If you're planning a trip to Cartagena and are looking for good advice on where to stay, this guide to the most interesting neighborhoods in Cartagena de Indias will steer you in the right direction and at least help make sure you don't get lost navigating your way through Cartagena.
In general, the best barrios for visitors to Cartagena tend to touch water or be in close proximity to the beach.
The city was first built on a series of islands in one of the most secure bays in South America. The walls built by Spanish colonists to protect the riches they plundered from their colonies have been beautifully preserved to create a romantic haven for modern-day conquistadors arriving on regular flights from New York, Miami and Amsterdam.
Undoubtedly the remarkable charms of Cartagena's walled old town, make this the best place to stay in Cartagena, if not Colombia. Visitors to Colombia for the first time need to spend at least one night sleeping inside the walls that inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez to write his most romantic novels.
In the old town of Cartagena there are three principal neighborhoods - Centro, San Diego and Getsemani. Each neighborhood has its own particular vibe and architectural style.
All three historical neighborhoods are very close to another, a maximum 15-minute walk, so booking a house or hotel here means you will have most of Cartagena's best restaurants, bars and things to do within walking distance.
If you're coming to top up the tan, or looking for nature, watersports, meditation and rest and recuperation, there are plenty of beach districts to choose from.
Cartagena has 19 km of beaches in the metropolitan area as well as 27 islands to choose from - Castillogrande, Bocagrande, Marbella, Manzanillo de Mar and Crespo all have some great hotels and properties to call home during your stay in Cartagena.
Further south, the best beach retreats are found in Cartagena's principal private islands - Tierrabomba, Baru, the Rosario Islands and San Bernardo. Most of these islands are too small to label as a neighborhood as such although some do have enough going on to make an informed choice on which is the best to stay.
We hope this guide helps you to decide the best place to stay in Cartagena for you and your group, if you feel you need further help finding the perfect 'hood for you and your group drop one of our talented travel team a line and we'll be very happy to help.
Cartagena’s nerve centre serves up breathtaking colonial architecture, the city’s top attractions, finest hotels, eateries and drinking dens as well as being the administrative and cultural heart of the city
Constructed on one of three islands that are now connected to the Colombian mainland, the historic walled city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to protect its fortifications, castle and historic churches and palaces.
Ever since UNESCO declared Cartagena de Indias to be of global importance, the money has poured into restoring the remarkable architecture contained inside in the historic walls of the old town. Wandering aimlessly through Cartagena's historic center is without question it's one of the highlights of any trip to Colombia.
Centro has lost none of its importance over the last three centuries, thanks to the universal allure of its colonial pomp and the concentration of government buildings, hotels, tourist attractions, things to do, bars and restaurants within the walls.
While the riches of the region no longer flow through Cartagena on their way from Colombia, Peru and Ecuador to Spain, the city has maintained its position as the colonial gem in Colombia's Caribbean crown.
Cartagena's best hotels and restaurants have taken over the uber-casas built by slave traders and Spanish plunderers in the 17th century.
The richest residents knocked up stunning two and three-storey mansions by the westernmost tip of the walled city, where they bagged the sea breeze, added security, papal pardons and the chance to get an early first whiff of pirates. Many of these illustrious properties can now be found on Airbnb or in our superior list of luxury vacation rentals in Cartagena.
While this exclusive former corner of the Spanish colonies was once home to the slave traders of yesteryear, today only those at the very top of Colombia's rich list able to afford to maintain these opulent houses in their original residential state.
As well as hosting the most opulent churches and principal tourist landmarks, Centro is home to the the most important cultural encounters including the film festival, classical music festival and Hay Literary Festival, that take place in the first three months of the year and the biggest corporate events from April to November.Find a Place to Stay in Centro Contact Us
A healthy mix of sub-cultures makes San Diego one of the most interesting and varied districts in Cartagena and Colombia, something you can taste in its diverse gastronomic offering and the rich cultural output coming out of one of the city's most cultured barrios.
