Decided to go on an extended weekend getaway to beautiful Cartagena, Colombia. Flew from Miami (MIA) to Cartagena (CTG) which is roughly a 3 hour flight. Stayed in Bocagrande, which was recommended as one of the best locations to stay in Cartagena, as well as the safest. The hotel we stayed was “Oz Hotel” and literally had the most outstanding customer service I have had in a while – highly recommend staying here. Its a relatively small hotel, with no pool, but recently renovated and to be honest the location makes up for it. We paid about $160 for 4 nights/5 days for 2 people (which is about $40 per night). We booked the flights separately as booking flight and hotel together was a bit more expensive, believe it or not. We booked flights for $260 per person through Sky-Scanner and hotel through Expedia (flying from a Thursday night to a Monday Morning). Make sure you do your research and try avoiding bookings during the weekends (as prices tend to escalate). I usually like to do the bundle save through Expedia, but booking it separately we were able to save about $150 per person. Both flight and hotel came out to $350 /person (not too bad for a long weekend abroad?).
Day 1: booked the sightseeing “hop on and hop off” bus in Cartagena, that way we avoided paying for taxi’s to get around – $36,000 pesos (each Colombian peso = to $2,800 for each US dollar). So we paid around $13 /person for a 2 day pass and we were able to hop off and on as many times as we wanted. We stopped at the old town to explore and talk with locals and took some colorful pictures.
At night we went to dinner to a spot right next to our hotel called “Da Pietro, Bocagrande Restaurante Italiano & Pizzeria – highly recommend this restaurant for their outstanding customer service (specially our waiter Jaime) and their delicious pastas and homemade pizzas. Prices are also very affordable ranging from $5-10 for a plate of pasta and $5 for a personal pizza. After dinner, we got our party clothes on and went on the Chivas Bus (Colombian party bus). The bus cost us around $35,000 pesos (around $12.5 US/person). Hotel pick up and drop off was included on the reservation (which we made with the hotel front desk). We were picked up around 8pm with live music and drinks. We drove around town picking up other people from other hotels who had also reserved the same bus. Highly recommend this experience as you meet people from all over the world, with live music and refreshing drinks. We then headed to the “Ciudad Vieja” located inside of Torre del Reloj, where you can find some great dancing spots (especially for those Salsa lovers).
Day 2: we arranged a trip to the beautiful islands of Playa Blanca and Playa Baru. We also booked this day trip through our hotel – which cost us around $71,000 pesos ($25 dollars /person). The trip included pick up and drop off from hotel, a light breakfast, lunch and tour around 4 different beaches. We took off around 7:30 am and didn’t get dropped off until 6pm. Honestly worth every penny, the experience was so worth it. We originally wanted to go to Santa Marta but it’s about a 6 hour drive from Cartagena, and unfortunately our stay was way too short to make it there and back in one day (but hey perfect reason to go back). Beware of the sellers out on the beach trying to offer you free massages, conchas (oysters), to braid your hair… as these items/services are not free. Be sure that if you want to try something out that you actually want buy it. You can also bargain with them, so make sure they are not taking advantage that you are a tourist.
Day 3: we went to “Castillo San Felipe” which was a 10 minute drive from our hotel. This place was absolutely unreal… so much history all in one place. The sights are also breathtaking, as you can see most of Cartagena once you get to the top of the Castillo. The entrance costs around $2-5 dollars, depending on the day (make sure to wear comfortable shoes and a hat to cover yourself from the sun). Afterwards we walked to “Getsemani town,” the art district of Cartagena, and we were amazed with how much color and authenticity these streets have – most hostels are located in this town.
Later on in the afternoon the day felt perfect to go to “Cafe del Mar” to watch the sunset and have a few drinks. For all those sunset lovers, this place is an absolute must!!! The energy is great and you feel so relaxed and connected to the culture. Make sure to get there early, as they open up at 5pm and the seats get booked pretty fast. There’s no cover charge and the drinks are reasonably priced (ranging from $8-20 dollars). The service is also outstanding, very friendly staff. This placed definitely was the perfect ending to our weekend getaway in Cartagena.
In conclusion to our trip, we brought $300 dollars each to spend, and we were able to do all the activities and more than we intended. Overall with hotel, flight and activities we spent $650 each. Could have possibly saved a bit more money by planning/booking the activities beforehand, but we didn’t want to have everything planned out until we got to our destination.
Hope your stay in Cartagena is as wonderful as ours was.
I hope my travel/ budget friendly tips help!