Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. By the sea is the walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, with squares, cobblestone streets, and colorful colonial buildings. With a tropical climate, the city is also a popular beach destination. With so much in and around the city, 3 days in Cartagena is easy to fill up with things to do.
Cartagena is such a beautiful city. Colombia had been on my list of countries I wanted to visit for years and so when I found an amazing deal (yes, from one of the websites found in my subscriber resources) for $350 for four days +flight, I knew it was finally time to jump on it.
Also – IT WAS MY 30th COUNTRY! So, this trip has an extra special place in my heart. Three days in Cartagena is just enough time to see some amazing things. Colombia is famous for so many different things and I’m glad we got to explore Cartagena.
Costs for 3 days in Cartagena:
Hotel+flight: $350 (thanks to one of my favorite travel deal websites – I share all by favorite websites with subscribers including this one, 3 nights + flight on JetBlue included)
Where We Stayed – Hotel Almirante $90 per night
We stayed at an amazingly affordable and very nice hotel located in Bocogrande. The hotel had an amazing view of the beach and I loved eating breakfast overlooking the ocean. The hotel pool also faced the old city and had a wonderful view. We loved the breakfast and hotel staff was so kind throughout our visit.
This area is a $5 cab ride away from the walled city in a more modern part of the city. There are lots of skyscrapers, hotels, and shops to visit in this area. We enjoyed staying here and seeing beyond the most touristy part of the city. Bocagrande is modern and full of life. We loved staying there.
Day 1 of 3 Days in Cartagena
See the Walled City
The first thing you will want to check out while in Cartagena is the beautiful, completely walled-in old city. The cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, beautiful churches, and amazing Colombian food will quickly make you fall in love with the city. We chose to take a walking tour (included in that $350 price tag) and hear about the history of Cartagena.
It was a great way to get introduced to the city and begin to explore. I love taking a tour when I first get introduced to a country and hearing from locals what they are proud to show off. Here is a tour with awesome reviews that I’d recommend.
Cool off at the pool or beach
Ya’ll – Cartagena is hot, like really hot, year-round. So you should definitely build in beach or pool time. Our hotel had an awesome pool overlooking the beach (with bar) so of course, we spent our afternoon hanging out there.
Bocagrande also has a large beach that is popular with locals and while not as beautiful with the white sand beaches as the Rosario Islands nearby, they are easy to get to and are still wayyyy nicer than our beaches here on the East Coast USA. Give yourself the chance to cool off.
Drinks on the City Wall at Cafe Del Mar $15
The old city wall is the perfect thing to do in Cartagena for sunset. Cafe Del Mar is a bar and restaurant located along the old city wall in Cartagena overlooking the ocean. The sunset is beautiful from here and it’s definitely known as the spot.
Since it’s so popular, you’ll want to get there early or you’ll end up waiting a long time for a spot and may not even get one. We got there an hour before sunset and there were no spots. We watched people wait the entire time we were there.
While Cafe Del Mar does have food and drinks, both are pricey. The prices were the same as a bar here in DC which is not cheap. A pina colada will cost you $12 USD and ceviche was $15 USD. We chose to just grab one drink and watch the sunset before going elsewhere for dinner.
Arepas for Dinner at Quero Arepa $5
I am a huge fan of Arepas and I had to get some while in Colombia. They can be found as street food all over the city, but if you want to sit down and eat at a restaurant, you can head to Quero Arepas for some delicious food. I got one combo arepa with beef, chicken, and avocado. Just one filled me up! It was definitely delicious.
Day 2 of 3 Days in Cartagena
The Rosario Islands are an archipelago located just an hour from Cartagena. They are seriously paradise and you will not want to miss the chance to island-hop near Cartagena. We chose to do a day tour because we only had four days on our trip to explore and knew we didn’t want to sit on a resort beach all day.
While the resorts are nice, we wanted a little more adventure and to spend more time exploring some different beaches. It ended up being a perfect choice! We went island hopping near Cartagena with an Islas del Rosario Tour we found on Viator. It was such a fun day.
The tour included everything:
pick up and drop off from your hotel
bus drives to Baru instead of all the way out to the islands for an hour
4 different stops at islands
water and fruit in the morning
boat ride to the different islands
octopus and fish ceviche
snorkeling gear and snorkel stop
traditional lunch on the beach
national park fee (most other tours don’t include this so check)
The $95 was completely worth it. Our tour included snorkeling off of Isla del Pirata (Pirate Island where pirates really used to live!!!), drinking in the blue water of Cholon, a private beach called Playa Agua Azul, and relaxing on Playa Blanca. The beaches were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Seriously – you have to go!
Day 3 of 3 Days in Cartagena
Getsemini is famous these days for all of its street art and colorful streets. It’s right outside the old city walls of Cartagena but easily walkable from there. We spent the morning walking around, enjoying a coffee and empanadas from street food vendors looking at the awesome street art.
Start off in Plaza de Santisma Trinidad for street food, colorful buildings, fruit vendors, and locals. Then walk down the winding streets to find amazing street art covering walls everywhere. Getsimini was surprisingly quiet and way less touristy considering it was just a 10-minute walk from the old city walls.
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas $5
After Getsimini, walk over to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This fort overlooks the whole city because it was built on top of a hill. The walk up is a bit of a trek in the heat, but the fort is really unique! It is built with a series of underground tunnels underneath as an extra fortress against intruders. They planted explosives all around the tunnels that could be set off if people got to close. How cool is that?
Definitely bring water with you because there is no air conditioning here and it gets extremely hot during the day! We needed to cool off and the tunnels, as well as having water, saved us from passing out.
La Cevicheria $12
This spot is repeatedly called the best ceviche spot in Cartagena. Anthony Bourdain visited a few years ago and declared it his favorite so, of course, we made the stop. The ceviche was delicious but also, the restaurant itself is really cute. The decor reminded me of Greece with tons of blue and white all over. It opens right at 2 pm and a line forms quickly!
Pool or Beach Time
Yes, back to the pool or beach! As I said, when you are in a spot that has an average temperature of 88 degrees, you’ve got to cool off each day.
Drinks at Hotel Movich Rooftop
This was my favorite view of Cartagena and it is a perfect way to end your trip. It has to be on your list of things to do in Cartagena. The Movich Hotel has an awesome rooftop bar that anyone can visit. It’s a boutique hotel (that I’d honestly love to stay at) and will fill up for sunset. We got there around 5:30 and got a great spot to relax, enjoy drinks, and watch the sunset. It was really chill and the perfect way to end our time in Cartagena.
There are so many things to do in Cartagena and with 3 days to spend, you will not run out of amazing things to do! I loved our time in Colombia and am already dreaming of going back to this beautiful country. It’s worth spending more time exploring the rest of Colombia for 3 weeks or more!