This six-day itinerary for Cartagena and the Caribbean Coast focuses on exploring the cities of the area, wandering streets, relaxing on beaches, and enjoying local cuisine. You can also easily extend the visit by four or five days to include an excursion to La Guajira.

Travel map of Cartagena and the Caribbean Coast of Colombia

Cartagena and the Caribbean Coast

Day 1

From nearby Pereira, fly to Cartagena, 1.5 hours away. Once you land and change into the airy attire standard for the sultry city, get to know the area by taking a stroll on the massive ramparts that once protected the city against English pirates.

Have dinner at La Vitrola, a Cartagena classic. Spend the night at the boutique beauty Hotel LM or the 3 Banderas, a friendly midrange option.

Day 2

Walk the Old City streets, getting lost and found again as you amble from the divine Parque de Bolívar to the Plaza Santo Domingo to Las Murallas, the city’s walls. Be sure to check out the impressive Castillo de San Felipe in the late afternoon.

Go for ceviche at La Cevichería and a mojito or two across the street at the historic and elegant El Coro in the Hotel Sofitel Legend Santa Clara.

Colorful balconies in the heart of Cartegena.

Colonial buildings in the historic center of Cartagena. Photo © Jesse Kraft/123rf.

Day 3

For a change of pace, take a cab or bus to Bocagrande, Cartagena’s version of Miami Beach. A walk along the bay in the Castillo Grande district is a fine way to pass the afternoon.

Spend some time in the hip and happening area of Getsemaní, a neighborhood of tapas bars and watering holes. For inventive local cuisine, try La Cocina de Pepina.

Days 4-6

From the Muelle Turístico in town, take a boat to the beaches of Islas del Rosario, the area’s finest beaches, and spend a couple of nights at an island hotel. It’s worth splurging for the Hotel San Pedro de Majagua.

Return to Cartagena in the late afternoon and take one last walk on the walls, enjoying a cocktail and the Caribbean breeze at Café del Mar.

A wide sandy beach near Cabo de la Vela, Colombia.

Enjoy the beach near Cabo de la Vela. Photo © Andrew Dier.

Excursion to La Guajira

If you have 4-5 extra days, consider taking a trip to La Guajira, a desert peninsula that is home to the Wayúu people.

Start at the beach in Palomino or in Riohacha, the departmental capital of La Guajira, and join up with an organized tour group. After a dusty ride past countless cacti and lonely goats, you’ll arrive at Cabo de la Vela, where you can take a dip in the Caribbean Sea or try your luck windsurfing or kitesurfing.

The next stop is Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of South America. Spend a day or two on a photo safari of the unusual landscape of desert dunes that drop dramatically into the sea.

Take a canoe trip to explore the mangroves, then share a huge, freshly prepared lobster with a friend. Upon your return in Riohacha, and if there’s time, check out the Santuario de Fauna y Flora Los Flamencos to the southwest for an early morning or late afternoon canoe ride in search of flamingos and other waterfowl.

Discover the Best of Columbia: Cartagena and the Caribbean Coast with this 6-Day Travel Itinerary


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Colombia.