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Cartagena is one of our favorite places to visit in Colombia. Sitting right on the Caribbean coast, this colorful port town is rich in history and is blessed with some amazing white sandy beaches.
We fell so in love with the city when we first visited, so much so that we ended up staying to live here for a few months! During that time, we did a bunch of tours to help us get well acquainted with all of the best things to do in Cartagena.
From island hopping in the tropical Caribbean waters, eating food in the historic centers, and even getting soothing mud massages in a mud volcano, this city has it all.
After spending a good amount of time in the city and having a lot of different experiences, I’ve listed all my favorite tours in Cartagena below that I highly recommend for your next vacation. These tours showcase the best that Cartagena has to offer!
Best Tours in Cartagena, Colombia
1. Cartagena free walking tour
I love a good walking tour through a new city, especially if that tour is FREE! Our guides were full of smiles, passion, and incredible stories on this free walking tour – they know so much about the history of the city and make great recommendations for where to spend the rest of your holiday!
This city tour is offered from Monday to Saturday at either 9:30 am or 4 pm and lasts for about 1.5 hours. Registration is really simple, you just need to sign up for the tour on their website. The group meets at the Plaza de los Coches under the statue of Pedro de Heredia shortly before the tour start time.
Tours are offered in both Spanish and English and take you past many of the must-see spots in the city – it’s one of the best ways to tick off your landmark checklist in Cartagena! We really enjoyed strolling through the old colonial houses and the Walled City, learning all about their incredible past.
While the tour is technically free, it is tip-based, meaning the guides make whatever you feel like tipping for their time. If you enjoyed the tour, feel free to let them know with a tip! You can book your spot on this free walking tour here.
Related Read: There’s also a great free walking tour we rank among the best tours in Medellin, Columbia!
2. Rosario Islands tour
If you’re looking to explore some of the most amazing white sandy beaches and swim through crystal-clear waters, a visit to the Rosario Islands is an absolute must. There’s a good reason the islands made our list of the top 50 things to do in Colombia!
This full-day catamaran tour to the Rosario Islands is an absolute dream experience. You’ll set sail on a relaxing journey aboard a luxurious catamaran, cruising around the gorgeous islands. The catamaran stops just off the coast of Island Grande and Isla Baru, giving you the perfect opportunity to snorkel through the coral reefs, before stuffing down a delicious lunch!
We had an absolute blast on this 7-hour tour, boarding quickly before setting off on our grand adventure. With the sun shining and music playing on the speakers, we couldn’t help but bust a few moves before going for a dive. Rinse and repeat! The fact that the tour also included snorkeling gear was also a major plus.
Tickets for this experience cost $82 USD per adult, $41 USD each for children (aged 7-14), and kids 6 and under are free. That being said, the focus here is on complete relaxation with good music and food, so there might not be quite enough entertainment for little ones!
Hotel pickup isn’t included, but the meeting point is at the pier of the Pagasos, right in front of the Convention Center – it’s really easy to reach and the meeting time of 8:30 am means no super early start. You can grab tickets to this floating fiesta here.
If you are traveling with a larger group and want to explore just by yourselves, then you may prefer to go on a private full-day boat trip to the Rosario Islands! This full-day tour costs $699 USD for groups of up to 10 people and comes with a private driver. You can personalize the itinerary exactly how you like, so if you find a spot you’d love to chill at for hours, you can!
Your captain for the day will be happy to suggest a number of beaches and snorkel spots along the way too – but what you do is really up to you. You will want to bring your own snorkel gear and some extra cash to enjoy lunch at one of the beach clubs along the way. Tickets for the private boat trip can be booked online here.
Related Read: If you love spending time in nature, then you’ll love visiting Tayrona National Park in Colombia!
3. Bora Bora Cartagena Beach Club full-day experience
If you want to feel like a VIP for a day, this full-day Bora Bora beach club experience on Rosario Island will have you living like a star! We can totally see visitors on a bachelorette, birthday, or honeymoon, or those just looking for a slice of luxury in paradise having an amazing time here.
