Are you ready to uncover the best-kept secret of Cartagena de Indias in Colombia? Wondering when is the best time to visit this captivating city?
Look no further!
I am your trusted travel expert, armed with the most comprehensive information and insider tips.
With my expertise in Colombian travel (since 2015) and my experience of visiting Cartagena a whopping 10 times, I guarantee you the ultimate guide to choosing the perfect time for your adventure.
From evading rain showers to finding the ideal balance of crowds and prices, I’ll help you navigate through the seasons and unlock the hidden treasures of Cartagena.
Bring your umbrella or sunglasses, and let’s go!
👉 Want to know everything about Cartagena? To learn where are the best places, and avoid tourist traps and beginner’s mistakes? Nothing could be easier. I put it all together in our guide to Cartagena de Indias.
Best time to go to Cartagena: The Takeaway
|Best time||Key Facts|
|🌞 Dry Season||December to April|
|🌧️ Rainy Season||May to November|
|🌦️ Weather||Dry season: Sunny with clear skies, rainy season: Brief heavy downpours|
|♨️ Humidity Levels||Dry season: Around 80%, rainy season: Up to 100%|
|🌡️ Temperature||Daily highs of 31-32°C (88-93°F), nighttime lows rarely dip below 25°C (77°F)|
|👨👩👧👦 Crowds||Avoid mid-December to mid-January, Holy Week, Independence of Cartagena (11/11).|
|💲Deals and Prices||August to November|
|🏝️ Rosario Islands||Visit during the rainy season|
|🤿 Snorkeling and Diving||Rainy season is ideal|
|🏄🏻♂️ Kitesurfing and Windsurfing||Dry season (windy season)|
Things you MUST know about Cartagena
- Where to stay in Cartagena
- Things to do in Cartagena
- Boat tours in Cartagena
- Safety tips when exploring Cartagena
- Nightlife in Cartagena
Best time to visit Cartagena: Tell me your plan
The best month to come to Cartagena may not be what you imagine.
Dodging the Rain: Cartagena’s Dry Season
First things first: Cartagena doesn’t have the traditional four seasons you might be used to. Instead, it has two main “seasons”: the dry season and the rainy season.
🌞 The dry season runs from December through April and is generally considered the best – and most popular – time to visit the city. During these months, you’ll enjoy sunny days and clear skies, perfect for exploring the city and soaking up its vibrant atmosphere.
☔ The rainy season, on the other hand, spans from May to November. While it doesn’t necessarily rain all the time during these months, you can expect brief, heavy downpours that usually last for an hour or less. The exceptions to this rule are September and October when more prolonged and heavy rains can cause street flooding.
Keeping Cool: Cartagena’s Humidity
Cartagena may not be known for its rain, but it’s definitely famous for its humidity! While there’s no time of year when the humidity is truly low, some months are more bearable than others.
Visiting Cartagena from December to April (the dry season) means you’ll experience slightly lower humidity levels, generally around 80 percent. However, from May through November, humidity can soar to a sticky 100 percent on some days. Imagine Miami in the summer but with even higher average temperatures!
Feeling the Heat: Cartagena’s Hottest Months
Given its proximity to the equator, Cartagena’s temperature varies little throughout the year. You can expect daily highs of 31-32°C (88-93°F) and nighttime lows that rarely dip below 25°C (77°F).
It’s important to note that changes in humidity can significantly affect how these temperatures feel. Fortunately, the dry season brings more breezes, which can make the heat more tolerable. In fact, some visitors even find themselves feeling a bit chilly at night when the wind picks up!
Low Prices: Rainy Season Perks
Of course, there are some clear benefits to visiting Cartagena during the rainy season.
As the most expensive city in Colombia, it’s essential to find ways to save on costs, and going during the off-peak season can do just that.
By visiting between August and November, you can score amazing deals on flights and hotel rooms, often costing twice as much or more during the dry season.
So, if you’re budget-conscious, the rainy season is the perfect time to explore Cartagena.
Sidestep the Crowds
While I adore a lively atmosphere, Cartagena can become overwhelmingly noisy during its busiest times.
As a popular destination for foreigners and Colombians, the city sees a massive influx of tourists yearly.