The University of Bellas Artes, the most creative educational institution in Cartagena, sits in the heart of the barrio, backing onto the women's prison. On the same street you have the best fritangeras (street food venders) in Cartagena.
San Diego is formed by 16 blocks north of Calle de la Universidad de Cartagena and west of Calle San Agustin and Calle de la Moneda and stretches to the Baluarte de Santa Catalina and the walls that once protected Cartagena from raids from pirates.
Architecturally the houses are smaller than those found in Centro and properties here were historically built to house the military, artisans and clergy.
There are fewer of the two-or three-storey holiday homes for the ultra-rich that characterize the historic centre and you will still find pockets of traditional Cartagena families living in some of the more modest houses in this part of town.
After Cartagena's moneyed classes swapped the claustrophobic centre for expansive mansions in Manga and later Bocagrande and Castillogrande in the mid-19th century, it took the renovation of the former Santa Clara Monastery in 1995, to put this barrio back on the map.
The hotel chain Sofitel, turned the monastery into Cartagena's top luxury hotel at around the same time as Gabriel Garcia Marquez appointed Rogelio Salmona to build him a home in the neighborhood. Other luxury hotels have joined the Santa Clara at the party. Hotel Casa San Agustin, Hotel Quadrifolio and Bastion Boutique Hotel are all clustered in San Diego.
In recent years, landmarks like La Serrezuela, a former bull ring have been converted into luxury shopping mall, which points to the direction being taken by this typical Cartagena neighborhood.
There are some great restaurants, including Carmen Cartagena, Moshi and El Boliche clustered around the Parque de Fernandez de Madrid as well as Juan del Mar, Malanga and 1621 close to Plaza San Diego.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
A fiercely traditional barrio offering a heady mix of bars, dancing, affordable diners, hostels and hotels for backpackers and bohemian colonists looking to mix it up with the carefree locals.
Historically populated by merchants, smugglers and freed slaves thriving from activity in the port and main marketplace, Getsemaní has always been more raucous than the historic centre with all its regal airs and graces.
With the Four Seasons taking on the former Club Cartagena and Teatro Colon due to open in 2021/2022, the barrio has been transformed in recent years and now boast some excellent places to stay and top-notch bars and restaurants.
Music is a strong theme in this spirited part of town with volume levels a good five notches higher than the rest of the old town. A cacophony of top-notch sounds systems and bars like Los Carpinteros, Demente and Bonche battle it out for supremacy. It's a great place for a street party.
If Centro is Manhattan, Getsemani is more Brooklyn – an up-and-coming hipster hangout trying desperately to cling to its roots.
It's regularly referred to as the coolest neighborhood in Colombia and has featured in some exalted lists as one of the world's most interesting places to visit.
A little rougher around the edges than the already gentrified districts of Centro and San Diego and the lofty ambitions of the beach districts, Getsemaní offers a glimpse into the more unruly historic centre of the past.
The fantastic mix of roots and laid-back bohemia has attracted the attention of a string of leading travel publications including Conde Nast Traveler, Wallpaper* and the New York Times.
While much of the area's carefree population are direct descendants of the hell-raisers of yesteryear, it is no longer the terrifying place that rich Cartageneros used to scare their children into staying at home.
Backpackers, never averse to roughing it for a cheap place to stay have braved the bogeyman with few problems for decades and a growing number of boutique hotels and hostels have followed their lead setting up shop in some of the bigger properties on Calle Guerrero and Calle del Carretero.
Some of the best restaurants in the city have now set up shop in the counter-cultural epicenter of Cartagena. Celele and La Cocina de Pepina are two standout options for foodies and Cafe Stepping Stone serves up the city's most popular brunch.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
After fifty years at the heart of the city's tourist trade Cartagena's Copacabana is still alive and kicking and home to the biggest hotels in Cartagena.
The Grand Hyatt moved in to join Colombia's biggest hotel operator, Hotel Estelar and the InterContinental Hotel, three giants offering everything you would expect from corporate hotel chains.
