Welcome to Cartagena, a vibrant and historic coastal city located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. As a seasoned traveler and writer, I am excited to share my top travel tips to make your Colombian adventure stress-free and unforgettable.

From exploring the charming Old Town to soaking up the sun on stunning beaches, Cartagena has something for everyone. In this guide, I will provide insights on the best time to visit, how to reach the city, where to stay, and must-visit attractions to help you plan your trip with ease.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cartagena, Colombia, is a vibrant and historic coastal city located on the Caribbean coast.
  • This guide will provide essential travel tips to help you plan a stress-free and unforgettable Colombian adventure.
  • Topics covered include the best time to visit, how to get to Cartagena, where to stay, and must-visit attractions.
  • Don’t miss the chance to explore Cartagena’s charming Old Town, stunning beaches, and vibrant nightlife scene.
  • Stay safe during your trip with our helpful tips for navigating Cartagena.

Best Time to Visit Cartagena

Welcome to Cartagena! When planning your Colombian adventure, it’s important to consider the optimal time to visit. The weather can greatly impact your experience, so I’ll share my insights to help you plan accordingly.

Climate in Cartagena

Cartagena has a tropical climate with high temperatures throughout the year, ranging from 80-90°F. The city experiences a rainy season and a dry season, with the rainy season typically lasting from May to November and the dry season from December to April.

Best Time to Visit Cartagena

The best time to visit Cartagena is during the dry season, from December to April, when the weather is sunny and dry with fewer crowds. However, this is also considered peak tourist season, so accommodation prices may be higher than other times of the year.

If you’re looking to save money and don’t mind the heat, visiting during the rainy season from May to November can be a good option. The rain showers are usually short-lived and it’s still possible to enjoy the city’s attractions and activities.

Keep in mind that Cartagena is a popular vacation destination, so plan ahead to secure your preferred accommodations and activities during your desired travel dates.

Getting to Cartagena

Welcome to Cartagena! Whether you’re coming from the United States or from within Colombia, there are several options to reach this beautiful city.

Flying to Cartagena

If you’re flying in from the United States, the primary airport is Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG). Several airlines, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, offer direct flights from major cities such as Miami, New York, and Atlanta.

If you’re arriving from within Colombia, you can reach Cartagena by flying to Rafael Núñez International Airport or taking a domestic flight to nearby airports such as Barranquilla’s Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport.

Alternative Transportation Options

If you prefer to travel by land, you can take a bus from cities such as Bogotá and Medellín. The journey can take several hours, but it’s a scenic way to experience the Colombian countryside.

Another option is to arrive in Cartagena by boat or ferry. Some cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, offer stops in Cartagena.

Tips for a Smooth Arrival

Regardless of how you arrive in Cartagena, it’s important to have a plan for transportation from the airport or port to your hotel. Taxis are readily available, but be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in. Alternatively, many hotels offer airport shuttle services or can arrange transportation for you.

It’s also a good idea to have Colombian pesos on hand for taxi fares or small purchases, as not all vendors accept credit cards.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be ready to start your Cartagena adventure as soon as you arrive.

Where to Stay in Cartagena

Choosing the right accommodation in Cartagena can make a huge difference in your overall experience. Luckily, the city offers a wide range of options to suit every taste and budget.

Old Town

If you want to immerse yourself in Cartagena’s colonial charm, staying in the historic Old Town is your best bet. This neighborhood is home to stunning mansions, colorful streets, and some of the city’s top attractions. You can choose from luxury boutique hotels, cozy guesthouses, or homey apartments. Keep in mind that prices tend to be higher in this area.


Bocagrande is a modern neighborhood located south of the Old Town. Here, you’ll find high-rise buildings, upscale shops, and a long strip of sandy beach. This area is perfect if you’re looking for a more contemporary and cosmopolitan vibe. There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from, ranging from world-renowned hotels to budget-friendly hostels.


Getsemani is a bohemian and trendy neighborhood located just a few blocks from the Old Town. It’s known for its colorful street art, lively nightlife, and cultural events. This area is ideal if you want to experience a more authentic and local side of Cartagena. You can find a variety of guesthouses, hostels, and apartments in this neighborhood, with prices ranging from budget to mid-range.

Other popular neighborhoods for accommodation in Cartagena include Manga, El Laguito, and Castillogrande. No matter where you decide to stay, make sure to book in advance, especially during high season, to guarantee availability and the best rates.

Exploring Cartagena’s Old Town

One of the must-visit areas in Cartagena is the enchanting Old Town, also known as the walled city. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a testament to Cartagena’s rich history and culture.

As you wander through the cobblestone streets, you’ll be transported back in time to the colonial era. The architecture is a fusion of Spanish, African, and indigenous styles, creating a unique and colorful atmosphere. Be sure to keep your camera handy to capture the stunning facades and intricate balconies of the buildings.

Top landmarks in Old Town

Plaza de BolivarA beautiful square with a statue of Simón Bolivar, a prominent figure in Latin American history.
Catedral de Santa CatalinaA stunning cathedral with a gold altar and a history dating back to the 17th century.
Plaza Santo DomingoA lively square with street performers and restaurants, surrounded by colorful buildings.

