48 Hours In Cartagena
Considering Cartagena for a quick stop on your Colombia or South America itinerary? Here are some places and things to do that you don’t want to miss!
48 Hours In Cartagena
Before my work trip to Costa Rica and Panama, I was looking at how close to Panama was to Colombia and was tempted to plan a trip. I’ve heard amazing things about Colombia and it saw this as the perfect opportunity to fly down there for two nights…so that’s what I did!
Since I was mainly staying in beach towns or on islands for about five weeks in Central America, Cartagena’s tropical climate seemed like the perfect destination to end the trip. I was going to bring mostly warm-weather clothing in my luggage, and, well, who doesn’t love a warm, beach-y destination in December?!
Now, would I recommend Cartagena for more than 48 hours? Absolutely! I loved it and can’t wait to go back. While I do wish I had more time, I am still happy I got a taste of Cartagena.
1. Go to the Beach!
Cartagena’s close proximity to the Caribbean Sea and the equator gives it a tropical climate year-round. In December, it was 90 degrees fahrenheit and humid, making the water the perfect place to cool off!
For beaches, the main two choices are typically 1) taking a day trip to Rosario Island, which I’ve heard is beautiful and amazing, or 2) going to the city beaches, which you can walk to in about 30 minutes from Centro Historico or take an Uber/taxi.
Since I was short on time, I met up with a friend to walk down to the city beaches. They line the water with skyscrapers in the background and there is plenty of space to sit on the sand or rent a beach chair. There are vendors everywhere on the city beaches trying to sell you a huge range of items or services, so keep that in mind before you go.
What’s funny is that before we went to the city beaches, I looked up some blog posts for tips - some said they hated the vendors, that they were annoying, and others loved having options to buy food or coconuts or get their hair braided on the beach. I thought they were going to be annoying…until I bought fresh coconut water and bargained a massage down to $7.80 USD. Not bad! They’re just doing their job, and you can always say No if you don’t want something!
2. Eat Amazing Food
Rum, seafood, arepas, fresh fruit
Since Cartagena is on the Caribbean, you’re bound to find great rum, seafood, and arepas pretty much anywhere you go!
You can’t go wrong with any of the above, or even some sliced fruit sold by the vendors on the street for about $2-4 USD.
My friends and I went to a restaurant called El Aresenal: The Rum Box in the Getsemani neighborhood (not spon) both nights for dinner. It so good that we had to go back the next night!
At El Arensal, they gave us complementary rum samples to sip with crackers and chocolate sticks before our meal. The guy came over and explained the types of rum. They also brought out these amazing small shishito peppers before the meal.
For entrees, we got a few dishes to share - ceviche, tuna, fish, chicken - it was all delicious (and reasonably priced). So if you find yourself in Cartagena, please bring yourself to this restaurant!
Have a Drink at a Rooftop Bar
There are many rooftop bars in Cartagena, and the views are amazing!
With the blend of city skyscrapers and the colorful, historical architecture of Centro Historico, you’re bound to have beautiful, sweeping views.
Enjoy an evening with a drink at a rooftop bar - you won’t regret it!
3. Go shopping
Centro Historico in Cartagena sees plenty of tourism, so you’ll see locals and tourists milling about everywhere (it’s pretty crowded in my opinion, though I honestly still loved the city).
What comes with tourists? Plenty of places to buy souvenirs. There are vendors lining the streets of Centro Historico selling clothes, shoes, gifts, and much more. There is also a market just outside the wall of the neighborhood by Getsemani.
As for “real” shopping in Cartagena, there are countless boutiques in Centro Historico. I popped into Patricia Ramirez Swimwear (not spon) and almost couldn’t decide what to get between all the fun, patterned swimsuits from the local designer.
4. Take a Salsa Lesson
Did you know that Colombia is known for salsa dancing? Take a lesson and learn from the experts!
I tried a salsa lesson at Selina and it was so much fun! It felt like a salsa class and a Zumba class blended together; it wasn’t serious or intimidating.
5. Enjoy Centro Historico
Most people recommend Centro Historico as the “safe” neighborhood to stay in as a foreigner and I would agree. I took the typical precautions you should always take when you travel and was okay!
I stayed at Centro Hotel (full review here), which felt very safe and was in a great location. Overall, I felt completely safe in Centro Historico even by myself during the day and early evening, as there were people everywhere.
Don’t shy away from visiting Cartagena - it’s a wonderful destination and I highly recommend you visit it, even if it’s only 48 hours!
Save this post for later on Pinterest: