Cartagena, Colombia, promises an exotic taste of Latin America even if you only have a week or less of vacation time. What you’ll discover: some of the best seafood of your life (so good, Anthony Bourdain counted it among his top picks); colorful streets that ooze Spanish-colonial charm and beg to be photographed; regionally made, artisan keepsakes such as wide-brimmed straw hats and iconic mochila bags; boutique properties so sumptuous and inviting they feel more like a stay at your friend’s historical mansion than a hotel; and day trips to remote islands for snorkeling and seafood straight from the ocean to the grill.


Thinktank X Ready For Moment

Cartagena has never been so appealing. Go now.

Cartagena is a magical place of music, food, culture, ambiance.Why? There are now direct flights to Cartagena, Colombia from New York City that take just over four hours (faster than driving to the Hamptons on a summer Friday). On landing, the drive from the airport to your hotel doorstep within the historical walled city is a mere 20 minutes. Meaning: If you are fortunate enough to be near New York, City you can wake up in the United States and, by lunchtime, be eating ceviche, sipping mojitos, and trying on Panama hats to the sound of a samba band. Not near New York City? Don’t despair. Direct or single connection flights are still easy enough from a number of major metropolitan hubs. These can still have you into enjoying those mojitos at least by day’s end (Delta and JetBlue are several airlines that serve Cartagena at the time of this writing).


When in Cartagena, a restored, 17th-century mansion is the answer.

If you haven’t embraced your crush on courtyard pools that flow beneath colonial-era walls, plus Moorish-tiled bathrooms, solariums, libraries with full-service evening tea (where you’ll likely have the experience to yourself), or leaned over private balconies like you’re living in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, you will after a stay at Hotel Casa San Agustín. There’s something very warm about this place—think terracotta open-air halls, towering potted palms, exposed original beams, birds-eye-views over picturesque courtyards, and an evocative Caribbean charm that is special to ocean-side outposts like Cartagena and Havana.


Even strict vegetarians have to to try Cartagena’s seafood. It’s just that good.

Cartagena for food.

You may not believe you’ll have the best fish of your life unseasoned, served off the grilled, paired with fried plantains and a beer, and eaten at a plastic picnic table. But, go to Cartagena and you will. Catch the 45-minute boat ride out to the Rosario Islands, which feel worlds away from the liveliness of the city. Snorkel through whirlwind schools of fish among protected shallow reefs before sitting down to lunch. What you’ll get: an unpretentious fish on the bone you’ll remember for the rest of your life. If you have the time, consider spending a night here.

Back on the mainland, Cartagena’s rising chefs have embraced fresh, local ingredients to offer distinct takes on regional favorites. Everyone talks about La Cevicheria, thanks to Bourdain’s endorsement.

Cartagena famous for ice cream popsicles.

HITT Tip: Cartagena, Colombia insiders at Absolute Travel say to stop by for the ambiance, but don’t expect the ceviche to be what it once was. Instead, go to Don Juan and try the grilled shrimp with passion fruit sauce, the green papaya salad, and the red snapper. Then hit Ciocolatto Pop Bar for Cartagena’s best maracuya Popsicle (it’s tangy, sweet, and creamy like no other) or neighboring Gelateria Tramonti for hazelnut gelato perfected by the resident Italian gelato master.


Colombia = coffee.

If it’s Colombia’s famed coffee you’re after, hit San Alberto Coffee shop for a simple cup or something more experimental served from a beaker and Bunsen burner. For a stronger drink, The New York Times put Alquimico on the map for its restored mansion interior and elegant concoctions. But we’re partial to El Coro in the Sofitel Hotel for its live music and historic digs that date back to 1621 and were once used for choir practice by the city’s nuns. Or, Café Havana. It’s iconic.


Snag a new warm-weather kit with Caribbean flavor on the street corner.

