A Port Day in Cartagena


Article first published as A Port Day in Cartagena on Technorati.

Seeing Hard Rock Cartagena told me that Cartagena, Colombia is now a Cruise Ship port town. After seven years working as assistant cruise director on-board cruise ships, I thought I had been to every port town in the Caribbean.

But now, new interesting cities are on the itineraries. If Cartagena is on your next sailing, you will love it! I know I did! This UNESCO world heritage site includes amazing locations and I hope you get to see them all.

old cityMy favorite is El Centro, the Old town with one lane roads full of horse drawn carriages and men with carts selling fruit. Don’t worry; they all wear plastic food service gloves to cut the fruit and sell it for less than $1 for a cup of refreshing juicy mango or watermelon. It is fantastic stroll the stone streets and listen to the sexy salsa music. There are open air cafes in many of the plazas.
I loved the gorgeous and brightly painted houses with balconies covered with Bougainvillea. Just wander and explore the streets. During New Year’s Eve Celebrations, the verandas and all the squares were filled with live bands, music and people.

We saw seven Royal Caribbean Cruise ship buses at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This fort, built by the Spanish in 1657, was to protect the gold and treasures after five sieges by pirates including one in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake.
The fort is a marvel of tunnels and engineering. You can visit the Palace of the Inquisition where people were tortured for being accused of crimes against their religion. I skipped it.

I did unfortunately take the tour to Playa Blanca and Islas del Rosario which I do not recommend. I did not find it beautiful or relaxing; way too many hawkers and far too little beach. Sadly for friends of ours, thshipey spent the night at Playa Blanca and were attacked by sand fleas. The only nice part of the day was seeing the Constellation leave port which made for great sunset photos!

I can highly recommend two restaurants in Getsemani. We ate twice at Cafe Lunatico whose menu states: “Todo hecho con amor y locura” or all is made with crazy love! The food is excellent and the staff are helpful. Across the street, but still on Calle de la Media Luna you can eat at Luna Nueva with a complete breakfast for only 7000 pesos (about $3.50) near the hip and happening hostel, Media Luna.

If you want to relax in Getsemani, check out the brand new Casa Canabal, a hotel boutique in Cartagena de Indias.  The spa on the upper deck overlooks the city with a bar and bright yellow flowers, a wonderful spot to reflect on the city.

mulataOur favorite lunch spot in the Old Town is La Mulata, with daily specials and grilled meats every day; it is always full but only open for lunch. Both times we were here, the food was great and the group very international.
I also recommend seeing the Cartagena de Indias  Small Luxury Hotel. Our tour included the upstairs pool near sunset and the view is the first photo at the top! Enjoy the beauty of Cartagena!

Authors Note: Our two weeks in Colombia were incredible! We will write several posts over the next month about all the amazing sites, towns and travels we had! Put Colombia on the TOP of your travel list!

Check out my review posted to the b-townblog for Seattle: click here

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

13 responses to “A Port Day in Cartagena

  1. From JP:
    "Another beautiful entry. I can understand why you have such a following. Count me in as a fan of your travelblog."

    Thanks so much! We appreciate your support!
    Lisa and George

  2. From Down Under:

    "Hi Lisa and George:

    Glad to hear the trip was great as I knew it would be. Can't wait to read about your other adventures.

    Happy New Years"

    Thanks and Happy New Year to you also!
    L & G

  3. From KH
    "Hi guys,

    You better not be enjoying yourselves in Colombia. It's not allowed to fall in love with such an incredibly beautiful country and its amazing people.

    So Lisa's review has finally made the big time in Seattle:


    It's right inside when you click on the link to the book. And her bio made it intact, too! Thanks one more time, Lisa, for the wonderful perspective you had on my book.

    Hope you have a chance to visit San Augustin along the Rio Magdelena – you probably saw the piece about it on my web site.

    Have a great end to 2010 and let's all boogie in 2011!


  4. From FZ who shared so much info with us before we left:
    "Wow, you did it!!!! I'm so excited for you and that some of the love that saturates me sank into you during your two week stay in querida Cartagena.

    I have a few photos, and you probably have dozens, of the buildings. Maybe I'll send you a few from my 2008 trip, just in case they might be useful to you. You don't need to give me credit and can use them as your own.

    I'm looking forward to receiving your info. Congratulations upon picking the perfect spot for your anniversary.
    Best wishes, FZ"

  5. From M & N
    "Love reading about your adventures. Happy 1st anniversary and a happy, healthy New Year."

    Thanks so much for reading and for writing! We love to hear from you!
    Lisa and George

  6. Hi Lisa and George! You dont know how happy I am that you enjoyed my country, I loved your post!. Thank you thank you thank you for helping us Colombians in our efforts to show Colombia as it really is so we can little by lettle erase the bad image we had in the past!

    Abrazos, and if you ever come back you have to pay me a visit!



  7. Hello our lovely friends,

    We are so glad to know that you really enjoyed visiting Cartagena and Santa Marta.

    Your written about Colombia makes us feel proud of our country, because the only risk that foreign people have is staying here to live.

    We are looking forward to reading the next Post about your trip to La Guajira.

    Cris & German

  8. Hey you two! Great article I will head to the caribbean by myself very soon with some of my friends from Germany and we will go to Cartagena, too! Thanks for the insights regarding rosario island we had some negative feedback as well, lets see.

    About locations to go I heard especially for cake lovers that Mila is the best place to. Everyone in the office go crazy about.. 😉

    Hope to hear more from you very soon. Take care!

  9. Hour blog was very interesting .In general tour is an exciting thing, Industrial tour is a gracious one to carry on. There are two benifits in these types of tours, one to visit the new place another is to complete our job; with complete fun, joy, ect…

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