Best Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia: A Traveler’s Bucket List
Cartagena is a vibrant and colorful city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, with a rich history, culture, and natural beauty. It is one of the most popular destinations in South America, attracting millions of visitors every year who want to experience its charm and diversity. Whether you are looking for adventure, romance, relaxation, or fun, Cartagena has something for everyone. In this article, we will show you some of the best things to do in Cartagena, Colombia, including its attractions, activities, beaches, nightlife, and boat tours. You will discover why Cartagena is a jewel of the Caribbean that you don’t want to miss.
Visiting Cartagena Attractions
One of the reasons why Cartagena is such a wonderful destination is because it has so many attractions and experiences to offer. Whether you’re into history, culture, nature, or adventure, you’ll find something that suits your taste and interest in this city.
The Walled City of Cartagena
The walled city of Cartagena is the heart and soul of the city. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site that preserves the colonial architecture and history of Cartagena. The walled city is surrounded by a 13-km (8-mile) long wall that was built between the 16th and 18th centuries to protect the city from pirates and invaders. Inside the wall, you’ll find a maze of narrow streets, colorful houses, churches, plazas, museums, shops, cafes, and restaurants. You’ll also find some of the most iconic landmarks of Cartagena, such as the Clock Tower, the Plaza de Bolivar, the Palace of Inquisition, and the Cathedral.
Ways to Explore the Walled City of Cartagena
- The best way to explore the walled city is by foot or by bike. You can spend hours or even days wandering around the walled city and discovering its hidden gems and secrets.
- You can also take a horse-drawn carriage or a hop-on hop-off bus tour for a more romantic or convenient option.
- Joining a guided walking tour or an audio tour to learn more about the history and culture of Cartagena is also a good option.
- The walled city is also a great place to enjoy the nightlife of Cartagena, as there are many bars, clubs, and restaurants that offer live music, dancing, and cocktails.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is a massive fortress that sits on top of a hill overlooking Cartagena. It’s also one of the most impressive military structures in South America. The fortress was built in 1657 by the Spanish to defend the city from attacks by land or sea. It was later expanded and reinforced several times until it reached its current size and shape. The fortress has a complex system of tunnels that connect different parts of the structure and allow for communication and ventilation.
The fortress is open to visitors every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The ticket costs around $10 USD per person, you can buy it online or at the entrance. You can explore the fortress on your own or join a guided tour that lasts about an hour. Also, you can rent an audio guide for around $5 USD per person. You can learn about the history and architecture of the fortress and enjoy panoramic views of Cartagena from its walls and towers. Additionally, the museum inside the fortress displays some artifacts and models related to its construction and battles.
The Rosario Islands are a group of 27 islands that are part of a national park located about 35 km (22 miles) from Cartagena. They are famous for their white sand beaches, turquoise water, coral reefs, and diverse marine life. They are also a popular destination for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, sailing, or just relaxing on a hammock.
Getting to Rosario Islands from Cartagena
The easiest way to get to the Rosario Islands is by boat from Cartagena. You can choose between a public ferry or a private boat rental depending on your budget and preference. The public ferry costs around $20-$30 USD per person for a round-trip ticket and takes about an hour to reach the islands. The private boat rental costs around $500-$600 USD per group for up to 8 people for a full-day trip and takes about 45 minutes to reach the islands. You can book your tickets online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
Rosario Islands Activities
Once you get to the Rosario Islands, you can choose between staying on one of the islands or visiting several of them. Some of the most popular islands are Isla Grande, Isla Baru, Isla del Pirata, and Isla del Encanto. Each island has its own charm and attractions, such as beaches, hotels, restaurants, aquariums, etc. You can also visit some of the smaller and more secluded islands for a more private and romantic experience.
The Rosario Islands are a paradise for nature lovers and water sports enthusiasts. You can snorkel or dive in the coral reefs and see colorful fish, turtles, rays, sharks, and dolphins. Moreover, you can also kayak or sail around the islands and explore their mangroves and lagoons. You can also relax on the beach and enjoy the sun and the breeze. The Rosario Islands are a perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of Cartagena and enjoy a day or more of tranquility and beauty.
Cartagena is a coastal city that has many beaches to offer. Some of the beaches are located within the city, while others are located outside or on nearby islands. The beaches in Cartagena vary in size, quality, and atmosphere. Some of them are crowded and lively, while others are quiet and secluded. Some of them have white sand and clear water, while others have dark sand and murky water. And, some of them have hotels and restaurants nearby, while others have no facilities at all.
