To get away from the frigid Boston winters and to celebrate our anniversary, my boyfriend and I headed south to Cartagena, Colombia! Cartagena has always been on my bucket list of places I wanted to visit and I was very excited when I found a great deal for us to go!
Before the trip came to be, I have to admit that I was quietly stalking Cartagena plane tickets for awhile using apps like Airfare Watchdog and Kayak Alerts. It wasn’t until one day I went on the Jetblue website to look at their airfares to Cartagena that I noticed they had a section for vacation packages! Their vacation packages include airfare + hotel, which is a great deal. For 6 days, airfare and hotel, the price per person came out to be ~$600 per person. No way I could pass up on a deal like that!
Jetblue has to be one of my favorite airline carriers and I highly recommend it:
- It has many hubs throughout the country, including Boston! This is ideal because it means there are many direct flight options!
- Great customer service! No one wants to deal with rude staff.
- Lots of in-flight entertainment! Although Cartagena from Boston wasn’t a long flight, it’s nice to have several movie and tv options.
- FREE WIFI! Yes, they now offer free wifi on all of their airplanes.
I could go on and on about Jetblue, but you get the picture, I love them!
Now that I had hotel and flight booked, it was time to figure out what we were going to do for 6 days!! My number one recommendation for trip planning is….Pinterest! Yes, Pinterest. I love going there and searching for my destination and seeing tons and tons of posts from people who have gone before me, reading what they have seen and done, and pinning it so I can refer back to it. As we only had 6 days to explore Cartagena, I wanted a mix of going on tours and rest/explore days.
During my research, I found a website where we booked all of our tours, Cartagena Connections. I’ll be writing about which tours we chose below, but I found this website great for a variety of reasons:
- The website is in English and people you communicate with all speak English. My boyfriend and I are fluent in Spanish, but it’s much easier to shoot off a quick email in English when you’re inquiring and confirming tour details.
- Lots and lots of tour options to choose from. There’s something for everyone!
- Great customer service, they were quick and responsive when I had questions and after I booked the tours.
- I loved their section on their top bars and restaurants to go to. I definitely printed these out and brought it with me and referred to it while I was out and about in Cartagena.
Cartagena Trip Details:
Travel Dates: January 20 – January 26, 2017. 6 days in Cartagena is the perfect amount of time to stay.
Weather: I was a bit worried because it was January and I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the weather. I had nothing to worry about because it was sunny and HOT the whole time we were there. Dry season is November – May and we had temps in the high 80s and at night 70s to low 80s
Currency: The currency is one of the things I had to get my head around. They use the Colombian Pesos and 1 USD (at the time of this posting) is 2,855 COP. It wasn’t the easiest to figure the out conversion, so save yourself time and a headache and download a currency conversion app so you can use while you’re out.
When we arrived in Cartagena, we were surprised to find out that they have Uber, so we requested one to drop us off at our hotel, Hotel Regatta.
The hotel itself was ok. It was located in the newer part of Cartagena, so a lot of high rises and right across from the beach. If you don’t know any Spanish, this might not be the best option, as it didn’t seem like the staff could speak English. There is a daily breakfast which was included in our room package but I didn’t use it. I feel a part of traveling and getting to know a place is through food and I wanted to eat at and explore as many restaurants as possible.
If I were to go back to Cartagena, I wouldn’t choose to come back to this hotel. There was nothing wrong with it, but the location is not where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in the action of Cartagena, and to do that you’ll want to stay in the Centro Historico. Every time my boyfriend and I wanted to do anything, we had to take a taxi or uber, granted it was only a 10 to 15-minute drive, but I’d rather pay a little more to be in the heart of it all!
I hate, hate, hate coming back from a vacation and feeling more tired than when you left. For this trip, I wanted a balance of going on tours and rest/explore on our own days. I choose to do three tours, Isla Coralina, and two Chiva tours (one day and one night).
On a Sunday (Jan 22), we decided to start off with Isla Coralina. This place is absolutely gorgeous!! Out of all the beach tours, this is one of the more expensive options, but it was well worth it. It’s very private. I didn’t want to go to a beach and feel that it was run amok with kids and cramped with lots of people and vendors.
It took about 40 minutes to get there and it was well worth it. I was amazed at how beautiful and private this Island was. Loved this tour! You get lunch and enough time to enjoy the waters. There is also a small hotel on this Island that you can choose to stay. The boyfriend and I definitely want to stay here when we come back.
For the other tours, we chose to do the chiva tours, the day and night option. A chiva is a very traditional Colombian bus (see picture below). I liked this tour a lot, the price of the tour included entrance to all of the attractions and top sightseeing that you’d want to do in Cartagena, all in one day! Make sure to bring plenty of cold water and wear comfortable shoes, you spend many many hours walking in the heat and sitting on a Chiva bus.
The rumba chiva tour was a nighttime tour where you go on the chiva bus, there is a live band playing traditional Colombian music and you drink. The tour price also includes entry into a club. It was fun, but I’d skip this the next time I go to Cartagena.
There is so much to see, eat, and drink in Cartagena. The main areas we explored was the Centro historico and Getsemani. These are the areas you think of when you think of Cartagena. All the old architecture, horse and carriage rides, and main things to do are here!
Food and Drink:
- Crepes & Waffles – Crepes ’nuff said.
- El baron – great for drinks!
- La Cocina de Pepina – delicious in the Getsemani neighborhood!
- Cande – great option and they even had some fun performances!
- Cafe del Mar – a must for a nightcap and to see the beautiful Cartagena sunsets!
- Demente – great for drinks!
The rest of time we just loved exploring, taking pictures, and getting lost in the streets of Cartagena. As I’ve talked enough already, I’ll leave you with pictures we took during our trip and a Youtube video we made with my GoPro!
Leave me a comment and let me know what’s on your travel bucket list!