Where To Eat, Stay & Play in Cartagena, Colombia

Outfit details in IG roundup!

Yes. Yes …

This IS the Cartagena travel diary … coming at you a little over a week after returning from this magical destination, my first in South America. This is the fastest I’ve ever gotten a travel diary to y’all and it’s because I am SO excited to share this gem of a place with you. This diary got really long so it will be followed by other posts that will serve as a resource to you when planning your trip to this particular destination. Over the next week, you can expect a post highlighting Everything You Need to Know Before You Go, a Packing List, and a review of Spirit Airlines.

Why Cartagena?

It was so fun to hear the mixed reaction y’all had to finding out that I was spending my birthday in Cartagena. Many of you were curious as to how I came to choose Cartagena and what made me choose it! So, let me tell you …

If you’ve followed my travels over the last few years, you have likely gathered my love for [1] large, metropolitan cities and [2] colorful places [like Procida, Burano, Curaçao, Bermuda, Lisbon, etc]. Those are generally what draw me to a place to start. I am also a sucker for flowers and gorgeous architecture. So, when I saw a photo of Cartagena on Instagram back in 2017, I was like ‘wait, where is this?’. Since then, it’s been on my list, and being that London has a strong chance of becoming my home base by the end of 2019, I knew that ticking this lust list destination off my list was going to be more difficult after the move and, while there are SO many more places on my list on this side of the world [Aruba, Baha Mar in the Bahamas, endless spots in Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Moab, Scottsdale, Big Sur, Costa Rica, Machu Picchu, etc.], this one was at the top for this time of year!

Another reason that somewhat fueled my motivation to get here before moving abroad [God-willing!] was the fact that I wanted to combat my intimidation of South America. Y’all know I love to travel but I have really only spent time exploring countries in Europe and, the more you travel, especially a specific area, you get somewhat comfortable. Even though Switzerland and Italy are vastly different in terms of culture and geography, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m stretching myself too much by going to either place. Venturing to a new country in Europe doesn’t intimidate me and, while I don’t think a lot of people like to feel uncomfortable when they travel, I have learned that it is when you allow yourself to go outside of your comfort zone that you learn and discover new lessons and have a greater appreciation for certain things. So, I really wanted to try and make it to at least one country in South America before it is a bit more of a hassle, and more expensive, to do so.

While the initial thought of Colombia might be a bit intimidating, I found myself pleasantly surprised after taking the time to research the current safety concerns, travel guides on Pinterest and, flight prices. The more I explored the idea, the more excited I got about the idea of going here. As some of y’all know, I spent New Years Eve in Nashville and I stayed with Whitney. We were talking about the one place we each wanted to go before our move and I immediately spit out Cartagena! She wasn’t familiar with it so I showed her some photos and she was like let’s do it for your birthday! So, we did … obviously … and I’m so excited to say that it exceeded ALL of my expectations! It is such a special place and I hope that this diary inspires you to also venture outside of your comfort zone. Whether you decide to head to Cartagena or somewhere else, I know you will be glad you did! C

First things first … it’s important that I preface this travel diary by saying I am in no way an expert. That’s why I don’t call these posts travel ‘guides’ because, most of the time, I’m reviewing my first time to a place. This is simply a recap of my takeaways and a resource for you to use! It aims to make your trip [should you choose to book one] a breeze and equip you with knowledge you may need to make you feel a little less nervous about being somewhere unfamiliar to you! With that said, let’s get started!

Neighborhood Break Down

CENTRO – This is where you’ll find all the action within the walled city! You’ll find fresh fruit vendors, local women dressed in traditional clothing ready to snap a photo with you, and colorful colonial architecture intermittently draped with vibrant bougainvillea making this area extremely picturesque. Luxury and boutique hotels, restaurants and shops are plentiful – this area will certainly keep you busy and make it hard not to fall for this little city!

SAN DIEGO – Located just north of Centro, this area makes up the other half of the walled city, albiet much smaller, and offers a bit more a relaxed, local vibe. The houses are less grand but more colorful than those in Centro, and harbors some of the best restaurants in the city. While we didn’t make it here, I’ve heard exploring the Las Bovedas Market, a craft market located inside an old jail within the wall, is an experience not to be missed.

GETSEMANI – Welcome to Cartagena’s hipster haven! Located just outside of the wall, this area offers its visitors a bit more of an edge than Centro as it’s the street art mecca of the city. It looks a bit rough around the edges but if you meander through, you will find the same colonial architecture [as you do in the walled city] and just as much charm. There’s also an overload of bougainvillea! You’ll also find a bustling night scene where tourists and locals collide to enjoy the days’ end. Plaza Trinidad is the center of the action but don’t miss the infamous Café Havana if you’re wanting a fun salsa dancing experience!

