A dream week in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Local friends in Colombia told me wonders about Cartagena, city about which I knew close to nothing. Beaches, fresh food, sun, Caribbean sea, beautiful architecture, UNESCO world heritage buildings, amazing beaches, and great people – that’s exactly what can be found on the most popular vacation destination in Colombia, they were right !

Holiday in Cartagena De Indias, Colombia

Interactive map to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Local friends in Colombia told me wonders about Cartagena, city about which I knew close to nothing. Beaches, fresh food, sun, Caribbean sea, beautiful architecture, UNESCO world heritage buildings, amazing beaches, and great people – that’s exactly what can be found on the most popular vacation destination in Colombia, they were right !

Arrival at the Radisson Cartagena Ocean Pavillion Hotel

Landing late at night, with a direct Avianca flight from Bogota, go and back flights for 187€, and a five nights booking for 111$ a night at this 5* beach waterfront hotel, there hasn’t been much to see from the flight – nor from the taxi ride (10 000 COP / 3.6$, taken from airport official taxis), as everything was dark.

However, being there in early December, the hotel was fully decorated for Christmas.

Cartagena: Find local activities

Welcomed by great guest, I got offered, as a Radisson Rewards platinum member, a welcome drink at the bar, and a great upgrade to a junior suite.

After enjoying exploring the large suite – a lobby, a bedroom, a living room, 2 bathrooms, and a balcony – I went down to get the welcome drink, and accompany it with some food at the pool restaurant, trying the local chicken with coconut rice. Very tasty !

Lazy rooftop day

Following day, treated myself at the many hotel amenities : gym, rooftop jacuzzis (no kids allowed), waterfront swimming pool.

The rooftop jacuzzis are simply amazing. Beautiful view on La Boquilla beach, and lot of seating space around the terrace. Three jacuzzis are available – at the time of my visit, one of them was out of service, which wasn’t an issue.

A few beers later, after dark, it was time to go meet some locals in the city center.

Met on Couchsurfing, locals invited me to join them for drinks on Trinity square, Plaza de la Trinidad. On a small square in front of a church, with benches all around, locals are gathering there (it was a Tuesday evening) after work to talk, have drinks (which are officially forbidden in outdoor public areas) and enjoy some cheap street food – a local patacon sells for a few dollars.

Meanwhile, evening started with a live street band playing, continued with clowns doing some shows aimed at the many kids around, and finished with break-dance performances.

Pool and beach day

The day after, my friend joined me with her daughter at the hotel.

We took some deck chairs by the pool, ordered cocktails, and enjoyed pool games while the sun lasted – due to surrounding high rise hotels, pool is under sunlight from about 10am to 3pm. Perfect weather, around 30°C, feeling very comfortable even under the sun.

Radisson Cartagena Ocean Pavillon Hotel – outdoor swimming pool by the beach

When getting under the shades, but still being a beautiful sunny time, we headed down to the beach of La Boquilla.

After a short swim in the Caribbean sea, we got some fresh oysters and crab from a street seller : simply gorgeous ! A half dozen oysters sells for 10 000 COP / 3.6$, and same goes for a crab, both being equally tasty.

Sun getting down, after a refreshing shower, we headed into town with an uber, which did cost an exceptional 16 500 COP / 6$ due to high traffic at this time. After a great walk around the Arts and Science university, and the Plaza San Diego, we noticed a good balcony restaurant above the square. Little did we know it would be awesome !

Taking seats by the balcony of El Balcon – Eat Drink Love restaurant, we enjoyed tasty cocktails served by friendly staff with view on Plaza San Diego, which was animated by break dance performances.

We ordered local food – local steak, fish ceviche, which we enjoyed very much, before heading back to hotel, to get enough sleep before a day of fun on Pirate island. The way back with no traffic with uber was much cheaper, 6600 COP / 2.4$.

Caribbena island time – Rosario Islands, Pirate island

After another amazing – and free, as part of the Radisson Rewards benefits – breakfast, we took a taxi to the pier in the marina, getting wet by the waves crashing on the road, where we waited for our transport to Pirate island, one of the islands of the  Rosario islands   archipelago, about 1h by boat from Cartagena.