Hats in Cartagena Colombia are the perfect keepsake.It takes very little effort to score some timeless keepsakes with lots of local flavor in Cartagena, Colombia. Basically, step out of your hotel and within a few paces you’ll walk directly into a stack of covetable woven hats—from traditional wide-brimmed, flat tops worn by gauchos to oversized floppy numbers made for Riviera lounging, and Panama hats by the hundreds. Don’t leave without a mochila bag. Our favorites came in natural dyes, but there are electric pinks, yellows, and blues to be had as well. For a more traditional shopping experience, grab hand-woven espadrilles at Casa Chiqui, large lacquered masks for your walls from Artesanias de Colombia, one-of-a-kind antiques from El Arcon Anticuario (housed in yet another colonial-era mansion), designs from St Dom concept shop that curates Colombia’s best designers, and body goods made from local ingredients from Loto Del Sur.


There’s a reason you’re seeing Cartagena photos on repeat lately.

Cartagena Colombia colorful buildings and architecture.The cotton-candy buildings outfitted with ornate doorknockers and balconies with waterfall ivy are infectious. The whole city takes its cues from their distinctive quality. In the evenings, the facades are lit by twilight while dance troops and live musicians rumble in the city squares and open-air parties dominate the promenades. When we asked a resident if it were a national holiday because of all the festivities, the answer was, “This is Cartagena!”

The latest talk surrounds Getsemani—a colorful neighborhood five-minute’s walk beyond the walled-city. Follow the wall murals to the central square to simply enjoy the night air with the locals and clued-in travelers.

Cartagena murals.

HITT Tip: Our luxury travel experts say that Cartagena is the perfect start or finish to a trip through greater Colombia – or even before or after a lounger journey in South America. Colombia has so much: the Amazon rainforest, seven UNESCO World Heritage sites (Cartagena’s walled city is one), hiking through the emerald hills of Cocora Valley, and lush coastal Tayrona National Park, up-and-coming Medellín, and buzzing Bogotá. For the more adventurous, Cartagena can even be used as a sailing gateway to and from Panama.

> Meghan Black traveled to Cartagena, Colombia to research this story. She admits it is a tough assignment, traveling to exotic locations, but Meghan somehow manages. Somebody has to do it, right?

Explore Amazing Resort Destinations, Hotels, B&Bs and more

In the map below, pins mark the exact location of all the luxury hotels, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, resort destinations, and other places to stay that are mentioned in our many articles or recommended by our numerous media and travel partners. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name of the resort destination or lodging destination including any additional information.

Anaconda Amazon Island- Brazil

Experience the real Brazilian Amazon with a stay at an eco-lodge located on its own exclusive island. Situated in Iranduba, one of the most stunning regions of the Amazon, Anaconda Amazon Island is surrounded by primary rainforest, giving guests the chance to encounter a rich variety of wildlife whilst enjoying a uniquely authentic experience in the world’s largest rainforest. The lodge consists of 22 rooms in total – 12 en-suites overlooking the Rio Negro and 10 rooms within a river-facing bungalow. Described by Eco Companion journalist Laura Fairbourn as a haven for a digital detox, the Island also boasts a reception-bar, swimming pool and dining area, allowing guests to live in comfort and harmony with nature. There is a fantastic range of jungle activities on offer at the Island, with different packages designed to show-off the Amazon’s staggering array of animal and plant life. Begin your adventure in nature with a Reconnaissance Trip, floating through waterways by canoe to spot parrots and flowering orchids. Depending on your choice of package, embark on a moonlight Caiman Alligator-watching excursion, or visit the indigenous Caboclo people to learn how they use natural resources and traditions to survive in the jungle. Trek through the Amazon on a jungle walk, camp overnight under the rainforest canopy, paddle through flooded forests and enjoy the richly varied wildlife, landscapes and sounds of nature in the heart of the rainforest.

