. On your walk, you’ll also come across some cool graffiti – so be sure to take plenty of photos!
If you’re an art-lover, join this street art tour which is 3 hours long and led by an art historian. For under $70 USD, you’ll tour galleries, meet local artists in their studios, and have the chance to buy art to take home.
For an in-depth look at the neighborhood, consider joining one of the highly-recommended tours around Getsemani! For $45 USD, you’ll get to meet locals and even join in a game of ludo or help with an art project to leave your own mark here.
Once the sun sets, head to Plaza Trinidad to check out the amusing street performers. One of the best acts here is Warriors en La Calle, a Venezuelan high-energy dance group.
Then head on over to one of the trendy bars or nightclubs in this district. Some of my favorites include Bazurto Social Club, which is where the locals come to party, and Media Luna Hostel, which has a great bar on its second floor. Overall, Getsimani gets pretty crazy at night, so be prepared for a long (and fun!) night.
Related read: If you think the street art in Cartagena is impressive, don’t miss out on a Bogota graffiti tour, it’s next level and one of the best things to do in Bogota.
10. Spend the day at the beach
After a fun evening at Café Havana, I was ready to relax, and spending the day at my favorite beach was on the agenda. Playa Castillo Grande is a bit off the beaten path, so it doesn’t get as many tourists.
The sand may not be as white as some of the islands surrounding Cartagena, and the ocean is not a bright turquoise, but the crowds are considerably less, and there are fewer vendors. The soft, warm sand felt soothing under my sore dancing feet!
If you plan on spending the day, cabanas and chairs are available to rent for around $10 USD. Notably, there are no bars or restaurants on the beach. However, there are a few vendors selling food and drinks.
Playa Castillo Grande is definitely my beach of choice for a relaxing day under the Colombian sun.
11. Go on a food tour
For me, one of the best ways to get to know a city is through its food!
It’s not just the popular tourist spots, but the real authentic establishments that have a loyal local following. It can be hard to find these gems as a visitor, so joining a food tour is the best option.
This 2-hour street food tour is a top choice in Cartagena! On this tour, you’ll get the chance to sample at least 8 different street foods with your local guide. You’ll also learn all about the history of each recipe that you try and how they connect to the different neighborhoods of Cartagena. For $45.60 USD, it’s great value for money, considering all you’ll get to eat and see!
A great alternative for seafood fans is this ceviche food tour. You’ll head to 3 different seafood restaurants to sample 5 different ceviche dishes. It’s a great way to try a variety of takes on this dish and you’ll even get shown the basics to try cooking it yourself! The tour is $85 USD and includes all your food and drinks.
12. Horseback riding
Feel like you’re right in the middle of your own rom-com with a horseback ride along the beach.
I love this horseback riding tour that takes you outside the city center to the beaches of Manzanillo. You’ll be picked up from your hotel and head right to a traditional ranch for a Colombian Paso Horse Show.
You’ll see the amazing Paso Fino horses in action along with learning some of the history and ancestry of these horses that were originally brought over from Spain. Then, your guide will match you up with a horse best suited for your experience level for a ride along the beach.
The hour-long ride with the sound of the waves and the fresh ocean air is invigorating. My horse loved the water and it was so much fun trotting along the shoreline with her.
Afterward, there’s a delicious lunch at the restaurant. Make sure you try the coconut lemonade – it’s super tasty and really refreshing after the ride.
You can choose either a morning or afternoon ride for the tour price of $160 USD per person. It’s definitely one of the top activities to do in Cartagena!
Related read: For more fun activities, head to San Gil, Colombia, the adventure capital of the country. It’s where you can bungee jump, white water raft, paraglide, and more!
13. Visit the Naval Museum
The Naval Museum of the Caribbean is a fascinating place to visit while exploring Cartagena. This port city has a long history of navy battles, and the ocean around Cartagena has many sunken ships as a result – so you’re guaranteed to learn some fascinating historical facts here.
The more modern exhibits are really interactive and especially great for families! There are replicas of a submarine, helicopter, and coast guard boats that kids can go in – we saw some kids having a blast while we were here.
Just be aware that all the information boards in the museum are in Spanish, so be sure to brush up before visiting or use the handy Google translate app.
Or my top tip is to hire a guide; that way, they can translate for you and tell you all about Cartagena’s dominance as a naval base throughout history.
Entrance to the museum is around 20,000 COP per person ($4 USD), and a guide costs only an additional 20,000 COP per group.
14. Day trip to Playa Blanca
For a beach day near Cartagena, head to the sandy shores of Playa Blanca! This beautiful beach stretches for about 5 miles (8 km) and boasts gorgeous white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
It’s about a 40-minute drive from the city and you can take a taxi, bus, or tour (more on that later).
