One of the most colorful cities in the world!
Hola Amorcita (Hello my love)!
Hey travel fam, we're back to share our adventures we had earlier this year in the beautiful city of Cartagena, Colombia. We hope you enjoyed our cinematic video of our time there. We heard so many good things about this city and decided to see it for ourselves. All I can say ya'll is this city is eveeeerything. It has to be one of the most colorful and vibrant cities we've visited yet! It's like candy land for your eyes 😍. I know we must've stood out as tourist because the whole time we were in jaw dropping awe of all the art, architecture, sunsets, and ocean views in this South American coastal city.
As you know, this year Matt and I have truly taken advantage of living in the Miami area. The flights to some of the best vacation spots in the Caribbean and South America are just 2-3 hours away for us and are very reasonably priced.
We left out of Ft. Lauderdale on a Thursday and it only took us about 2.5 hours to arrive at the Cartagena airport (CTG). The city of Cartagena lies right on the northern coast of Colombia and is the fifth largest city in the country. It is well known for tourism so we felt safe the entire time we were there. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we've decided to list 5 reasons why you need to visit Cartagena this upcoming year!
5 things we loved most about Cartagena
1. The condo we found on Air BNB
Matt and I are both avid fans of staying in local residencies while we travel as it helps us to immerse ourselves into the cultural experience in a shorter period of time. We found a beautiful high rise condo on Air BNB in the Bocagrande area which is technically the "new" Cartagena. It is full of high rise apartments all along the Caribbean sea with the most intense and mesmerizing sunsets I think I've ever seen.
I would highly suggest staying in this area since it's about 15 minutes from the airport, the exchange rate is better, and we could see old town Cartagena right from our balcony. The view was absolutely immaculate and our host was great! As soon as we settled in we found ourselves with a drink in hand relaxing in the jacuzzi and pool on the rooftop. You could literally hear every wave coming in from the ocean below... Check out this Air BNB here.
2. The Art and Architecture
The next day we did not waste anytime. We caught a $5 cab ride over to Old town and stayed there the entire day taking in the views. One thing I will say is that the streets of old town is like walking around in a huge art gallery or museum. From the architecture to the graffiti to the historical monuments.
There was not one dull moment as we cruised through the town with childlike amusement taking in all of the vibrant visual stimuli around us. The multitude of colors made it feel like being inside of a rainbow 🌈. Every building had a story and every doorway had it's own personality. We were there all day and I know we missed so many of the intricate details not to mention the countless photo opps at every corner. You would have to live in the city for a while to truly see everything.
3. The people and culture
The melanin was truly poppin in Cartagena. The tourists visiting were from many different places but you could tell who the locals were - they were the extroverted and friendly ones grinding and hustling day and night. We've been to other developing countries before and sometimes you can sense the poverty, however, what I loved most about the culture in Cartagena is that no one begged for a dime. They were all about earning your money. From selling items they made themselves to offering massages on the beach. Every where we went the locals had something to offer and I very much admired that.
There was also a sense of black cultural pride as we walked through the streets. On more than one occasion the locals would say to us "eres negro es mi negro" which translates "your black is my black". It was a way of welcoming us and making us see our similarities even though we were from a different country and spoke a different language. It felt good to support them as much as we could in their business ventures. It was an amazing experience that I've never had before while traveling outside of the US.
4. The surrounding islands
Another one of the benefits of staying at our Air BNB was that our host arranged for us to spend the day on a private island right off the coast. The island was called Tierra Bomba. If you're planning on visiting Cartagena and are looking for things to do we would definitely recommend spending a day on this island. You can make reservations here.
We took a short boat ride to the island in the morning and stayed there for most part of the day. The island had a really chill vibe. We enjoyed the luxury of relaxing and listening to music in plush lounge chairs right by the pool. There was food and drinks available at the restaurant and bar area nearby. The island was perfectly surrounded by nothing but soft sand beaches. We got a chance to explore a bit and met a few other couples that were from Miami as well.
It was such a great addition to the trip. We ate and drank our fill and when the bill came we were so surprised to see how inexpensive it all was. We felt extremely spoiled since we're used to spending over $100 for a couple drinks whenever we go out in Miami. It's sad but true! 😂
5. The food
One thing Matt and I love to do together is EAT lol. Seriously it's our favorite past time. That's why we have to stay in the gym like maniacs. The food in Cartagena was soooo very delicious. Being along the coast you get really fresh seafood dishes and honestly that's all we wanted to eat.
In old town, one thing I noticed is that there were a lot of tasty pizzerias, gelato spots, and even people making empanadas on the street at night. There was not a scarcity of foodie options at all.... my mouth was in heaven.
6. Bonus* - The sunsets
And last but not least... I just had to add this as a bonus and you'll definitely thank me if you ever have the chance to visit Cartagena. The #1 thing you must must must do is watch the sunset at Cafe Del Mar which is a restaurant located right at the top of the fortress Castillo San Felipe De Barras in old town. You will literally have a front row seat to a one of a kind sunset that is truly majestic. Seriously! I'll never forget the uproar of applause and cheers that erupted as the last sight of a blazing sun disappeared into the Caribbean sea. The restaurant is very popular so we recommend making a reservation before you go.
Well there you have it guys! We've given our top 5 reasons to visit Cartagena plus a blazing bonus! If you do decide to visit this beautiful city we've added a few tips that we think will be very helpful during your travels...
Travel Tips - Cartagena
- Currency: Colombian Pesos, $1 USD = ~$3,450 COP
- The exchange rates change more drastically in Colombia so this could be different when you visit. However, our money goes a long way in Colombia but it's important to understand the different denominations. It was a bit confusing at first but we got it eventually!
- Language: Spanish is the primary language (very little English so brush up on your Spanish)
- This was our first time visiting a country that spoke very little English but we learned
a few key phrases on Google translate and we were good to go. - Wi-Fi: Limited. Check with your hotel or Air BNB
- Airport: Rafael Núñez International Airport - CTG (main airport)
- Getting around: Mostly taxi. Uber is not as popular since internet connectivity is limited.
- Safety?: We felt very safe, however, it's always recommended to check with your hotel or Air BNB host to know the areas to avoid when traveling.