Treehouse Lodge - Peru

If you’re looking for a totally unique experience of the Peruvian Amazon, then look no further. Discover the rainforest, and all its wild inhabitants, from an entirely new perspective that most travelers never get the chance to experience, with a stay high in the treetop canopy. Treehouse Lodge is the only lodge of its type in the Amazon Rainforest, allowing guests to quite literally immerse themselves in nature. Located at the confluence of the Yarapa and Cumaceba rivers at the start of the mighty Amazon, each of the lodge’s eight treetop bungalows nestle within the trees, allowing guests to enjoy the unforgettable experience of watching monkeys and birds at eye-level. It’s a full safari before you’ve even got out of bed! Treehouse Lodge sits on 350 acres of preserved, primary Amazon Rainforest surrounded by thousands of acres of additional protected land. Nearby is the famous Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve – one of the largest protected areas in Peru, boasting of the greatest biodiversity in the world. Iquitos is considered the capital of the Peruvian Amazon. During the 20th century, it expanded during the rubber boom, but is now known as a major river port, surrounded by 3 rivers. The area is also known for hosting the largest traditional market in the Peruvian Amazon and it’s amazing floating city that comes out during high water.

The Pig Hotel Near Bath

Come and experience THE PIG-near Bath – a 29 bedroom mellow country house perfectly situated near Bath and Bristol. This is a real get-away location, truly rural, with quintessentially English views of this undiscovered part of Somerset. Designed in the style that has become THE PIG’s signature, it features a greenhouse restaurant, a private room for dinner parties, 29 bedrooms and massage treatment rooms. A touch of luxury combined with a homely charm. In our 29 bedrooms you will find assorted furnishings, great beds, oversized showers, ‘larders’ stocked with snacks and Nespresso machines.

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Āman Venice

As sumptuous and romantic as the city itself, Aman Venice – set in a 16th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal – is home to museum-quality treasures including Tiepolo frescoes, gilded ceilings and centuries-old leather wall coverings. With views of the hotel’s private garden or the Grand Canal, many of the 24 Rooms and Signature Rooms feature protected frescos and reliefs. Aman Venice’s Rooms and Signature Rooms, which vary in size and configuration, feature works by a number of Italy’s greatest artists – including 16th-century architect Sansovino and 18th-century painter Tiepolo. Contemporary furnishings complement authentic silk wall coverings, chandeliers, wood panelling, chinoiserie and painted ceilings, while many Suites offer Grand Canal views.

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Kinloch Lodge

Kinloch Lodge is a historic destination hotel and restaurant on the Isle of Skye off the north west coast of Scotland. Our family-run hotel combines the relaxed comfort of highland hospitality with world-class food at head chef Marcello Tully’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Our mission is to give our guests an unforgettable experience, to feed the body and soul. Kinloch Lodge is a special place. It is somewhere to escape the noise and speed of modern life. Somewhere to relax and recharge, where you can take things at your own pace. The Isle of Skye is frequently, justly described as one of the most spectacular places on earth. Kinloch is in a particularly beautiful part of the island: down a long drive, at the foot of a mountain and at the head of Loch na Dal. Here you will find some of Scotland’s best food, roaring fires, whisky on tap and giant beds. It can be hard to leave.

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Cotton House Hotel - Barcelona

Deserving of all the buzz, the Cotton House hotel in Barcelona is part neoclassical hideaway a la Catalan bourgeoisie, part contemporary tropical oasis. Original elements like a 1957 suspended spiral staircase and parquet floors have been seamlessly incorporated into modern interiors with airy glass walls, globe chandeliers, and touches of teal upholstery. Our luxury travel experts say: “Our adventure travel expert, Brooke Garnett, stopped over in Barcelona for a few relaxed days. There, she sampled tapas and took in Gaudi architecture before heading to the snow-dusted Dolomites for trekking beautiful landscapes and enjoying après-climb champagne picnics prepared by renowned chefs.”

