Cartagena

Cartagena de Indias, the magical city, the jewel of the Caribbean. It is given many nicknames and any traveler going to Colombia wants to visit it.

While the old city center is undoubtedly a beautiful colonial quarter to explore, visitors may be a little disappointed during their stay in Cartagena.

Indeed, every day, tourists and street vendors invade the city center, the beaches are not pleasant and there is not much to do in the surroundings – except visit the Rosario Islands (which are also very busy).

That said, there are some nice things to do in the walled city. All you have to do is be smarter than ordinary tourists. This means not booking a day trip to Isla Baru or the Rosario Islands (stay overnight instead), go visiting the old center at 7 am and avoiding Cartagena during the high season (mid-December to mid-January) or a Colombian holiday.

After Cartagena, you can catch a boat to spend a few days on the San Bernardo Islands or experience wonderful beach life in Rincon del Mar. Another option is to take a door-to-door shuttle to Santa Marta.

 

Articles about Cartagena you must read before coming:

 

Getting to Cartagena? 

From Santa Marta to Cartagena: 

 

From Medellin to Cartagena:

  • Bus at the North terminal. I recommend a night bus. Schedule – Double-check with the bus company. | Expreso Brasilia & Rapido Ochoa | 14 hours
  • Flights from the main airport | Viva Air, Latam & Avianca | 1 hour | Prices & availabilities

 

From Bogota to Cartagena:

 

From Cali to Cartagena:

 

From Riohacha to Cartagena:

  • Many direct buses from the main terminal | Unitransco, Copetran & Expreso Brasilia | 8 h | 

 

From Capurgana to Cartagena:

  1. Boat Capurgana – Necocli. Departure around 11 am. | 2 hours
  2. Van Necocli – Monteria | 3 hours
  3. Bus from the Monteria terminal – Cartagena | Unitransco & Expreso Brasilia | 6 hours

 

From San Bernardo Islands to Cartagena: 

 

From Rincon del Mar to Cartagena:

  1. Moto-taxi (or taxi) Rincon Del Mar – San Onofre | 30 min
  2. Bus from San Onofre – Cartagena | Caribe express (Expreso Brazilia) | 2h30

 

From Isla Fuerte to Cartagena:

  1. Boat Isla Fuerte to Paso Nuevo | 20 min
  2. Taxi Paso Nuevo to Lorica | 45 min
  3. Van Lorica – Cartagena | Transportes Gonzales | 5 hours

 

From Neiva to Cartagena:

 

From Pereira to Cartagena:

 

From San Gil to Cartagena:

  • 2 nights buses from the San Gil terminal.
    Schedule – Double check with the bus company. There is usually a change in Barranquilla. | Expreso Brasilia & Concorde | 16 hours

Where's the airport?

The airport is 20 min away from the old city center of Cartagena. Take a taxi or book an airport transfer to make your life easier. 

Location bus terminal? 

The bus terminal is outside of Cartagena.  The easiest way to reach it is to take a taxi. It takes 45 min.

Location tourist dock ? 

The port is in front of the city’s wall, at a 10-min walk from Getsemani.

Table of Contents

Click on the orange links below ⬇️ and scroll down ⬇️ to read the chosen section.

Where to stay in The Old City Center

The Old City Center is the loveliest - and most expensive - part of Cartagena. Large balconies made of wood and decorated with gorgeous flowers overlook the colorful streets. There are many little squares where you can sit down when the heat is too oppressive, although the best is to find one of the many secret courtyards inside the large colonial houses.

  • Republica

    Hostel - $$$

    Republica

    Famous 3-floor hostel with a swimming pool and a rooftop. Daily social events. Be ready to party.
    Get the best price
  • Makako

    Hostel - $$

    Makako

    The best economical option in the old town. Great atmosphere and social events. Backpacker style.
    Get the best price
  • Casa Gloria

    Boutique - $$

    Casa Gloria

    Small simple hotel with a pool and a terrace with jacuzzi. Very good value for money and helpful staff. Nice decoration.
    Get the best price
  • India Catalina

    Casa - $$

    India Catalina

    Excellent value for money, with a little swimming pool and welcoming staff. Perfect location.
    Get the best price
  • Las Carretas

