Five Days in Cartagena

Andy and I were lucky enough to travel to Colombia last month for his sister’s wedding. We spent the first five days in Cartagena, which is a beautiful city that I highly recommend visiting. Many friends have reached out about the trip and asking for recommendations so I’ve gathered some highlights below! We also traveled to Quindio on the second half of the trip and I’ll share more on that next 🙂

Playa Blanca

Andy and I headed to Playa Blanca on our first day of the trip. I’ve never seen water so turquoise anywhere in my life — including the Caribbean! It’s gorgeous. There are stray dogs running up and down the beach and by the end of the day we had three dogs hanging around in the shade of our umbrella. If you know me, that’s a dream come true. You can buy massages and beer right there from the vendors — but beware as they may say one price and then charge you another!

How to get there: Book through your hotel or hostel. You can go by bus or boat. When you get there, head down the beach to find a chair and umbrella in the front row. You’ll have to pay to have a spot, but it’s worth it to have the umbrella because you will be sun burned in a minute.

Tips: This is a tourist hotspot to people will try to sell you something at least once a minute — swear to God. Save your money and buy your souvenirs in Cartagena! You can either say no or straight up ignore them… Even an “hola” or a smile will have them hassling you for at least five minutes.

Blue Apple Beach House

This was a much quieter, non-touristy beach day. Blue Parrot is located on a beautiful little rocky cove and is private to hotel guests and day visitors who have reserved a spot in advance. When your boat pulls up, you’ll head up the beach to the hotel area where there are two pools overlooking the cove. Spend the day relaxing by the pool or swimming in the ocean. We had some amazing mixed drinks and paella for lunch. You absolutely have to order shots of Colombian aguardiente! We went as part of a large group for Andy’s sister’s wedding and it was one of the best days of the trip.

How to get there: The boat from Cartagena takes about 30 minutes and you can make a reservation here. I would book a night here too!

San Diego

We stayed in the San Diego neighborhood of Cartagena for four nights. San Diego is within the walled city, which was was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets are lined by colorful colonial architecture and balconies overflowing with beautiful flowers. San Diego has a more relaxed, bohemian vibe than some of the other areas in the walled city and it was a really great place to stay. It’s just a few blocks walk to Centro, which is where all the high-end restaurants and shops are. The food stand next to Plaza San Diego has the best arepas and you cannot go to Cartagena without trying them!

Where to stay: We stayed at Casa de la Tablada with some of the other wedding guests. It was very quintessential Colombia with fun little areas to lounge around on the rooftop and by the pool. They have awesome artwork on the walls and a really yummy arepa breakfast. The rooms range from small to very large so specify what you are looking for when you book. There are also some really gorgeous hotels in the area so do some research in advance!


This is was my favorite area of Cartagena. It’s a backpacker hotspot and is full of hostels, food vendors and brightly colored shops. The streets are narrow and have colorful flags and umbrellas lining the rooftops. There are beautiful wall murals and potted plants lining the sidewalks. Have lunch in one of the open air restaurants or get some empanadas to-go from a street vendor. Grab a beer and walk around to explore and shop. Andy bought me a hat here that I wore the entire duration of the trip!

Staying here: We stayed in a hostel in Getsemani the first night, which had a clean private room and bathroom for just 40 USD a night. It’s called One Day Hostel and you can book in advance here. If you’re backpacking or wanting to meet other travelers, I definitely recommend staying here. However, if you’re going for a nicer vacation, I would stay at an Airbnb or hotel in Old Town. Depends on the vibe you are going for!

Parque del Centenario

You absolutely have to walk over to this park and spend thirty minutes there to see the sloths, iguanas and monkeys! When you walk in, look for small groups of people staring up at trees to find the animals. When we were, there was a one month old baby sloth and it was literally the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life. You can also find this non-official tour guide/zookeeper guy who will give you grapes to feed the monkeys. They will eat them right out of your hand! Apparently the animals were brought in to the park by a university, but I never really figured out if this was the real story.

How to get there: The park is located between the entrance from old town and Getsemani. You can easily walk from either in just a few minutes.

Colombia part II: coming soon. We traveled to Quindio on the second half of our trip to stay with Andy’s family at their finca!

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