Guide to Cartagena: The Colombia Caribbean Gem

Advisor - Ronit Margolis
Curated By

Ronit Margolis

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  • Cartagena

  • Boutique Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Family Travel

  • Beaches

  • Local Culture

  • Shopping

  • History

a view from the street below of ornate yellow, orange, red and white chapel
Curator’s statement

You’ll come to Cartagena for its tropical Caribbean vibes, but you’ll be blown away by the historic stone-walled old city, the colorful colonial architecture and the uniquely Colombian culture. After spending five days in the walled city, it was easy to fall in love. The culture is vibrant and music is playing everywhere. Whether your idea of a vacation is sipping the world’s best coffee, taking a day trip to a beach nearby, or looking up at a bougainvillea-laced balcony, Cartagena, Colombia has a ton to offer everyone.

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Where to stay in Cartagena

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Charleston Santa Teresa Cartagena

Colonial-style hotel overlooking the Caribbean Sea known for its colorful rooms with a restaurant, cafe and eatery.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Welcome treat in room on arrival.

  • Upgrade & guaranteed late check-out.

Casa San Agustín

If you are looking for luxury, Cartagena has no better hotel than Casa San Agustin to unwind and pamper yourself.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena

Reinvented and innovative hotel, which recreates a tropical palace where the walls and ceilings retain the historical magic of this 17th Century Colombian building. 

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Things to do in Cartagena

a street lined with yellow columns with various market stalls and women dressed in brightly colored dresses

Our days were jam packed as we wanted to see everything. It got pretty hot by 10 am so wear a hat or buy one from a local street vendor. We loved exploring the walled city, every street is so vibrant. There are some great local designers and incredible shops. My favorite shops included St Dom, Mercedes Salazar (handbags and earrings) Loto del Sur (candles) and Beatriz Camacho (gorgeous linen dresses). Walk through Mercado de Bazurto for an opportunity to get a look at local life. It's a great market to buy souvenirs.

The highlight of our trip was a boat ride to the Rosario Islands, the most popular island to visit. Our hotel recommended the boat ride to us and we spent the whole day there. It was so relaxing and clean and the food and drinks were amazing! There is another beach there called Isla Baru' but we didn't have enough time.

If you stay at Charleston Santa Teresa like we did, wake up early and enjoy riding the complimentary bikes in the morning and grab a coffee. Don't miss out on watching the sunset at Café del Mar, and enjoy watching the locals dancing to the live music.

Places to eat & drink in Cartagena

front of a pizzeria on a sunny day with green plants crawling up the walls and a mural with a man in rocking chair

There was no shortage of amazing restaurants in Cartagena from street food to fine dining. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Celele, ranked as one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America. This is a must stop.

  • If you love ceviche, you must eat at La Cevicheria, this always busy seafood haven is located on an adorable cobblestone street and rose to fame thanks to Anthony Bourdain.

  • If you like pizza (who doesn't), don't miss RPG Pizzeria Boutique. It's an adorable local pizzeria that will leave you wanting more.

  • Harry Sasson located in the interior patio of our Hotel Santa Teresa, offers what is considered the best of Columbian Carribean cuisine. Make sure to order Mediterranean tapas, fried eggs and squid, grilled fish and coconut rice.

  • After dinner go to Alquimico to drink and dance at their gorgeous roof top bar!

Need to Know

If you are wondering if it's safe to travel to Cartagena, my answer is YES! Be smart and leave your jewelry and name brand bags at home; you don't want to be a target. And brush up on your Spanish; tourism is relatively new to this country, so they are not used to all the English speaking tourists, but you'll be fine with Google translator. We were!

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Simon Morris' guide, The Best of Cartagena's Hidden Gems.

Advisor - Ronit Margolis

Travel Advisor

Ronit Margolis

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