This Colombian seaside city is a real gem and one of our favorite places in South America. Everyone told it was going to be hot, and they were right. It’s a stunning old town that takes you to another time and the modern touristy Bocagrande will spoil you with its sandy beaches.
We were here for five days and we discovered something new every day: a church, a beautiful balcony or a new part of the city wall from colonialist times. If you are in town on a weekend you can see many weddings which take place at the cathedral or you can watch many street performers, all for free. A very popular spot is the city wall with its many towers.
Reaching Bocagrande is done by Taxi. A shared ride will cost 1,5$ or you can take the bus or even walk (25 min). This area is packed with hotels, shops and restaurants (try the Colombian version of McDonalds – Presto, no comparison. Let your imagination decide which is better 🙂 ).
The beach is OK, but around Cartagena there are a lot of much nicer beaches, the most popular being Playa Blanca (it’s really white, but full of people). At Bocagrande you can rent cabanas for 10000 pesos (3€), beach vendors make the best ceviche in South America, sell beer, offer massage and so on. If you are not interested and smile and “gracias” will usually do the trick, only the massage ladies need a bit more convincing.
The area with the most affordable hotel/hostels is Getsemani and it is very close to the old town. In the evening plaza Trinidad is the place to be for people watching, cocktails… A small tip: they are very flexible with “happy hour”. 🙂 In this area you will find everything a traveler needs: markets, restaurants, laundry and hairdressers. 🙂
If you are coming to Colombia, Cartagena is definitely worth a visit – start the morning on the beach, in the suffocating heat head to a shopping mall for good deals and in the evening stroll around the old town, enjoy a drink or two and let the day pass into a party night.