I will warn you that this beach does get really crowded and is known for its extremely pushy vendors and more recently, an increase in scammers. Recent visitors to the beach also mention crime is a growing concern. To avoid overpaying or negotiating on the beach and have a better experience, I recommend booking a full tour package with a reputable company.
This Playa Blanca tour includes round-trip transportation from Cartagena aboard an air-conditioned bus. The hour-long trip is filled with your guide’s commentary about the passing neighborhoods, fishing villages, and the industrial zone of Mamonal.
Once on the beach, soak up the sunshine and enjoy a lunch of Colombian specialties. The $75 USD (or $82 USD with lunch) cost is totally worth it to not have to worry about arranging transportation or a meal. You can just relax!
15. Visit the Rosario Islands
The sparkling clear waters and stunning Islas de Rosario are a must-see on your travels to Cartagena, Colombia.
Get here in style aboard this catamaran tour that takes you to two different spots to swim, snorkel and enjoy this piece of paradise.
First, your boat will anchor at Isla Grande so you can explore the Luis Guerra reef. Then you’ll head to Isla Bela, where you’ll anchor in front of Punta Gigante. While you won’t dock at any beaches during this trip, you will get to jump off the boat and swim and snorkel to your heart’s content.
While you’re aboard, you’ll get great views of Rosario Islands and can groove along to the local reggaeton music that the boat crew has on. It’s such a fun and upbeat vibe with this crew!
This is a full-day tour for $75 USD where you’ll meet at the dock here and then set sail. Snorkeling equipment, lunch, and drinks are included and you can opt to add on jet skiing or a banana boat ride for an additional cost.
16. Go for a drink at El Muelle beach club
El Muelle is a beautiful beach club and the only one of its kind located in the city of Cartagena.
I was fortunate to live across the road, so popping over to enjoy a drink on the balcony and relax on a comfortable lounger became a regular occurrence. The ocean view is stunning, and the private beach is clean and tidy.
There are bright white umbrellas with loungers on the beach, and you can see Tierra Bomba Island in the distance. The impressive setting carries an exclusive beach style and is complemented by wood and palm construction.
Furthermore, the delicious seafood variety on the menu has gained quite a reputation. I tried many dishes, and although all were tasty and rich in Colombian flavors, nothing came close to the whole fried fish. It is super fresh, and the quality and flavors are on point. Each dish is beautifully presented, and the service is friendly and efficient.
You can expect to pay around 45,000 COP ($10 USD) for a cocktail and about 55,000 COP ($12 USD) for a seafood main. My regular go-to was a delicious rum punch for 20,000 COP ($4.50 USD).
The ambiance is fantastic whether you go for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Sitting under the starry Colombia sky on a warm summer evening is bliss!
On the whole, El Muelle beach club offers you exclusivity, scrumptious cuisine, and top-notch service in the heart of Cartagena.
18. Go scuba diving
The warm Caribbean Sea is teeming with diverse marine life and just waiting to be explored. Scuba diving is one of our favorite things to do and we couldn’t pass up the chance to try it out in Cartagena.
There are so many scuba diving options – whether you’re looking to become a certified diver or are an experienced diver looking for a new area to explore.
Open water diving course
If you’ve never scuba-dived before, you’ll need to get certified. This PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) course will give you all the training you need to get started!
This particular course takes place at the Buzos De Baru Dive Resort – a PADI resort for more than 20 years and one of the best diving schools in Cartagena. Make sure you book well in advance of your trip and they will send you all the digital study material to read on the plane or before you leave. If you do that, you can get right to the in-water training when you arrive.
You’ll learn all the basics in the pool before heading out for two days of open-water dives near Baru Island. With more than 30 different sites to explore and excellent visibility, this is a treat for sure! The cost is $385 USD and includes all the course materials, scuba equipment, and snacks.
Short course for beginners
If you don’t have as much time to commit to the full scuba diving course, this one-day scuba mini course is the way to go. You’ll get all the instruction in an afternoon including practice in a pool, and then the next day you’ll head out for a dive!
It’s a small group of a max of 4 people, so there’s lots of individual attention as you learn. Then the fun part – you’ll do two dives with an instructor nearby at all times. You can explore the area around Baru including 7 shipwrecks!
For $112 USD, this is a great intro to diving and includes some neat underwater photographs to remember your experience!
Experienced divers tour
If you already are an experienced scuba diver, this diving tour to the Rosario Islands is our pick. It gives you the chance to explore the islands along with the National Park of Corals. This marine park is full of mangroves, reefs, and a variety of sea life.