BOCAGRANDE – If you’re wanting a more luxury beach experience, this area might be more suited to you. It’s the Miami Beach of Cartagena with an endless number of high-rise buildings and a long stretch of beach, although I’d argue the beaches you venture to by boat are much dreamier. Personally, I think this area lacks the authenticity I was craving to find here in Colombia. While Centro and San Diego are very touristy, I do feel like there was much more to enjoy in Cartagena than just the beach.

MANGA – This residential neighborhood is located just outside of the walled city and south of Getsemani. It embodies a much more laid back vibe than the hustle and bustle you experience immediately within the wall. If you’ve been to Cartagena already and looking for something close by but a little more low-key, I’d consider this area.

Where To Stay

BEST AREA | I highly recommend staying within the walled city, also known as the Old City, most especially for your first time in Cartagena. Otherwise, you may feel a bit removed from the action. The walled city is comprised of the San Diego and Centro areas that I outlined above. While Cartagena is located on the coast of the Caribbean, the walled city doesn’t necessarily have a beach that you would go lay out on, so-to-speak. If you’re wanting a ‘beachy’ vacation in Cartagena, you may want to stay in Bocagrande OR stay at a hotel within the wall that has a nice pool and plan for getaways to nearby islands.

WHERE WE STAYED | While there are plenty of accommodation options in Cartagena, Whit and I opted for an affordable AirBNB. It’s located in a managed building called the Soy Local Cartagena, which we didn’t realize when we booked it but thrilled about after checking in and putting two-and-two together! There was always someone in the lobby and an elevator. They offer breakfast but you need to let them know the day before that you want breakfast the next morning. You also need to let them know when you want your room cleaned during your stay and ask for more toilet paper when you’re low. These are things that didn’t bother Whit and I. We’re pretty easy going about most things in regard to accommodations as we aren’t there much. Personally, I loved the location the most. It’s along the edge of the wall, which made it equidistant from a lot of the places within the wall that we wanted to go to and Getsemani, which is a such a cool neighborhood. If you look at where it is on a map, you can see it’s literally in the middle of everything!

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS | Some spots within the Walled City that I’d recommend looking into are the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara [formerly a nunnery], Tcherassi Hotel [only seven rooms available located in a completely renovated colonial mansion], Movich Hotel, Casa San Augustin, Ananda Boutique Hotel, Townhouse Boutique Hotel & Rooftop, Bastion Luxury Hotel, Casa Macia Hotel Boutique. These are all inside the walled city. Being that I’ve been before, I’d be interested in stay in Getsemani so I can explore it a little more than I did this time. If you’ve been before and looking for a cute spot in the area, I have my sights on Allure Chocolat! If you’re a budget traveler, Cartagena is chock FULL of hostels, so you have plenty to research and choose from.

Best Places to …



MARIA – If you’re a sucker for psychedelic and vibrant interiors, creative cocktails and innovative seafood dishes, this might be your little slice of heaven on earth. Our dinner here was certainly one of my favorite meals of the trip. The grilled octopus, steak empanadas [accompanied by the freshest pico de gallo I’ve ever had!], and the shrimp & chorizo risotto are not to be missed. The bread pudding wasn’t too bad, either! Don’t forget to make a reservation for this spot! It’s one of the most popular restaurants within the wall.

DONJUAN – We ate here for my birthday and it certainly gave Maria a run for its money! When you hear that Chef Juan Felipe Camacho learned some of his culinary art and skill from the likes of Gordon Ramsey – you know you’re in for a treat here. Knowing their specialty is seafood, we opted for octopus and fish atop lemon risotto. I’m confident that no matter what you order will leave you happy you stopped in! Make a reservation for this one, as well!

RESTAURANTE 1621 AT SOFITEL LEGEND HOTEL – Make a reservation for this spot, brimming with upscale sophistication, and ask to sit in the courtyard. I got a steak and it was certainly delicious but I’d say we were more impressed by the ambiance than the meal compared to others!

ALMA AT HOTEL SAN AGUSTIN – Alma is a Colombian restaurant set within a beautiful courtyard at the Hotel San Agustin. It had some of Whitney’s favorite dishes so be sure to hear more about what she ordered. Sadly, I am not a huge fan of coconut, which is within many of the Colombian dishes we came across here in Cartagena, so I got tuna and thought it was decent but, like Restaurante 1621, I may have enjoyed the courtyard ambiance more than anything.

BOHEMIA RESTAURANTE – We had planned to go to lunch here one day and we did end up stopping in for a bite but we just got an appetizer because we didn’t realize how late it was. The octopus appetizer [shocking, I know; almost turned into an octopus after eating it everywhere in Cartagena, ha!] we shared was delicious but, honestly, the rest of the menu seemed a bit ‘too’ foody for me. The courtyard is so dreamy, though! Highly recommend stopping in for a pre-dinner cocktail one night!