    Boutique - $$$

    Las Carretas

    A perfect little hotel with nice Spanish decoration.Good breakfast. Comfortable rooms. Terrace with pool.
    Get the best price
  • Mantilla 3-37

    Casa - $$$

    Mantilla 3-37

    Beautiful colonial house decorated with taste. There are only a handful of comfortable rooms. Lovely host.
    Get the best price
  • Gastelbondo

    Casa - $$$$

    Gastelbondo

    No kid. Perfect location in a quiet street. Lovely pool on the rooftop. Tasty breakfast and cozy rooms.
    Get the best price
  • Santo Toribo

    Boutique - $$$$

    Santo Toribo

    Luxury hotel for an affordable price. Well decorated. Perfect location. Rooftop and two little pools.
    Get the best price
  • TownHouse

    Luxury - $$$$

    TownHouse

    A luxury hotel for young travelers. Fantastic events on the rooftop, live music. Cool modern decoration.
    Get the best price
  • San Agustin

    Luxury - $$$$

    San Agustin

    Top-Notch luxury hotel. Excellent services. Gorgeous building with many relaxing areas. Fall in love.
    Get the best price
  • Bastion

    Luxury - $$$$

    Bastion

    Spa & huge rooftop pool. Fantastic staff & breakfast. Perfect for an unforgettable stay.
    Get the best price

Where to stay in Getsemani

Getsemani is the new hype district. Streets are less busy during the day and street vendors are fewer. Alleys are colorful because of the many graffitis on the walls. Backpackers love Getsemani as the cost of living is a lot cheaper than in the walled city, and the nightlife funkier. 5-10 min walking distance from the old city center. Safe.

  • Life is Good

    Hostel - $$

    Life is Good

    Social hostel with plenty of events. Comfortable rooms. Great staff who is always ready to help.
    Get the best price
  • One day

    Hostel - $$

    One day

    An excellent choice for people who travel on a shoestring budget. Friendly atmosphere. Unpretentious rooms.
    Get the best price
  • Posada La Fe

    Hotel - $$

    Posada La Fe

    Excellent hotel located in a quiet street in Getsemani. Lovely staff. Comfortable and clean.
    Get the best price
  • Monaguillo

    Hotel - $$$

    Monaguillo

    Great decoration for the rooms and comfy beds. Lovely rooftop. Perfect location. Only 7 rooms.
    Get the best price
  • Casa pizzaro

    Hotel - $$$

    Casa pizzaro

    Excellent money for value. Swimming pool, and welcoming staff. Rooftop. Breakfast is delicious!
    Get the best price
  • Santa Isabel

    Boutique - $$$

    Santa Isabel

    Pleasant establishment with a terrace and a beautiful view of the city. Excellent breakfast. Very good customer service.
    Get the best price
  • Capellan

    Luxury - $$$$

    Capellan

    A gorgeous building with larges rooms, well decorated. Top-notch services. Great rooftop.
    Get the best price
  • Casa Lola

    Luxury - $$$$

    Casa Lola

    Fantastic hang out areas and well-decorated. A few meters from bars and restaurants.
    Get the best price

Where to stay in Manga

Manga is a good option for people who want to stay away from other travelers. The district is safe, with a mix of modern buildings and colonial houses. It's a residential area, so there are not many restaurants. However, Getsemani is just on the other side of the bridge, a short 10 min walk.

  • Peregrinos

    Hostel - $$

    Peregrinos

    Lovely colonial house, good value for money, with comfortable rooms. Quiet area, near Getsemani.
    Get the best price
  • Casa del Puerto

    Hostel - $$$

    Casa del Puerto

    Funky & party hostel with a great central swimming pool. Apartments and private rooms. Affordable.
    Get the best price

Where to stay on Isla Baru & Isla Tierra Bomba

Isla Tierra Bomba is the closest island near Cartagena - 25 min boat ride. While it doesn't have crystal blue water and white sand beach, it is still a good option if you want to escape from the city for 1 day or 2. Isla Baru/Playa Blanca is the most famous island in the area. The place is overcrowded on the weekend, and most of the accommodations are basic but expensive, with electricity and water restrictions. However, we recommend you to spend the night there if you want to get a better chance to enjoy this well-known piece of paradise.