You can dive up to 40 feet (12 meters) beneath the surface and explore all the underwater beauty around you. The tour includes transport from wherever you’re staying in Cartagena, the one-hour boat ride to the diving spot, all the gear you need, and lunch on the beach.
This is a great way to experience the stunning waters around Cartagena for $354 USD.
Related read: For world-class scuba diving, we loved the remote San Andres Island. One-way flights from Cartagena were only $35 USD!
19. Enjoy the most awarded coffee in Colombia
I am a huge coffee fan – I just love the smell of it, the taste of it, and the experience of drinking it in a cafe. Luckily, one of the best things to do in Colombia is drinking coffee brewed with their local beans! And at San Alberto, you can drink incredible coffee in a cozy, hidden space.
In fact, San Alberto is the most awarded coffee in all of Colombia! They grow their own coffee, and it has a unique flavor that tastes like caramel; you can even buy their coffee in a special take-home pack so that you can have this yummy drink at home or bring some back for a coffee-loving friend.
The cafe is located near Plaza Santo Domingo, and as I said, it’s a little tricky to spot (it’s a hidden gem), but you’ll likely smell the coffee from up the street, and you’ll know you’re in the right spot!
What’s great, too, is that the staff here speak excellent English and will explain each type of coffee, allow you to smell the beans, and tell you how best to prepare each type of bean. I’m a self-confessed coffee snob, and I adored this coffee! I can’t wait to return one day for more!
20. Visit the mud volcano and pink sea
For a memorable experience, take a dip in the El Totumo mud volcano and see the naturally pink waters at Salinas de Galerazamba! To get here, you can take a rental car for the hour-long drive from Cartagena or join a tour.
I highly recommend this private tour as it helps you avoid the crowds by taking you here first thing in the morning (7 am) or late afternoon (2:30 pm). There isn’t a lot of room at the mud volcano, so it’s way more enjoyable if you’re not packed in with a bunch of people.
The tour is $73 USD per person and includes all your transportation and a great guide (shout out to Giberto!).
The mud at this volcano apparently has healing properties and it’s a lot of fun to take a dip in. Make sure you bring extra pesos for tips as this place is full of locals who will offer you massages, help to get the mud off and take photos of you.
Your tour guide is great at helping you navigate the experience including how much to tip the locals (typically the equivalent of $2-3 USD each).
After washing off all the mud, you’ll head 15 minutes down the road to the “Pink Sea” or Salinas de Galerazamba. These man-made lakes are part of a salt mine – you’ll see the salt crystals along the edge and at the bottom of the pools. If you do wade in, beware that the crystals are very sharp. Definitely no swimming here!
The vibrancy of the pink color depends on whether or not there has been a lot of rain recently and varies throughout the year.
21. Walk the fort wall at sunset
Sunset hour is my favorite time of the day, and on vacation, I make sure to catch the sunset every evening – there’s nothing more relaxing for me! The best spot to catch the sunset in Cartagena is from the fort wall in the Old Town; from here, you have a prime vantage point to see the sun setting over the bay.
The sun typically sets in Cartagena around 7 pm, so you can enjoy dinner afterward at one of the restaurants on the wall. While if you want to watch the sunset from a great bar, then check out Cafe del Mar, which offers beautiful views. But If you want to get a good table here, be sure to arrive an hour before sunset as the queue can get pretty long.
If you’re on a budget, then your best bet is to buy a beer from one of the street vendors; they carry coolers filled with beer that cost just 5,000 COP ($1 USD)!
The sunsets from the Old City of Cartagena are breathtaking, and from the fort wall, you’ve got the best view of the sun sinking into the ocean!
Related read: Catching the epic sunsets is also one of the best things to do in Minca, Colombia!
22. Join a dance class
Cartagena is known for dance clubs that are SO much fun. You really can’t come here without visiting one. But if you don’t want to stick out quite as badly, join this dance class in the Old City. You’ll learn salsa, merengue, bachata, and the native dance genre of Cartagena called champeta! Your 3-hour lesson takes place on a secret rooftop in the Getsemani neighborhood – so cool!
Your instructors, Jorge and Maria Rose are fabulous. They are patient and their upbeat personalities will make you laugh as you learn the steps. You can even dance barefoot as the rooftop has grass as the dancefloor!
The lesson lasts about 3 hours, so be prepared to sweat. Then after you watch the sunset from the rooftop, you can showcase your moves at Café Havana, a quick 5-minute walk away!
The dance class is only $30 USD and includes a couple of drinks and a link to a video tutorial after so you can keep practicing. Honestly, this is such a fun way to spend an evening – you’ll leave class wanting to dance down the colorful streets of Getsemani!
