Cartagena is one of the trendiest vacation spots that’s been popping up on social media lately. It’s a busy tourist town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Spend your day relaxing on the picturesque beaches or walking around the historic walled city. The colorful neighborhoods offer plenty of photo opportunities.
In this guide, we’ll check out the top things to do in Cartagena, where you should stay, and the best places to party.
Get ready to see what makes Cartagena a Colombian hot spot!
Things to Do in Cartagena
Tour the Old City
The Old City is the most popular tourist area in Cartagena. You can’t visit Cartagena without touring around the Old City.
Old City, or the Walled City” has several famous landmarks, including the Cartagena Cathedral, Clock Tower, and San Pedro Church. Take pictures in Plaza Bolivar or take in the scenic views at Café del Mar.
Street vendors fill the narrow cobblestone roads. The best place to shop is at Las Bóvedas. You’ll find lots of artisan crafts and souvenirs.
Walking tours are available for tourists to learn about the Walled City’s rich history. It’s also the go-to nightlife destination.
San Felipe de Barajas Castle
The San Felipe de Barajas Castle overlooks the Walled City. The preserved 16th-century castle is open to the public to learn about its history and see the incredible views.
San Felipe de Barajas Castle is located on a hilltop, but it’s an easy climb. Visitors can walk around the castle’s interior and exterior. Guided tours are available for a more historical context of the site.
Be sure to admire the views from the castle. It offers one of the best Cartagena skyline views in the city.
It hosts cultural events throughout the year.
White Beach (Playa Blanca)
Cartagena is a popular beach destination in Colombia. White Beach is a favorite for locals and tourists. You’ll get to enjoy the city’s most picturesque beach with white sand and clear blue waters.
White Beach is located a short drive outside of Cartagena on the Rosario Islands. In the peak travel season, the beach is usually crowded. Arrive early to get a spot under one of the cabanas.
There’s nothing like spending a day at the beach in Cartagena. The water conditions are perfect for enjoying water activities. Keep an eye out for the beach vendors trying to sell you something every few minutes.
Cartagena isn’t the birthplace of salsa, but the locals sure do treat it like it is. Salsa is the most common dance. If you’re planning on going out, it’s a dance you’ll want to pick up. Whether you’re an expert salsa dancer or a first-timer, there’s plenty of places to enjoy salsa.
Keep your ears open for the rhythmic salsa beats. Cartagena developed its own style of salsa that you can even see performed in the streets. For a fun place to go salsa dancing, head over to Café Havana, which features live music. If you have a couple of days in Cartagena, consider taking a fun salsa dancing class.
Visit the Rosario Islands
The Rosario Islands is a Colombian archipelago surrounded by an extensive coral reef system. Visitors can enjoy a day trip to the islands to enjoy fun water activities and experience the Colombian island life.
You can find many tours from Cartagena to visit the islands. You’ll get picked up from your accommodation and taken to the boat that will bring you to the islands. You’ll have a few hours enjoying the attractions like the beach and the aquarium. Snorkeling is the best way to see the abundant marine life in the reefs.
Most tours include meals throughout the day. Private boat tours are also available.
Best Areas to Stay in Cartagena
Cartagena has accommodations for all types of travelers. Whether you’re backpacking South America and looking for a cheap hostel or treating yourself to a luxury vacation, Cartagena has accommodations for everyone.
The best places to stay in Cartagena are:
- Old City
Immerse in the local Afro-Caribbean scene when you stay in Getsemani. It’s the trendiest neighborhood where you’ll find incredible graffiti everywhere you look. The streets are lined with hipster shops and restaurants – it’s just a few minutes walk to the walled city.
Old City is the most popular place to stay for tourists. You’ll conveniently be right in the hub of all the action. You can find budget hostels like El Viajero Hostel or the luxury Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Hotel. It’s one of the safest areas and has lots of tourist shops around for souvenirs.
If you’re planning a beach trip to Cartagena, Bocagrande is the best place to stay. Your accommodation will be steps away from the beach. Stay on Bocagrande Beach or Laguito Beach for modern hotel options.
What to eat in Cartagena
Cartagena has one of the most unique cuisines in Colombia. Many of the local dishes are Caribbean inspired serving up lots of flavors in every bite.
Try out these local favorites:
- Arepas de queso
- Posta Negra Cartagenera
Cartagena is located on the coast, so you’ll find the freshest seafood in Colombia. Ceviche is a seafood cocktail that comes with shrimp, toppings, and more.
Arepas de queso is a staple in Colombian cuisine. The flatbread is stuffed with cheese and comes with lots of toppings.
Try out a Posta Negra Cartagena for a Caribbean-inspired dish. It’s a tender roast topped with savory local seasonings. It’s the perfect dinner dish.
Grab an empanada to-go or sit down and enjoy one of Colombia’s favorite foods. It’s a stuffed corn shell fried for a crunchy sensation in every bite. It’s usually stuffed with potatoes, meat, or vegetables. Lots of street vendors sell it, so it’s easy to find.
Visit Cartagena if you’re looking to turn up on vacation! Cartagena is a popular nightlife city. The walled city is the best place to experience the fun.
The walled city has lots of fun bars, clubs, and restaurants where you can party with locals and visitors. Check out Cafe Havana for salsa dancing or Eivissa for three levels of partying and a rooftop dance floor.
From the scenic beaches to views atop the walled city, Cartagena has lots of things to do. Stay a couple of nights to make the most of your trip to Cartagena. Fill up your itinerary with the recommendations, and you’re sure to have a great time!