  • Blue Apple

    Tierra Bomba

    Blue Apple

    Best luxury hotel on Tierra Bomba. Day club where people come to have fun. Quiet at night.
    Get the best price
  • Playa Scondida

    Isla Baru

    Playa Scondida

    Charming little eco-lodge, perfectly located. A bit loud because of the party boats on Cholon.
    Get the best price
  • Las Islas

    Isla Baru

    Las Islas

    Luxury cabins, surrounded by crystal blue water. Far away from the tourists. Many activities
    Get the best price

Where to stay on Isla Grande

While we don't recommend you to book a 1-day tour to Rosario Islands (it's just a waste of time), some of the hotels there will blow your mind - and your wallet. Most parts of the island are private and owned by hotels. Pick your accommodation carefully as you won't find much public space to hang out.

  • Carolina island

    Luxury

    Carolina island

    Secret little paradise. Fantastic tours, services, and food. You won't be able to leave. Area with a private beach.
    Get the best price
  • Isla del sol

    Luxury

    Isla del sol

    Great private bungalows. You must share the fantastic facilities with daytrippers. Beautiful.
    Get the best price
  • Islabela

    Luxury

    Islabela

    Peaceful and beautiful area with a private beach you have to share with daytrippers. Private bungalows.
    Get the best price

Things to do in Cartagena

The main activity in Cartagena is to stroll early in the morning among the colorful alleys of the Walled City and Getsemani. Then, pick a delicious restaurant with a lovely and flourish courtyard. Museums aren't a thing in Cartagena, and most of them are quite disappointing, with very little information (almost inexistent in English). However, there are some cultural tours which are worth it! Cartagena isn't famous for its beaches neither. Plan a multi-day trip to the Rosario islands if you look for white sand beaches and crystal blue water.

  • Walking tour

    4 hours | $$

    Walking tour

    2 independence dates, tens of colonial buildings, pirates. Learn about the history of Cartagena. Don't forget your hat.
    Get the best price
  • Old City Center

    2 hours | Free

    Old City Center

    Wake up early and stroll among the alleys of the old city center at 7h30 am. Fresh air and fewer people.
    Learn more
  • Bazurto

    3 - 4 hours | $$

    Bazurto

    Visit the biggest open market of Cartagena to get a clear insight into Colombia's culture. We loved it.
    Get the best price
  • San Felipe

    1 - 2 hours | $

    San Felipe

    A fortress built by the Spaniard to protect Cartagena from pirates. Learn about its secrets.
    Learn more
  • Cooking class

    5 hours | $$$$

    Cooking class

    Caribbean meals are flavorful, cooked with fresh ingredients and love. Bring back this at home!
    Get the best price
  • Sunset

    2 hours | $$

    Sunset

    Enjoy a great Cartagena sunset from the walled city at Cafe del Mar or from a sailboat.
    Get the best price
  • Bars & restaurants

    All day long

    Bars & restaurants

    Find all the best bars and restaurants on our map "Colombia Insider" on Mapstr.
    Download
  • Centenario

    15 min | Free

    Centenario

    Located in front of the Torre del Reloj. Try to spot the few monkeys and sloths. Good luck
    Google Map
  • Become a Star

    2 hours | $$$$

    Become a Star

    There are many Instagrammable shoots in Cartagena. Hang out with your personal photographer
    Get the best price
  • Street dance

    30 min | Free

    Street dance

    Head to Plaza Bolivar at 6 pm to watch a street show with traditional Colombian dancers from the coast.
    Google Map
  • Getsemani

    3 hours | $

    Getsemani

    The city paid many artists to redecorate the streets of Getsemani. Many fantastic graffitis.
    Learn more
  • Street dance

    Evening | Free

    Street dance

    Every night, street performers go to Plaza Trinidad in Getsemani. Cheap beers and a great atmosphere.
    Google Map
  • Learn Salsa

    4 hours | $$

    Learn Salsa

    Champeta is the favorite dance on the Caribbean Coast. But it's not a reason to stop dancing salsa.
    Get the best price
  • Coffee tour

