Cartagena, Colombia is such a beautiful, tropical city with so much to do, see and eat. Read on to see my complete 7-day itinerary / travel guide to Cartagena, complete with where to eat and drink, what day trips to take and which islands to visit.
You can also check out my other post here for some background information on what I recommend you know before visiting the city.
Day 1: Cartagena
Recover from Your Travels at El Baron – There’s no better way to recover from a day of traveling than with a good cocktail and a strong espresso, and luckily for us, this was the best place to go for just that. Everything about this place was impressive; from the service to the presentation and the drinks themselves. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Cartagena.
Walk along the City Walls – Finish up your cocktails and walk along the city walls to familiarize yourself with the area. Now, when people say you can walk along the city walls they don’t actually mean to walk on the wall of the city; there are actually large pathways lining the walls so that you can easily walk around the entire walled city, without risking your life. We spent the afternoon exploring and scoping out a good spot to watch the sunset.
Watch the sunset at Cafe del Mar – Walking along the walls we stumbled upon Cafe del Mar which had come recommended in a lot of guides that I read prior to coming. We ended up grabbing a table and a drink and taking in the beautiful sunset views. The place itself is by all means a tourist trap, but it’s something that I recommend checking out at least once while you’re there.
Dinner at Don Juan – After enjoying your drinks at Cafe del Mar, head over to Don Juan for a bite to eat. We tried to go to dinner at La Vitrola but unfortunately they don’t allow men in without long pants, so we set off to Don Juan just a few streets away. The restaurant itself is beautiful and the food is just as appealing as the decor. If you go here, I highly recommend the octopus and the jumbo shrimp risotto.
Day 2: Cartagena
Explore the city by foot – Since the streets are so narrow and the city so small, the best way to see everything and take in the culture of the city, is by foot. We had a great time wandering through through the colorful streets, getting lost and stumbling upon hidden gems along the way.
Grab an espresso at Epoca – Your trip to Colombia isn’t complete without trying some authentic Colombian coffee, and Epoca is just the place to do it. We regularly stopped at their coffee window to grab a much-needed espresso to go.
Townhouse Hotel Rooftop – After a morning of walking around the city in the tropical temperatures, we knew it was time for a drink break. This place had come highly recommended by friends and it did not disappoint. We walked into the hotel and headed straight for the rooftop bar, which offered great views of the city and the perfect place to cool down from the heat.
Grab a Drink at El Balcon – Head over to El Balcon while you wait for a table at La Cevicheria. After learning that the wait at the restaurant would be 40 minutes, we walked around the area to find a spot to grab a drink while we waited. Luckily, right down the street we found El Balcon which conveniently had a happy hour of 2 for 1 drinks at the time, so we placed our order and enjoyed the balcony views of the square below.
Lunch at La Cevicheria – Being the Anthony Bourdain fans that we are, we couldn’t come to Cartagena and not try out La Cevicheria. Although it has turned into somewhat of a tourist trap since the episodes debut, the food is still pretty good and the place itself is worth seeing.
Take in the views at the Movich Hotel rooftop – After walking through the streets a bit more, head over to the Movich Hotel to take in the sunset views. While I wouldn’t recommend ordering a drink here due to the poor service, it is a great place to go to get a taste of the architecture of new and old Cartagena. Lucky for us, the sunset was perfect this night.
Grab a late dinner at La Mulata – After a few cocktails, head over to La Mulata for some tasty food. The restaurant itself is underwhelming but the food definitely makes up for it. I recommend the Coctel Camarones.
Top off the night at El Baron – To top off the night, stop off at El Baron. During our trip, this was our favorite spot to grab a nightcap. With a very unique and extensive cocktail list, you never run out of options and we were on a mission to try as many as possible.
Day 3: Isla Tierra Bomba
Take a day trip to Blue Apple Beach Club – After a few days in the city, take a boat out to one of the islands. On Day 3, we headed to the Blue Apple Beach Club, which was only about a 30 minute boat ride from the Marina Santa Cruz. Located on Isla Tierra Bomba, the Blue Apple Beach Club, was the ultimate beach destination. For $150, we enjoyed transportation there and back, drinks and a three course lunch. We had such a relaxing day swimming in the blue waters, sipping drinks by by the infinity pool and exploring the island.