To avoid the crowds and noise, it’s best to steer clear of the following peak periods:
- Mid-December through mid-January
- Holy Week (usually sometime in March or April)
- Mid-June through July
- Colombian students’ October break
- Independence of Cartagena (11/11), which includes a week of events
- Mid-January to February, when many Colombians are still on vacation
Also, be aware that long weekends in Colombia often cause tourism spikes, so plan accordingly.
Discover the Stunning Rosario Islands
I highly recommend that anyone visiting Cartagena should also take the time to explore the Rosario Archipelago.
The guide to avoid making mistakes when visiting the Rosario Islands.
Interestingly, the rainy season (April to November) is the ideal time to visit these Caribbean islands. Here’s why:
- The dry season attracts larger crowds, more touts, and loud music everywhere.
- High ocean winds during the dry season make the seas choppier, potentially causing rough boat rides or trip cancellations.
- Rain during the rainy season is usually brief and manageable.
Swim, Snorkel, and Dive in Crystal Clear Waters
For snorkeling enthusiasts, the rainy season is once again the prime time to visit Cartagena.
The dry season’s winds create waves that reduce underwater visibility, whereas the rainy season offers calmer waters and warmer temperatures.
While much of the area around the Rosario Islands has been impacted by mass tourism, venturing further out can still yield fantastic snorkeling and diving spots.
Additionally, Tierra Bomba Island offers the chance to explore centuries-old shipwrecks on the ocean floor.
Kitesurfing and Windsurfing Adventures
Though the best kitesurfing in Colombia is further up the coast in La Guajira, there are some decent spots for both windsurfing and kitesurfing around Cartagena, with La Boquilla being the top choice.
Unsurprisingly, the dry season (or windy season) is the best time for these activities, boasting winds of around 10-20 knots (11.5-22 mph or 18.5-37 kph).
For more information, check out my comprehensive kitesurfing guide for Colombia.
Party Like a Local
If you’re in the mood for epic parties, Cartagena’s dry season is the time to be there.
I particularly love the city around November 11th, when it celebrates its independence with a week of festivities. The atmosphere is electric, with local parties and events happening non-stop.
New Year’s Eve is another massive party in Cartagena, though expect waves of Colombian and foreign tourists during this period.
Celebrate Your Honeymoon in Cartagena
Cartagena is a top-tier honeymoon destination that offers a magical experience to newlyweds.
The best time to enjoy a honeymoon in this area is when the sun is shining but the crowds are thinner.
That means visiting in the first half of December or going from February through April.
Cartagena Weather and Events by Month
A quick overview. You can also learn about the best time to visit Colombia overall.
January to April
🎉 Events: This period is packed with exciting events, such as the Hay Festival in January, the Cartagena International Film Festival, and Barranquilla’s Carnival, typically in late February or early March.
☀️ Weather: Expect average temperatures of 81°F (27°C) with highs around 87°F (30°C) and lows near 76°F (25°C). Sunny days and a pleasant breeze are common.
👪 Tourism: This is peak season, but the busiest times are mid-December to mid-January and during Holy Week.
🔎 Ideal for: Travelers who enjoy events, don’t mind crowds, and want to avoid rain.
May to August
🎉 Events: No significant events occur during this time.
☀️ Weather: This is the start of the rainy season, with occasional rain and 100% humidity. Average temperatures hover around 83°F (28°C), with highs of 88°F (31°C) and lows of 79°F (26°C).
👪 Tourism: This is the medium-low season, although Colombian students’ break causes a spike in tourism.
🔎 Ideal for: Travelers looking for extended boat trips to the Rosario Islands and other nearby islands, as well as snorkelers and divers.
September to October
🎉 Events: Don’t miss the San Basilio de Palenque Festival in October, featuring music, food, local crafts, and dancing.
☀️ Weather: This is the rainiest time of the year, with the highest chances of heavy rain and possible tropical storms. Average temperatures are 83°F (28°C), with highs of 88°F (31°C) and lows of 79°F (26°C).
👪 Tourism: This is the low season, offering the best deals on flights and accommodations.
🔎 Ideal for: Budget travelers seeking a less crowded experience.
November to December
🎉 Events: Cartagena Independence Day celebrations occur in November, and December offers the día de las velas on December 7th, Christmas lights, fancy Christmas Eve dinners, and lively New Year’s Eve celebrations.
☀️ Weather: The dry season begins, providing a break in humidity. Expect average temperatures of 81°F (27°C), with highs of 87°F (30°C) and lows of 77°F (25°C).