In addition to the landmarks, Old Town is filled with charming cafes, art galleries, and boutique shops. You can also taste the local cuisine at one of the many restaurants offering traditional dishes such as ceviche or arepas.

Don’t miss the chance to walk along the ancient walls that surround the city and enjoy the stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. You can access the walls from various points, including the popular Café del Mar, where you can enjoy a drink while watching the sunset over the ocean.

Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply soaking up the atmosphere, exploring Cartagena’s Old Town is a must-do during your Colombian adventure.

Must-Visit Attractions in Cartagena

Cartagena is a city full of charm and history, and its attractions are not to be missed. I’ve compiled a list of some must-visit spots to get the most out of your visit.

The Walled City

The Walled City is the historic center of Cartagena and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its colorful colonial architecture, narrow streets, and beautiful plazas make it a unique and enchanting place to explore. Be sure to visit the iconic clock tower, the Cathedral of Cartagena, and the Palace of the Inquisition.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

This historic fortress is a symbol of Cartagena’s military past and an impressive work of military architecture. Explore the various tunnels and rooms and take in the breathtaking views from the top of the hill.


Getsemani is a trendy neighborhood known for its street art, vibrant nightlife, and local vibe. Take a stroll down Calle de la Sierpe and enjoy the lively atmosphere, or visit the Plaza de la Trinidad and mingle with the locals.

The Gold Museum

The Gold Museum houses a collection of stunning pre-Columbian gold artifacts, providing insights into the indigenous cultures of Colombia. Learn about the history and significance of these treasures and admire their intricate craftsmanship.

The Rosario Islands

The Rosario Islands are a group of beautiful islands and coral reefs located off the coast of Cartagena. Enjoy crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and a wide range of water activities, from snorkeling to kayaking.


Bocagrande is a modern neighborhood located on a peninsula just south of the Walled City. It’s known for its high-rise hotels, upscale shopping centers, and beautiful beaches. Take a break from sightseeing and relax on the soft sand or enjoy a cocktail at one of the trendy beach clubs.

These are just a few of the must-visit attractions in Cartagena. With so much to see and do, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in this beautiful city.

Enjoying Cartagena’s Beaches

What’s a trip to Cartagena without indulging in its stunning beaches? Here are some of my top recommendations for enjoying the coastal beauty of this vibrant city.

Playa Blanca

If you’re seeking pristine white sands and turquoise waters, Playa Blanca is the perfect escape. Located on Isla Barú, a short boat ride from Cartagena, this picturesque beach offers plenty of amenities for a full day of relaxation. You can rent beach chairs, participate in water sports, and enjoy fresh seafood from local vendors.


If you prefer to stay close to the city center, Bocagrande is a top choice. This bustling beach area boasts luxurious high-rise hotels and apartment buildings, as well as a variety of restaurants and shops. The soft sands are perfect for sunbathing, and the warm waters are great for swimming.

Islas del Rosario

If you’re looking for an adventure and a stunning natural landscape, take a boat tour to the Islas del Rosario. This archipelago of coral islands features crystal-clear waters, coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life. You can go snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply enjoy the pristine beaches and natural scenery.

La Boquilla

For a more authentic local beach experience, head to La Boquilla. This fishing village is located just outside of Cartagena and boasts a long stretch of unspoiled beach. You can watch fishermen bring in their daily catch, try your hand at kite surfing or simply enjoy a peaceful beach day away from the crowds.

No matter which beach you choose, always remember to wear sunscreen, stay hydrated, and respect the natural environment. With an array of stunning beaches to choose from, your Cartagena trip is sure to be unforgettable.

Experiencing Cartagena’s Nightlife

Cartagena comes alive at night with a bustling nightlife scene that caters to all tastes and preferences. Whether you’re looking for trendy rooftop bars, salsa clubs, live music venues, or simply a laid-back spot to enjoy a drink with friends, you’ll find it all here in Cartagena.

If you’re a fan of live music, head to Cafe Havana in the historic center. This Cuban-inspired venue boasts a lively atmosphere, with salsa, son, and rumba bands playing throughout the night.

For a more upscale experience, head to Alquimico. This chic rooftop bar in Getsemani offers stunning views of the city and a creative cocktail menu that will impress even the most discerning mixology aficionados.

Looking to dance the night away? Don’t miss out on a visit to Bazurto Social Club. This popular spot in Getsemani offers a lively atmosphere with live music and upbeat reggaeton and salsa beats that will have you on your feet all night long.

Whatever your preference, be sure to pace yourself and stay hydrated. And as with any nightlife scene, it’s important to keep your belongings close and stay aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and fun experience.

Exploring Cartagena’s Surroundings

While Cartagena is undoubtedly a fantastic city to explore, there are also some incredible sights to see just outside of its limits. From white sandy beaches to lush tropical forests, there’s no shortage of natural beauty and adventure waiting to be discovered.

The Rosario Islands

If you’re looking for a day trip filled with tropical vibes and crystal-clear waters, the Rosario Islands are a must-visit. This stunning archipelago consists of 27 small islands, each with its own unique character. Take a boat tour, go snorkeling, or simply relax on the beach and soak up the sun.

