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Two of my best friends from home came to visit me in Colombia, so of course, we planned a girl’s weekend in the colorful beach town of Cartagena.
The logistics were super simple and, after comparing flight prices on Skyscanner, we found a one-hour flight from Medellin to Cartagena that only set us back $60 each on VivaColombia. We went in early March and even then the weather was amazing… 90 degrees and sunny every day, which was perfect for bumming on the beach and sipping mojitos in the Old Town.
Once we landed in Cartagena, my girls and I took a quick 10-minute taxi to our hostel in the hipster neighborhood of Getsemani. For only $17 each a night, we got a room with four beds and breakfast right in the main square. If you go, I definitely recommend the friendly faces at Papaya Hostel!
Friday: Dinner and Drinks in Cartagena
On Friday afternoon, we spent the day exploring the Getsemani neighborhood and wandering the colorful streets of the walled-in Old Town. Street vendors, shops, and vibrant cascading flowers make this town come to life in a way that I haven’t seen before in Colombia – it emanated a Southern charm similar to Savannah or Charleston.
You can easily spend a day popping in and out of the cafes and eating your way through the never-ending seafood platters in Cartagena. In fact, I enjoyed the best meal I have had in Colombia so far at La Cevicheria. We ate fresh ceviche, lobster, and seafood paella, all washed down with coco locos in the sun. All of it was delicious, and you absolutely should not miss it while you’re here (even Anthony Bourdain raved about his visit!).
Finally, we finished our night hitting all the little bars, enjoying the lively squares, and dancing until the sun came up in the salsa clubs.
Saturday: Hitting the Beach in Cartagena
After our hangover was cured with a home-cooked breakfast at Papaya in Getsemani, we were ready to set off to Playa Blanca on Isla Barú. We walked to the port (fighting off hawkers the whole way) and bought a seat on one of the boats heading out for the day. The cost is $17 for a round trip or $22 including lunch.
The ride out takes about 45 minutes and ended with out drop off on a gorgeous white sand beach with strict instructions to be back to the boat at 3:30 p.m. (a little early, but we were sunburned enough by then, so it was for the best).
If you’d rather spend more time on the beaches and less time in the city, there are plenty of super cheap hostels on the islands, or you can even grab a hammock for a night for as little as $5.
The boat ride home against the current is a bit wet and bumpy, but the trip is totally worth it. The Cartagena heat demands a beach escape, and Playa Blanca is definitely the place to be when it does.
Sunday: A Strange Mud Bath Experience
Our last full day in Cartagena started with the 10 a.m. graffiti tour through Getsemani and a lazy lunch. Then, we decided to try out the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo.
It’s… interesting. Although it’s called a volcano, it’s really just a small, muddy hot spring in a hill.
We got massaged in the warm mud and enjoyed the weirdest floating sensation ever, then washed off in the nearby rive. Honestly, it’s a pretty strange experience overall and I’d rather spend a day at the beach than hit this site, but to each their own.
Monday: The End of Our Weekend in Cartagena
On Monday, it was time to say goodbye. My friends got up and took a minibus to Santa Marta for $16 each, but I had to head back to Medellin to work.
The security at the airports in Colombia is super lax, so it wasn’t necessary to arrive much more than an hour or even 45 minutes early for my flight, then it was a quick ride back home to reality.
All in all, we had a perfect girls weekend in Cartagena. The colorful town, vibrant nightlife, and pristine beaches make it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Colombia.
Have you spent a weekend in Cartagena? Comment below, and let me know what you think is a must-see in the city!