    1 - 2 hours | $$

    Coffee tour

    Colombian coffee is one of the best you can drink on the planet. Learn how to prepare and enjoy it.
    We recommend
  • Biking tour

    2 hours | $

    Biking tour

    Grab a yellow bike and follow your local guide in the old city center & Getsemani. Quick, fun & safe.
    Get the best prices
  • La Popa

    2 hours | $

    La Popa

    La Popa is the highest point in Cartagena. Book a taxi for 50 000 COP (round trip) and enjoy the view.
    Learn more
  • Rafael Nuñez

    1 hour | Free

    Rafael Nuñez

    Visit this gorgeous Colonial building, home of Rafael Nuñez, an important man in Cartagena. It's free.
    Learn more
  • Gabriel Marquez

    3 hours | $$$

    Gabriel Marquez

    Gabriel Marquez got a Literature Nobel Prize and was in love with Cartagena. Learn about his life. Read his books!
    Get the best price
  • Food tour

    4 hours | $$

    Food tour

    Join a bike tour to taste a maximum of street food in the alleys of Getsemani and the Old City Center
    Get the best price
  • Chocolate making

    1 - 2 hours | $$

    Chocolate making

    Learn about the Colombian cacao and make your own chocolate. Perfect for having a fun family moment.
    Get the best price
  • Horse riding

    6 hours | $$$$

    Horse riding

    Plan an exciting gallop on the beach of Manzanillo with a well-trained and obedient horse. Romantic experience.
    Get the best price
  • Palenque

    6 hours | $$$

    Palenque

    Basilio de Palenque is the first free slave town in South America. Learn about its history & culture. 1 h away from Cartagena.
    Get the best price
  • La Boquilla

    4 - 5 hours | $$

    La Boquilla

    La Boquilla is a small fishing village. Fish with locals in the mangroves and cook what you've got.
    We recommend
  • Los Colorados

    Full day | $$$

    Los Colorados

    Wildlife sanctuary, located 2 hours away from Cartagena. Perfect for escaping the city and the noise.
    Learn more
  • Birding

    6 hours | $$$$

    Birding

    There is an aviary in Isla Baru. Thousands of birds easy to spot. Enjoy a colorful experience. Bring your binoculars.
    Get the best prices
  • Rosario Islands

    8 hours | $$$

    Rosario Islands

    Pack a small bag and visit the islands on a catamaran. White sand beaches and crystal blue water.
    Learn more
  • Isla Cholon

    Afternoon

    Isla Cholon

    Rent a boat with friends and party on Isla Cholon with all the other boats. Only on Saturday and Sunday.
    Learn more
  • Boat

    Full day | $$$$

    Boat

    Rent a private boat with some friends and ask the captain to show you secluded beaches and party on Isla Cholon.
    Get the best price
  • Scuba diving

    5 - 6 hours | $$$

    Scuba diving

    Grab your fins and your tank and go exploring the Submarine world. Shipbreakers, fishes, and reefs.
    Get the best price

Our articles about Cartagena

We spent almost 3 weeks in Cartagena and wrote about our travel experiences

Where to eat & drink?

For us, good restaurants and exciting nightlife are important when traveling. We gathered our favorite picks on an interactive Map. Download the APP "Mapstr" and look for "Colombia Insider"!

More places on the East Coast

Find out all our other favorite places on the Eastern Caribbean Coast

More Travel Guides

(Click on the Map)

Click to get back to the table of contents

Specific information by location

Our travel guides per city

Where to sleep? What to do? Where to eat? How do you get from one place to another?

How to decide among all these stunning places?

 FREE Ebook based on our 5 years of travel in Colombia. 150 pages of information pure, no bullshit.

Just one last step and you will be able to start reading our guidebook! You should receive an email soon to confirm your inscription. Please, check your email box (Don't forget the Promotion and junk boxes)

Travel stress-free in Colombia

Colombia is a country with tons of exciting experiences and hidden places. Stop working hours on your itinerary while wondering if you've made the right choices. Tell us what you like, and we take care of the rest. Thanks to our service, you save time, money, and experience Colombia differently.