It all begins with a beautiful morning boat ride from the La Bodeguita Pier in Cartagena, as you set off toward the gorgeous Rosario Islands. Nestled among the palm trees on the warm golden sands is the Bora Bora Beach Club, your personal paradise for the next few hours! Oh, and did we mention you get a free cocktail before hanging out on your private beachfront bed?
When you fancy taking a dip, the water is absolutely perfect for snorkeling and swimming. But if you fancy just lounging in the cool shade with an equally cool drink and a good book, you can… I’m getting jealous just thinking about it!
This tour lasts just over 8 hours and costs $88 USD per person. We think this is a great price considering that the tour includes lunch, a beach bed, as well as transportation to the island. So get ready to be pampered in style – you can book your tickets online here.
Top tip: Bring along a towel, snorkel gear, and some extra cash to purchase more drinks and even an oceanfront massage! The beach club also offers water activities such as paddleboards and kayaks at an additional charge.
4. Cartagena ATV tour
Cartagena is an absolutely mind-blowing city, and the countryside outside of it is just as incredible. It’s time to venture out beyond the walls of the city atop your four-wheeled steed with this small-group ATV tour!
Over 2.5 hours, you’ll cruise by incredible mangrove forests, zip along picturesque beaches, and discover hidden spots that people don’t normally see. It’s a really great way to get out of the city for a bit, knowing that you’re going to see some incredible spots along the way.
We have so many treasured photos from this trip, and the guides are super friendly, offering to take photos for you without any extra charge at all.
The tour felt quite personal as well because there’s only a maximum of 11 people per group. I loved that we could spend some time relaxing on the beach and really enjoyed the fresh coconut that was cut for us too. While lunch isn’t included in the ticket, there were some really nice spots on the beach we could buy fresh seafood. Yum!
Tickets for this tour are $135 USD per person and include free pickup and drop-off at your hotel. There are three different time slots available too, with tours starting at 10 am, 1 pm, and 3:45 pm. Just know that pickup happens an hour before the tour starts, though!
You can choose your slot and book tickets to this epic ATV tour here.
5. Dinner cruise on Cartagena Bay
Looking for a lovely way to spend a warm evening in Cartagena? This 2-hour dinner cruise takes place off the coast of Cartagena Bay and is one of our favorite picks for great vibes, music, and food.
Hopping aboard at 7 pm, you’ll be presented with a beautiful 4-course meal of either international cuisine or sushi, as well as a bottle of wine per couple (we’re sold already!).
As you drift through the harbor, watching the lights of the city at sunset, you’ll be treated to some of the very best hospitality that Cartagena has to offer. We absolutely loved the food (fresh sushi is the best) and couldn’t help but get lost in the music and the views. It really is a wonderful way to spend your night, and we loved every second of it!
You have a couple of options when it comes to booking this tour, either selecting the traditional option, which costs $70 USD per person, and the romantic package, which costs $80 USD per person. While both packages will set you up for an amazing night, the romantic package gives you a private table.
Why not surprise your date with a night you’re sure to remember? Or bring along the family and enjoy an evening out together. This is a popular tour that can sell out so make sure to book your tickets online with Viator here.
Top tip: Be sure to bring cash along with you, as port fees of $3 USD per person will be charged upon boarding.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
6. Private city tour of Cartagena
We’re big believers that if you want to get to know a city at its core, there’s no one better to show you around than the locals!
This half-day private city tour through Cartagena is such an amazing way to discover the history, culture, and beauty of the city without it feeling like a lecture. In fact, our tour guides were full of jokes and smiles as they showed us some of the best spots in the city, like the beautiful San Felipe Castle and the wonderful Monastery of La Popa!
The 4-hour tour starts with pickup from your hotel, as you dive right into the action and explore the best of what Cartagena has to offer. We love that the tour is personalized to your group, so you can choose which areas you prefer to see, with a mixture of driving and walking included.
