Hello there! Today I’m back with the second to last recap of our trip to Colombia. If you missed the first few posts, you can find them here!
I actually thought this was going to be the last recap, but when I dumped all my pictures into this post I realized it was way too long, and we had so much fun in Cartagena that I didn’t want to rush through it.
When we left off, we had just climbed to the top of Guatape and spent our last night in Medellin. The very next morning, Fabio’s dad, two sisters, brother-in-law, and our friends Jojo and Jadd all joined us on a quick flight to Cartagena, Colombia!
Cartagena is on the northern coast of Colombia and is located on the Caribbean sea. As soon as we landed, we were smacked in the face with the heat and humidity. Cartagena is the hottest place I’ve ever been, and I’ve been to lots of Caribbean countries!
Cartagena is divided into two distinct sections: one with huge white skyscrapers that look like Miami and the other with adorable colonial-style buildings in the walled city. All the research I had done ahead of time recommended spending the most time in the walled city, so that’s what we did!
The other area with the skyscrapers is frequented more by celebrities and there’s a lot of fancy hotels and condos there, but we wanted to stay in the quainter old town instead. I’m so glad we did because it was absolutely beautiful!
The architecture reminded me a lot of New Orleans, and I loved all the balconies with wrought-iron details and flowers spilling over the side.
What a beautiful place!
After a quick cab ride from the airport, we arrived at our Air BnB which was right in the heart of the old city and walkable to everything.
It was a huge apartment on the top floor of a building, and even included a cute balcony where we could watch people pass by on the street below. Plus, it had air conditioning which was very helpful in this hot climate!
After dropping off our bags and taking a quick shower (we all showered multiple times a day in Cartagena because it was so hot!) we set out to explore the town.
First up: lunch! We walked down the street to El Bistro, a fun spot with a dry-erase menu featuring the latest fresh fish options of the day. Since all the food was so fresh (I’m sure it was caught that morning), there were limited quantities of each item available. Once something ran out for the day, it was erased from the board. So fresh!
I wound up getting a lobster dish, which was incredible and got me really excited for all the seafood I was going to eat in Cartagena.
After lunch, we spent a few hours walking around!
All of the streets were so cute and I was so impressed with how well Cartagena preserved its history and culture through the architecture. I’m sure it would have been easy to knock down these buildings and build more high-rises, but I’m so glad they didn’t.
At one point, we stopped to take pictures in front of a giant elaborate door. There were unique doors all over the walled city, but this one was especially imposing.
After I took this picture, the owner of the building said we could come in to explore the house!
Apparently this house was once owned by Sir Francis Drake, an English sea captain (or pirate, as he was known in Colombia) who tried to take over Cartagena. Obviously he didn’t succeed, since the people in Cartagena speak Spanish and not English. 😉
His house was absolutely beautiful, and had a small pool inside the courtyard.
The house has 11 bedrooms and can sleep approximately 25 people, and we were lucky enough to get a private tour of the whole house, including its two rooftops. Apparently the house is very popular with bachelor and bachelorette parties, so Diane (Fabio’s sister and one of my bridesmaids) and Alex (Fabio’s brother-in-law and one of his groomsmen) went into planning mode to get us any details we would need in case we want to have our parties there (separately, of course). Haha!
The house also comes with a resident toucan named Francois, so there’s that.
He was so cute!
Soon enough it was time to leave the beautiful house and continue wandering through the streets.
We found ourselves at an amazing coffee shop with an extensive selection of books to buy!
Diane was telling me how her favorite author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a nobel-prize winning author who lived in Cartagena and used the city as the setting for some of his books. I actually had one of his books – Love in the Time of Cholera – on my reading list, so when we saw it in the store Diane bought it for me as a souvenir!
I actually finished reading it last week, and I loved reading such a beautiful story that took place in the city we visited. It was an amazing book! Thank you, Diane!
We wound up spending the rest of the evening relaxing in our Air BnB and enjoying the beautiful rooftop view.
The next morning we were up early to get ready for a fun boat day! Clearly we were excited and broke out some musical instruments that Fabio’s dad got us.
Then it was boat time! We met up with Jojo and Jadd and a few of their friends who were planning to come on the boats with us. Then we walked over to the docks!
Booking the boat was a bit of a pain, and I am so thankful we had Fabio’s dad with us for this part! I had read online that the best way to reserve a boat is to head down to the docks in the morning, but I was warned that there was a lot of haggling involved and that you have to work hard to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. Well this wound up being a huge understatement because Fabio’s dad wound up having to haggle a LOT between two boat companies to make sure we didn’t get ripped off. Phew! Definitely have someone with you who can speak Spanish if you ever try this, since this would have been way over my head if I was traveling alone.
After half an hour of boating, we stopped off at a fun little island that the boat company owned that had flamingos, parrots, a water slide, and bathrooms (ok, that’s the main reason we stopped there).
Obviously Fabio and I had to check out the water slide.
Then we boated out a little further and it was snorkel time!
We hopped off the boat in a shallow area to arrange our snorkel gear, and then swam out with one of the guides to the area where the coral reef and fish were.
While it wasn’t the best snorkeling I’ve ever done (that happened in Bermuda!) it was still a lot of fun and we saw some cool fish!
Plus I got to hold hands with this guy while we swam. 🙂
After snorkeling, our boat took us over to Playa Blanca Beach! This beach has lots of little huts where you can buy lunch or a drink, plus some fun little stands selling jewelry and other souvenirs.
We were just happy to be on a beach!
As soon as we were all off the boat, we sat down to lunch which was included in our fare for the boat ride/snorkeling adventure. It was so fresh!
Ahh, lunch with a view!
After lunch our group decided to grab some fun drinks! I had a coco loco (or something) and it definitely hit the spot!
Then we took our drinks for a walk along the beach, which was lovely!
While we walked we stumbled across a guy from Medellin who was selling really nice jewelry (we all bought some bracelets) and…he had a bunch of puppies!
He told us how there are a lot of puppies/dogs on Playa Blanca, but the people take really good care of them and get them all their shots for flees and ticks.
They were so adorable and I could have sat in the sand all afternoon playing with them.
I especially loved the little black one who reminded me of Jack!
Eventually it was time for us to head back to the boat, where we passed around a bunch of beers.
Clearly the sun wore us all out because a bunch of us took a nap on the way back. 😉
Before long we had made it back to Cartagena! Woohoo!
Overall we had a great time on the boat, and I would definitely recommend this day trip to anyone visiting Cartagena. It was one of the highlights from our trip!
More adventures to come…
Question of the day: Have you ever been snorkeling?