I am ready to enjoy a morning full of breeze, sun and sea in Cartagena. But first I must have breakfast, so I go down to my hotel’s restaurant located in the always exotic Historical Center. I chose a typical dish: Two or three meat “carimañolas”, which are fried rolls made with yucca. They are also stuffed with chicken or cheese. For breakfast, I also recommend a classic “arepa de huevo” or the small “empanadas” with the filling of your choice. There is nothing more authentic than a having breakfast with these fried delicacies. The drinks that go perfectly with this meal are natural juices made from fruits such as “guayaba”, mango and “corozo”, but you can also drink other local drinks such as a cold oatmeal drink and the “chicha de maiz” (a fermented drink made from corn). I picked a cold and delicious oatmeal beverage and chunks of fresh melon and watermelon well chopped.
My clock shows 8:00 a.m. I grab my bag, equipped with all the stuff I need, towel, bathroom outlet, sunscreen and a bottle of water. I take a taxi and I ask him to take me directly to the beaches of Bocagrande
Breeze, beach and adventure
Palm trees and well-known shops welcome me to the most exclusive neighborhood in Cartagena. I can see again the sand and the sea and I feel complete. I randomly pick a place in this great line of beach and I tell the taxi driver where to stop. He charged me $7.000 COP, something around $2.50 US dollars. I can feel now the warm sand and the sun that almost burn my skin until I reach a large and colorful umbrella strategically placed on the seashore. I quickly sit on a plastic beach chair where I put some sunscreen on my face and shoulders. I breathe, and now in the shade, I get to enjoy the amazing breeze this city always offer.
It is almost 9:00 a.m. I manage to see a big kite in the sky, full of bright colors and moving while a man guided it by the direction of the breeze and dodging wave after wave. On the shore, I see another man giving him directions, so I decided to approach them. Before I go, I pay the renting fee of the umbrella, which costs me around $10.000 COP (approximately $3.5 US dollars). What I had just seen in the sea is called kitesurfing, and it is a water sport
that has become very popular in recent years. There are a couple of places in Cartagena that rent equipment and offer a fast course. I think about it for a few seconds and then I ask them to begin the first lesson. If you count with $100.000 COP (around $30 US dollars), which is the renting fee, and with $110.000 COP ($35 US dollars) to pay for the class, this could be a great experience.
A tour around Cartagena
It is 10:30 a.m. Since I ended all disheveled after the wonderful kitesurfing experience, I changed into dry clothes and I decide to take a walk around the place. In the distance I see a man pedaling with dificulty a kind of cotton candy cart while he shouts “raspaooo”. I signal him and ask him for one of those small cones filled with crushed ice, and sweetened with Kola (local soda), lime or tamarind. They manage to refresh me from the morning heat. I recommend it with Kola and some condensed milk poured on top. Value: $1.500 COP (less than $1 US dollar).As I walk along Bocagrande’s main avenue, a see a couple of huge double-decker buses, as those that are normally seen in London. They offer tours around the tourist area of the city so it is common to run into them. I hurry to ask what time the next trip comes, and a young lady in charge tells me that I just have to wait 10 minutes. The ride has a cost of $45.000 COP (about $15.5 US dollars), and it lasts about 90 minutes. At 10:15 a.m. we star rolling. I sit at the top level of the bus and listen carefully to the information about the main spots in town and the historic data of this city. We ride around the Walled City, we circle the Bay and the “El Laguito” area, until we reach the “La Bodeguita” dock. The tour ends there. I say goodbye to a couple of people I spoke with on the way, and, taking advantage of the fact I am near, I head towards “Calle Larga” in “Getsemaní”, where I got to eat a really good seafood sample for lunch.
A lunch of “the house”
I arrived at one of the most renowned restaurants in Cartagena, Nautilus Plaza, which has near 25 years offering the best typical and local seafood of the city. I order a delicious seafood casserole, accompanied by a delightful coconut rice and “patacones” (fried slices of plantain), a preparation that stands out for its flavor and spectacular smell. This is my recommended dish for a lunch in “La Heroica”. I honestly enjoy every bite of this tasty meal. Without any rush, I ended this dreamy dish and pay a check of about $40.000 COP (about $15 US dollars). It is already 1:30 p.m. I leave the restaurant and I walk to my hotel. On the way, I buy a sweet milk delicacy, a “monedita de leche”, at the Portal de los Dulces, a delicious bit e that costs less than a dollar. I got to my hotel room where I took a bath and take a little nap. It is yet a long day, and I am missing half of my journey in Cartagena, so it is wise to take a pause, sleep a little and rest before moving on.