Our bilingual guide was so friendly, proud of his city, and super knowledgeable, taking us through to see some really impressive spots! As it’s a private tour, the cost does vary depending on how many people book. Booking for one person costs $130 USD. Groups of 2 people cost $110 USD each, and 3 or more people cost $100 USD each. Kids 4 and under are free.
You can book your spot on this personalized city tour here on Viator.
Related Read: Before you book your plane tickets, make sure to check out our ultimate Columbia travel guide for helpful tips!
7. Tour of San Basilio de Palenque
This 6-hour freedom tour of Palenque is a wonderful way to go behind the scenes and learn all about the true culture and history of Colombia.
We loved learning as much as we could about the local Palenque culture and language – a tour like this really helps to bridge that disconnect that you can often feel as a tourist. We really had a blast doing so, discovering the traditional music and dance, as well as traditional medicine.
You’ll arrive in a small group at a local village, you’ll get to know the locals and learn all about their African heritage. With loads of fun activities, the time just flies by! That being said, I really believe in the importance of tours like this, where you learn about the history of slavery and their rise to freedom. It helps to shed some much-needed light on the struggles and resilience of the local culture.
The cost of this tour is $110 USD per person and includes all transportation on the day, as well as hotel pickup and drop-off. There’s also a wonderful, traditional Palenquero lunch included which is sure to fill you up! We recommend bringing along a day pack with water and sunscreen and dressing appropriately as you spend quite a lot of time outside.
Get in touch with the local culture on this amazing and eye-opening tour – you can check your dates and get your tickets for it online here.
8. Bazurto market tour and cooking class
If you’re a foodie who loves to cook, this half-day market tour and cooking class is right up your street!
I love taking cooking classes when we travel, these new skills always stick with me – I can relive these amazing memories when I make food at home. My favorite part of this experience is that it is run by a friendly local family who invites you into their home to share in a delicious home-cooked meal. The whole experience felt so wholesome and authentic!
Once you get picked up from your hotel, you will start your tour by shopping at a local market for all the ingredients you will need to make your dishes. As someone who likes grocery shopping, I loved this part as I was able to get a better idea of how I would remake this at home.
You then go to a local kitchen where you will be taught by the chef how to make traditional Colombian dishes. In the end, you will do my all-time favorite part – taste your delicious creations!
This cooking class tour costs $115 USD and requires at least 2 people per booking. Round-trip transportation from your hotel in Cartagena is also included in the price. I highly recommend bringing a notepad along with you so you can write down notes about the recipes and make them once you’re home.
If this sounds like the experience for you, easily book this tour here on Viator.
9. Food tour in Cartagena Walled City
This half-day Walled City food tour combines my two all-time favorite things: eating and learning the history of the area we are traveling to!
The Walled City of Cartagena was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1984 and really is one of my favorite areas of Cartagena to explore. Our guide was super friendly and taught us all about the history of the area while feeding us delicious traditional cuisine along the way (say no more!).
Of course, there’s loads of interesting info to learn too, such as how these foods became staples in this culture and played a part in their history.
It’s also an entirely personalized experience, being a private tour and the guides are great, so I recommend asking questions and doing some research ahead of time to see if there’s anything specific you’d like to do, see, or try. It is a walking tour though, so be sure to dress appropriately, including comfortable shoes!
The price of this tour varies based on the number of people in your group, with two people costing $66 USD each and four people coming in at $51 USD per person. It also includes round-trip transportation from your hotel and is offered multiple times throughout the day. If you love trying new food as much as we do, we say go for it!
You can select your date and times for the tour while booking your tickets online here.
10. Private tour to the mud Volcano
What screams fun and memorable more than a private tour to the mud volcano and salt mine?
Around an hour’s drive from Cartagena, the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (aka the Mud Volcano) is kind of similar to the Dead Sea, as bathing here is not just fun, but it’s also great for your skin! The mud here has healing properties, as it’s full of calcium, iron, magnesium, and many other micronutrients that help your skin.
