Caribbean Cartagena and Its Attractions

Cartagena is one of the most visited cities in Latin America, thanks to its history, colors, and culture. Due to the city’s strategic location, it was one of the most important ports of the Caribbean and a focal point of confrontation among the principal European powers fighting to control the "New World." Defensive fortifications were built by the Spanish in 1586. Nowadays the fortress walls are one of the main tourist attractions of Cartagena, especially at sunset. During the day, the streets of the old city are packed with tourists and vendors. There is plenty to see between churches and old monuments, but the heat and the crowd can be discouraging. One of the most interesting neighborhoods to visit is Gatsemani. African people, who were brought as slaves, used to live here. I loved the artsy vibe, the graffiti, and the colorful narrow streets.

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We stayed in Bocagrande, the most modern area of the city, where you can enjoy the sea view, walking on the long promenade. The beach is equipped with umbrellas and chairs if you want to rent them for the day. Our hotel was walking distance from the beach, so we went there for a quick jump in the water, then back. The beach is nice, but don't expect crystalline waters. It's usually windy and it's fun to play with the waves. If you want to go downtown, taxi costs just a couple of dollars, the yellow ones (public service) are usually safe and reliable.

At sunset, head back to the fortress walls. It's crowded but worth it. People sit on top of the wall to chat and sip a drink, waiting for the sun to go down.

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WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Barlovento located in Bocagrande, away from the crowded downtown. The staff is extremely nice and always ready to help. Good amenities and clean rooms.

WHERE TO EAT: There are plenty of street vendors that sell arepas, but if you're looking for something lighter try:

  • Gokela, for healthy organic food and juices.
  • Crepes & Waffles, for delicious treats and plenty of veggie options.
  • Demente, for a nice upscale tapas dinner.

Limonda de coco (coconut lemonade) is a typical drink and I loved it, delicious and refreshing.