Known for the vibrant architecture in its Walled City, Cartagena de Indias is a popular destination on the Colombian coast! With great beaches, vibrant culture and interesting history, there is plenty to see in this buzzing Latin American metropolis.
Cartagena is quite a large city – with some areas safer than others. This can make finding the best place to stay seem quite daunting. It is important to consider what you want out of your stay in the city before picking the best area.
That’s where we come in. We have built this guide to the seven best areas in Cartagena to help you plan your itinerary in the Caribbean city. Whether you want interesting architecture, eclectic nightlife or gorgeous beaches, we have you covered!
So let’s get started!
Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Cartagena
- Centro – Best neighborhood in Cartagena for your first time
- San Diegon – Where to stay in Cartagena close to everything
- Getsemaní – Where to stay in Cartagena for nightlife
- Manga – Best neighborhood in Cartagena for families
- El Cabrero – Where to stay in Cartagena on a budget
- Bocagranden – Best neighborhood in Cartagena for couples
- La Boquilla – Best neighborhood in Cartagena to get away from the city
Where to Stay in Cartagena
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Cartagena.
Best Hostel in Cartagena
The Icon Capsule hotel offers pod style living, which allows you to enjoy a little bit more privacy whilst still benefiting from the communal hostel atmosphere! It is well located in the San Diego neighborhood, giving you easy access to all the main attractions.
Best Budget Hotel in Cartagena
This charming hotel is situated within a colonial-era building, letting you soak up the history of this vibrant city! Situated in Getsemaní, it is a great choice if you want to take in the city’s nightlife and alternative culture. They also provide a fantastic breakfast.
Best Splurge Hotel in Cartagena
This five-star hotel is truly unbeatable for luxury accommodation in Cartagena! With a large infinity pool overlooking the city, and excellent facilities, it’s no wonder this is one of the best-rated hotels in town.
Cartagena 7 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in
Let’s take a look, in more detail, at the five best neighbourhoods in Cartagena. Each caters to different interests, so be sure to pick the neighbourhood that’s right for you.
(Best neighbourhood in Cartagena for your first time!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Centro – wander around the Parque de la Marina to get away from the city crowds and enjoy the recreational facilities
- BEST place to visit in Centro – the Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría is the perfect example of Baroque architecture in the city
If you’ve been looking up photos of Cartagena ahead of your stay, chances are that most of them depict some part of Centro! This is the main tourist hub of the city, where the bright yellow façades beautifully highlight the old architecture of Cartagena. The city walls, originally put up to defend against pirates, mark this historic neighborhood apart from the rest of the city.
Aside from the historic attractions, Centro also has some fantastic viewpoints across the city and a great cultural scene. Though a little pricier than other neighborhoods, and definitely more touristy, the restaurants and bars in this area are unbeatable!
- Take a walk along the historic city walls to learn about the founding of Cartagena and admire great views across Centro Historico
- The Castillo San Felipe Fortress dominates the city, and the tours offer unique insight into the colonial era of Latin America
- There are plenty of excellent museums in the vicinity – we recommend checking out the Museo del Oro Zenú to learn about indigenous culture
- Head to the Café del Mar in the evenings – they have a great selection of cocktails and unbeatable views across the sea
- To sample modern cuisine in Colombia, El Barón are known for their fantastic sandwiches and large drinks menu
Best Hostel Centro
This hostel is truly one of the best in the country! They have a large outdoor terrace where you can mingle with other guests, as well as a hot tub that you can relax in after a long day of exploring. Rooms have full WiFi access and blackout curtains for a great night’s sleep.
Editor’s Recommendation! These are the staff pick for the top hostels in Bogota (for all budgets!)
Best Budget Hotel in Centro
Hotel El Viajero #2 (the other one is located elsewhere in the city) might only be a two-star hotel, but it is nevertheless well rated by previous guests! It’s easy to see why thanks to the friendly atmosphere and historic architecture. Free high-speed WiFi can be accessed throughout the hotel.
Best Splurge Hotel in Centro
This decadent hotel is the pinnacle of luxury in the heart of Cartagena! There is a large pool area, as well as a relaxing garden where you can admire the native plant life of Colombia. Rooms come with large bathrooms and air conditioning, and for an additional fee, you can opt for a balcony.
Colombia is amazing! And the best hostels in Cartagena will blow you away!
(Where to stay in Cartagena close to everything!)