Arriving at the very small island, we were amazed by the beauty of the water, with all tones of blue and green possible.

Pirate island hosts a hotel which consists of a few huts. We were offered a snorkeling activity, for 40 000 COP / 15$ per person, or an alternative visit at the oceanarium, which would take place before lunch (included in the trip).

On the way to the activities, 30min by boat, we passed several amazingly beautiful islands, including former Pablo Escobar’s private island, and first dropped on one island the guests for the oceanarium activity.

We then went to a quiet spot, in between some very small one-house only islands, and started the hour long snorkeling.

First time snorkeling for me, with too much waves for a beginner, it was hard at first to get comfortable with the gear. However, great snorkeling, and beautiful fishes all around !

We then went back on the boat, went to pick up the oceanarium group, and headed back to Pirate island, where a very tasty meal was waiting for us, offering rice and fresh grilled fish.

After the meal, we were given a few hours to relax on the island, which we used to have some drinks, take some sun, and swim in the tempered Carribean sea.

The way back from the island was awesome ! With a very strong wind at that time, it felt like a hour long roller coaster, moving up and down while being splashed by water at the same time – so much water, it was nearly not possible to open our eyes. Very fun time !

Back to the hotel and being pretty tired after a whole day of fun, it was time for a relaxed meal and an early night sleep.

Fortifications visit and Caribbean sunset

Last full day in Cartagena, it was high time to finally visit the city, which includes 11km of walls built by the Spaniards, and used to protect the city against French and British pirates and naval armies. Both were trying to get their hands on the silver and gold extracted from the Western and North part of the Andes, transiting through Cartagena to Europe.

The city is full of amazing Spanish-inspired buildings, and the fortifications are so amazing, they have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

Ahead of dusk, we went to Cafe del Mar, a restaurant on one corner of the fortifications, which is famous for having one of the best points of view on the main attraction : the sunset on the Caribbean sea.

Even though we arrived pretty early, the best seats have already been taken, waiting for the sunset. We got a table, and waited for dinner and wine for this amazing spectacle.

Having seen a lot of sunsets in many places, this one have something exceptional that cannot be compared with others. Everyone got the same feeling – which is why when the sun disappears, everybody is so touched by this beauty, that we all naturally start clapping to thank nature for this awesome spectacle.

Enjoying a few drinks more, we then head back home, passing through the Plaza de los Estudiantes, and making a last stop at the Chocolate Museum. This amazing place sells hand and locally made chocolate and coffee, which tastes awesome – couldn’t resist to buy some for all my family !

Next day, we woke up early and enjoyed the last hours at the swimming pool and the beach before flying back to Bogota – on the way, we had the chance to witness a breathtaking storm from the sky.

Total budget for 5 nights for one person with flight from Bogota

Total : 940€ / 3 200 000 COP / 1150$

Flight : 187€ / 640 000 COP / 230$

Hotel : 452€ / 1 550 000 COP / 555$ (111$ / night)

Food : ~88€ / 300 000 COP / 108$

Drinks : ~88€ / 300 000 COP / 108$

Local transportation : 17€ / 57 000 COP / 21$

Excursion to Pirate island with snorkeling : 103€ / 350 000 COP / 126$

Frequently Asked Questions

What activities and cultural experiences make a week in Cartagena de Indias a dream vacation, and how can visitors immerse themselves in the local culture?
A week in Cartagena offers experiences like exploring its historic walled city, enjoying Caribbean beaches, and savoring local cuisine. Immersion in local culture can be enhanced by participating in cultural tours, attending local festivals, and interacting with residents.

Michel Pinson
About the author - Michel Pinson
Michel Pinson is a Travel enthusiast and Content Creator. Merging passion for education and exploration, he iscommitted to sharing knowledge and inspiring others through captivating educational content. Bringing the world closer together by empowering individuals with global expertise and a sense of wanderlust.

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