JT's Travel 411: Cartagena, Colombia Edition
JT's Travel 411
Cartagena, Colombia Edition
I took a solo vacation to Cartagena, Colombia and it was EV-ER-EE-THANG! Solo traveling can feel intimidating but it’s honestly my favorite way to travel! I am sharing a few of my experiences in Cartagena in case you are looking to take the leap into solo traveling and/or Cartagena is on your travel list!
Why Cartagena, Colombia?
My ideal vacation is time at the beach. I wanted to explore a beach in South America since I had never been to the continent. I did a little research and learned that Cartagena not only had a beach but was also home to a huge Afro-Latinx population. That pretty much sealed the deal.
How I got there….
I had enough points on American Airlines to cover my ticket. I had a 3-4 hour layover in Miami each way and stayed in Cartagena for 8 days.
Where I stayed…
When traveling internationally solo, I prefer to stay in hotels rather than Airbnbs. For me it guarantees access to guidance on the city if I need it. I stayed at the Hilton Cartagena. The hotel was nice. I chose it for three reasons:
It was in walking distance of the beach.
I have status at Hilton which scored me cheaper room rates and a complimentary room upgrade when I arrived. #winning
They had an on-site spa. I almost always arrange a spa day when traveling solo.
If you want to be in walking distance of the beach in Cartagena I would recommend Hilton Cartagena along with the Hyatt Regency Cartagena and Intercontinental Cartagena. I met travelers staying at both hotels and they shared positive reviews. If I go back to Cartagena I will stay in the Walled City, the cultural epicenter of Cartagena that holds a ton of history. The Walled City not in walking distance of the beach but it’s kind of like Cartagena’s downtown so it’s in walking distance of tons of restaurants, museums, and attractions.
Where I played…
My vacation philosophy is 50% scheduled, 50% unscheduled. I was in Cartagena for 8 days so I scheduled things to do on 4 of the days, leaving me some time to be spontaneous and explore as my soul pleased. Here were the five activities I scheduled.
Photoshoot with a local photographer - I have made it a tradition when I travel internationally to schedule a photoshoot with a local photographer. It’s truly a win-win because I get to support a local business while also gaining beautiful new pictures for my consulting business. I use Airbnb Experiences to find photographers. I found an amazing Colombian photographer named Rafael (IG: @kabezarodante). I would highly recommend him. He not only takes great photos but he shared a lot of history about Cartagena as we went. You can learn more about his Airbnb experience here.
Day Tour to Palenque - Palenque is the first village of freed slaves in the Americas established in the late 1600s. Today Palenque is a vibrant community deeply connected to their African roots. The tour was offered through “Experience Real Cartagena”, a black family owned Colombian tour company owned by Alex Rocha. You can learn more info about the tour here.
Beach Hopping - The visit to Palenque was so awesome with Alex Rocha that I signed up for his beach tour. We took a boat to Rosario island and hopped through the cluster of islands off the coast of Colombia. I met so many dope people over the two days of tours with Experience Real Cartagena! You can learn more info about this tour here.
Spa Day - I always schedule a spa day during my solo adventures because it gives me peace and massage services are usually cheaper abroad. I scheduled a massage and facial at the spa within my hotel, Privilego Spa. My masseuse Erika was AH-mazing, just like her name! :-) The spa is opened to the public so you don’t have to stay at the Hilton Cartagena to make a spa appointment.
Head wrap tutorial - I scheduled one other experience through Airbnb Experiences which was a head wrap tutorial. I met a wonderful Colombian woman named Rosa. She texted me earlier in the day and sent me pics of a few head wrap choices for me to pick one for our evening meet up. She and her sister met me in the Walled City that evening and we walked to a nearby restaurant. Rosa’s sister is a chef so she recommended an appetizer for me to try. It was a dish with string ray and shark meat. I was nervous but it was really good! Rosa and her sister shared with me more history of Colombia and Rosa taught me a few head wrap styles to add to my toolbox. The experience included the head wrap, appetizer, drink and their wisdom. You can read more about their Airbnb Experience here.