The busiest of the city's beach districts has a host of boutiques, bars, spas, restaurants, casinos and cafés vying for your hard-earned pesos.
Old 'big mouth' has been the top beach district for most Colombian visitors to Cartagena since American oil executives made the place fashionable in the mid-20th century.
Almost everyone from Colombia has fond memories of their first vacation in the Caribbean and it probably started with a stay in one of the landmark hotels found on the beach in Bocagrande. Old faves include Capilla del Mar and Hotel El Caribe.
While it might not be the best beach in Colombia, it is the longest stretch of sand in Cartagena's metropolitan area and the combination of beach and historic allure of the center made Bocagrande the tourist Mecca for Colombians from the 1960s onwards.
Extending five blocks back from the beach, Bocagrande is populated by towers looking west towards the ocean or eastwards at the Bay of Cartagena.
The skyscrapers are semi-occupied by locals sharing their lofty locales with second homers and a regular flow of tourists on the hunt for self-catering apartments with a sea view and a swimming pool.
The Avenida San Martin (Cra 2) acts as the main road in to Bocagrande from the old town and as such is lined with beachwear and fashion retail stores, restaurants, cafés, beauty parlors and casinos that cater to the out-of-towners and moneyed residents.
Some of the city's best traditional restaurants can be found close to the beach catering to the locals. Some of our favorites include: Restaurante Arabe Internacional, Dolce e Salato Restaurante Italiano.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
Located a short 45-minute speedboat ride away or an hour by land, the Island of Baru has more than enough powdery stretches of white sand to keep the most demanding beach bum happy.
The island's biggest meeting point is the protected cove of Cholon, where drunken sun worshipers love to let rip with some water bound tail-gating on private boats equipped with blaring sound systems and party as if they were auditioning for a hip hop video.
If you're craving something altogether more laid-back, the richest families in Colombia are building some lovely beach front properties and beach clubs on Baru to make it the premier beach destination in Colombia.
Nearby there's Aura, a family-friendly hotel owned by a Colombian-Italian family and on the other side of the island Coconut Island offers a more intimate experience for families, a small beach wedding or a beach escape for a group of up to 21 friends.
There's a string of others following suit with plans for a luxury marina that will attract a jet-setting, yacht-owning crowd to Colombia's Caribbean coastline.
When organising an overnight stay in Baru it's always a good idea to rent a boat to get you and your group to and from your hotel or beach retreat.
While you can now arrive by land to most places on the island, taking your own boat enables you and your group to spend at least one day visiting the Rosario Islands, an archipelago of 27 islands a short 15 minute ride from the best beach pads available for rent in Baru.
If you are in a hurry and feel like an adrenalin rush to start or finish your beach vacation in Colombia then our talented team of travel advisors can organise a helicopter ride to some of the most exclusive places to stay on Isla Baru - very useful if you're in a rush to catch your private jet and don't want to lose precious time topping up your tan.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
The idyllic archipelago of the Rosario Islands has small beaches and serves up the best swimming and spots to snorkel and scuba dive in Cartagena.
Dotted around like mother pearls along the Caribbean, Colombia's most popular national park, the Rosario Islands archipelago is the country's most visited national park.
Found some 45-minutes away from the city by boat, the Rosario Islands are brimming with fantastic options to enjoy the crystal clear waters of the Colombian Caribbean.
You might not be find the longest stretches of white sand here but it's still one of the most impressive beach destiantions in Colombia.
Essentially, the Cannes of the Caribbean, many of the islands have been snapped up by Colombia's richest families making this one of the most exclusive corners on Colombia's Caribbean coast.
Not to worry even if you don’t have friends in the highest places there’s no need to feel left out of Cartagena's best beach vibe.
A few of the top private beaches in the islands have been converted into boutique beach retreats by their owners so that you can tick all your Caribbean beach boxes. Our favourites include Pistachio Island, Gente de Mar, Isla Rosa and Matamba.
If you can't afford to rent your own island and stay overnight you can always choose one of the better beach day trip options in Cartagena.