23. Shop till you drop
Shopping lovers rejoice, Cartagena is an excellent city to pick up some unique souvenirs and clothing, and we really enjoyed the few hours we spent wandering around the numerous boutique stores and market stalls within the old town.
The Old Town is known for its emerald jewelry stores, and you’ll find many here selling top-quality emeralds for a very reasonable price.
Did you know that emeralds are Colombia’s national stone, and the nation produces some of the best and most sought-after emeralds in the world? Be sure to only buy an emerald from a store and not a street vendor, as that way you can guarantee their authenticity!
We also really loved Casa Abba, a hidden gem shopping plaza filled with some beautiful locally-made clothing and art. You will find everything you need here, from high-quality jewelry to a brand-new outfit! Some great clothing stores include Casa Mulier and Petrona Boho Cartagena for some bohemian-inspired clothing.
24. Ride in the party bus
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Cartagena knows how to party! Join in the fun with this party bus tour that lets you sightsee and dance the night away.
The bus is covered in lights (no missing it!) and has the music blasting. The DJ on board takes requests and the hosts are so much fun! While drinks aren’t included in the $21 USD tour cost, the first stop is at a liquor store or you can grab a drink from a local vendor at one of the other stops.
You’ll drive around the city at night to see Torre del Reloj Tower, San Felipe de Barajas Castle, and the Cartagena sign. The driver stops at all of these spots, so you can jump out and grab some photos with your fellow party-goers.
This is definitely a fun night out to be part of the festive atmosphere Cartagena is so well known for.
25. Explore the city on a bike
After all that walking around the Old Town, give your feet a break and take a bike!
This bike tour is a good way to see a lot of Cartagena’s landmarks in a short time or revisit some of your favorite places. It really helps you get your bearings around the city, so it’s perfect for first-time visitors.
As you ride through the city’s streets, your guide shares little stories and facts about the churches, monuments, parks, and squares you pass by. I loved that my guide made restaurant recommendations as we passed them. I knew where I was going to go for lunch right after!
The route you follow is mostly flat, so this is an easy ride – however, you will be navigating around traffic, so make sure you’re comfortable with that. The $50 USD two-hour tour includes your bike, helmet, guide, and water.
Where to Stay in Cartagena
I have no doubt you will love Cartagena as much as I do, so you’ll want to plan to stay here for a while. I’d say at least 3 days, although I ended up living here for a bit because I didn’t want to leave! Save yourself the hassle now and trust me on booking a few days here to enjoy.
I highly recommend staying in the Old Town just to soak up the history and have all the best sights within walking distance. All these hotels are in that part of the city and are for a variety of budgets, so you can find the right one for you.
Maloka Boutique Hostel – $
Right in the heart of the walled part of the city, Maloka Boutique Hostel is an affordable option that still puts you in the best area. It’s nice and quiet too as it isn’t right next to any clubs or bars.
Don’t let the word “hostel” discourage you – there are rooms with a shared bathroom or completely private rooms too. This place feels like a little home away from home – especially with a yummy breakfast and fantastic Colombian coffee included in your room price starting at $50 USD! Book your room now with Booking.com.
Ayenda El Viajero #2 – $$
Perfect for families or couples who want more space, the rooms at Ayenda El Viajero #2 are so spacious they feel more like tiny apartments! You’re in the middle of the action of the Old Town, so it’s a great place to crash after a busy day of exploring or a full night of dancing!
The rooms are air-conditioned for a nice break from the heat and all include a flat-screen TV. Some even have a little balcony or patio to enjoy your coffee on. I found the best price for this hotel on Booking.com!
Casa Claver Loft Boutique Hotel – $$$
Calling anyone who wants a stay that feels luxurious from start to finish – Casa Claver Loft Boutique Hotel has you covered. The stylish lofts here are huge and inside a restored 17th Century building. You’ll have AC, a kitchenette, a dining area, and plenty of seating.
If that hasn’t sold you, one look at the heated rooftop swimming pool will! It has stunning views of the city and is just one of the two pools this property has. Breakfast is included and the location means you’re only steps away from exploring the best part of Cartagena. Check availability and book your getaway to this hotel here.
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully, this guide to Cartagena was helpful for your upcoming trip. Cartagena is a city full of history and I’m sure you will fall in love with it like I did! Whether you’re sitting on the fort wall taking in a sunset, having a fantastic cup of coffee, or partying, this is a spot worth adding to your travel plans.
If you’re headed to this part of the world soon, make sure to browse around our other South America blogs to help plan your itinerary. We’ve spent months exploring South America and have lots of tips to share. If you have any questions as you get ready for your time here, make sure to leave us a comment!
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