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What to Do in Cartagena: Tips from a Local

Here are some suggestions for what to do in Cartagena from Clayton Steele, a local.

Kid-Free Date Night Ideas

Night Out: If you can swing a babysitter, plan a night out on a Champeta tour. Or go to Mistura for dinner and live music. After dinner, head over to Havana or La Movida to dance the rest of the night away. 

Beach Run: If you like to run, head over to La Boquilla’s wide beautiful beach or Castillogrande’s manicured running path.

A Cartagena beach

Walking Tour: Purchase the Tierra Magna app and take a walking self-guided audio tour of Cartagena through the landmarks made famous by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Walk along the walls (but not from 11am-4pm unless you can really handle the heat) and have a sunset cocktail at Café del Mar!

Dancing: Near the Getsemani neighborhood is the famous salsa bar, Salso Quiebra Canto, where couples can enjoy the historic ambiance, drink craft cocktails, and dance to live salsa music!

Family Fun in Cartagena

San Basilio de Palenque: Make plans to visit this unique village. It has preserved its cultural identity as an escaped slave colony for centuries. A truly moving excursion, especially for older children, this town is about an hour from Cartagena and was founded during the 17th century. It is recognized by UNESCO for its African linguistic, musical, and cultural traditions. Guests have the opportunity to explore the history of slavery in Colombia. Plus, they’ll gain insight into a community where African roots and traditions have been fervently preserved. 

Parque del Centenario: Try to spot the giant iguanas that roam the grounds. Or look for the sloths in the trees, and then pick up a few souvenirs in the open-air market.

Chocolates: In the Torre del Reloj/Calle de Los Dulces region, stop into the Republica del Cacao store for an amazing selection of chocolates that are made with a variety of exotic native Colombian fruits.

Venturing Outside the City Limits

Boat Trip: Spend at least one day on a boat trip to the Islas del Rosario, the Islas San Bernardo, or Baru. A typical day trip in Baru might include a morning spent at the Aviary (which has 7 environments, 21 exhibitions and 165 species of birds) and lunch in Playa Blanca. 

Cartagena boat trip

Islas del Rosario: These are islands along the Baru Peninsula. You can rent your own boat, or take a general day tour. If you can’t see all the beauty that the Islas del Rosario has to offer, don’t worry!  Spend the night at a hotel and finish up your sight-seeing the next day.

San Bernardo Islands: If you have extra time in your itinerary, consider spending a day in the San Bernardo Islands. These islands lie an additional hour beyond the Islas del Rosario (a 2-hour boat ride in total). If you plan on spending the night here, I recommend lodging at either Hotel Punta Faro or Sal Si Puedes.

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Clayton Steele

Clayton is a long time Cartagena and Colombia fanatic. She fell in love with the city in 2005 and immediately purchased a property where she and her children have spent many happy long and short vacations. For the past two years she has worked closely with Corporturismo, Cartagena’s government tourism agency, on Sustainable Tourism initiatives and recently joined FEM’s US based advisory team to promote social impact tourism start-ups and projects that empower disadvantaged communities in the region to aspire to a better future and promote sustainable tourism development. You can reach Clayton by DM on IG @cartagenavacays, follow her posts on family appropriate activities and places in Cartagena on her Facebook page @cartagenafamilyvacations or even book her property (and concierge services) on for an unforgettable, and family-oriented adventure in Cartagena.
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