Grab afternoon drinks at the bar at Hotel Santa Clara – After getting dropped off at the marina right outside of the walled city, head over to the Hotel Santa Clara Bar El Coro for drinks. We headed there for drinks with a few friends that we had met on the trip. Little did we know, the hotel bar serves up some of the best cocktails that we’ve ever had and the hotel itself is actually a former monastery with monks buried just below the bar. By far, one of the most unique bar experiences we had all trip.
Dinner at Juan del Mar – After a few drinks at Hotel Santa Clara, head across the street to Juan del Mar for dinner. Since we had such a large lunch, Zach and I ended up sharing a seared tuna appetizer and a traditional Peruvian dish. Overall, it was tasty meal.
Day 4: Isla Baru
Spend a night on one of the islands – Luckily, there are a number of beautiful islands just a short trip away from the city of Cartagena. So, on day four we woke up and headed to Hotel Playa Manglares on Isla Baru which was only about an hour drive from the city of Cartagena.
Located on the bay, the Hotel Playa Manglares was a relaxing beachfront resort immersed in nature. You can read more about our experience at Hotel Playa Manglares in this post.
Day 5: Getsemani
Explore the town of Getsemani – Located right outside the walled city, Getsemani is a young and fun neighborhood full of hostels, bars and parties. We ended up staying here on the last leg of our trip and it was such a fun experience. I highly recommend wandering through the neighborhood streets, grabbing a beer at Plaza de la Trinidad and enjoying the sights and sounds of Getsemani.
Grab a slice at Basilica Pizza – Although the food selection is limited in Getsemani, we took it as an opportunity to try out a classic dish in a new city. So, we headed to Basilica Pizza right by our hotel (it got good reviews on Yelp) and ordered a Getsemani Pizza. We were pleasantly surprised by how good it was.
Take in the sights & sounds of Plaza de la Trinidad – The Plaza de la Trinidad in the neighborhood of Getsemani is quiet a sight to be seen. At night, this square really comes of alive with a mix of locals and travelers, all there to socialize, drink and take in whatever show or performance is going on that night. I highly recommend checking this place out to get a taste of the local city life in Cartagena.
Grab a Mojito at Hostel Green House Getsemani – On your way home, stop at the Hostel Green House Getsemani for 2 for 1 mojitos. Conveniently located on our walk back to the hotel, these 2 for 1 mojitos for $7 were some of the best mojitos we had all trip.
Day 6: Cartagena
Cool down with a Colombian coffee at Epoca – There’s no better way to start your day and cool down from the Colombian heat, than with a Colombian coffee from Epoca.
Enjoy a seafood lunch at La Perla – After doing some shopping around town, head over to La Perla for lunch. We ordered the octopus, prawns & chorizo dish with yuca and all were very good.
Sip on some liquor store cocktails at q’onde – On your way out to dinner, stop at the liquor store, q’onde gustavito yianena, which in addition to selling liquor, also happens to serve up some great drinks. On this particular night we opted for the two for one mojitos for 15k (about $5 US dollars) – such a steal!
Munch on Colombian/Spanish fusion tapas at Caffe Lunatico – After you’ve had your two-for-one mojitos, walk on over to Caffe Lunatico for some of the most delicious tapas. We ordered grandma’s croquettes, fried green tomatoes, ham and gazpacho and it was enough to fill the two of us for the night.
Day 7: Cartagena
Shop around in the squares for souvenirs – Spend your last few hours in Colombia strolling through the squares and shopping for souvenirs. There are so many beautiful handmade goods in Colombia; from bags to hats and even coasters. Just be sure to negotiate your price as the vendors will often go high in the hopes that you’ll take the first offer.
Grab one last Colombian coffee at Epoca – Before heading to the airport, grab one last cup of Colombian coffee because let’s face it, a cup of Colombian coffee will never taste as good as it does when you’re in Colombia.
Travel Guide Summary:
What to Do:
- Explore the city by foot
- Discover the neighborhood of Getsemani
- Walk along the city walls
- Watch the Sunset at Cafe del Mar
- Spend a night on one of the islands ( recommend the Hotel Playa Manglares)
- Take a day trip to the Blue Apple Beach Club
- Experience the sights & sounds of Plaza de la Trinidad
- Take in the views at the Movich Hotel rooftop
Where to Eat:
Where to Drink:
- Cafe del Mar
- El Balcon
- El Baron
- Epoca (coffee)
- Hostel Green House Getsemani
- Bar El Coro (in Hotel Santa Clara)
- Townhouse Hotel Rooftop