Main Claire's Itchy Feet logo

Top Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia

With so many fun and exciting Cartagena things to do, deciding what to do in Cartagena Colombia can be challenging! If you aren’t familiar with the top things to do in Cartagena, I’m here to help. While you could spend weeks exploring all the Cartagena Colombia things to do, one day is plenty of time to see the top highlights. I’m sharing recommendations for the best time to go to Cartegna and what to do in Cartagena so you can plan the best vacation possible.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Cartagena ToursClick here to check out the top Cartagena tours
Best Cartagena Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Cartagena
Best Cartagena Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Cartagena

Colombia Guides | How to spend a day in Cartagena

When is the Best Time to Visit Cartagena Colombia?

Fall is generally the best time to go to Cartagena. Temperatures are relatively warm, and conditions are dry from December to April. This makes fall ideal for enjoying the top things to do in Cartagena Colombia. However, there will be large crowds as fall is the peak tourist season. For a quieter Cartagena experience, pack your rain gear and visit in early or late summer.

What Time is it in Cartagena Colombia?

Cartagena is in the Colombian time Zone (UTC-5), which means it is five hours behind London and one hour behind New York City.

Things to Do Cartagena

You must wake up early to fit all the top things to do in Cartagena Colombia into one day. Start your day with breakfast at Mila Pasteleria in the Historical Centre.

After enjoying a delicious meal, wander around the old walled city for the rest of the morning. Strolling the city streets is one of my favorite things to do in Cartagena. Cartagena‘s old city is situated within a wall and is the perfect place to get lost!

If you’re staying in the Getsemani area, explore the beautiful local streets in the morning before grabbing a traditional coffee at Cafe Del Mural. Note this cafe opens at 3:00 p.m. If you want a breakfast option, visit Beiyú.

Colombia Guides | How to spend a day in Cartagena

As the afternoon sun begins to shine, order a coco frio from a local ice cream shop and sit in Parque Bolivia to people-watch. If you’re unsure what to do in Cartagena, I recommend sitting somewhere scenic to observe the city’s daily hustle and bustle.

Leave the city walls for lunch at Restaurante Coroncord. Despite the no-frills appearance, this place is always packed with Colombians and tourists, as it is the top place to eat in the city. The portions are enormous, and you can get a meal for around 15mil COP.

After lunch, walk to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, one of the best Cartagena Colombia things to do. This fort overlooks the entire city—just look up. It’s hard to miss! The entrance fee is 25mil, and the fort offers an impressive viewpoint of the city.

After touring the fort, walk back to the walled city and visit Cafe Del Mar to watch the sunset. Get there early to make sure you get an optimal seat.

Once the sun has set, exit the walled city and cross the road. Looking to your left, you will notice several small street vendors selling ceviche. I ate there a few times and highly recommend it. The fish is fresh, there are many locals enjoying the food, and the prices are great!

You may catch street performers around the Parque area if you are lucky. I saw a capoeira group, which was a fantastic experience.

Are you trying to decide what to do in Cartagena Colombia after dark? Head to Plaza de Trinidad, a lovely city square where you can eat delicious street food or find a nice restaurant. The plaza is a great place to drink a beer and people-watch. There are nightly street performers, and you can get two for 20mil cocktails in the square and nearby streets. The dance troupes were among my top Cartagena highlights, so I suggest visiting the plaza at night. It is the perfect place to finish your day in Cartagena!

If you have more than one day in Cartagena, I strongly recommend visiting one of the city’s beaches. Beaches are some of the top things to do in Cartagena Colombia, and are worth exploring. Research the different beach options, as some are more relaxing than others. You can also wander around the Parque Centenario to spot sloths, monkeys, and iguanas in the heart of the city.

Quick Tip: View my full Colombia packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Colombia Essentials shopping list here.

Traveling Around Cartagena

Getting From the Airport to Cartagena

You must take a taxi from the airport in Cartagena since you need a card for the public bus—a taxi from the airport to Cartegena’s historic center costs around 10-15mil.

Colombia Guides | How to spend a day in Cartagena

Unless you are outside the city, you should be able to walk everywhere. If you stay out in the evening, you can easily get a taxi or an Uber to avoid walking alone at night.

Cartagena to Santa Marta

The best option when traveling from Cartagena to Santa Marta is to contact MarSol for a door-to-door bus. They will pick you up from your hotel and drop you at a central address in Santa Marta, Taganga, Minca, Tayrona, or Palomino, depending on where you want to go next. While you can take the public bus, a door-to-door bus is only a few mils more and much more convenient.

Need Transportation in Colombia?

I highly recommend booking Colombia transportation with GottoGo. You can search for buses, shuttles, ferries, and flights on their website—I love their customer service. I know them personally from my time living in Guatemala, and they genuinely care for their customers. If a delay occurs and you miss your bus, call them for help.

If you book through GottoGo, you will pay more than at the bus station, but it’s worth it for the ease and security. Click here to search for transportation in Colombia.

Where to Stay in Cartagena

Osh Hotel Getsemani

The hotel is located in the Getsemani neighborhood, just a short walk from many popular attractions, including the Marbella Beach, the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, and the Cartagena Walls. It offers free Wi-Fi, a rooftop pool with a sun terrace, a restaurant, and a fitness center.

Casa BuGo

Things to do in Cartagena

The hotel is located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from many popular attractions, including the Marbella Beach, the Inquisition Palace, and Bolivar Park. It offers free Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, a garden, and a terrace.

Casa Zahri Boutique Hostel

Things to do in Cartagena

If you want to stay in the beautiful Getsemani area near the Plaza Trinidad, I highly recommend the Casa Zahri Boutique Hostel. It has a lovely pool and lots of places to chill. The Wi-Fi was powerful, and there was free coffee all day. You can use the entire kitchen, and the included breakfast has multiple options. You can walk into Plaza Trinidad in a few minutes and easily explore the historical center.

Other Cartagena hostels worth mentioning are:

Selina Cartagena
El Barrio Hostal
Bourbon St Hostal Boutique

Cartagena Budget

Cartagena is the most expensive place I’ve visited in Colombia so far. It’s still an excellent value compared to the UK and the USA. Here is a price breakdown to help you plan a budget:

  • Bed in a mixed dorm in El Centro: 35,000 – 45,000 COP
  • Private room in a budget hotel outside of El Centro: 30,000 – 40,000 COP
  • Beer: 5,000 – 10,000 COP
  • Coffee: 3,000 – 6,000 COP
  • Breakfast: 8,000 – 15,000 COP
  • Lunch: 18,000 – 25,000 COP
  • Dinner: 20,000 – 60,000 CO
  • Arepa: 4,000 – 5,000 COP
  • Ceviche: 7,000 – 15,000 COP (depending on size)

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Cartagena Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Cartagena?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Cartagena which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Cartagena on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Cartagena?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Cartagena?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Top Things to Do in Cartagena Colombia: Final Thoughts

There are many fun and unique Cartagena things to do. You’ll have no issues finding things to do in Cartagena during your next trip! Are you traveling with a family? Read these family-friendly activities you can do in Cartagena. Don’t forget to check out my other Colombia guides and my 1-week, 2-week, and 3-week itineraries for the Caribbean coast!

How to spend a day in Cartagena

This post was proofread by Grammarly.