A tour through history
At 3:30 I leave my hotel and continue with the agenda, this time heading towards a couple of museums. The inclemency of the sun forces me to rush in order to get the next shade. I walked in front of the city’s government and I ran into the “Parque Bolivar”. Right in front of this colorful and always well concurred place, I see the “Museo del Oro Zenú” (gold museum). Admission is free. This museum offers a wonderful tour through the gold and copper cultures in prehispanic Colombia, a mandatory visit to the “Zenú tradition and the first settlers of these lands. I stayed for about 45 minutes, delighted by the exhibitions displayed at this place. I keep on walking in the company of a more merciful sun, heading towards the “Baluarte” of “San Francisco Javier”, where the tourist guide of my hotel pointed the location of the “Museo Naval del Caribe” (the Navy museum). In the corner, before arriving, I ran into a wheelbarrow full of green and ripe mangoes. I order a green one, which I prefer, with lots of pepper and lemon and with little salt. It costs less than a dollar.
The admission fee at the “Museo Naval” is about 17.000 COP ($6 US dollars). It is really nice to walk around around this enormous building divided into two wings, the “Colonial” and the “Republican”. It achieves an amazing staging of the history of Cartagena, navigation and the first settlers. My tour lasts 45 minutes.
Shopping “on wheels”
I start walking through the streets of the Historical Center, looking for handicrafts or curious items to bring back to my mom and friends. I run into a bike rental sign where they charge you $10.000 COP ($3.50 US dollars) for one hour ride. I decide to take one and, before starting, I set my watch so I know when to head back. In Cartagena there is a wide range of places where to shop. From renowned boutiques, with the finest clothes and decoration items, to street handicraft stands with varied proposals in accessories and footwear. I picked a couple of things, thinking about the tastes of the people to whom I want to share a present with. My bike’s basket gets fill really quickly with necklaces and bracelets. This shopping costs me around $120.000 COP ($40 US dollars). When I finished I returned the bike and head back to my hotel to get a change of clothes.
The night in “La Heroica”
Full of charm and with a magical look, this is Cartagena at night. It is 8:00 p.m. and I am ready to enjoy a wonderful evening. I go out in search for a place to have dinner, and while I decide what to eat, I enjoy myself around the streets of this beautiful city. Suddenly, I listen the sound of drums and bagpipes. I follow the rhythm and I find a group of people behind the “Torre del Reloj” watching some street dancers performing local songs of “Cumbia” and “Mapalé”.Women dance “Mapalé” wearing short and colorful skirts. Men do it without wearing any shirt. They perform strong and precise movements difficult to pair. Later, they continue dancing to the sound of “Cumbia”, shaking their hips to itsrhythm. This is the charm of Cartagena, its people, the Caribbean culture that you get to breathe in every corner. I need to pick something quick, some crepes would be perfect. I keep walking until I find “Crepes and Waffles”, a place with great attention and an extraordinary view. I see the menu and I order a “frutos del mar” crepe (seafood crepe) with a cold lemonade. This costs me around $40.000 COP ($15 US dollars).
Party with the Caribbean rhythm in Cartagena
To end my day, I need to listen and dance some good Caribbean music. I ask around about where the best “rumba” is, and they tell me to “Getsemaní”, one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Cartagena. I walk the streets without rush while I see local clubs of Salsa, Reggae and Champeta. Locals and tourists get mixed in these places that seem like the perfect meeting place. There is an outstanding and varied offer. I reach the end of the street, and I pick a place with a rooftop that, according to several travelers, is a simple bar with mix music. The perfect place to have a couple of cocktails and chat with different people. I will stay here for the rest of the night where I will surely spend around $80.000 COP ($25 US dollars). It has been a spectacular day in Cartagena. A unique opportunity to enjoy the sea, tour the streets, explore history and the city’s nightlife, try their food, take lots of pictures and acquire the most beautiful handicrafts. To think I only spend $580.000 COP (something around $200 US dollars) gives me the chills. Visiting this gorgeous city will always ensure you a wonderful experience.