WARNING: I hope you’re ready for photo overload.
I’m so excited to finally share a look at our trip to Cartagena, Colombia with you guys. This was by far one of the best vacations we’ve been on and I seriously can’t wait to go back. Although we knew absolutely nothing about the city we were visiting, we had such an amazing experience exploring and going on a new adventure each day. I’ve included below a few of my favorite things to do/places to visit but believe me when I say this is only a small piece of all that the city has to offer. There are so many other things I want to experience on our next trip (I may or may not have already started a list) and feel free to drop a comment with your recommendations! Oh, and if anyone is planning a trip to Cartagena in the near future let me know – I have a ton of other recs to share base don our short time in the city!
So without further ado…
The Walled City
The walled city was probably my favorite part of Cartagena. Nestled in the center of Cartagena, the old city is surrounded by ancient stone walls and full of so much culture. While I don’t know much about the history, we really enjoyed exploring all that the walled city had to offer. Beautiful buildings, delish eateries, the best people watching…what’s not to love? The old city is so colorful and bright and we will definitely plan on staying inside the walls next time we visit.
Cartagena is definitely more of an urban city than a tropical destination so it’s only natural that the beaches aren’t as pretty as those further out (more on the below). Everyone told us how dirty the sand was, how dirty the water is and how many vendors would be harassing us. Don’t get me wrong, all of that was true but definitely not as bad as I thought it would be. Since we stayed at the Hilton, we were lucky enough to have a private beach and it was actually really nice. Sure, the sand wasn’t white and the water was not crystal clear but there weren’t a ton of vendors and we still had a really amazing day on the beach. I think we loved the beaches further out more but there was still something really beautiful and unique about the Cartagena beaches and I loved seeing the local there too!
Coolest. Experience. Ever. El Totumo was on every list of “things to do in Cartagena” and Ia m so glad we hopped on a bus with some other tourists to check it out. After a 45 minute bus ride outside of the city, we stripped down to our swimsuits, climbed to the top of the mud volcano and hopped inside for the dirtiest adventure on our trip. The volcano is active (no lave, don’t worry) so there are bubbles and lots of mud and it is the weirdest feeling. There’s not bottom so you just float there while men run you down/give you a massage. (sorta strange ha). It was sort of like a spa day, but without the calming music and fresh scents and robes. So yeah, just the mud part! If you are ever in Cartagena, you have to try it!
ALMA was by far one of my favorite restaurants in Cartagena. Nestled in the cutest boutique hotel in the walled city, not only was this chic + modern eatery absolutely delicious but the service was amazing and the sangria was to die for. If you saw any of my snaps, we actually went to the restaurant on two separate occasions, once for lunch and again for dinner on our last night. I always love a good al fresco situation so it was no surprise that we fell in love with Alma. We accidentally stumbled upon it when walking around looking for lunch and I am so glad we did.
Now I’v already mentioned the sangria (so good, refreshing and under $8!) but the food is equally amazing. The lobster empanadas were so good we ordered them twice and the coconut pie still haunts my dreams. If B and I ever make it back to Cartagena, we are planning on staying at this hotel and will definitely be eating every.single.meal here.
Isla Grande + Gente de Mar
The one common thing we kept hearing before leaving for cartagena was that the beaches in the city were not great. Like not great at all. Everyone tells you to visit Islas del Rosarios or Isla Baru (Playa Blanca) if you want to see crystal clear waters and white sand beaches. And they are right. While the beach at our hotel in Cartagena was not as bad as we assumed it would be, making the venture out of the city is by far the best thing we could have done for the ultimate beach day.
After a ton of research on which island to visit, we landed on the private Isla Grande at the Gente de Mar Resort. We went through Cartagena Connections to book the trip and it was so easy and soooo worth the $50. We took a 50 minute speed boat ride to the resort’s private beach and spent the entire day lounging on the comfiest beach chairs, sipping on limonada de coco (lemonde with coconut milk and, for us, a little rum) and swimming in the most beautiful turquoise water. We even got to snorkle and go kayaking and feast on a delicious lunch provided by the resort. Isla Grande definitely beat the crowded Playa Blanca everyone recommended (there were maybe 30 of us tops on the beach) and I think this might have been my favorite part of the entire trip – just relaxing with #FashionablyBae on a private beach. What a time to be alive.
This was another one of the places that kept popping up during our research before we got to Cartagena. I never added it to the list because I’m not a huge seafood fan but we stumbled upon it after getting semi-lost one night and decided to check it out for dinner. Such a good decision! The decor was so adorable and since we had seats on the sidewalk, we got to enjoy all of the evening activities happening around us. There was an amazing guitarist playing Adele and Jason Mraz (in spanish..so good) and by far the best people walking. We also ran into a girl I interned with (hey Crystal!!) at Weber Shandwick which was pretty crazy.
The food was great – I had shrimp and really liked it – and the drinks we delish. The summer sangria was so fruity and strong. My favorite combo.
It should be no surprise that I love to shop. As with most cities abroad, flea markets are a major tourist trap but I sorta love it. Cartagena had local vendors selling little knick knacks throughout the streets in the walled city but my favorite spot was this little flea market in an old courtyard. Unlike most of the vendors that carried the same set of items (fedoras, ankle bracelets, etc.), this flea market in particular has a ton of cool thrifted things that I would have loved to bring home with me. Even if you’re doing a little window sopping, it’s still fun to explore the city’s culture through the local lens and check out some of the things they cherish on a day-to-day.
This was such a fun experience! We randomly came across the Choco Museo during one of day trips into the walled city and couldn’t help but going in to see what it was all about. And guess what? It was all about chocolate! My favorite thing on this planet. And B’s favorite thing. So we were sold. We got a tour of the mini museum, learned a little history about Colombian chocolate and got to make our own tiny chocolates. We booked a last minute workshop where you to to pour melted chocolate into molds, add in your own toppings and take it all home with you. Brandon ate most of his in one sitting…safe to say it was delicious. This place is definitely a must-try if you’re looking for something a little different.