👪 Tourism: This is a transition period between high and low seasons, with mid-December marking the peak of the high season.
🔎 Ideal for: Travelers seeking excitement without the extreme crowds or those who don’t mind the high prices and noise during peak season.
Best Time to Visit Cartagena: Insider Tips
Still trying to figure out when to visit Cartagena? Fret not! As your friendly Colombia travel expert, I’m here to share some insider tips to help you make the best decision.
Worst Time to Visit Cartagena
The worst time to visit Cartagena is between mid-December and mid-January, as well as during Holy Week.
I avoid the city during these times due to the overwhelming crowds and noise—especially on the islands.
However, if you thrive in a bustling atmosphere, you might enjoy visiting during these peak times.
Others might prefer to avoid the middle of the year when the winds are low, and the humidity is at its highest.
My Favorite Time to Visit Cartagena
The best time to visit Cartagena is during the “shoulder seasons“—those sweet spots when the weather is still fantastic, prices are lower, and the crowds are thinner.
In Cartagena, these shoulder seasons fall in April and May, as well as November and the first half of December.
But hey, Cartagena is a stunner all year round, so don’t let me stop you from enjoying it whenever you, please!
What to Do in Cartagena When It’s Raining
Caught in a sudden downpour? Don’t sweat it!
My advice is to simply wait it out. Find a cozy bar or café, grab a drink, and relish the soothing pitter-patter of raindrops. Chances are, the showers won’t last long.
If you happen to be near the Naval Museum when the skies open up, seize the opportunity to step inside and explore. You’ll learn heaps about Cartagena’s rich history, and by the time you’re done, the rain will likely have subsided.
Is Cartagena’s Weather Predictable?
Cartagena’s weather is más o menos predictable in the long term, but short-term surprises can still occur.
Even during the dry season, rain’s not guaranteed to be completely absent. Plus, while temperatures remain stable, humidity levels can fluctuate significantly.
Don’t stress too much about what your weather app says—it might seem like it’s raining all the time, but remember, Cartagena’s rainfall tends to be brief and intense.
What to Pack for Cartagena
- Dress in light, comfortable attire like sundresses and loose-fitting clothes to stay cool in Cartagena’s heat and humidity.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and sunglasses and applying sunscreen generously. An umbrella can also come in handy for both sun and rain.
- Stay hydrated by carrying a refillable water bottle and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Don’t forget to bring insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes, especially between 6pm and 8pm.
- Pack a light sweater or jacket for cooler nights or places with air conditioning.
- Remember that upscale venues often have a dress code that discourages shorts and flip-flops.
- If you’re traveling from North America, no need to worry about voltage and plugs, as Colombia uses the same standards. Otherwise, pack an adapter for Type A or B plugs at 110 volts.
- Carry cash for tips, street vendors, and small transactions, as it is commonly used in Colombia.
- Consider making a copy of your passport’s main photo page and laminating it to use as an ID, keeping your actual passport safely stored at your accommodation.
Why You Should Visit Cartagena
Cartagena is an extraordinary tourist destination that offers a little something for everyone. Here are some of the things that make visiting Cartagena an unforgettable experience:
- The culinary scene in Cartagena is top-notch. You’ll find mouthwatering options ranging from street stalls to upscale restaurants catering to every palate and budget. I took some delicious cooking lessons too.
- Feast on some of the world’s freshest and most delectable fruits and fruit juices, particularly those sold by the Palenqueras (Afro-Colombian women), symbolizing the city’s rich culture.
- Immerse yourself in history by visiting San Basilio de Palenque, a UNESCO-recognized site and the first independent settlement of ex-slaves in the Americas.
- Bask in the sun on pristine beaches like Playa Blanca, Isla Grande, Tierra Bomba, and the Rosario Islands, all within easy reach of Cartagena.
- Marvel at the striking contrast between the old and the new as you stroll through charming colonial neighborhoods like the Walled City and Getsemaní, and admire the sleek modern architecture in Bocagrande and Laguito.
- Experience a day of adventure and culture, starting with a tour of medieval buildings such as castles and monasteries, followed by a trip through a mangrove forest and a tropical dry forest, and ending with an evening of live music and dancing at a swanky bar – all in one day in Cartagena.
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