HARRY’S RESTAURANT AT HOTEL CHARLESTON SANTA TERESA – We went here the night before my birthday. This is a newer hotspot in Cartagena and I certainly wasn’t disappointed but had better culinary dishes elsewhere! As with many of the other large luxury hotels with restaurants in the city, the large courtyard here is also very beautiful!


LA CEVICHERIA – Deemed one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites in Cartagena, and for good reason! You’ll likely not eat fresher or more delicious ceviche than right here! Although, I did hear that El Boliche Cebicheria is quite the contender! So, if there’s a line, head there!

CARMEN – This is likely the hottest restaurant in Cartagena and it lived up to the hype! If I could choose to only enjoy one cocktail for the rest of my life, their Catrina tequila cocktail would be it! Don’t like tequila? They have quite the list of creative cocktails so get excited! I don’t, for the life of me, remember what I ordered but I do remember it was very tasty! You will have a wonderful experience here! Make a reservation ahead of time!


MARIA BONITA – This little gem is a MUST for lunch! Their tacos, salsa and guacamole spread, and sangria are all not to be missed. Sit next to the flower wall to enjoy it all just a little more! The service here was one of the best we experienced in Cartagena!

RESTAURANTE CELELE – This is a newer restaurant in Getsemani that was recommended by a restauranteur in London that Whitney knows. He had recently been to Cartagena and had the most amazing experience here. The staff was wonderful and the dishes are certainly innovative, I didn’t walk away with the same experience. It was just okay for me.

OH LA LA – Whitney and I found out about this gem toward the end of our trip. Sadly, the day we stopped by they were setting up for a cooking class so we weren’t able to check it out BUT we heard great things about it so definitely check it out if you’re spending the day exploring Getsemani!

BEIYU – When we found out Oh La La was closed we headed over to another spot in Getsemani that we heard was pretty tasty, Beiyu! It embraces a Slow Food concept, which [fights to combat the Fast Food concept and] encourages people to slow down, take their time to enjoy their food, and not be in such a hurry to move on to the next part of your day. Meals are an opportunity for connection so the slow food concept encourages you to invite that connection in versus skip it all together. Here, we enjoyed fresh juice and açai bowls as well as delicious coffee. It’s pretty tiny and doesn’t look like much when you walk in. The service isn’t the best but you will love it for the most part!

Restaurants we heard great things about but didn’t make it to are La Perla, Vera, El Boliche Cebicheria, Malagana Cafe and Demente.



As a way to thoroughly enjoy ourselves and the city, and in effort to ensure YOU do as well, Whitney and I definitely did our best to try out the bar scene in Cartagena! Here are the ones we checked out:

MOVICH HOTEL ROOFTOP [Centro] – This spot wins best view in town! I absolutely love how, from here, you get to enjoy views of the gorgeous colonial architecture [it’s pillar being the dome of the Catholic church], the ocean surrounding the unique layout of the city, and the modern skyscrapers of Bocagrande behind it all in one striking landscape. And, what makes a stunning view more enjoyable? A delicious cocktail! This spot has that, as well. We came here on our first night to celebrate the start of the trip and started our last evening in Cartagena here, as well, to bid it farewell!

EL BARON [Centro] – This was by far my favorite watering hole. It is extremely tiny inside. The bar seats six or so and there are two booths that could fit five or six. There is courtyard seating outside with a stunning view of the face of the Catholic Church, Parroquia San Pedro Claver. I loved the laid back atmosphere and every drink we had was delicious. The Gin Basil Smash is refreshing. The Catadora De Fragrancias helped me discover what a delightful combination Grey Goose and prosecco is. Above all, though, I’d highly recommend a drink that is not on the menu, the Alacran. If you like tequila and you like spicy, it is the drink for you. Some other things about El Baron that I loved was the fact that their menu is a thin paper material, all of their drinks are inspired by a different part of the world, and $1,000 COP of all of their cocktails is donated to the Green Apple Foundation, which helps reduce the environmental impact tourism has on Cartagena.

ALQUIMICO [Centro] – This three-story cocktail bar offers a variety of ambiances and alchemical concoctions depending on the floor you’re on. We grabbed a pre-dinner cocktail on the rooftop, seen on the Real Housewives of New York if you’re familiar with their trip to Cartagena, and closed the place down on our last night in the city! Great vibes all around and the cocktails are worth a stop in, as well!

