1# Visit Cartagena’s historic center
The historic center is the most visited area of Cartagena de Indias. It is composed of 2 districts: El Centro & San Diego (quieter). You will love to walk through its narrow streets in the shade of the colorful facades and flowery balconies.
Don’t forget to stroll through the numerous squares of the city, such as Plaza de La Aduana, Plaza de Los Coches, Plaza de Bolivar, Plaza de San Domingo, or the secluded Plaza San Diego.
And enjoy the sights of the most beautiful monuments: Torre del Reloj, the iglesia de santo domingo, El Santuario de San Pedro Claver & La Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría.
Then, head to Café del Mar at sunset to enjoy the show from the city walls.
👉 Are you looking for a local guide (bilingual) to visit the historic center? You can use our local contact, Cathy.
👉 Cartagena is one of the most photogenic cities in South America. We had the chance to meet Marina, a professional photographer from Cartagena.
👉 Another great option would be to join a group tour.
2# Visit Getsemaní in Cartagena, Colombia
Getsemaní is the third district that forms the walled city of Cartagena de Indias. It is only a 5-10 min walk from the Torre del Reloj (cross the Parque Centenario to get there faster).
This neighborhood is characterized by a more authentic atmosphere, with locals playing dominoes and beautiful street art that denounces the social challenges in Colombia.
It is also a district with more attractive prices, and locals and tourists meet in the early evening to drink beers on the Plaza Trinidad.
👉 Looking for a local guide (bilingual) to visit the Getsemaní? You can use our local contact, Cathy.
👉 Another great option would be to join a group tour.
👉 We also did a fun and short bike tour in Cartagena.
3# Beaches in Cartagena de indias
Many tourists are content to lounge on the beaches of Bocagrande and Laguito. This is far from being my favorite option.
The best Cartagena beaches aren’t in the city.
To enjoy paradise-like scenery, you will have to go to the Rosario Islands (see next point).
Playa Blanca, located on Isla Barú, is the most famous white sand beach. Unfortunately, It is not that great because of mass tourism anymore.
To find a more peaceful beach location, you can stay in the south of Barú Island or go to Isla Grande.
👉 Want to enjoy Playa Blanca? This tour will be your best option.
4# Explore the Rosario islands
The Rosario Islands are an archipelago of thirty coral islands, located 1 hour by boat from Cartagena de Indias in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. Because of their beauty, they are very popular with travelers, especially in the high season.
My favorite way to enjoy it is to stay there for at least 2 nights (Isla Grande is my favorite island). You can even rent a private island.
If you do not have time to sleep there, another interesting option is to rent a boat in Cartagena.
👉 Read this article to stay where to stay in the Rosario Islands.
👉 Would like to rent a boat? Aymeric is our local boat expert. I’m sure he will be able to help you.
👉 You can also decide to have a fantastic time on a catamaran. Read my reviews of the best Rosario Island day trip.
5# Chill on Isla de Tierra Bomba
Tierra Bomba, located 15 min away by boat from Bocagrande, is not part of the Rosario Islands.
The color of the water and the sand is a little less paradisiacal, but it remains a better option than the beaches of Cartagena.
The island is mostly famous for its beach clubs.
6# Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
Cartagena, known as the heroic city, built many fortifications to protect itself from pirates. In addition to its large city walls, you can visit two impressive forts: the fort of Bocachica (south of Tierra Bomba) and the fort of San Felipe de Bajas. The latter is the largest fort in South America.
7# Delicious Cooking class or street food tour
The Caribbean coast cuisine has been influenced by different cultures, mainly Spanish and African. Don’t hesitate to stop at the different stands to try fried plantains with cheese, empanadas with homemade hot sauce, or an arepa de huevo (with eggs).
If your Spanish is limited or you wish to know where the best places to order a snack are, you can check this excellent Cartagena Street Food Tour with a local chef.
An even better option would be to book a cooking class in Cartagena. I did it with Romario, and I loved it. This friendly chef offers various experiences and dishes — including a fun cocktail class with Colombian spirits.
In any case, you can’t leave Cartagena without eating good grilled fish with coconut rice. That would be a crime!
👉 Would you like to cook Caribbean dishes for your friend? Ask Romario, our favorite chef in Cartagena.
8# Cultural and nature trips outside Cartagena, Colombia
In addition to the Rosario Islands, you can visit towns rich in culture and history.
Head to La Boquilla to explore beautiful mangroves on a canoe and learn an exciting crab fishing technique.
You will also have the opportunity to go to San Basilio de Palenque, one of the first free towns in South America (founded by runaway African slaves).
And if you like walking in nature and animal watching, I invite you to contact Olinto. We organized a beautiful hike around Cartagena with him in the dry tropical forest of Montes de María.
👉 Wanna explore the surrounding of Cartagena? You can use our local contact, Cathy.
👉 Or plan an off-the-beaten-path day trip with Olinto.