Cartagena, Colombia is a small Caribbean tourist destination known for its historic district filled with Spanish colonial architecture, its crystal blue Caribbean waters, and the local fresh seafood. And JetBlue Airlines can bring you here.
Cartagena is an amazing city. The historic area is and beaches surrounding it are where most people stay and for good reason. It is gorgeous. Colonial architecture permeates throughout Cartagena, lining all the streets with colourful and similar looking buildings, making it easy to loose yourself, or get lost, wandering the narrow roads. And in the historic district of Cartagena, it is perfectly safe to do so. Horse drawn carriages clomp down the streets day and night, and small restaurants hide in every corner. After dark, most stores close down, except for a few slightly pricy areas (pricy for Colombian standards, but average for European or USA ones). But unlike most of Colombia, wandering around the historic district at night is not only safe, it is recommended to take in views of this area as the sun goes down.
You can also walk around the wall that surrounds the historic city. It is a rather low wall, some parts wider than others, but offers amazing views of the city and the coastline. There are many nooks and crannies to snuggle up in with your honey and watch the setting sun. Cartagena is a very romantic city, and not surprising, I came across a few marriages in my week there.
The Caribbean ocean is also drop-dead gorgeous here. Warm, salty waters smash against the rocks, lightly spraying passing pedestrians. There are ample beaches to relax on too, where a barrage of locals will offer you massages, hair braiding, and the infamous and must-have Coco Loco – three types of rum served inside of a coconut shell…a must have drink for anyone visiting Cartagena.
You should also head out on the water.
At the marina, just outside the historic walls,you can take a boat ride to Playa Blanca and Isla de Rosario. Men will try to sell you tickets on the street. Many of them are legitimate, but, before handing over any money, I recommend double checking by making them walk you to the entrance to confirm the tickets are valid. The prices are a bit cheaper at the marina, but if you want to save yourself a walk and the possible hassle of buying tickets, just about every hostel and hotel offer bookings for the same tours.
Just make sure you know what boat you book. (and whose driving).
There are long boat rides that leave little time on the islands, but much time on the water, and vice versa. If you want more time lying on the white sands of Playa Blanca and playing in the translucent aqua-blue waters, I recommend taking a fast boat and skipping the tiny, and tourist crammed Isle de Rosario. The only things on this island are overpriced food, tourists by the hoards, and a tiny aquarium that costs 20.000 COP (and has nothing you can’t see in any other aquarium). However, I did stumble upon a quiet spot behind the bathrooms that few others found.
There is also some great fish places around Cartagena. On the recommendation of Margarita, a local and the owner of El Viajero Hostel Cartagena, she told me “the best fish restaurant in Cartagena is Pargo Rojo. It’s not fancy, but it’s the best.”, and boy was she right!
Cazuela (a giant fish stew served bubbling hot in a ceramic pot) and a gigantic grilled seafood platter, complete with an whole fish centerpiece was way more than enough for the three of us ventured down the beach to eat here. About an hour walk from the historic district (or a 5 minute, 6.000 COP cab ride), it is totally worth it for some of the best seafood I had my entire stay in Cartagena.
And while here, don’t forget to check out Volcán de Lodo El Totumo– the live, active mud volcano an hour outside of Cartagena you go INSIDE. The mud is supposed to have healing benefits, but this trip isn’t for the shy. Expect strangers to grab you to stay upright, and random people to massage and wash you. Of course, you don’t HAVE to get massaged and washed, but when in Rome…
Cartagena is a GREAT getaway place. Beaches, sun, food, and ample relaxation.
The other best part?
You can now get to Cartagena, from the USA, cheap on JetBlue, who now flies from JFK in New York to Cartagena.
I totally recommend grabbing your passport, and heading way ‘south of the border’ to the beautiful, colonial city of Cartagena, Colombia.