EL CORO LOUNGE BAR [Centro] – The Sofitel in Cartagena was built within the confines of an old nunnery and still the old crypt and confessional chambers in which you can see here at El Coro. We enjoyed excellent cocktails, service and salsa dancing here on Saturday night! Highly recommend this spot!

cartagena travel guide
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DAISY THE ROOFTOP [Centro] – We ventured up to this spot on our last night in Cartagena after seeing it from the Alquimico rooftop a few nights prior. There are essentially two more levels on top of the rooftop so that’s pretty cool but, honestly, the drinks were terrible. We also went at night and while Alquimico was poppin’ … this place was completely dead! It does have a pretty cool ambiance but … I think it’s either super new or just so bad, no one comes here. So, try at your own risk!

CAFE DEL MAR [Centro] – One of the things we were told we must do is to ‘walk the wall’ and enjoy the Caribbean sunset from Cafe Del Mar being that it has the best view. While it certainly does offer a great view, we were told not to expect much of the cocktails. We got there a little later than is suggested [over an hour before sunset to get a good spot] and it was really, really crowded. Crowds are one of my least favorite things so I started to get a bit overwhelmed so we opted to walk out, grab a beer [Club Colombia] from a local vendor [make sure you have cash on hand!] and enjoyed the sunset standing along the wall. It was honestly just as good of a view and we probably saved a little money on the drinks. While it wasn’t a fancy cocktail, I thought the beer was really tasty!

We didn’t try this place but heard great things about the Boundless Mezcal Cafe! It was actually really close to our flat. If you’re a fan of mezcal, it might be a place you’d enjoy! We also heard Getsemani has a pretty great bar scene but, being that it’s outside of the walled city, we decided to drink in an area we knew was completely safe.


I’ve traveled enough to know that not all coffee around the world is created equal. The coffee in Colombia is some of the best you’ll find! I don’t think we had a bad cup. Here are some of our favorite spots:

cartagena travel guide

SE VOLVIO PRISPRI COFFEE SHOP [Centro] – Whitney and I stopped here a few times. Order a latte frappe! They’re so good! Also, don’t forget to give them a tip in the tip jar! They get so excited about it. It’s the cutest thing!

ABACUS BOOK + COFFEE SHOP [San Diego] – Said to be the best cup of coffee you’ll find in town but it personally wasn’t my favorite! It’s a must to stop into none-the-less! I love the view from just outside. Look down all four streets that lead up to it and you’ll certainly enjoy each one!

JUAN VALDEZ [all over Old Town] – Our hotel concierge suggested we go to Juan Valdez one morning when we asked where her favorite coffee shop is. We came to find that it’s essentially the Starbucks of Colombia. We didn’t hate the coffee and pastries, though. It does get busy in the mornings, though, so get an early start!

We didn’t go to Cafe Del Mural in Getsemani but we heard great things. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall but the reviews rave about it!


cartagena travel guide

ST. DOM – This is a concept store comprised of items made by esteemed Colombian designers. It was my favorite shop, personally! I purchased a beautiful hot-pink clutch and a hot pink silk fan by the designer Michu.

SILVIA TCHERASSI – I’m so bummed I missed her shop in Cartagena. She is a Miami-based fashion designer born in Colombia and her designs are so colorful, innovative and fun! I love her designs [more here]. She’s well-known in the area and she has a luxury hotel in Cartagena by the same name.

LOTO DEL SUR – This shop has some delicious smelling candles, bath products, diffusers, etc. I got two sets of hand soap and moisturizing cream for my bathrooms in the Mimosa & Tangerine scent! I’m so obsessed with the scent. It’s perfect for Spring!

ABACUS BOOK + COFFEE SHOP – If you are a book lover, this shop is a must!

I got the handmade earrings you see above from a local vendor & that clutch from St. Dom!


cartagena travel guide
How cute is my bestie & favorite travel buddy, Whitney?!

Honestly, just walk around Centro, San Diego and Getsemani. It’s super easy to find good spots to take photos. I will mark the spots where I took my Instagram photos in the Google Maps I am sharing with y’all at the end of the post!

PRO TIP | Get out early to snag the best photos in these areas with the least amount of shadows and people in your photos!


This was easily our favorite view of Cartagena!

I’m sure I will not be able to give you an extensive list here but my favorite was – hands down – the Movich Hotel Rooftop. I also loved the view from the wall, just outside of Cafe Del Mar. It’s another great spot to enjoy sunset. I’d also recommend venturing up to the top of Crepes & Waffles [the one next to El Baron] to enjoy a stunning view of the prominent yellow dome atop the Church of San Pedro Claver. For me, another favorite view was the view heading in to Cartagena on a boat. I highly recommend seeing the city from the water! There are, of course, so many other great views to enjoy. I’d suggest also checking out your hotel’s rooftop, if there is one. It seems like many have stunning views of the city!