The Most Popular Beaches in Cartagena
The most popular beaches in Cartagena are located in the Bocagrande area, which is a modern and upscale neighborhood with high-rise buildings and shopping malls. The beaches here are wide and long, but also busy and noisy. They have many vendors, umbrellas, chairs, and water sports available. The water here is warm but not very clear. Some of the beaches in this area are Bocagrande Beach, El Laguito Beach, and Castillogrande Beach.
The Most Beautiful Beaches in Cartagena
The most beautiful beaches in Cartagena are located on the islands or outside the city. These beaches have white sand and turquoise water but also require a boat ride or a car ride to get there. They have fewer vendors and facilities, but also more peace and privacy. The water here is clear and calm, perfect for swimming or snorkeling. Some of the beaches in this category are Playa Blanca on Isla Baru, Playa Azul on Isla Grande, Playa Linda on Isla del Pirata, and La Boquilla Beach on the mainland.
The Most Historic Beaches in Cartagena
The most historic beaches in Cartagena are located within the walled city or near the fortresses. These beaches have dark sand and rocky water, but also a lot of character and charm. They have some vendors and facilities, but also some monuments and museums nearby. The water here is cool and choppy, good for surfing or windsurfing. Some of the beaches in this group are Marbella Beach near the airport, Bocachica Beach near the San Fernando Fortress, and La Caleta Beach near the San Sebastian Fortress.
These are some of the main beaches in Cartagena that you can visit on your trip. Depending on your mood and preference, you can choose the one that suits you best. You can also visit more than one beach and experience different aspects of Cartagena’s coastal culture.
Cartagena is a city that offers a lot of activities for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re looking for adventure, culture, relaxation, or fun, you’ll find something that matches your interest and energy level in this city. In this section, I’ll mention some of the best activities that you can do in Cartagena and how they can enhance your trip.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie or a thrill seeker, you’ll love the adventure activities that Cartagena has to offer. You can:
- Fly over the city on a helicopter or a paraglider and enjoy breathtaking views of the coast and the islands.
- Zip-line through the jungle or ride an ATV on the beach and feel the wind and the speed.
- Try some extreme water sports, such as jet skiing, kite surfing, or flyboarding, and have a blast on the water.
If you’re a history buff or a culture lover, you’ll appreciate the cultural activities that Cartagena has to offer. You can:
- Visit some of the museums and monuments that showcase the rich and diverse heritage of Cartagena, such as the Palace of Inquisition, the Gold Museum, or the Naval Museum.
- Join a walking tour or an audio tour that will take you to some of the most iconic landmarks and sites of Cartagena, such as the Clock Tower, the Plaza de Bolivar, or the Cathedral.
- Learn about the Afro-Caribbean culture and traditions of Cartagena by visiting Palenque or San Basilio de Palenque, which are villages founded by escaped slaves in the 17th century.
If you’re looking for some relaxation or wellness, you’ll enjoy the relaxation activities that Cartagena has to offer. You can:
- Pamper yourself with a massage or a spa treatment at one of the many hotels or spas in Cartagena.
- Visit the Totumo Mud Volcano and soak in its warm and therapeutic mud.
- Meditate or do yoga at one of the many studios or parks in Cartagena.
- Fishing, chill on a hammock, or sunbed at one of the many beaches or islands in Cartagena.
If you’re looking for some fun or entertainment, you’ll have a lot of fun activities to choose from in Cartagena. You can:
- Party all night at one of the many bars, clubs, or casinos in Cartagena.
- Watch a live show or a performance at one of the many theaters or venues in Cartagena.
- Join a cooking class or a salsa class and learn some new skills and flavors.
- Shop till you drop at one of the many malls, markets, or boutiques in Cartagena.
These are some of the main activities that you can do in Cartagena and how they can make your trip more enjoyable and memorable. You can mix and match different activities depending on your mood and preference. Furthermore, you can find more activities and tours online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
Cartagena is a city that never sleeps. It has a vibrant and diverse nightlife that caters to all kinds of tastes and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a romantic date, a lively party, or a cultural experience, you’ll find something that suits your mood and style in this city.
Cartagena has a lot of bars where you can enjoy a drink or two and mingle with locals and tourists. Some of the bars are located inside the walled city, while others are located outside or on the rooftops. There are bars that have live music or DJs, while others have karaoke or games. The bars mostly have a theme or a style, while others have a casual or cozy vibe.