How to Get There:Book a tour or ferry from Cartagena.
Best Time to Visit:The dry season from December to March.
Recommended Activities:Snorkeling, scuba diving, beach hopping.

Santa Marta

Located about four hours from Cartagena, the town of Santa Marta is rich in history and natural beauty. Visit the Tayrona National Park and hike to the Lost City, a stunning archaeological site deep in the jungle. Or simply stroll through the charming town center, which features beautiful colonial architecture and plenty of local shops and cafes.

How to Get There:Take a bus or hire a private taxi from Cartagena.
Best Time to Visit:The dry season from December to March.
Recommended Activities:Hiking, exploring the town center, visiting the Tayrona National Park.

La Boquilla

If you’re interested in experiencing the local way of life, visit the fishing village of La Boquilla. Here, you can take a traditional canoe tour through the mangroves and learn about the area’s rich ecological diversity. Make sure to try some fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants afterwards!

How to Get There:Take a short taxi or bus ride from Cartagena.
Best Time to Visit:The dry season from December to March.
Recommended Activities:Canoe tours, trying local seafood, learning about the mangroves.

Overall, exploring Cartagena’s surroundings can offer a unique and unforgettable travel experience. Remember to plan ahead, bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and most importantly, have fun!

Safety Tips for Cartagena

As with any travel destination, it’s important to take precautions and stay aware of your surroundings while in Cartagena. By following these safety tips, you can enjoy your Colombian adventure with peace of mind:

  • Be cautious at night: Avoid walking alone at night, especially in secluded areas or poorly lit streets. Stick to well-lit, busy areas if possible, and consider using a taxi or ride-share service to get around after dark.
  • Protect your valuables: Keep your belongings, including passports, cash, and electronics, in a secure location such as a hotel safe. Be aware of pickpocketing in crowded areas or on public transportation.
  • Stay alert: Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert to any potential dangers. Trust your instincts; if a situation doesn’t feel safe, remove yourself from it as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid scams: Beware of common tourist scams, such as fake tour guides or offers for free gifts or prizes. Always research companies or individuals before booking tours or excursions.
  • Know the emergency numbers: Save important numbers such as local emergency services, your hotel’s front desk, and your embassy or consulate in case of an emergency.
  • Respect local customs: Familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions to avoid unintentionally offending anyone. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and be mindful of public displays of affection.

By keeping these safety tips in mind, you can fully enjoy the beauty and excitement of Cartagena without any worries.


Thanks for reading my guide to navigating Cartagena like a pro! Remember, the key to a successful trip is to plan ahead and stay flexible. Whether you choose to explore the city’s historic landmarks, indulge in the local cuisine, or simply relax on the beach, be sure to make the most of your time in this beautiful Colombian destination.

Final Thoughts

Throughout your adventure, always keep safety in mind and stay aware of your surroundings. Cartagena is generally a safe destination, but it’s always important to take precautions and avoid risky areas, especially at night.

Lastly, don’t forget to immerse yourself in the local culture and connect with the friendly locals. Whether you’re practicing your Spanish, sampling exotic fruits, or learning new dance moves, embrace all that Cartagena has to offer and create unforgettable memories along the way.

Safe travels and I hope you have an amazing trip!


What are some must-visit attractions in Cartagena?

Some must-visit attractions in Cartagena include the iconic Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the picturesque Getsemani neighborhood, and the historic Old Town with its cobblestone streets and vibrant plazas.

When is the best time to visit Cartagena?

The ideal time to visit Cartagena is during the dry season, which runs from December to April. This period offers pleasant weather with less rainfall and fewer crowds.

How can I get to Cartagena?

Cartagena can be reached by flying into the Rafael Núñez International Airport, which has connections to major cities in Colombia and the United States. There are also bus and boat options for those coming from within Colombia.

Where should I stay in Cartagena?

The best areas to stay in Cartagena are the Old Town for its historic charm, Bocagrande for its beachfront resorts, and Getsemani for its vibrant atmosphere. There are options available for every budget and preference.

What are some safety tips for Cartagena?

To stay safe in Cartagena, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, avoid displaying valuable items, and be cautious of scams targeting tourists. It’s also recommended to use reliable transportation and stick to well-lit and populated areas.

Can you recommend any day trips from Cartagena?

Absolutely! Some popular day trips from Cartagena include visiting the Rosario Islands for snorkeling and beach relaxation, exploring the historical town of Santa Marta, or taking a boat tour to the stunning Playa Blanca.

What is Cartagena’s nightlife like?

Cartagena has a vibrant nightlife scene with options for every taste. From trendy rooftop bars perfect for cocktails with a view to lively salsa clubs where you can dance the night away, there’s always something exciting happening after dark.

Which are the best beaches near Cartagena?

Some of the best beaches near Cartagena include Playa Blanca, located on the beautiful Isla Barú, and the beaches of the Rosario Islands. These stunning coastal areas offer crystal-clear waters and opportunities for relaxation and water sports.