What To Do

Whitney and I stayed busy during our week in Cartagena! There’s tons to do in the area and I’ve already laid out a few ideas throughout the post already. Here are a few more:


While I am obsessed with the Old Town, I can’t recommend breaking up your trip with some time on the water or the pristine beaches of a nearby island. [NOTE: You can go to the beach in the Bocagrande area, if you just want to go to the beach without leaving Cartagena. For us, when we were looking into that beach, it seemed pretty crowded and not quite the beach experience we were wanting. We wanted an experience that was elevated, a little more exclusive, enjoyable but quiet.]

• On my birthday, we spent the day out on a catamaran that took us out to the Rosario Islands. Bona Vida Catamaranes SAS hosted us, which was extremely kind. The catamaran is large and fits about 100 people and is manned by a large crew. They provided drinks throughout the day and lunch. There were clean bathrooms to use as well as snorkeling equipment & flats to enjoy if you so inclined. They have this experience, which lasts from 8:30am to 4:30pm, and a sunset cruise, as well! I loved it because we got a lot of relaxation and sun time, and also got to meet other travelers, which is always fun!

• On another day, we ventured out to Blue Apple Beach, located on the island of Tierra Bomba, just 30 minutes outside of Cartagena! While scouring travel guides and reviews, everyone seems to rave about their experience at the beach club, saying it’s a must so we figured why not? It was certainly a nice and relaxing escape after walking around for the first couple of days. I’d suggest applying and re-applying the SPF while enjoying the sunshine by the beach or pool but make sure to escape to a hammock underneath the trees when the sun is at its highest. Don’t forget your hat! The sun is strong here! The experience takes you out to Blue Apple Beach, about a 30-minute boat ride, and it takes you to a beach club equipped with sweet servers who will take your food and drink orders. Drinks can be served at your beach chair or lounge hut. Lunch is served in the dining area just next to the pool. It’s very affordable, as well! I believe we paid $30, if I’m not mistaken!

Make sure you book these experience ahead of time and make note of which dock you need to meet at in the morning before departing! Set up transportation to dock the night before with hotel concierge, if necessary.


This was probably one of my favorite things to do in Cartagena. Many suggest walking along the wall [head toward the Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa, where the restaurant Harry’s is located, to find where you can walk up on the wall] and over to Cafe Del Mar. Personally, I thought stopping just short of it, hanging along the wall and buying a Club Colombia from a local vendor was JUST as enjoyable. This is where we met our Frenchman friend, Roman!


If you’re a fan of fresh fish, ceviche, coconut rice, coconut milk … literally, anything coconut … plantains, and octopus, you will eat well here in Cartagena! Their beer is tasty, as well, I must say! The best restaurants for this, I would say, are Alma, Carmen, La Cevicheria, DonJuan and Maria. I’d also recommend potentially taking a food tour with Cartagena Connections. My friend Kristin had an amazing experience with Catalina, from Cartagena Connections, despite less than average ratings on Google.


The best spot to do this is the infamous Cafe Havana! We opted to enjoy some tasty cocktails, salsa dancers and Caribbean music at El Coro, located at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Hotel, which was a great alternative! Everyone gets really into it!


This is super easy to do and was also one of my favorite parts of the week we spent in Cartagena. I’m a sucker for beautiful architecture, color and fresh blooms. This place was truly magical. I couldn’t get enough and with every turn of a corner, it seemed to get prettier and prettier. It was easy to fall head over heels for this place! San Diego and Centro are the obvious areas to find these charming bits but don’t forget Getsemani! It’s edgy. There’s tons of graffiti and street art but there is so much color and charm mixed in!


I’ll admit. Being approached by people I don’t know has long been something that intimidates me. It makes me nervous and I, generally, just don’t like it. So, getting used to street vendors in places like Cartagena and Rome always takes some time. What I appreciate about the ones I came across in Cartagena, though, is how sweet they are when you kindly say ‘no, thank you’. They don’t get mad. For the most part, they smile and walk away looking for the next person to ask. I’m someone who really values common courtesy and, while I know it’s not something I can expect in other countries due to cultural differences, I was so happy to find it here. It made me extra excited to support the vendors that I did choose to support, like the ladies in traditional Colombian garb earlier in the post. [That’s how they make a living for themselves. Make sure you settle on a price per person ahead of time! Cash only.] You can’t support everyone who offers you a hat, sunglasses, headbands, a water bottle, etc. but do try to invest in a few. I know it likely makes a world of difference to them and their families.

There are vendors who do not approach you, though, like the men and women who cut up fresh fruit and coconuts. I was a little nervous about the fruit so I opted to purchase fruit that wasn’t cut but Whitney had no problems with the coconut she drank out of!

The Map

If you’re super visual and want an easy way to let all of this sink in, take a look at the map Whitney and I created for our trip, tweaking it as we went! You can visualize all of the places mentioned within the travel diary all together or unclick certain layers to visualize on certain categories. Hope this helps you with your planning!

