Where to stay?
Cartagena is a vibrant and colorful city with tons of colonial remnants. Cartagena although small I recommend at least three nights. When deciding where to stay you have three main options: the Walled City, Getsemani and Boca Grande. The Walled City is filled with history, charm and lots of luxury hotels. Walking distance is Getsemani, which is the artsy/boho/hippie area with a lot of great boutique hotels and hostels. A few minutes’ drive away is Boca Grande, which is lined with high rise hotels across the street from the beach. Unfortunately, the beaches aren’t crystal clear, but you can enjoy great music, food and a beach umbrella with sand in between your toes.
What to do?
The streets are so lively at night, with locals putting on street performances and tons of bars. Café Havana is known for its Salsa dancing and Café Del Mar for cocktails with great sunset views. A fun way to enjoy the local culture is on the colorful Chiva bus which picks up guests every night in various locations. On the bus, is a band playing drums and other instruments, enjoy an exciting drive around the city and then end with the optional club dive. There is also the hop-on-hop-off bus during the day, but the city can be done on foot at your own leisure. Getting around is in-expensive via taxis or my preference of an Uber to avoid any language or currency issues.
Seeking some Caribbean blue water? A day trip to Rosario islands is about an hour drive away to Playa Blanca in Isla Baru, which is just as beautiful as the name describes ‘White Beach’. Then you take a boat, hopping around Rosario Islands. One of the islands, Cholon, is known as the party island. I was approached by a very strong looking woman who gave me one of the best massages I’ve ever had on the beach, I would definitely recommend that if you’re not shy since it’s done out in the open. Walk with sunscreen, a towel, change of clothes and water shoes (there is no boat dock, you board the boats from the beach.)
For eating, go local! I ate a whole fried fish and plantains for about 7USD almost every night. Definitely, the hole in the walls are worth it, I got some of the best empanadas from a women selling in a small booth. Some foodie stops are Le Cevicheria, the Crepes and Waffles chain, especially the Plaza San Pedro location for its rooftop terrace.