- COOLEST thing to do in San Diego – shop on the Plaza de la Boveda, with multiple boutiques offering excellent souvenirs
- BEST place to visit in San Diego – head to the Casa de Gabriel Garcia Marquez to learn about the iconic Colombian novelist
Just north of Centro, San Diego is a great neighborhood if you want to stay close to the main attractions, but without all of the hustle and bustle of the touristy Old Centre! It is also located close to the northern beaches, allowing you easy access to the two main attractions of Cartagena.
The bars and restaurants in San Diego have a much more laid back atmosphere than in neighboring district – perfect if you simply want to enjoy the local cuisine and mingle with locals! Speaking of cuisine, San Diego is also well known as the hub for street food in Cartagena.
- Head to the Plaza de San Diego and try out some excellent street food whilst admiring the surrounding architecture
- Sala de Teatro Reculá del Ovejo is a major theatre in the city, with performances from local and international acts
- Walk down to Fisherman’s Beach where you can watch local fishermen at work and enjoy the laid back vibe
- The San Diego side of the city walls has a museum where you can learn about their history and some great spots for catching the sunset
- Cuba 1940 is a popular nightlife spot in the area – relax with an authentic Cuban cigar and enjoy their Cuban inspired cocktails
Best Hostel San Diego
As the name suggests, this hostel takes inspiration from capsule hotels across the world! Whilst still in a dorm room, you are given some extra privacy with your own pod that comes with charging ports and WiFi access. A small breakfast is included for every guest, and there is a great rooftop bar.
Best Budget Hotel in San Diego
Casa del Curato is housed in an 18th Century house, which is as authentic as it gets in Cartagena! There is a gorgeous garden area where you can relax and mingle with other guests, and free WiFi can be accessed throughout. An American style breakfast is served every morning.
Best Splurge Hotel in San Diego
This gorgeous five-star hotel is located right next to the city walls, giving you easy access to both San Diego and Centro! Recently refurbished, it perfectly blends historic style with modern convenience, allowing you to soak up the intoxicating atmosphere of the city. A buffet breakfast is included.
(Where to stay in Cartagena for nightlife!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Getsemaní – if you’re looking for a party, head to Calle Media Luna in the evenings for the best bars
- BEST place to visit in Getsemaní – admire the colorful street art in the Calle de las Tortugas area
Every city has a hipster neighborhood, and in Cartagena, that title goes to Getsemaní! Once one of the most dangerous areas in the city, it has recently been revived into a youthful hub for creatives and partygoers. Whilst Centro has some of the more upmarket bars, Getsemaní is where you go to party with the locals.
During the day this neighborhood also offers some great historic attractions as it is where much of the Colombian independence movement began. It is also a hub for Afro-Caribbean culture, allowing you to discover the melting pot that is Colombia. If you want creativity, nightlife and culture, you can’t go wrong with Getsemaní!
- Check out Plaza Trinidad – it is packed with Caribbean street performers during the day, as well as excellent street food stands
- Calle el Arsenal is another good street for nightlife, particularly if you want to dance to authentic Colombian music such as Cumbia
- Parque del Centenario is a great location in the heart of Getsemaní if you want to relax after a night of partying
- Wander along the Pier Los Pegasos, a vibrant pier with Pegasus statues and a laid back atmosphere
- Italian immigrants have had a massive impact on Latin American culture, and nowhere is that more apparent than Di Silvio Trattoria, a locally famous restaurant
Best Hostel Getsemaní
This boutique hostel is a great example of the major transformation that has swept across Getsemaní! It is a stone’s throw away from Plaza Trinidad, meaning you will be staying in the heart of the action. A complimentary breakfast is included, and the pool and bar area are the perfect start to a night out.
Editor’s Tip: make friends by staying at a cool hostel in Santa Marta!
Best Budget Hotel in Getsemaní
Located on the boundary between Getsemaní and Centro, Hotel Villa Colonial is the perfect budget option for those who want to enjoy the historic sights and the nightlife! House in a colonial building, it has an authentic charm that will embed you in the local culture. A breakfast buffet is included.
Best Splurge Hotel in Getsemaní
This ultra-modern hotel has drawn inspiration from the creative neighborhood to create a cool, artsy vibe! Rooms are fully air-conditioned and come with the latest in modern technology to allow for a comfortable stay. There’s a large outdoor pool and sun terrace, with an adjoining bar.
Need to see more of Colombia? These day trips from Bogota will show you the coolest areas around.
