DESTINATION: CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
TRAVEL TIME: 5 HOUR FLIGHT FROM NYC
STAY: 5 DAYS
HOTEL: CASA PESTAGUA
We finally made it back to Cartagena after three years. Colombia is quickly becoming our favorite country. The last couple times we were there in Cartagena and Medellin, it was just Matt and myself. This time we wanted to bring Sebastian along and it was so much fun! This time out was perfect as we were ready to get out of the cold here in New York City. The sun, beach and amazing scenery just sounded better.
How to get to Cartagena
We took a non-stop Jetblue flight from NYC to Cartagena. They only have a direct flight to and from NYC three to four times a week. Since we were traveling with Sebastian, we wanted both flights to be non-stop, but our return flight we had a layover in Fort Lauderdale. If you’re traveling with a toddler, here are all our travel essentials and tips when flying with a little one. Now that Sebastian is walking, here are some of the things we brought for him to occupy his time on the flight and exploring Cartagena.
When we landed in Cartagena, we went through customs and upon picking up our luggage, we got someone to help us with our luggage. This is something we typically don’t do, but after a 5-hour flight, I had my hands full with Sebastian and Matt needed to handle all the paperwork. It worked out well to have a local help us get through the line quickly and direct us to our taxi. We arranged a taxi with our hotel. Upon booking, they offer it as a paid service and it made it easier for us when we landed. We also didn’t have to worry about paying in cash. We just tipped the driver when he dropped us off at our hotel.
As for cash, Matt ordered Colombian pesos through our bank a week before we left. We brought some money, but not a lot since most places take credit cards. We like to have a certain amount of cash to tip while traveling.
Where To Stay
Our hotel, Casa Pestagua, was located inside the walled city. If you haven’t made it down there yet, part of Cartagena is completely surrounded by a stone wall. Inside are a seemingly endless number of streets lined with beautifully painted homes. The street our boutique hotel is on was no different. Once you enter you are brought into a large dim foyer just before you enter an absolutely stunning courtyard. As you walk through the courtyard and get to the back there is a large beautiful swimming pool surrounded by plants and palm trees. We stayed on the second floor overlooking the courtyard below. The room was giant with a huge bathroom and a walk-in stone shower. On the rooftop, they have a pool that was perfect for Sebastian. It overlooks the whole city and the beach to the west. You get the perfect view of the iconic Cartagena Cathedral that you simply have to get a shot of when you visit.
Food at the Hotel
The food here was fantastic. We ate breakfast in the courtyard every morning. It came as a part of our stay and it was delicious. Fresh fruit & juice, eggs, pastries, empanadas, arepas, and more. Sebastian even got his own seat and they made him his own little plate of food, which was so nice. The setting in the courtyard was so great. There was ivy that hung from the ceiling behind us and a cute little pool/stream that ran along the length of the room.
Casa Pestagua had many beautiful spots even beyond the courtyard and rooftop. It use to be a huge mansion that they converted into a hotel. On the second floor, there was a large formal room a large black and white checkered floor. It was so elegant and just a really cool room. The doors opened up onto a balcony, where you could look down on the bustling street below. You get the great views of all the stunning colors of the buildings. Highly recommend you check it out if visit.
Hotel LM is where we stayed the first time we traveled to Cartagena. We wanted to stay there again, but they have a no kid policy. The hotel is gorgeous, we loved the staff and the rooftop pool is unforgettable.
What To See & Do
Walk the Streets In The Walled City
If you like taking photos, this is why you come here. Around every turn, there is a reason to get the camera out. The colors, the vendors, fruit ladies(more on that here soon), fruit stands, birds, flowers, etc. The list goes on and on. Pictures don’t do it justice.
Sunset on the Wall
One of neatest experiences in Cartagena (imo) is watching the sunset on top of the wall. On the very west side of Cartagena along the wall, is where folks gather to watch the sunset over the Caribbean Sea. It is just really cool to stand on top of a wall finished in 1796 and watch the sun go down with locals. People are sitting with their legs hanging over the edge as they sip a cerveza with their significant other and watch as the sky changes colors. It was really special to be able to share that with Sebastian…even if he won’t remember.
Meet the Fruit Ladies
They are symbolic to Cartagena. Women dress up in bright red, blue & yellow dresses and have little fruit carts. While the fruit is delicious, what you really want is a picture of them or better yet, with them. But the picture isn’t free so be ready to shell out a note or two. Don’t worry it only ends up only working out to a few dollars. The one lady that we took pictures with was so sweet and it just ended up being a cool set of photos. Probably my favorite photo of the trip was the one with both me and Sebastian with our fruit lady.
We didn’t get a chance to go here this time around but we loved it the first time we were here. This is a neighborhood just 10 minutes outside the city walls. It is uniquely Cartagena and all about the life of the street. There is an abundance of street art, gorgeous graffiti murals, shops, street performers, fruit stands and music. It is a great change of pace and offers another side to Cartagena. I definitely recommend wandering over there during one of your days there. A great spot called Cafe Havana for salsa dancing and drinks.
Jetting out to the Rosario Islands is an absolute must. These are a chain of islands scattered just off the coast and offers incredible beaches to explore. We got picked up at our hotel and driven to the marina (just outside the walls) to hop on our boat for a day at the beach. The reason so many go out to the islands is that the beaches on Cartagena aren’t the best and it’s nice to get out in the middle of the sea. It’s about a 45 min boat ride out to Playa Grande. The island is spectacular. The beach is pristine with some of the most beautiful water we have ever been around.
We lounged all day right on the water and took a bunch of photos and videos. We even got Sebastian in the water. He hasn’t warmed to the waves yet but once we got past them, he sat on his little raft and loved it. They provide lunch for you and have a beach bar so you can enjoy beverages throughout the day too. We got there around 10 am and left to head back to the Cartagena at around 4 pm. Link to the service we used is here. You can also get a private boat too if you want to do some island hopping on your own time, which is something we will do the next time as Sebastian will be a little older.
Where To Eat
This is where we ate at the first night in Cartagena. We had gotten it as a recommendation and it didn’t disappoint. Best oyster shooters we’ve ever had. Great ceviche and just a cool joint.
This is the spot that showed up the most when we looked up restaurants inside the walls. It’s situated on the corner of an absolutely stunning block. It’s a small place but they have a row of tables outside so we waited until one came open. They are of course known for their ceviche. Amazing. The Mexican version was to die for an absolute must stop for lunch one day during your visit.
We didn’t end up at Alma this time around but we dined there on our trip prior. More upscale than most spots here but has such a cool atmosphere inside. The scenery is great as you can sit in the courtyard surrounded by plants, stone and a pool in the middle of the room.
This is the spot. Situated on top of the wall overlooking the city and the Caribbean. It is the perfect way to wind down a day. Grab a table (early), order some calamari and some cold beverages, and watch the sun go down.
Best way to eat on the cheap in Cartagena. And even though it’s cheap, the arepas are scrumptious! Grab a couple of arepas, sit on a stoop and people watch.
What to Wear
Here what I wore on our trip to Cartagena. We were shooting content while traveling, so my outfits were a little more dressed up. You’ll likely be doing a lot of walking, so I highly recommend a comfortable pair of shoes. I wore my wedges most of the trip. These espadrilles would be comfortable and stylish for walking around Cartagena.
Please check out our vlog from Cartagena!
Would love to hear any great spots we missed so we can be sure and check them out next time we are down in Cartagena. Thanks so much for reading and following along with us!