One Week in Cartagena: The Ultimate Itinerary for Food, Culture & Nature

Rachel in a blue dress holding a menu in the evening.
Curated By

Rachel Anderson

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  • Cartagena

  • Beaches

  • Food & Wine

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Beach Town

  • Outdoors

  • LOcal Food

A colorful street with hanging flags.
Curator’s statement

Immerse yourself in the charm of this Caribbean gem, where every corner reveals a piece of its rich history. Offering vibrant scenery, culture and adventure, Cartagena promises an unforgettable getaway for every traveler. Wander the colorful alleys of the walled city, relax on pristine beaches and hike through biodiverse rainforests. Meet warm and welcoming locals, indulge in an innovative culinary scene and dance to Caribbean rhythms pulsing through the streets. You won’t want to leave!

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay

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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.

Hotel Capellan de Getsemani

Spanish, colonial-style hotel with a refreshing plunge pool in the artful neighborhood of Getsemani.

Fora Perks
  • Breakfast daily.

  • Welcome treat in room on arrival.

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

Ermita, Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

Immerse yourself in the vibrant spirit of Cartagena at this boutique gem, where modern elegance pays homage to the city's rich history, offering a stylish tribute to Colombian hospitality.

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Rachel in a blue dress holding a menu in the evening.

Unlock perks by contacting Rachel to book your trip.

Day 1: Dinner & A Show

A street with pink buildings.

After touching down in Cartagena, make your way to the hotel. Check in, unpack and unwind. You’re on vacation now!

For dinner, make your way to Candé, a restaurant celebrating Cartagena’s diverse culinary legacy with colorful dishes that blend African, Indigenous and Spanish influences. To further immerse yourself in Cartagena’s rich heritage, your dinner service will also include live musical acts and dance performances.

Day 2: Street Eats & Sunset Cocktails

A wall with painting and butterflies art.

Start your first full day in Cartagena with a cup of coffee. Colombian coffee is considered to be some of the best in the world, thanks to its smooth, mild flavor and well-balanced acidity. Enjoy a cup at your hotel or venture out to one of the city’s many cafés. Book-lovers should check out Abaco Libros, a cozy bookstore café. Here, you can also pick up a book by literary legend Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose famous novels were inspired by the Cartagena streets.

If coffee isn’t your thing, then try another local favorite, limonada de coco. This frozen coconut limeade is the perfect refresher for any hot day.

Afterwards, explore more of Cartagena’s cuisine by taking a street food walking tour. Wind through the walled city streets to taste local favorites and hear about the city's history. Sample tropical fruits, traditional stews, savory pastries and other tasty treats. Make sure to arrive hungry!

In the evening, make your way to a rooftop bar to catch the sunset and indulge in craft cocktails. Check out Alquimico, a bar consistently ranked as one of the best in the world and that offers a different Colombian theme on each of its three floors. Arrive early to grab a table, or join the late-night crowd to dance until morning.

Day 3: Hiking, History & Heritage

A man and woman using binoculars on a hiking trail.

Get out of the city on your third day. Choose between an adventurous nature hike or an inspiring historical tour.

For an off-the-beaten path and more local experience, book a nature tour to explore the often overlooked parts of Cartagena. These tours introduce travelers to remote villages, unique flora and fauna and plenty of adventure. Options include hiking through dry rainforests to spot howler monkeys, tamarins and other creatures; canoeing through Mangrove forests to visit small local fishing villages or trekking through the mountains to see petroglyphs left by the ancestral people of the region.

History buffs should opt for a tour to Palenque de San Basilio. Known as the first free African town in the Americas, Palenque proudly shares its ancestral customs and language with all who visit.

In case your excursion did not include lunch, stop by La Mulata for fresh ceviche, fried fish and other local delicacies.

After returning and resting at your hotel, treat yourself to a luxurious dinner at contemporary Caribbean restaurants Celele or Carmen. Through their menus, both restaurants celebrate the biodiversity and rich heritage of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, fusing traditional flavors and ingredients with modern, innovative culinary techniques.

Day 4: Rum Tasting & Salsa Dancing

Nightlife on a street with hanging umbrellas.

After enjoying a leisurely morning at your hotel, head out to El Arsenal: The Rum Rox for lunch and a masterclass on rum and chocolate. Transporting you from the bar stool to across Colombia’s coasts and mountains, their tastings will enable you to further explore Cartagena’s culinary traditions.

Later in the evening, join a rooftop dance class to admire the sunset views and learn a few new moves. Classes will teach the basics of salsa, bachata and champeta, a dance style originating from Colombia’s Caribbean coast. In these classes, no dance experience or rhythm is required – it’s all about having fun.

Put your new skills to practice with a late-night visit to Café Havana. Their lively salsa bands, strong mojitos and electric energy have everyone up and dancing. Professional dancers also rotate around the bar to provide quick salsa tips and encourage everyone to move to the beat. This hotspot is not one to miss!

Day 5: Beach Retreats

Beach at sunset.

No trip to Cartagena is complete without a visit to the beach.

Many beach resorts offer day passes called pasadías. These typically include roundtrip transportation on a speed boat from Cartagena; access to beach chairs, swimming pools and other facilities; and a plated lunch. Most pasadías will let you enjoy the morning and afternoon at their property, bringing you back to Cartagena in time for dinner in the city.

If you’re wanting to spend even more time in the sun, plan to change accommodations and stay at an island resort for the final nights of your trip. Properties on Tierra Bomba island or Baru offer private villas for the ultimate getaway from the getaway.

Day 6 and 7: Relax

Aerial view of beach with beach umbrellas and people.

For your final days, relax on your own terms. Go out on another beach day trip, lounge by the hotel pool or get a massage at the hotel spa. Slow down to savor the final moments of your vacation.

Say goodbye to Cartagena with an evening sunset cruise around the harbor. Enjoy cocktails, music and beautiful views as you sail around the city. Beware - the sunset’s reflection off the skyscrapers may enchant you to book another holiday to magical Cartagena.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Susannah Malek’s guide, 5 Perfect Days in Cartagena.

Rachel in a blue dress holding a menu in the evening.

Travel Advisor

Rachel Anderson

Get in touch with Rachel

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Cartagena.