(Best neighbourhood in Cartagena for families!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Manga – walk around the Parque del Pastelillo – they have a great play park and stunning views of the city
- BEST place to visit in Manga – head to the Casa Roman, a large mansion that exemplifies colonial architecture
Manga is an island just off the coast of Cartagena that has a very calm and safe atmosphere. This makes it the perfect choice for families looking to stay relatively close to the center but still have somewhere relaxing to stay! Transportation connections are easy, and you can access the historic centre in no time.
Though there aren’t many touristy attractions in Manga, there are still plenty of great restaurants and bars! In particular, this is an excellent part of the city if you are fond of seafood. There are also some great green spaces where you can unwind and admire the scenery.
- Check out the Church of Santa Cruz de Manga, an ornate building with a famous bell tower that you can climb for great views
- Though wandering around a cemetery might seem morbid, Cementerio Santa Cruz de Manga is popular with tourists thanks to the gorgeous mausoleums
- Club de Pesca is a little off the beaten path, but worth the visit if you want to taste some of the best seafood Cartagena has to offer
- Bahia de Manga is a small beach – there aren’t many facilities, but it’s a great option if you just want somewhere peaceful to relax
- The San Lázaro area is a beautiful neighborhood to walk around and admire the seaside beauty, and also has some excellent seafood restaurants
Best Hostel Manga
This huge hostel is right in the heart of Manga island, and is perfect if you want a calm retreat away from the busy Centro district! They offer both dorms and privates, making it a viable option for families on a strict budget. Breakfast is included as part of the rate.
Will you be in Medellin a while? Here’s your guide to the top day trips from Medellin for exploring the area!
Best Budget Hotel in Manga
This hotel is as basic as they come, but the friendly service and great location mean it comes with excellent reviews! Rooms come with large private bathrooms and WiFi access, and the reception is open 24 hours. They offer triple and quadruple rooms, which are perfect for families.
Best Splurge Hotel in Manga
This luxury four-star hotel is situated within a typical Colombian house, and has a great pool area where you can unwind after a long day of exploring! An American style breakfast is served every morning, and free high-speed WiFi can be accessed from every room. They also have private parking facilities.
Short on time in Cartagena? Doesn’t matter we have trips from Cartagena you can do in one day!
(Where to stay in Cartagena on a budget!)
- COOLEST thing to do in El Cabrero – if you want to take a tour of the wider Cartagena region, Guianza Express have some great packages
- BEST place to visit in El Cabrero – Chiringuito Beach has some excellent facilities and the best-priced bars in the city
El Cabrero is the northern beach area, and thanks to a lack of tourism is also one of the cheapest parts of the city to stay in! Combined with neighboring Marbella, this is the perfect choice for those looking for a beachside stay that won’t hit the wallet too hard.
The bars and restaurants in El Cabrero are much cheaper than those in Centro, and have a very local atmosphere! This allows you to discover how Colombians really live and party during your trip to Cartagena. Getting to Centro only takes a ten-minute walk, so you still have access to the main attractions.
- If you’re visiting during the Independence Celebrations in November, head to Avenida Santander to catch the parade
- Manzanillo del Mar is the large beach that flanks the El Cabrero neighborhood, with plenty of great shops and bars along the way
- Casa Rafael Núñez is an interesting museum dedicated to the Colombian icon and the impact he had on the nation
- Merken Food Gourmet is a very popular restaurant in the neighboring Marbella district where you can sample cuisines from across South America
- Head down to Salsa Quiebra Canto for a unique nightlife experience where you can learn some typical Latin American dances
Best Hostel El Cabrero
Though Coccoloba Hostel is pretty basic, it has everything you need for a short stay in the city! The prices are amongst the lowest in Cartagena, making it the perfect choice for those on a strict budget. They have a dedicated tourism office on-site, as well as a locally famous pizzeria.
Best Budget Hotel in El Cabrero
Known internationally for budget-friendly comfort, the Ibis hotel in the Marbella district of Cartagena is perfect for budget travellers that still want good levels of service! They provide a complimentary breakfast buffet every morning and have high-speed WiFi access in every room. There is also a communal terrace.
Best Splurge Hotel in El Cabrero
If you want a little bit of luxury for less, you can’t go wrong with Casa Bustamante! This four-star hotel is a little bit cheaper than other luxury hotels on this list but still comes with excellent facilities. Breakfast is served every morning, and they have private parking facilities.
(Best neighbourhood in Cartagena for couples!)
