1. Cerveza in Cartagena
  2. Cartagena: The Great Escape

All-inclusive beach resort or cultural city (with beach)? Danielle vs Sam. We wanted a mini New York getaway in the fall however the idea of what that getaway would be was less simple to decide. At somepoint the suggestion of Cartagena was raised, of recent blogging distinction (apparently) and growing in popularity. It offered sun, islands with beaches, a walled city with lots of history and culture to see. It ticked all the boxes, especially once we added in a boutique hotel with swimming pool.

Cartagena hotel with swimming pool
Swimming pool and courtyard in hotel

Within the walls of the city was some great food (and beer), ceviche was found everywhere and it’s fair to describe it as the local dish of choice.  The best ceviche we had was probably the first night, we had made a reservation at a restaurant suggested by our hotel, just a few feet from our hotel. Inbetween the Spanish struggles and deciphering the multiple ceviche options on the menu we, and other diners, were serenaded by salsa dancers.

The rainy season was supposed to be ahead and behind of us, though the forecast suggested some rain was on the way later in the week. With this in mind, we booked our trip to the beach for the second day. To arrive at the island resort we were picked up from our hotel in a minibus and taken to the port via other hotel pickups, arriving at the port we strapped ourselves into a speedboat (large enough for ~20) for a circa hour boat ride to the island.

Once on the island various activities were available as optional extras. It had been a while since I’d been snorkeling but prior to the trip I had been keen to find some so took the opportunity here. Unfortunately, we didn’t get entirely lucky with the weather on the day, although it cleared up later in the day it wasn’t quite as hot and sunny as we hoped. Regardless it was some nice enforced chill time.

We fell into something of a routine over the rest of the trip. I’m not much of a breakfast person but the hotel breakfast became a certain highlight of the trip, fresh fruit and juices, selection of pastries and then a selection of hot cooked breakfasts. Since it was too hot to do much in the morning of the city we made full use of the pool and hotel to relax and occasionally read and then venture out in the afternoon.

The weather continued to be unpredictable, with the rainy season seemingly having arrived early. There was one morning when we were relaxing by the pool and heard the LOUDEST thunder I have ever experienced. Had the rain not followed shortly after I would genuinely have questioned what I had heard. That same afternoon we had booked a private tour of the city, we were to be driven around to different locations and then the tour was supposed to end with a walk in the walled city.

The tour was hugely informative, we had a driver and a tour guide who were brothers studying English. It was lucky the tour was mainly in a car since that whole afternoon the rain did not subside, and we saw first-hand the existence and impact of some of the continuing corruption in the government. Despite several upgrades, the drainage system was still severely flawed with the car driving through puddles which at times nearly rivaled the hotel’s pool for depth. The details on the corruption are a little vague in my memory but apparently each time a new government is elected they widen the pipes but ensure they’re never wide enough to resolve drainage long term (something to do with ensuring future construction work is guaranteed I believe).

Panorama of Cartagena with rain clouds overhead
Stormy clouds over Cartagena

During the evenings we explored some of the local bars and I had discovered a brewery called BBC. One of the first places I tried it was a British pub we stumbled on (recognizable for the red telephone box outside!). The beer for obvious reasons struck a note with me. BBC beer in a British pub? It actually wasn’t British, or anything to do with broadcasting, rather standing for Bogotá Beer Company. The beer was prevalent across Cartagena and I made a point to try and sample all the different brews whenever they were on the menu. Having rated and commented on each beer, you can find my compiled review of the Bogotá Beer Company brews here.

Cartagena from the city walls

We capped the trip off with a meal on the city walls to watch the sunset. While the meal itself and sunset were not especially noteworthy, the views down into the city were extremely special and my favourite photo from the trip was taken on this night. With the relatively short trip and weather there is more we may have done and would do if we went back – including entrance to the castle and a trip to a nearby volcano. Yet, with the objective of the trip being to relax we felt we’d accomplished our goal.