Steer clear of some of the more tacky destinations blighting landscape in the Rosario Islands and head to Isla Grande for a day in paradise that won't cost the earth.
Larger groups, or couples wanting to sail footloose and fancy free from one cove to another might want to rent their own private speedboat, sailboat or yacht.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
Just seven minutes from Castillogrande, the white sandy beaches of Punta Arena on the eastern side of the large island of Tierra Bomba is one of the best kept secrets of Cartagena.
An island almost half the size of the city of Cartagena, Tierra Bomba has historically held an important military function protecting the inhabitants from attacks by British and French pirates.
To the southern tip of the island you can find the historic fortifications - San Fernando castle built by the Spanish as the first line of defense against any maritime attackers.
'Los Nativos' or the Tierra Bomba locals are proud descendants of African slaves hungry to gain a living from their newfound beach goldmine.
They'll take good care of you and cook you a traditional seafood dish and serve up all the drinks you need to pass the day.
There's a flurry of new beach clubs springing up that offer visitors to Cartagena a relatively close beach escape from the city.
Both Fenix Beach Club and Blue Apple Beach House offer Boho accommodation for overnight stays close enough to the city to be able to dip in and out of the cultural offering and head back to your island hideaway on the last boat home.
If you don't want to stay both Fenix Beach Club and Blue Apple Beach House offer day pass options and are perfectly set up for late-risers that aren't into to taking a 45-minute boat ride to Baru or the the Rosario Islands.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
Rich and reserved, the towers and mansions of the exclusive beachfront district of Castillogrande remains one of the toughest corners of the city to crack
Connected to Bocagrande as part of a dogleg that juts out eastwards into the Bay of Cartagena, Castillogrande (or Castillo' as it is known) has become a high-rise playground for Cartagena's richest families.
This wealthy cul-de-sac made up of 16 luxury blocks stretching from Cra 6 to Cra 14, has shot up over the last five years with towers of up to 42-storeys built where the city's upscale beachfront houses once stood.
Popular with rich Cartageneros since the mid 20th century, rents reflect the higher quality of much of the construction that has taken place in this part of town.
Although fewer of these impressive apartments find their way onto the holiday let market there are a few spectacular properties to be bagged if you look hard enough. Many of the best apartments are rented to executives working on the city's industrial expansion or owned by families that have little need to supplement their income by renting houses out to the masses.
The beach is a more relaxed family affair than the no holds barred hustle of Bocagrande. Its little surprise that exclusive Castillo' boasts three members' clubs that are worth trying to wangle an invite from some of your well-to-do neighbours.
The Club Unión, Club Naval and Club Cartagena offer a host of activities that will keep the children busy so you can finally stick your feet up and enjoy the sea view or sneak off for a game of tennis if you're feeling a little more energetic.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
Most visitors head straight through Crespo on their way to the old town from the airport. As one of Cartagena's best-kept secrets that's just the way the locals like it.
A low-rise, middle-class, barrio by the airport, Crespo is one of the city's best-kept secrets.
Largely untouched by the stratospheric development going on in neighboring Marbella and La Boquilla, Crespo was for much of the second half of the last century a sleepy outpost for shrewd out-of-towners and a middle class population of locals not too fussed with living life in the thick of things.
There's a great beach-front promenade with a skate park and plenty of options for early morning exercisers.
The construction of a tunnel that will link Marbella to La Boquilla, stripped the barrio of its famously laid-back beach but put a nice promenade in its place with space for cyclists, joggers and budding rollerbladers.
With the exception of a few funky Airbnb apartments there aren't many places to stay here and you'd be better off heading into Cartagena's old town.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
Boasting one of only four Blue Flag beaches in Colombia, Los Morros or La Boquilla is one of the most popular places to stay for beach lovers arriving in Cartagena looking to disconnect and fall straight out of bed into the Caribbean.
Whether it's out-and-out R&R or the adrenalin-rush of kite and wind surfing, this expansive stretch of luxury condominiums offers serious beach bums an effortless opportunity to top up the tan and re-charge the batteries without having to go to far to do so.
