I have been sleeping on South America for sure- until this year! A friend and I needed to get out of the cold for some girl time, and Cartagena for a long weekend was a great pick! Only a couple hour flight from Florida, it was a great spot to do some relaxing, sightseeing, and eating (wow the food we had- just wow). Here's a little run down of our itinerary.
Stayed: Intercontinental in Bocagrande. If you want that Miami/high rises on the beach/strip action feel, definitely book a hotel in the Bocagrande area. Really nice hotels, beachfront, with an easy walk to the walled city of Cartagena (about 40mins along the ocean). Cabs to and from the city were also only 20mil (equivalent to $3)- so easy enough to get around! The Intercontinental was next to a mall and near several stores to get all your necessities. It had a breakfast buffet as well as a really nice gym and infinity pool that looked onto the beach.
Excursions: Our second day we did a speedboat trip over to the Rosario Islands. It was about $88/pp, 5 hours, and included pick up from the hotel to the marina, speedboat to the islands that lasted a little under an hour, resort amenities on a small island (bathrooms, bars, restaurants, lockers, unmotorized water sports, lounge chairs), as well as a complimentary lunch. Return was around 3pm, we were back at our hotel around 4pm. Great way to kill a day and swim in that calm, warm, turquoise blue water. Loved this little trip within our trip, except for the speedboat ride back to the marina. The ocean was a little rougher, so it was not calm, caught air a few times, a little scary for someone not used to speedboat life.
Walled City: We spend the majority of our time in the walled city of Cartagena. It feels like Old San Juan and New Orleans had a baby- really beautiful bright architecture, cobble stone streets, the wall/fort that surrounds all the beautiful buildings. It had amazing restaurants, and some great drink spots.
Casa del Mar- our first stop for a drink in the city. Perfect place on top of the actual wall to watch the sunset. Definitely a scene, and skip the food here it was not that great, but you should check it out for a sunset cocktail
Bar at the Sofitel- I had an amazing lemon sorbet gin drink here that a finished in .2 seconds. We stopped here while we were waiting on a reservation at La Cevicheria- so glad we did.
La Cevicheria- currently even more popular since Anthony Bourdain did a visit here. We waited over an hour for a seat, but dinner on a Friday night so we were prepared. Amazing ceviche, and lobsters! Big beautiful delicious lobsters. We got one for each of us (not entirely on purpose but glad it worked out that way)
Mistral - Saturday night dinner spot - Asian Colombian fusion restaurant, the waitstaff here was adorable and super friendly, really made the experience.
Carmen- we did a lunch here, since it was booked solid for the entire next week of dinners. Over the top fancy food. Very good, a little pricey, ambiance also very fancy, glad we tried it- but also glad we only did lunch here. Dinner might have blown the bank.
Townhouse- adorable rooftop bar on the top floor of the Townhouse hotel in the walled city. Great sunset cocktail spot. Small pools around the bar in case you wanted a quick dip (we did not partake).
In conclusion, 3 1/2 days I think was the perfect amount of time to check out Cartagena. We saw the entire walled city, a nearby island, Bocagrande, got some relaxing and pool time in, enjoyed the hotel, nice walks on the beach, and some amazing food + drinks. The weather was perfect- and that in itself is a win win win win win!
Cost breakdown without flights:
Hotel Intercontinental 3 nights: $180/per person total
Taxis: $10 per person total (Bocagrande to walled city, to and from airport)
Excursion to Rosario Islands: $88/per person
Meals and drinks: $250/per person