Need help putting together an itinerary?

These ideas only scratch the surface of all that you could do during your time in Cartagena! I have always been spoiled by my best friend Whitney’s love for and expertise in travel planning. She planned our entire trip and I’ve already shared how it was one of my favorite’s that her and I have been on together! If you’re in need of some travel planning assistance  – whether you just need some answers to questions about certain areas, want to know where you should go if you’re deciding between a few options, the best route to take between cities, someone to book everything for you, or a curated itinerary, Whitney will surely be able to help you!

Want more info?

You can find out more about her services HERE. If you need a little more convincing, take a look at the long list of places she has written travel guides for HERE.

To bookmark this post for future reference, be sure to pin it to your Pinterest page by pinning the image below!

And if you’re looking for outfit details for the outfits you see within this post, head over to THIS Instagram Roundup where most outfit details were shared!

For more on travel, be sure to explore the Travel Guides page and if you have questions about Cartagena, leave them in the comments below but also keep in mind I have a packing guide & a ‘know before you go’ post coming to you next week for this destination! xo.




  1. Roses for Fridays | by mia wrote:

    Such a beautiful and detailed comprehensive guide … Merci for the info!

    ??ROSES FOR FRIDAYS ??| by mia | A Creative Lifestyle Blog

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
  2. Mari wrote:

    I am Colombian. To say that all of our dishes are made with coconut is a gross over-generalization. Like the U.S. we have coasts and mountains – with a wide variety of dishes, local customs and traditions, and people in between. Your trip seemed to miss this point, as it assumes that all of Colombia is like Cartagena. But no, we do not put coconut in “everything”.

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Hi Mari! Thanks for clarifying. I said it ‘seemed’ like it was in ‘almost’ everything, so there’s a difference there but I did clarify my messaging in that sentence as to not offend anyone else.

      In the beginning of the post, I mention I am NOT an expert. I am first time traveler to Colombia and I am recapping my trip to Cartagena. While I would have loved to explore more of the country, I wanted to give myself more time in one place versus hopping around like I normally do. That has its pros and cons. A con to that is it doesn’t allow me to gain perspective from different regions so I appreciate you shedding light on the cuisine that I wasn’t able to gain through my experience. However, in the future, pepper your comment with a little more grace and kindness. Don’t paint me as naive or that I ‘missed the point’ when you clearly know I haven’t had the chance to explore the rest of the country. Educate me. Help me. Don’t shame me. You can’t expect me to know everything after one trip.

      Published 3.8.19 ·
    • Right on, sista! Love the post.

      Published 3.9.19 ·
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Thank you, Brandi!

      Published 3.9.19 ·
    • Mari wrote:

      Don’t shame me Haley!

      Published 3.10.19 ·
    • Dorottya Kvasznicza wrote:

      Hi Mari! I suggest you keep your comments for yourself. Instead of appreciating things, you have the tendency to ruin all the beauty. She described so wonderfully her experience in Cartagena and by reading your comment all the magic has gone and all this because of you!!!

      Published 6.9.20 ·
    • Jaye wrote:

      Communication is 10% of what you say and 90% of how you say it. I think Mari’s point is valid but the delivery is a tad bit aggressive, especially when it’s obvious the blogger is allowed her opinion and has no ill will perse. As a afro-Latina who have lived in a few countries and many different cities I appreciated the post. It’s a helpful guide that I will use for my trip next week. This is my favorite blog when it comes to travel guides. I hate having to research places to eat. So these snippets are useful as a starting point. Let’s just learn to be kind, graceful and merciful to one another. The world is already a tough place.

      Published 10.22.21 ·
  3. Olivia wrote:

    Thank you so much for writing this post for all of us! I can only imagine all of the time and hard work you put into this post, especially after your surgery. Please know how thankful we are for you and how much love we know you put into each post. The photos were beautiful and the memories you two made that week makes us all want to grab our best girl and head out the door. That trip seemed magical!



    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Thanks so much, Olivia!! xo.

      Published 3.9.19 ·
  4. What a wonderful post and being from Colombia I appreciate such great comments and insights.
    I love the fact that people are losing the fear to travel to my wonderful country.
    Again thank you for showing everyone a beautiful side of Cartagena and Colombia.

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Thanks, Lorena! I’m glad too! It’s too beautiful to miss and it’s great to know there are many areas that are much safer than in years past! xo.

      Published 3.8.19 ·
  5. Norma wrote:

    I love this travel diary, I have never thought to put Columbia on my to do list.. my family is from Mexico.. and the architecture and vibrant colors remind me of my families hometown of Guanajuato, Mexico.. definitely putting it on my list.. I followed your insta stories and love the salsa vibe !!