Getting dirty is what this experience is all about, so prepare to jump into the mud and indulge in an enjoyable mud bath! As you can see in the photo above, the volcano isn’t particularly high, at around 15 meters (49 feet) tall, so don’t worry about going for a hike.
You can even get a luxurious mud massage for $3 USD while here, which is 100% worth it in our opinion – why not make the most of your time here? Our tour guide was great and gave a thorough rundown of the history and what to expect from the experience and even translated throughout our visit.
This tour takes around 4 hours and also visits the Galerazamba Salt Mine which, if visiting on a dry day can be a stunning pink color thanks to the microorganisms living in it. The photos you will get from these stunning salt flats are worth the trip themselves! The shade of pink varies throughout the year, but no matter when you visit, they’re still an amazing sight to behold.
The half-day tour can accommodate between 2-15 people and costs $87 USD per person. Transportation is also included, and you can choose between 4 different start times. We highly recommend bringing smaller Colombian pesos with you as well for tips along the way. You can book your tickets to this mud volcano experience here.
11. Cartagena coffee master tour
If you’re anything like me, when you think of Colombia, you think of coffee!
This Cartagena coffee master tour is perfect for coffee lovers like us who are keen to learn more about how coffee is made. Of course, Colombia is world-renowned for having amazing coffee, and you’ll have the chance to sample a few different blends on this tour.
We met up with David and his amazing team at 10 am in the Café del Mural in Getsemaniby, where we then explored their incredible coffee-making contraptions and learned about their influences from other countries around the world! It was super fun looking around the cute coffee shop too. The visible passion that our guides had for their craft really went a long way in making this a very memorable experience.
This tour really was a lot of fun and the coffee shop was so cute! We loved tasting all the different types of coffee and learning about the whole coffee-making process. It’s perfect for groups of 2–8 people and costs $78 USD per person. After the coffee tasting, you’ll also leave with a bag of your favorite coffee.
So get ready for a mind-blowing coffee experience and grab your tickets to the tour here.
Related Read: Having a cup of coffee and walking around the city is also one of the best things to do in Bogota!
12. Sibarita Master luxury sunset tour
Watching the sun go down in Cartagena aboard this luxurious sunset cruise is an experience unlike any other! With fantastic music and an open bar, it’s the perfect way to hang out with friends, relax, and party as the day blends into the night.
We had incredible views of the city as we cruised through the Cartagena Harbor aboard an 85-foot (26-meter) catamaran – the boat was really spacious, and the upbeat vibe was unreal! We took some amazing photos as the lights of the city started to switch on.
Starting at 5 pm, the whole cruise lasted for about an hour and a half, which made it really easy to fit into our packed schedule. I can imagine this being a great activity to book before you head into town for a night out or just as a way to unwind for the evening.
The sunset cruise costs $40 USD per person with child tickets (4-11) costing $20 USD and kids 3 and under being free. If you’d like your experience to include food, you can upgrade for only an additional $4 USD per person, so that’s definitely a great option. Be sure to bring cash along as the price does not include dock fees of $3 USD per person.
You can check available dates and book your tickets for this sunset cruise here.
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 so you can take a few tours and have some free time. 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.
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
Cartagena is one of my favorite coastal towns in Colombia. After living here for a few months, I can confidently say that between the history, the friendly locals, and the stunning beaches, this city has it all. If you are heading to this beautiful Caribbean city soon, we hope you found a tour or two to add to your list!
I hope this guide to the best Cartagena tours has helped you plan the best vacation! If you’re headed to this part of the world soon, make sure to check out our other blogs about Columbia. We’ve also included three more blogs we think will be helpful for you below:
12 Things to KNOW Before Booking a Trip to the San Blas Islands
33 BEST Things to Do in Medellin, Colombia
10 Best Cities in Latin America (That You Need to Check Out!)