This year, two of my close girlfriends and I decided that we wanted to take a trip to South America. After researching various options, we settled on the city of Cartagena, Colombia due to the low cost of flying there from New York City, the very low cost of staying and traveling around the city, and the opportunity to get away from the extremely cold winters that New York is known for.
Cartagena ended up being the perfect girls getaway destination: it had a combination of great food, amazing culture, stunning architecture, and wonderful places to relax and soak up the sunshine.
Check out this guide to the awesome things we did during our week in the city!
The girls and I had a long list of things that we wanted to see during our time in the city. One of the things that we definitely did not want to miss seeing was the famous Torre de Reloj (Clock Tower), which is the symbol that represents Cartagena that also serves as the main entrance of the walled city, which is known as Ciudad Amurallada.
After entering the walled city we came upon the Plaza de los Coches, where we found a number of rooftop bars that overlook the Torre de Reloj. Our favorite bar in the Plaza was Eivissa, which played had a large selection of popular English and Spanish songs and had professional dancers that kept the party going throughout the night.
Although we had mostly come to Colombia for relaxation and the night life scene, the girls and I felt that it was important to learn a little bit about the history of the Cartagena while we were in the city, so we paid a visit El Museo Histórico de Cartagena.
El Museo Histórico showcases individuals who were subjected to human rights violations and persecuted in Cartagena. The museum also did a great job of highlighting the relationship between the Caribbean, Africa, and Colombia.
During the week that we spend in the city, the girls and I spent a significant amount of time roaming the streets of Cartagena snapping up tons of pictures. The entire city had so many different photographic opportunities that we found it hard to walk a couple of minutes without finding something photo-worthy to capture with our cameras!
While walking around the city, we stumbled upon this cute little area called El Parque de las Flores, which sells both faux and real flowers. We were having a blast snapping photos of each other walking through the colorful outdoor flower shop and chatting with some of the shop owners.
While we were in Cartagena, we made it a point to get in the water. In addition to partying in Cholón and taking an evening cruise on Cartagena Bay with the company Boats 4 U, the girls and I hopped in a taxi took a day trip to Playa Blanca.
Visiting Playa Blanca was the perfect dose of relaxation that we needed. The water was warm, the beach was beautiful, and the mood was peaceful; it was definitely a great place to go to get away from the city for a few hours to relax.
A day or two prior to heading to Playa Blanca, we made our way over to the ultra-modern side of Cartagena (which reminded me of Miami) to Playa Bocagrande.
I had been forewarned about the beaches in the city of Cartagena hearing that they were not nearly as beautiful as the beaches outside of the city. Needless to say, the advice I had received was right.
In addition to having dark blue water (unlike the beautiful blue Caribbean waters that Playa Blanca had), Playa Bocagrande was definitely not a place where the girls and I could fully enjoy or relax. While we were laying out on beach chairs, we were approached by hawkers who were constantly trying to sell us everything under the sun from massages to seashells. Some very bold masseuses made their way over to where the girls and I were seated and began to rub us down while informing us that we were too tense and needed a massage; we were finally able to wave them away but not without a small battle.
Another place that the girls and I enjoyed visiting was Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a fortress that was built in the city by the Spaniards during their colonization of the city.
Sitting atop the San Lázaro hill, Castillo de San Felipe is a great place to get sweeping views of both the new modern part of Cartagena (Bocagrande) and the older more historical part of the city. The Castillo also has a large flag perched on the edge of the hill which is perfect for taking even more photographs.
I was particularly interested in learning some AfroColombian dance moves while we were in Cartagena so the three of us headed to Crazy Salsa in the heart of the walled city. We decided to take the Champeta class and we danced so hard that sweat soaked through our clothes. It was a fun-filled hour of fast-paced dance moves to AfroColombian rhythms.
The girls and I decided to take the Champeta class and we danced so hard that sweat soaked through our clothes. It was a fun-filled hour of fast-paced dance moves toAfro-Colombiann rhythms.
While we were in Cartagena, the girls and I ate out every single meal. Cartagena has various international cuisines and we partook in many of them from French, to Spanish, and of course Colombian. There was no shortage of good food to be had, and we were certainly satisfied with the numerous offerings.
Two amazing places that the girls and I caught the sunset during our trip were at Cafe del Mar and on a sunset cruise of Cartagena Bay with Boats 4 U. While I found the view from Cafe del Mar to be absolutely beautiful, I was definitely much more impressed with being able to literally sail into the sunset on the evening boat cruise.
Girlfriend’s Getaway Guide FAQs:
Where to Stay in Cartagena?
The girls and I rented a two-bedroom apartment in the Getsemani neighborhood through AirBnB for the first six nights of the trip. On the final night of the trip, we stayed at the beautiful Sofitel Legend Santa Clara.
Where Can I Eat & Drink in Cartagena?
As you can imagine, the girls and I ate a lot of food during our one week in the city. Some of our favorite places included:
Where Should I Go To Relax in Cartagena?
My friends and I definitely needed some relaxation from our hectic New York City lifestyle. There were several places where we went to let our hair down and get some much needed R&R:
- Playa Blanca on Isla Barú – definitely a lot less haggling than Playa Bocagrande (in the city of Cartagena) and much better water too!
- Massage at Allure Chocolat (approximately $40 USD for 1 hour)
Where Can I Sweat it Out in Cartagena?
Whether you are looking to experience some of the city’s vibrant nightlife or just want to get cultured, there are several places that you can go where you are guaranteed to sweat it out:
- Eivissa – an outdoor rooftop bar overlooking Torre del Reloj
- Café La Habana – a Cuban club where you can get strong mojitos and dance salsa
- Crazy Salsa – come here to learn Colombian and latin dances
How Can I Get Around Cartagena?
Getting around Cartagena was very easy and requires no prior planning. Upon arrival, you can take an official taxi from the airport to your accommodation in Cartagena. You can pay at the ticket booth located at the taxi stand right outside of the airport; if you are going to the Centro/Getsemaní area, a ride will cost you about 10,000 COP ($3 USD).
When we were in the city, we spent most of our time walking and sometimes we took taxis. When we took taxis, we usually stuck with Uber which we found to be slightly cheaper than taking the city’s yellow cabs. In the instances when yellow cabs were more readily available, we made sure to negotiate a price with the driver before riding with one.