In particular, some of the most popular bars in Cartagena are Cafe del Mar, Alquimico, La Movida, El Baron, and La Jugada.
Cartagena has a lot of clubs where you can dance the night away and have a blast. Some of the clubs are located inside the walled city, while others are located outside or on the islands. Some of the clubs play salsa or reggaeton music, while others play electronic or pop music. There are clubs that have a dress code or a cover charge, while others have free entry or a happy hour.
The most popular clubs that you should visit in Cartagena are La Habana, Fragma, Eivissa, Bazurto Social Club, and La Isla.
Cartagena has a few casinos where you can try your luck and have some fun. Some casinos are located inside hotels or malls, while others are located in their own buildings. You can play slot machines, bingo games, table games, or even join poker tournaments. Some of the casinos have a restaurant or a bar, while others have a lounge or a stage.
The most popular casinos in Cartagena are Rio Casino, Sun Nao Casino, Casino Caribe Plaza, and Casino Havana.
Cartagena has many shows where you can watch live performances and have some entertainment. You can see the shows inside theaters or venues, while others are located on the streets or plazas. Some of the shows feature music or dance acts, while others feature comedy or magic acts. Also, some shows require you to buy a ticket or have a reservation, while others have a donation or a tip suggested.
Particularly, you should watch the most popular shows in Cartagena such as Mapale Folkloric Show, Noche de Tambores Show, Circo Teatro Show, and Street Performers Show.
These are some of the main places and options for enjoying the nightlife in Cartagena and how they can add some flavor and fun to your trip. You can choose one or more depending on your mood and preference. You can also find more places and options online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
Cartagena Boat Tours
Cartagena is a city that has a lot of water around it. It has a bay, a canal, a river, and a sea. It also has many islands and beaches that are accessible by boat. That’s why one of the best ways to enjoy Cartagena is by taking a boat tour. You can see the city from a different perspective and explore its natural and cultural wonders.
A bay tour is a boat tour that takes you around the bay of Cartagena and shows you the city skyline and the fortresses. You can also see the sunset and the night lights of the city. You can choose between a public or a private boat tour depending on your budget and preference.
The public boat tour costs around $15-$20 USD per person and lasts about an hour. The private boat tour costs around $100-$200 USD per group for up to 10 people and lasts about 2 hours. You can book your tickets online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
A canal tour is a boat tour that takes you along the canal of Cartagena and shows you the mangroves and wildlife. You can also see the fishing villages and the local culture. You can choose between a kayak or a motorboat tour depending on your energy and adventure level.
The kayak tour costs around $20-$30 USD per person and lasts about 2 hours. The motorboat tour costs around $50-$60 USD per person and lasts about 3 hours. You can book your tickets online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
A river tour is a boat tour that takes you up to the Magdalena River and shows you the rainforest and the biodiversity. You can also see the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo and the Galerazamba Salt Flats. You can choose between a speedboat or a slow boat tour depending on your time and comfort level.
The speedboat tour costs around $80-$100 USD per person and lasts about 6 hours. The slow boat tour costs around $40-$60 USD per person and lasts about 10 hours. You can book your tickets online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
A sea tour is a boat tour that takes you to the Caribbean Sea and shows you the islands and beaches of Cartagena. You can also snorkel or dive in the coral reefs and see colorful fish, turtles, rays, sharks, and dolphins. You can choose between a public or a private boat tour depending on your budget and preference.
The public boat tour costs around $70-$80 USD per person for a round-trip ticket to one island or beach. The private boat tour costs around $500-$600 USD per group for up to 8 people for a full-day trip to several islands or beaches. You can book your tickets online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
These are some of the main boat tours that you can take in Cartagena and how they can make your trip more enjoyable and memorable. You can choose one or more depending on your mood and preference. You can also find more boat tours online or at one of the many kiosks near the port.
Let’s Go to Cartagena!
Cartagena is a city that will captivate you with its charm and energy. It offers a variety of things to do for all kinds of travelers, from exploring its historic and cultural sites to enjoy its stunning beaches and islands to experiencing its lively nightlife and entertainment. Cartagena is a place where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, taste the delicious cuisine, shop for unique souvenirs, and make unforgettable memories. If you are looking for a destination that combines history, nature, and fun, Cartagena is the perfect choice for you. We hope this article has given you some ideas on how to make the most of your trip to Cartagena, Colombia.
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