At first glance from the air you can see ‘beachy’ metropolis and city skyline. One would think this city is big. However with fewer than a million people, Cartagena is a small city with a big vibe! If you are a Narcos fanatic you will have the images of the Colombian lush plazas and greenery. Cartagena’s character is eclectic. The streets house fruit vendors and street art. Split into two small towns, endless photogenic neighborhoods: the walled Old City and the rising barrio Getsemaní.
Without knowing an ounce of Spanish – other than what my husband and I managed to cram from an app quickly, which fizzled at passport control. Cartagena’s humidity is unforgiving! Sweating bullets and trying to communicate a mixture of broken Spanish and Sign language through the terminal was a complete joke. After successfully branding ourselves as non-Spanish speaking foreigners, we were able to befriend a cab driver who took us through the Walled City to our AirBnb by Santo Domingo.
We arrived at our AirBnb which was centrally located to shops and restaurants. We didn’t need a car. Filled with excitement we dropped our bags, and began our weekend adventure!
Here were our favorites:
La Paletteria | Sweet tooth
It was 2pm local time and felt like 100 degrees! La Paletteria situated less than a block away from Santo Domingo, our favorite place to curb my hubby’s sweet tooth and my lust for fruity snacks. This place has dozens of paletas — agua (water), crema (cream) or yogurt ice pops — in flavors like tamarind and coconut.
Malagana café | Late Lunch
Malagana café is a 10 minute walk from Santo Domingo and is neatly tucked away in Gestemani. Cartagena is known for amazing food, and with our bellies growling, we weren’t being picky. The AirBnb host provided us with a book which had local suggestions by other travelers who stayed at her apartment. After a few app translations we were able to find our way there. It’s a 3 story restaurant with a rooftop. Surprisingly their menu was in English much to our delight. The Lemonade De Coco Y Ron and Passion Fruit Caipiroska was amazing!
Islas del Rosario (Rosiario Islands) | Day trip
Islas del Rosario came highly recommended as the ‘it spot’ for couples. Eager to get there we first had to purchase boat ride tickets to the island, prices range from 30 000 pesos. To get to the islands requires an hour-long boat ride. The ride goes past fishing villages and remote islands. Islas del Rosario consists of 27 islands and has become a major attraction for many travelers. The island we went to housed a resort called Gentedemar.
The resort is serene and private, surrounded by lush greenery and warm beaches. Local islanders sell curios along the beach side. We relaxed all day on the beach and enjoyed kayaking and other water sports. We were given a designated waiter who served us drinks right on the beach. Lunch was served buffet style and was included in the fee.
The Wall | Historical stroll
We managed to squeeze in a walk on the wall of the city. The wall is decorated with heavy canons that were used to defend the city from any invaders coming from the ocean. The Wall surrounds the Old City and signifies the historical significance of the separation of the old and the new Cartagena. A must-see for everyone traveling there.
Written by Lungi Moore, Editor, Modern domestic