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The Mouses House Rainforest Retreat

Described by Ecotourism Australia as ‘arguably the most unique rainforest resort of its type in Australia’, The Mouses House Rainforest Retreat offers a truly enchanting rainforest experience. Each of the resort’s 13 wooden chalets is named after a different character from the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; from ‘Prince Charming’ to ‘Sleepy’, each chalet is located within its own private piece of rainforest, and is imbued with its own unique ‘personality’ and charm. The resort itself is set within a World Heritage listed rainforest, where the beauty of towering trees, and the soothing sounds of native birdsong and bubbling brooks will take your breath away. As soon as you’ve arrived, you’ll feel instantly at home in your cosy and intimate chalet; any stresses will immediately begin to drain away, to be replaced instead with a sense of peace and tranquillity. Perfect for couples, honeymooners and nature-lovers alike, you’ll be ideally placed to explore stunning Springbrook National Park. Trek through the bush, cross ‘natural bridges’ and discover fantastic lookout points deep within the forest as you explore your wonderful natural surroundings. After a day’s adventure, return to your private chalet, light up the fire, and relax in your indulgent massaging Spa bath as you look out over the rainforest.

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Eumarella Shores Noosa Lake Retreat - Australia

The award-winning and eco-accredited Eumarella Shores Noosa Lake Retreat blends nature and luxury to create a simply unforgettable experience. With a sublime lakefront location and fully self-contained accommodation, Eumarella Shores is a ‘home away from home’ that allows its guests to discover the very best Noosa has to offer, including golden beaches, national parks and outstanding restaurants. The retreat offers a stunning selection of four to five-star cottages and lakehouses, each individually themed and boasting private lake access. Explore Lake Weyba by canoe, take a bushwalk through a wildlife-filled nature refuge, or simply kick back and relax on your private lakefront verdandah as you listen to the gentle lapping of the water.

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Thala Beach Nature Preserve - Australia

Discover tropical Australia’s breath-taking natural beauty at Thala Beach Nature Reserve. Situated on a two kilometre stretch of pristine coastline between the rainforests of North Queensland and the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, this resort is a haven of peace and tranquillity. Thala offers a unique range of stunning accommodation options including sea-view and forest canopy bungalows, all nestled deep within the beachfront forest to provide guests with total seclusion and immersion in nature. The resort’s bungalows and suites are designed for supreme comfort and privacy, giving you the chance to enjoy a perfectly intimate experience of the rainforest. Rise early for a sunrise walk along a stretch of white beach, before taking a refreshing morning dip in one of the freeform pools. During the day, follow walking trails through the forest for some wonderful wildlife-watching, or head out onto the Great Barrier Reef for some world-class diving and snorkelling. Later, return to Thala for dinner in the treetops at the sublime Osprey’s Restaurant, before heading back to your bungalow. As the evening draws in, cocktail in hand, you’ll sit back and take in the panoramic views that stretch from rolling sandy dunes to the shimmering Coral Sea – all from the comfort of your private veranda!

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Kanha Jungle Lodge - India

Beautiful, powerful, endangered. The tiger is India’s National animal, and the country is home to the world’s largest wild population. The Kanha Jungle Lodge nestles deep in the woods of the Kanha Tiger Reserve in central India, within the very forest that provided inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Here, the endangered tiger is still ‘burning bright’. The lodge offers guests the opportunity to enjoy jungle tiger safaris in an open-top 4×4 jeep or, depending on availability, by elephant-back. Accompanying you on your tour will be one of the lodge’s resident ‘naturalists’: a wildlife expert and ‘encyclopaedia of knowledge’ whose job it is to narrate the secret stories of the forest. The lodge offers 18 expansive rooms and two luxurious cottages with stunning forest views. All rooms have modern furnishings and facilities including baths, writing tables, lounge chairs and single, twin or double beds.

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Hotel del Sal - Bolivia

Each room in the Hotel del Sal is shaped like an igloo except the blocks are not snow they are salt. It really is amazing. The hotel is right next to the salt flats that cover an area just over 4,000 square miles.

Kunming Business Hotel

Hotel Melia Panama Canal

In Colon, the historic Hotel Melia Panama Canal was our home and base for all our adventures. It is not only situated within the remains of the former U.S. Army post Fort Gulick, but also was the actual building for the School of the Americas, often called the “School of the Assassins” by its former detractors. Read more about Panama here.