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Thanks, Norma! I’m so happy to hear you have Cartagena on your radar now! I have Guanajuato on mine thanks to you! 🙂

      Published 3.8.19 ·
  6. Rachel wrote:

    This travel diary is amazing and the pictures are stunning! Thank you for this beautiful look into Cartagena, it’s now been added to my travel list!! ?

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Yayy! Happy to hear that!

      Published 3.8.19 ·
  7. Carolina wrote:

    This was a beautiful post and travel guide. It is honest and real! I will be stealing some of your amazing tips for my upcoming trip! Cartagena has been on my bucket list for a couple of years and we are going in May. I’m so excited to experience the culture and see all the beautiful colors Colombia has to offer! Thanks for all of the food and cocktail suggestions!

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Yay! I’m so happy to hear you have a trip planned! Y’all are going to have a great time!

      Published 3.8.19 ·
  8. Arianna wrote:

    These photos are so beautiful! Amazing post ❤️

    Arianna | Southernbelleforever.com

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Thanks Arianna!

      Published 3.8.19 ·
  9. Susan wrote:

    Wow, how you got all of that in a week is wild!! Great job!!

    Published 3.8.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Haha, yeah, thankfully everything was really close together so it allowed us to cover a lot of ground and experiences!

      Published 3.9.19 ·
  10. Adriana wrote:

    What a wonderful guide, I’m from Colombia and I’ve followed you for a long time now, I actually live in Barranquilla a city 2 hours away from Cartagena. It’s amazing how magical could be a place from another person’s perspective, I’ve been there so many times and even though I love it you make me love it a little more. About the food… Yeah it’s different in the rest of the country and it was pretty clear to me that you where talking about Cartagena specifically ;). Look out Medellín too! I fell in love with that city even though I’m from the coast and Medellin it’s on the cool side. Thanks you so much for coming to our beautiful country!

    Published 3.9.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Hi Adriana! I’m so happy you liked it and that you understood what I was saying about the food 🙂 While we were in Cartagena, we heard SO MANY great things about Medellin and we actually said we kind of wish we had 4-5 more days so we could head down there and see it for ourselves! Maybe on the next trip 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave a sweet comment! xo.

      Published 3.9.19 ·
    • Sonya wrote:

      I loved Medellin! I second that recommendation. These are lovely photos and I’m glad that you enjoyed the trip. The countries I’ve been to in South and Central America have been some of the warmest and most welcoming travel experiences I’ve had in my travels and I’m headed back (Ecuador) later this year. When I go back to Colombia, Cartagena is on my list.

      Published 3.9.19 ·
  11. Hola Alyson!
    I have lived in Cartagena for over 12 years, am in the hospitality industry (Hostel La Antigua Cápsula), and this is easily the best travel article I have seen. Very comprehensive, and I learned a few things I didn’t know.

    I live in Getsemaní, which is also the “old city.” Both Centro and Getsemaní we’re built in the mid 1500s. Centro for the Spanish Nobles, and Getsemaní for (and by) the slaves and workers. I love living in this Bohemian part of Cartagena. I am thrilled that you mentioned Beiyu, a fresh breath of air to the barrio
    Please stop by the next time you’re in town, and we’ll treat you to a nice dish of ceviche.


    Published 3.9.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Ah, thank you for the historical insight and for clarifying that Getsemaní is still considered part of the old city! That makes complete sense! Beiyu was delicious! We loved it there! And, thanks! I will definitely reach out next time I come! xo.

      Published 3.9.19 ·
  12. Lyda Cuervo wrote:

    As a Colombian I am very happy to see how you highlighted my beautiful Cartagena. Our country is so diverse and has so much to offer tourist if they take a chance to see it. Hope you get to visit more!

    Published 3.9.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Thanks, Lydia! I hope to come back and see more someday! xo.

      Published 3.9.19 ·
  13. Seriously, one of THE best posts I’ve ever set my eyes on. The colors in the photographs, the detail, the work and labor of love that you put in your blog is so admirable and inspiring. I just can’t tell you enough THANK YOU for putting your love into your work! Keep it coming!

    Published 3.9.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Aw, thank you so much, Cristal! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! xo.

      Published 3.9.19 ·
  14. Supritha Lakshminarayan wrote:

    Wow! Really amazing blog post,Thank you for sharing ❤️

    Published 3.10.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      You’re welcome! xo.

      Published 3.11.19 ·
  15. Lucie wrote:

    Amazing post! It is now at the top of my list 🙂

    Published 3.10.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Yay! You’re welcome!