Miami-style beachfront condominiums line one of the widest stretches of beach in Cartagena, making this a popular hangout for Colombians living the Latin American dream.
Built in the are around the historic fishing village, La Boquilla, Los Morros takes its name from some of the luxury developments that went up in the early part of this century.
The most prominent landmarks is the biggest hotel in Cartagena, Hotel Las Americas, a sprawling beach resort with a convention center developed by one of the most influential families in Cartagena, the Araujo family. Other hotels in the area include the Radisson, Holiday Inn and Sonesta.
As well as the beach there's some great bird watching to be found in the mangroves of the Cienega de la Virgen.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
Keep both the beach and the old town close in this well-placed district to the north of San Diego. Keep fit with beach football or rent a bike to stretch your legs on the cycle route every Sunday
Heading north from the old town towards Crespo, Marbella's beach-front condominiums are shooting up at a rapid rate.
The district's loftiest buildings offer a more affordable sea view for visitors that want the beach option while staying within walking distance of the walled city.
Marbella's small crescent-shaped beaches are not the best but that doesn't stop them getting crowded with locals at weekends.
During the week you can watch the fisherman bring in their haul from the balcony.
Pretty much every day the beaches are converted into makeshift football pitches or taken over by organised aerobics sessions. Attractions include the Rafael Nuñez Musuem, the lovingly preserved former home of the only president to have come from Colombia's Caribbean coast.
Built in 1858 for wealthy patriarch, Manuel Román y Picon, the father of Nuñez' second wife, Soledad Román, the two-storey Antillean-style house sits in front of a monument to Nuñez greatest achievement, the Colombian Constitution of 1886 that lasted more than a hundred years until 1991.
Marriott has opened its first hotel in Cartagena with its Ermita Cartagena, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, that's close enough to the old town to be worth staying at.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
A leafy, largely autonomous, residential suburb with a pleasing promenade and a lazy rhythm that makes it popular with a laid-back, family crowd
Manga became more popular as the city's influential families grew tired of living on top of one another in the walled city in the early part of last century.
Largely residential in nature, Cartagena's moneyed classes escaped the old town to build expansive Moorish and Andalusian mansions on large plots fitting of their accumulated wealth.
Arguably the most spectacular is the Casa Roman (Calle Real) built by the city's influential soft-drink dynasty in the 1920s.
As well as a strong selection of affordable places to eat, Manga has one of the finest seafood destinations in town, Club de Pesca.
The city's commercial port can be found at the most remote end of this diverse part of town.Find a Place to Stay Contact Us
We've got more than just the keys to your unbeatable Caribbean villa in Cartagena. Our talented team of local insiders has hand-picked the very best vacation rentals in Colombia to help guarantee a better vacay all the way. All of the palatial mansions we have to rent in Cartagena come with breakfast and airport transfer included.
We really do know Cartagena and Colombia better than anyone else. Our talented team of travel advisors has cherry-picked the very best Cartagena has to offer so you can experience this marvelous Caribbean city like a local. We’re on-the-ground, all-year-round so we can share with you all of our favourite Cartagena things to do, places to eat, drink and relax. Don't take our word for it, check out some of our testimonials and customer reviews here.
We really do know Cartagena and Colombia better than anyone else so if you want to make sure you end up staying in the right Cartagena post code tap up our talented team of travel advisors.
They have cherry-picked the very best vacation rentals in Cartagena so you can experience this marvelous Caribbean city like a local. We’re on-the-ground, all-year-round so we can share with you all of our favourite Cartagena things to do, places to eat, drink and relax. Don't take our word for it, check out some of our testimonials and customer reviews here.
Once you're ready to book a place to stay don't miss the chance to get some free advice from our team.
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Give our on the ground team a little more information about what you are looking for and when you are looking to do it. Our travel team will take care of the rest.
Give our on the ground team a little more information about what you are looking for and when you are looking to do it. Our travel team will take care of the rest.