This past September I spent three days in Cartagena for my birthday weekend with my girlfriends. If you remember last year I spent with my ex in Tulum, so this year I wanted a fun girls weekend in a place with beaches, night life, and culture! Cartagena has all of that and is so full of life. There is a ton of stuff to do and see and so much culture to learn about. This was the perfect place to spend a birthday/girls weekend. It was alive and upbeat, filled with fun people and live music. Not to mention the beaches and islands! The locals were super friendly and we felt very safe all of the places we went.
We stayed at The Townhouse Cartagena which was a perfect location within the walled city. We were right near most of the places we wanted to see and go. Cartagena is very easy to get around by foot, and although it was literally built as a maze, you get the hang of it and it’s pretty easy to navigate.
We arrived late at night so we just went right to bed to be fully rested for our first of three days in Cartagena. We had breakfast at our hotel, then went out in the heat to explore this adorable little town. And boy was it hot! At 90+ degree temperatures and blazing hot sun, it was a scorcher. Be sure to use sun screen here, it’s no joke! We were glad our hotel was centrally located because in between our sight seeing we stopped back in the room several times to cool down and dry off. We were all drenched in sweat!
After touring around on our own we met up with a street food tour to hear about the history and try the local food. The streets of Cartagena are such a sight to see. With bright colors, beautiful doors, and door knockers there is a story to be told down each street. Each one is named after a story or event that took place on them.
Cartagena, or Cartagena de Indias, was developed in the 1500’s and the old town walled city was built specifically to protect from pirate attacks in the Caribbean. It was a the main port for trade between Spain and South America so the goods needed to be protected. The walled city is now, in fact, part of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The street food tour was fun because we got to learn not just about the local street food, but also some history of the city. About 90% of the food on the street tour was gluten free so I actually got to eat some good street food. Most food was cheese and plantains (which I love!!), and the rest was corn based. Our guide was very helpful with what I could and couldn’t eat. I will say that the walk was still very hot, so dress appropriately and drink lots of water!! I did feel like I was going to pass out a few times along the way.
After the food tour we went back to the hotel to cool off, relax, and get ready for our first dinner and night out! Our first dinner we were very excited about. We ate at Bohemia, which we had heard so many great things about. The atmosphere was great. They had a live band and adorable décor. The food lived up to the hype. We loved everything we ordered!
Our second day we planned a catamaran excursion around the Rosario Islands and we were so looking forward to this! Off the coast of Cartagena lies the Islas del Rosario, which is actually one of the 46 Natural National Parks in Colombia. So when visiting Cartagena, you cannot miss exploring the islands or the coral reefs that surround them.
Since we had a quick trip we opted for a full day boat excursion to a few of the islands with Bona Vida Catamaranes. We were under the impression that we stopped at several islands and also got to stop to snorkel, but we weren’t actually able to explore the islands like we thought. It was more of a park and swim situation, but it was a really fun day with beautiful scenery. I loved the lunch they served (a GF seafood rice dish) and they had fun cocktails. I recommend this if you don’t mind not getting to explore the actual islands.
After our full day on the boat we were pretty exhausted from being in the sun and swimming. We headed back to our hotel to clean up and relax. We didn’t want to waste an evening in Cartagena, so we headed to a highly recommended restaurant named Carmen. This was our favorite meal of the trip! Not only was the food amazing, the drinks were so fun and specially crafted, and the bar staff quickly became our friends. If you want a fun place with awesome food, don’t miss this spot!
When we finished eating here we ventured out on the town and found a few bars we really liked. We started at the roof at Movich Hotel for sunset drinks, Alquimico was a fun spot for drinks, Donde Fidel Salsa Club for some authentic salsa, and Eivissa for late night.
Our last day in Cartagena we left unplanned. We knew we wanted to do more walking around and shop for souvenirs. We also knew we had to eat at La Cevicheria, where Anthony Bourdain featured on his show. So after walking through the markets we stopped here to eat, and it did NOT disappoint.
Since the following day was my birthday and we were traveling back home, we decided to make this night our big night out. The girls planned a dinner for me at Maria before we went out for salsa dancing. This was the only thing I was dying to do! We picked Bazurto Social Club, because we heard great things and I have to say it was a blast!! If you are down for salsa dancing, this is your place!! It was the perfect ending to a great trip!
I probably could have spent a few more days in Cartagena to relax on some of the beautiful beaches that outlay the city. We had such a great time, ate amazing food, learned about the culture of the city, and listened to great live music. I highly recommend planning a fun friend trip here. There weren’t many families with kids so this is also a great bachelor/bachelorette destination and there is no wonder why!