Colombia Part 1: Cartagena

My husband and I had two of our sons at sleep-away camp and our daughter at camp Grammie, so we decided to take off and go somewhere we have never been: Colombia. Boasting beaches on the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the stunning Andes mountain region and the legendary Amazon rainforest, Colombia is proud to be the second most biodiverse country in the world. And booming cosmopolitan cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena can impress anyone with their magnificent views, innovative architecture, rich culture, and exceptional restaurants. In short, Colombia is a fascinating destination to explore. Keep reading to learn more about where to stay, eat, and explore in Cartagena

Cartagena, Colombia

We started our trip in Cartagena - just a short 2.5 hour flight from Miami. Located on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia, Cartagena was founded in 1553 and served as a major port city. Dripping with history (fantastical and true stories of pirates and Sir Francis Drake terrorizing the city), the walled Old Town boasts cobblestone streets and beautiful examples of colonial, republican and modern architecture. Within the walls, you can spend hours wandering through the town. Whether your interests are shopping, history, culture or cuisine, Cartagena will meet all of your needs. Cartagena is such a colorful city – it literally VIBRATES with energy.

Day One: Tour Cartagena 

I used one of my trusted partner companies in Colombia to help us get the most out of our time there. Our first day, we went on an architectural and history tour with a locally-renowned historian to orient ourselves with the city. He really brought the city alive for us and he knew everything. We were completely unable to stump him with any of our questions. We learned fascinating stories about the Spanish colonization, Inquisition era, and pirate sieges that influenced Cartagena’s history. Also, by doing this tour on the first day, it was a great way to orient ourselves to the city.

Day Two: Explore Getsemani

On our second day we met with a leading expert in all things Cartagena to sample the Cartagena’s street food – which was AMAZING. I am still dreaming about the arepas de queso and papas rellenas we sampled. Our guide also took us outside the walled city to explore the street art in Getsemani. This neighborhood was once a no-go due to drugs and crime, but it has evolved into the cultural epicenter of Cartagena. Internationally renowned for its street art, you can wander the streets and see the history of Cartagena and spirit of its people on the crumbling stucco walls of once majestic Spanish Colonial buildings.

Day Three: Islas del Rosario

On our final day in Cartagena, we hopped on a boat to explore the Islas del Rosario, located 50-minutes from Cartagena. These 30 islands are blessed with white-sand beaches, clear blue waters, magnificent coral reefs, and abundant marine life. We stopped at a couple of the small boutique hotels located in the islands for cocktails, swimming and lunch.

As a special treat, we had a gin tasting where we got to actually MAKE our own gin. Our expert mixologist taught us how gin is processed and learned how to recognized its numerous characteristics. So fun!!

Sleep & Eat & Explore

In between all of that…we wandered the streets and plazas browsing the stores, art galleries and listening to the street music. And we ate truly delicious meals. Colombians love their soups and ceviche and we had much of both. Some of the finest restaurants in South America in Colombia. Carmen has to be my favorite! From first bite to last ... delicious.

While there are several lovely places to stay in Cartagena, we opted to stay at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. Housed in a seventeenth century convent, the hotel has all of the modern comforts of a five-star resort but the crypts, confessionals and Botero sculptures make you feel as if you are in on a secret. 

Cartagena captured my heart. And I know it will capture your heat. Grab your significant other, your family or a group of friends – you need to check this place out. Trust me.

Who should go to Cartagena

Anyone who loves history, art,  culture and great food. If you like Charleston and New Orleans…you will LOVE Cartagena.

Where to stay

Sofital Legend Santa Clara

Originally built as a convent in 1621, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena is a legendary landmark in the heart of Cartagena's walled city.

Amanda Watkins Travel offers free breakfast, a $100 food and beverage credit, and free wifi for clients.

Casa San Augustin

This small, 30 room hotel Casa San Augustin is a gem. The L-shaped pool passing through an aqueduct cut out is a stunning entry to the hotel.

Amanda Watkins Travel offers free breakfast, a $100 food and beverage credit, and free wifi for clients.

Where to eat

El Boliche Cebicheria

Chef Oscar Colmenares became a true master of ceviches after spending years in the kitchens of Michelin-star chefs— Gaston Acurio, Rafael Osterling, and Martin Berastegui.


This top-notch restaurant specializes in mixing contemporary cuisine with traditional Caribbean recipes, prepared with the freshest local ingredients. We loved it so much we ate their twice!

La Cocina de Pepina

This pink-and-orange-walled, six-table dining room restaurant, is a well kept secret in the city which specializes in serving lunch only. Try their mote de queso!

Amanda Watkins Travel specializes in luxury and adventure travel. Our affiliations ensure VIP treatment and amenities on any trip - including local weekend getaways. Plan your trip.