Each time we’ve told people that we are headed to Cartagena next week, we get two questions. First, “Is it safe?” Then people inevitably ask us…Why would we decide on a family vacation in Cartagena?
Did you know that Conde Nast Traveler just named Cartagena as a “top five” city to book a last-minute vacation in June? Or that The Wall Street Journal just published an article called “Dreaming of Cartagena: A Guide to the Hot New Caribbean Destination”? Or that Travel & Leisure has published no less than 5 articles about Cartagena in the past year? This is just the tip of the iceberg for the newfound popularity of this Caribbean port city.
Gone are the days of drug lords in Colombia. The country is growing in population and tourism and Cartagena is unequivocally the favorite city of the Colombian people. Narrow cobblestone streets, climbing Bougainvillea, beaches and colorful Spanish Colonial buildings make this city a feast for the eyes. When Keith and I were thinking about our annual summer trip, we saw one picture of Cartagena and said “That’s it!”
After researching everything we could about Colombia and Cartagena itself, we had a pretty solid list of reasons why we wanted a family vacation in Cartagena.
Location: While we have been to Central America and I have been to South America once (Peru), Keith had never been to the South American continent. Living in Denver, Central and South America are fairly easy to get to and the obvious choice for an overseas family vacation. Asia and SE Asia will have to wait until we live somewhere closer (or come into an inheritance of $20M). We love the idea that South America will be the next region of the world our kids will be introduced to.
History: A typical “big” family trip for us usually involves introducing the kids to some history and culture that is different from our own. Cartagena is the oldest port city in the Americas and is practically unchanged since 1600, with tons of history. Crumbling buildings, 400 year old mansions (many converted into hotels), fortresses and historical plazas dot the city and we can’t wait to explore it.
Food: I was going to try to do a bit of a detox/diet before we left, but then I figured why bother? The food in this city looks amazing! Ceviche, fresh fruit, fried fish and arepa con huevo make my mouth water just thinking about it. We also saw an article that talked of the signature drink limonada de coco and we were sold.
Cost: Colombia is a great place to visit right now, with the strength of the dollar against the peso. The dollar has hit an all time high with $1 getting you around 3000 pesos. In addition, we had several different credit cards with points and some air mileage we were able to use to bring the cost down. We are staying in a few different hotels and they aren’t that expensive, considering they are boutique, 5 star hotels. We used Chase Sapphire points for one. Edit: costs have definitely gone up for nice hotels in the walled city since I wrote this post two years ago.
Beaches: Although some of the beaches right on the city aren’t great (not really developed and slightly dirty, according to some), Cartagena–and Colombia in general–has some great beaches. Playa Blanca and the Rosario Islands are the most popular and we found an island called Isla Mucara that we plan to visit. The only hotel in the island, Punta Faro, is a Caribbean paradise. Keith plans to go diving and I plan to sit with the kids, drinking a mojito.
We would love to visit Medellin and Bogota, as well, but time wise it wouldn’t work. Mom and Dad have to get back to work! The whole country looks amazing and interesting and our interactions with the Colombian people while planing the trip have been nothing short of great. We look forward to getting to know more about this South American country. For a great itinerary of Cartagena, visit my friend at From East to West.
We’re going on a family vacation in Cartagena and you can too! To take advantage of my travel advising services, contact me here.