Bocas Inn - Panama

In Bocas del Toro, we stayed at the rustic Bocas Inn, which is fantastically located: The front door opens onto the main strip of the capital of Bocas Town and the back opens to the ocean – which made water taxi pick up a snap. (One warning though: this lodge may be a little too rustic for some families, and it could probably use a little remodel at this point.) Other Bocas Town accommodations can easily be researched via our affiliate partner Learn more about Panama by clicking here.

Country Inn and Suites, Panama Canal

In Panama City, we stayed at the Country Inn & Suites Panama Canal which has great poolside service for parents to relax when kids enjoy their mandated pool time, all with Panama Canal shipping passing by in the background. To learn more about Panama and the Panama Canal, click here.

Hotel Gästehaus Englischer Garten

A superbly located place to stay in Munich is the Hotel Gästehaus Englischer Garten. Family owned and quaintly tucked into a corner next to the park, the hotel provides a convenient and friendly base to explore the English Garden and, of course, Munich. Note some rooms have en suite bathrooms and some do not, plus there are a few small apartments the hotel also manages a couple of doors down with small private patios. Transportation is convenient too, and you’re as good as smack in the middle of the hopping university area with restaurants, clubs, bars and theaters.

Hotel Vorhof Zur Hölle, Quedlinberg

Cobblestone streets are cute but the chatter of cars rolling down them even slowly echoes straight into some hotel rooms. We highly recommend the Hotel “Vorhof zur Hölle” (Foyer to Hell – ) that is more of a series of 4 tiny, adventuresome guesthouses than a true hotel. Click here to read our complete story on visiting Quedlinburg. 

Araras Pantanal Eco Lodge - Brazil

The Pantanal in Brazil, the largest continuous wetland on the planet, is recognized as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The Araras Pantanal Eco Lodge is reachable all year-round by car via the Transpantaneira Park Road, 132 km (82 mi) south of Cuiabá (the capital of the State of Mato Grosso). And, it is the perfect base from with to explore the Pantanal. Book your stay at the Araras Pantanal Eco Lodge by clicking here.

Singinawa Jungle Lodge - India

Singinawa Jungle Lodge offers 12 luxury cottages in an area of 55 acres along with rich grasslands, plenty of water holes, river & dense forest area. Each cottage is tastefully designed to keep all comforts in mind. Each cottage has a large bedroom, private veranda, en-suite bathrooms with double vanities & rain showers, live fireplaces, air conditioning & mini bar. Singinawa Jungle Lodge offers a grand dining area which serves verity of Continental and Indian cuisine, Fresh & home cooked food. Most of the fresh vegetables come from the organic farming at the nearby villages. Read more in our story, On Safari in India to See Tigers, and Much More.

Element Boston Seaport - Boston

Element Boston Seaport – Guests can power up their personal electronics while they pedal a stationary kinetic bike in this hotel fitness center. The hotel also provides a virtual personal trainer via the Your Trainer app. And if staying indoors is not your thing, borrow a bike and helmet and head outside. Read our story on hotel fitness centers.

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa - Arizona

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa – This resort is opting for some yoga creativity to inspire activity and fitness. A restorative yoga class with live music combines light stretching for flexibility with live music by professional musicians. There are other creative options too, all with a yoga theme, some more extreme than others. Read our story on hotel fitness centers here.

Marriott Syracuse Downtown - New York

Marriott Syracuse Downtown (Syracuse, N.Y.) – This new Marriott, which opened in an historic building in the fall of 2016, partnered with Fitness on Demand to offer its guests an interactive library of more than 1,000 solo and group classes, 24 hours a day. And this hotel looks like it opted for prime space by putting its hotel fitness center on the top floor, providing inspirational downtown views. Read our story on hotel fitness centers here.

Heads up! This information on Cartagena, Colombia was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.
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