- COOLEST thing to do in Bocagrande – dine at one of the fantastic restaurants that line Avenida San Martin
- BEST place to visit in Bocagrande – head to the Estelar Hotel, one of the tallest buildings in the country that occasionally provides public access
Bocagrande is the most popular beach resort area in the city and it is easy to see why! The beautiful coastline has white sands, crystal clear waters and excellent facilities. For couples, this is a popular choice if you are looking for a romantic getaway in the sun.
It is also one of the most modern parts of the city, with towering skyscrapers and slick restaurants around every corner! This area does get quite busy during December, but at other times of the year, it calms down and is one of the best beach destinations in the Caribbean region. It is also only a short walk or taxi ride away from the city centre.
- Head to the harbor where you can find multiple tour operators offering fantastic trips to the Rosario Islands and Baru
- Wander down to the Laguito neighborhood – this is the most upmarket part of the area and has excellent fine dining restaurants and shopping boutiques
- Located between Bocagrande and Laguito is the El Laguito lake, a romantic spot for an afternoon stroll or to admire the sunset
- Kiosko El Bonny might seem like a simple beachside kiosk, but it is incredibly popular with locals and offers some great street food
- For shopping, head to Plaza Bocagrande – there is a large mall with international brands and great views across the city
Best Hotel for Backpackers Bocagrande
Whilst there are no hostels in Bocagrande, Hotel Pueblito Playa offers some great rates for those sticking to a strict budget! This means it is also a great option for young couples that enjoy a communal atmosphere but still want some extra privacy. They offer a complimentary breakfast every morning and 24 hour reception.
Best Budget Hotel in Bocagrande
This quaint little hotel is great if you are on a budget but do not want the backpacker vibe. The charming courtyard has a small swimming pool where you can unwind and soak up the atmosphere of the area! An American style breakfast is served every morning, and WiFi can be accessed throughout.
Best Splurge Hotel in Bocagrande
This is the highest rated luxury hotel in the area and it is easy to see why! The five star Hyatt Regency is flanked with an impressive infinity pool that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. The on-site restaurant serves international cuisine, and there is a complimentary breakfast buffet every morning.
Ready to book? We’ve put together our favorite places to stay in Bogota so you don’t have to stress!
(Best neighbourhood in Cartagena to get away from the city!)
- COOLEST thing to do in La Boquilla – try your hand at kitesurfing with the many water sports companies along the beach – we recommend Nomad Kitesurf
- BEST place to visit in La Boquilla – Convento La Popa de la Galera is an interesting religious landmark in the area
La Boquilla, also known as Zona Norte, is a large coastal area in the far north of the city. Though it is quite some distance away from Centro and the main attractions, this is a great choice if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy some calm beaches!
Many of the hotels in this area have more of a typical resort vibe, so this is definitely the best choice if you are looking for a typical beachside experience! There are some great, locally owned restaurants along the coast, as well as water sports companies.
- Real Experience offer both boat tours and regular tours that allow you to discover a more authentic side of Colombian culture
- Interested in golf? Head to Karibana Beach Golf Condominium, a huge 18 hole course with spectacular views across the sea
- Grab a meal at Bodegon de Mar – this beachside restaurant offers truly delectable local cuisine
- If you want to sample some of the African dishes that have influenced local cuisine, head to Botswana Cartagena\
Best Hostel La Boquilla
This hostel is perfect if you want to soak up the beachside atmosphere and enjoy a relaxing stay in Cartagena! All of the rooms come with sea views, and there are excellent communal facilities where you can mingle with other guests. They also offer water sports equipment hire and classes.
Best Budget Hotel in La Boquilla
Though it is only a two-star hotel, this is a great accommodation option for staying close to the beach on a budget! There is a large outdoor swimming pool, as well as a luscious garden area where you can relax. Free WiFi is available in every room.
Best Splurge Hotel in La Boquilla
This five-star hotel gives you the beachside resort experience, with a huge swimming pool area and excellent facilities! There is also a kids entertainment area and mini golf course, making it a great choice for families that want to get away from the busy city centre.
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Cartagena?
Cartagena is a vibrant city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast that has truly earned its title as the most visited destination in the country! With beautiful historic buildings, vibrant beaches and eclectic cultural attractions, you will be spoilt for choice on what to do in the city.
Whilst Centro might seem like the obvious choice, we’re going to go with San Diego for our pick for the best area. This neighborhood is still very central, but a bit more laid back than the historic centre.
That being said, everywhere mentioned in this guide has its own charm and we are sure you will enjoy your stay in the city no matter where you choose to be based.
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments!
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