My Trip to Cartagena
Believe it or not, this was my first time visiting South America! Being that I live in Miami, the flights are so short that it’s almost inconceivable that I haven’t been already. But better late than never, right?! I was actually visiting Colombia (Bogota) for a wedding, but we decided to go a few days early and visit Cartagena. Below are some recs from our visit!
Where to Stay
Las Americas Torre del Mar: This hotel was PERFECT for our stay! It was right on the water, so we woke up to the most beautiful view every morning. It is also about a 5-7min drive into the walled city, so it’s not far at all from the hustle and bustle of the centre. The hotel is big with two different pools (one main pool and one adult infinity pool), 4 restaurants, shops, and bars! You don’t even need to leave the hotel if you didn’t want too! ha! Regardless, it was perfect for our stay and I highly recommend this hotel. The staff was friendly and attentive. The rooms were clean and big!
If you do decide to stay within the walled city, I recommend looking into the small boutique hotels. They are usually renovated homes which is the perfect way to immerse yourself into Colombian culture
What to do
Walk through the Walled City: This is the main attraction in Cartagena. The walled city is pretty small (you could walk the whole thing in about an hour) but is filled with so much to see. Take your time here and enjoy everything it has to offer. Shop at the boutique shops (items that you may buy in the states for $300 are only $15 here), eat street food from people who have been making these dishes for years, dine at local restaurants, drink at unique bars, and take in the beauty of the architecture! There are a lot of locals who either try to sell you something or perform for you, they are harmless! Just keep walking and don’t pay too much attention. Unless you want them to perform! hahh. Regardless, the walled city is beautiful. We spent 99% of our time here.
Take a boat to the Islands: This excursion had its pros and cons. It was pricey and seemed to add up, but was beautiful to see. We found a boat company through the hotel that was $600 for a private boat for the day. You can take group boats for $20pp, but we wanted to splurge a little and spend the day just the two of us. We met the boat around 9am and they took us out to show us the islands. The water is beautiful out there, almost fake looking. This was our favorite part. They then took us to an island for lunch. The place was called Agua Azul. While it was nice to relax on the beach, you could tell it was a tourist trap. The food was overly expensive and every little thing cost money (even if you didn’t ask for it). If I were to do it again, I would plan specific islands to visit. There are some beautiful beach clubs and restaurants so its worth making a proper plan before heading out. Bring cash for these trips!!
Go to the beach: Although we didn’t do this (we’re from Miami and we do this often enough), we heard great things about Playa Blanca. Spend the day on the beach and take in the Caribbean sun. Keep in mind the sun is H O T here. I peeled for 2 weeks after our boat trip! Lather yourself in sunscreen and then hit the water.
Go dancing in Getsemani: You cant visit Cartagena without having a fun night out. The Getsemani area is known for a good time. Check out places like Cafe Havana for live salsa music (and lots of dancing) and classic Cuban cocktails! You can also dine at Demente for a great tapas style meal and cocktails before heading out for a night of dancing.
Where to eat (and drink)
La Cevicheria ($$$): Come here for Ceviche (shocker lol)! We had tried to dine here since the first day we arrived, but it was packed every single time we tried. They don’t take reservations, they’ll just add your name to a long list of names. For the most part, there is almost some sort of available seating inside but everyone wants to sit outside and people-watch. This was my favorite meal here. Try dishes like Paella and Ceviche (ask what the most popular one is). I also tried platanos in this sort of cherry-cola glaze. SO strange but I ended up eating all of them!
La Mistura ($$$): Serving up delicious seafood with Peruvian influence! Cartagena is filled with great seafood spots, and this is one of them! Try dishes like sushi, fresh fish, and ceviche. Dinner service is accompanied by live music!
Carmen ($$$$): Serving up a contemporary menu with local influence. We chose to do the 7 course tasting menu for dinner. There is a wine pairing available, but we decided to have their cocktails (which were delicious). Some courses stood out more than others, but they were all crafted with detail. Try dishes like elevated Carimañolas: liquid foie gras & black truffle center or something like Risotto with braised beef belly.
Cuzco ($$$): Serving up Peruvian cuisine. If you haven’t had enough seafood yet, here’s another great spot to satisfy those cravings. Try dishes like Langoustine Causa and Japanese Ceviche.
Juan del Mar ($$$): Juan Del Mar is separated into an outdoor pizzeria and an indoor Peruvian restaurant. If you choose to sit outside and people- watch, try dishes like Carbonara pizza or burrata. They also have gluten free pizzas and delicious pastas. Inside, try dishes like ceviche (yes, more ceviche), Chaufa de mariscos, and Lomo Saltado.
La Vitrola ($$$$): Serving up local Colombia cuisine. Make sure to make a reservation! This place fills up quickly. The live music makes the experience fun and exciting. Try dishes like grilled octopus and Ropa Vieja. The service is impeccable here.
Harry Sasson ($$$$): Although this restaurant is all around Colombia, This ‘Worlds 50 Best Restaurant” is situated inside a very popular Cartagena hotel, Santa Teresa. Again, its more seafood but hey, that’s whats best in Cartagena! I would order freshly grilled fish, but you can also get dishes like three- cheese ravioli and saffron rice with shrimp.
Demente ($$): While this place is known for its drinks, it also has a great tapas-style gastropub menu! It is perfect for dinner before a night out. Located inside the Getsemani district, Demente is the perfect spot for dinner with a great atmosphere. Grab a pizza or a few appetizers and take it all in.
La Palettería ($): In a city where the heat is almost overwhelming, it’s only natural to want some sort of cold dish to cool you off. Look no further than La Palettería for this! Their fruit filled popsicles are delicious! Some are filled with cream, others with yogurt, and some with chocolate flavoring. Honestly, you can go wrong with anything here!
Alma ($$$$): Can’t visit Colombia without eating at a Colombian restaurant! Situated right in the center of the walled city, Alma serves up delicious Colombian cuisine using fresh and local ingredients. Try dishes like fresh Ceviche in a coconut, Forest Creamy Rice, or Churrasco. They also have vegetarian and gluten free options.
Erre De Ramon Freixa ($$$$): FAVORITE MEAL OF THE TRIP! Luckily enough, it was right in our hotel (Las Americas Torre Del Mar)! The space is beautiful..sitting on the top floor overlooking the ocean. Headed by a Michelin Star chef, Erre De Ramon Freixa is a gastronomic experience. Our favorite dishes included the Lobster Rigatoni with Burrata, the Entrecôte, Truffle Ham Sandwich, and the sushi! Sushi is also served by the infinity pool. It was fresh and perfect for a meal by the pool.
Cafe Del Mar: Get here 20 minutes before it opens so you can grab a table right along the wall for the sunset! This place gets packed pretty quickly, so if you want to see the sunset properly, get there early!
Alquímico: Best cocktails. This bar was super cool, played Nelly (my fav) and had a bunch of delicious cocktails named after different Colombian cities! Must try in Cartagena.
FOODS TO TRY:
Arepa de huevo