Within minutes after arriving in the tropical city of Cartagena, you’ll feel an infectious buzz that permeates the cobblestoned streets and flower filled balconies. From the rhythmic Latin and Cuban beats coming from neighborhood cafes and courtyards, the brightly colored Spanish Colonial-style buildings, and the beautiful beaches of the neighboring Rosario Islands, Cartagena is the destination for savvy travelers.
SLEEP: Behind the tall wooden doors that greet you at Hotel Aqua,soaring ceilings, palm trees, and dark wood transform this beautiful building into a modern day oasis. The five well appointed rooms line the hallways that overlook the sitting area below; and the rooftop pool and bar offer great city views and a splendid way to cool off. Extend your stay beyond the city and climb aboard the hotel's private boat to Aqua Baru, on the Island of Baru.
La Passion offers you a look into traditional Colonial architecture combined with quirky, contemporary touches. Original 18th century floors, an imported granite staircase from Italy, and a rooftop pool and terrace mix with antiques and splashes of bold color to make this five room, moderately priced manor house one to swoon over.
Casa Santa Ana is a small gem tucked away on a narrow street in Getsemani, an up and coming neighborhood on the south side of the walled city. Each of the five rooms surround an open courtyard with a sitting area and breakfast nook. Upstairs, the wading pool and sundeck soak in the sights and sounds of the city; and the spa awaits the weary guest after a night of dancing. This is the perfect location for those looking to stay out of the city center.
EAT & DRINK: Dining, drinking and dancing are all a part of the experience in Cartagena and your only dilema will be deciding where to go. Savor over coastal Italian dishes at the elegant Vera at the Tcherassi Hotel. You’ll be wowed by Chef Daniel Castaño’s inventive twists on seafood,meats, and pasta and the accompanying wines that are recommended by the friendly and knowledgeable waitstaff.
At the sleek La Perla, the intersection of Colombian and Peruvian cuisine create a delicious fusion along with the city's best ceviche. A convivial atmosphere, tasty Caribbean dishes, and a good looking crowd is what keeps Restaurante Don Juan on our hit list. For a taste of typical Colombian fare, El Santisimo or the laid back Donde Socorro in Getsemani, will do you right.
PLAY: Lose yourself in the maze of streets to soak in the architecture and culture of the Old City and Getsmani. Cool off and hydrate with fresh juices and coconuts from street vendors (yes, it's safe) as you shop for colorful handcrafted bags and clothing. Take a walk along the top of the wall that surrounds the city and if you time it right, catch the sunset with a drink at Cafe del Mar.
Get caught up in the city’s energy with the sounds of Cuban Jazz and Salsa at Café Havana, in Getsemani; or go all out and book one of the coveted tables at La Vitrola.
If you have an extra day or two, hop around the Rosario Islands. Speed boats leave from the port in the mornings and take about 45 minutes. If you stay the night, your hotel will arrange transportation.
Area Valet can help plan your getaway to Cartagena with packages starting at $850.
Visit Area Daily for more of the best in urban travel.