      Published 3.11.19 ·
  16. Erin wrote:

    I recently found you through another fashion / travel blogger – I love your style! A few weeks ago I saw your Cartagena posts and I thought “where is this place??” Safe to say because of you I’m now planning on going next year 🙂 my dad’s jaw about hit the floor when I said I want to go to Columbia – at any point did you and Whit feel unsafe or things just a little weird? I know theres a stigma with Columbia but I’d love to check South America off my list but still be smart about it. This diary was beautifully put together & look forward to what you put together next!

    Published 3.11.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Hi Erin! I’m so glad you found me on IG and thus, Cartagena! I can understand why people would be concerned over the mention of Colombia as your next destination. It has certainly not always been a country that the U.S. Department of State would recommend we travel to, however, much has changed. Be sure to read through my thoughts and recommendations on this topic in today’s post outlining all the things you should know before you go here: https://alysonhaley.com/2019/03/everything-you-need-to-know-before-you-go-to-cartagena.html/

      Published 3.11.19 ·
  17. Cesar D wrote:

    Hi Alyson.

    I was born in Colombia. As a teenager I moved to the US and 33 years later returned to work (on-line) and live in Pereira. I found your article insightful, full of great information and very well-written. I agree with you that we should venture beyond comfort and explore other cultures and places. Colombia is a beautiful place with a tarnished reputation that we are trying to polish. I invite you to visit the Andean region and the Coffee Axis (Eje Cafetero) and you will find colorful mountains and wonderful, caring people ready to share with guests.

    Thank you for contributing to our recovery.

    Published 3.12.19 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Hi Cesar! I’m so happy I could contribute and am excited to hear from so many of my readers that they want to go to Cartagena or they’ve already planned a trip! I definitely want to explore more of the country. I’ve got a list of places and just added your recommendations to it! Thank you for sharing. I’m always excited to go somewhere where coffee is their specialty 🙂

      Published 3.12.19 ·
  18. Nicolas wrote:

    This is precisely the information I was looking for my upcoming trip to Cartagena. The travel has great insights and useful information. I can’t wait to hit some of the great spots mentioned.

    Published 5.7.19 · Reply
  19. Alex wrote:

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m heading to Cartagena in 2 weeks (yay!) and I can’t wait to check out some of your recommendations! What was your experience with flying Spirit?

    Published 5.14.19 · Reply
  20. Mari Catano wrote:

    This was extremely helpful. Also, your pictures were amazing and I loved all the outfits. Thank you so much.

    Published 5.18.19 · Reply
  21. Brenda wrote:

    Beautiful post! Thank you for creating this, I have shared with many. Perfectly laid out for first-time goers.

    Published 9.23.19 · Reply
  22. Saribel wrote:

    Love your blog. Where did you get that awesome 2 parts swimsuit (the one with the strips blue and white)

    Published 10.22.19 · Reply
  23. Carmen wrote:

    We just arrived today and have very little planned so far. Thank you for such a detailed review. I can’t wait to explore tomorrow! Carmen

    Published 12.3.19 · Reply
  24. Vic wrote:

    Loved the thorough and insightful post! Am headed there in March 2020 and am so excited to try some of the restaurants and recommendations here. Thanks for the beautiful photos!!

    Published 12.4.19 · Reply
  25. Dre wrote:

    Headed here in two weeks and I am even more excited (and hungry) after reading this!
    Already made a few reservations based on your recommendations, thank you!

    Published 1.12.20 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Pack me! I want to go with you! I miss Cartagena so much! enjoy! xo.

      Published 1.12.20 ·
  26. Mary wrote:

    This is such an amazing post, thank you for all the details! I’m wondering if you ate the fruit from the fruit stands?

    Published 1.29.20 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      Yes, I did. I didn’t get sick. I would, of course, always wash them ahead of time.

      Published 1.30.20 ·
  27. Nicki wrote:

    THIS IS PERFECT. Thank you, exactly what I was looking for! ♥ Greeting from rainy Germany.

    Published 4.3.20 · Reply
  28. Maria rodriguez wrote:

    Thank you for sharing your experience! Love the beautiful pictures!!

    Published 3.7.21 · Reply
  29. Whit wrote:

    My husband and I just got back from Cartagena, and we referenced this post so much. Thank you for all the wonderful ideas! We had an amazing trip!

    Published 3.14.21 · Reply
  30. Lina wrote:

    Hi Alyson,

    Lovely post!

    Did you stay at the Movich Hotel to gain access to their rooftop?
    Or do you know If there’s a way to get up there for a dip in their pool and a drink?

    I haven’t been to Cartagena in 7 years; going there this summer!

    Published 4.11.22 · Reply
    • AlysonHaley wrote:

      We didn’t stay there, no. We asked if we could go up for a drink and some ceviche and they said it was fine. Only guests can swim I believe but I don’t think they had attendants keeping track when we went in 2019. Not sure how it is now. xx

      Published 4.11.22 ·