Fantastic places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia 2021: For any travel style & budget
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To begin my guide to the best places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia, let me first explain that the city is split up into 4 main areas for consideration – the old town within the walled city, just outside the walled city in Getsemaní, El Cabrero along the coast to the East and on the peninsula, Bocagrande, to the West. Now, these areas are all north of the official city centre itself, and for safety you should stick to this northern portion of Cartagena.
In this guide, I’ll go through the vibes of each of the recommended areas, and give you options for the best places to stay in Cartagena. Colombia’s North coast is a really beautiful place to find yourself, and it’s worth spending at the very least a few days in this area.
After you read this guide to the best places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia, you’ll also enjoy:
I don’t recommend staying anywhere past the San Felipe Castle. Right on that border, I stayed a swanky few days in the San Lazaro Art Hotel when my auntie and cousin came to visit Colombia – which is an excellent option if you have the budget – but that distance from the city is about as far as I would be comfortable going.
If you arrive into Cartagena via bus rather than plane, the taxi journey from the terminal will show you all you need to know about why people stick to the city walls. Despite the wealthy centre, there is a huge amount of poverty in Cartagena, and development in the outer areas seems unfortunately deprioritised.
Best places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia:
1. Cartagena’s walled city
Stay in the walled city for: immersion into Cartagena’s historical charm
Typically, the walled city is where it’s at, and so if you’re looking to be in the centre of all the action and around the grandest of architecture, this is the place to be. It has to be said that, being the tourism hub that the walled city is, most of the accommodation there is on the expensive luxury side.
Staying within the walled city has lots of advantages, like always being close to tour start-points, being able to walk home from bars at night and having probably way too much choice for where you want to eat.
It can be pretty stifling though as the walls stop drafts getting through the streets, so you’ll thank yourself for finding a hotel or hostel with a pool. All the landmarks in Cartagena’s old city are pretty close, too, so rooftops are a magical bonus to any accommodation.
Want to know the best places to stay in Cartagena’s walled city? Let me tell you…
For backpackers: The coolest hostel we found in the walled city was The Clock Hostel & Suites, which made it into our fave accommodation of South America list. The hostel is in tip-top condition with incredible showers, and the sleeping pods you get are good enough to have enough space for your backpack along the side of the bed (trust us, this is special). You also get 10% off at The Clock pub in the clock-tower square, which does the most delicious and hugest pile of nachos anyone could ask for.
República Hostel is also another popular spot and is a really nice place – we only spent a single night here in the end before we set sail for Panama via the San Blas Islands, and after expecting a quiet night in found that it was one of the coolest and most sociable places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia. You know a hostel party is good when the locals turn up too!
For glam-packers: For a more luxe feel, the mezzanine rooms and suites at Soy Local are one of the best places to stay in Cartagena’s centre. It offers a very decent breakfast delivered to your room every morning too, though slightly oddly they ask you to do your own washing up afterwards.
For honeymooners: You’re in the right place! Cartagena is a hotspot for honeymooners so there are plenty of options for hotels with a bit of romance. I’d recommend Bantú Hotel, where you can lose yourself in the gorgeous colonial style before booking yourself in for a massage and then chilling in the pool.
For groups: Again, there’s plenty of choice for larger groups, since Cartagena’s walled city has all bases covered as it somehow manages to appeal to families and bachelor/ette parties alike. Casa Allegra is a stunning house for up to 8 guests, and I don’t really have words for this 14-person mansion in the city centre.
For ballers: If you’re gonna do it, do it right. Boasting a jacuzzi, courtyard pool and close-up rooftop views of some of the most famous landmarks in Cartagena, Hotel Casa Don Sancho By Mustique isa beautiful fusion between modern sleekness and colonial architecture.
Stay in Getsemaní for: youthful, colourful vibes
How to pronounce Getsemaní: get-sem-ah-NEE. If you enjoy being in the action but like to stay out of the grasp of tourist traps and somewhere with restaurants you don’t have to remortgage your house for (ok, slight exaggeration…), Getsemaní should top your list of best places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia.
Just outside the city walls, things are a lot more local feeling around here, but it’s still colourful and strung with pretty bunting. Getsemaní is an area that has absolutely boomed since we wrote this guide to Cartagena the first time round in 2018 versus now. Once up and coming, it’s now definitely thriving with umbrella ceilings and gentrified bars to boot.
And the top hotels and hostels to stay in Cartagena’s super-hip Getsemaní are…
For backpackers: Getsemaní was originally backpacker territory, so there are lots of hostels to choose from. Standing above the rest though is Casa del Pozo, which despite being a boutique hostel is incredibly reasonably-priced, and has a good amount of social spaces in which to meet others. It has a pool, a Netflix room and all the colours of the outside streets brought inside.
For glam-packers: One of the best places to stay in Cartagena’s Getsemaní for travellers is Selina, which is equipped with rooftop bar and pool overlooking the bay. It’s really popular with people who want a social stay but want to do it with a bit more style than the average hostel.
For honeymooners: Casa Canabal Boutique Hotel certainly pulls out all the stops, and is coveted for the incredibly attentive staff and glorious interiors. The rooftop offers a reservable space for a romantic meal for two, and the spa is a lovely place to wind down after exploring the vibrance of Getsemaní. Oh, and it’s down one of the neighbourhood’s most beautiful streets.
For groups: A pool in the open-air kitchen and room for 8 people. It’s an absolute banger. Casa de la Murallais a traditional Cartagena house that’s been renovated to look like a Pinterest ad. Larger groups would have a hard time turning down this 16-person colonial house with bay views.
For ballers: I’m not really sure how to describe Hotel Casa Lola Deluxe; rustic, eclectic, luxe?! This hotel somehow does all three, and it’s an absolute beauty, and the price-point isn’t as eye-watering as the same level of quality would be in other parts of the city.
Stay in Bocagrande for: slick modernity
Bocagrande is the modern epicentre of Cartagena. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see looming high-rise offices and apartment buildings. There’s not a huge amount of activities on this side of the city, but the views are insane and the much more newer architecture means there’s a lot of choice for people who like a clean, modern style of accommodation.
The beaches of Cartagena are a little lacklustre, but this is one of the nicer spots to hang out in the sand along the city’s coastline. Bocagrande is the perfect place to stay if you want to find a clean, airy Airbnb or hotel room by the sea.
So where are the best places to stay in Cartagena’s Bocagrande neighbourhood? Let’s check them out…
For backpackers: Unfortunately there aren’t any well-rated hostels in Bocagrande, therefore it’s not a fantastic area for backpackers to rest their heads. Stick to the walled city and Getsemaní.
For glam-packers: Oz Hoteloffers reasonably-priced, beautiful accommodation with breakfast served up on the rooftop.
For honeymooners: Enjoy an entire apartment to yourselves at Luxury Alojamientos Namaste, and when you’re bored of that, head down to the sizeable pool that overlooks the beach.
For groups: Housing up to 16 people, this gorgeously-styled private housewith a pool is the perfect place for a larger group or family to enjoy their downtime in Bocagrande. If you’d prefer an apartment with a seafront balcony, this 9-bed Airbnb is absolutely tip-top.
For ballers: Got far too much money to burn? Rent a luxury boat, obv.
4. El Cabrero
Stay here for: an escape from the crowds
El Cabrero is a long, built-up strip of road between the walled city and the airport, where you’ll find a plethora of hotel resorts along the beach. However, as I mentioned earlier, the beaches of Cartagena aren’t known for their beauty (you have to go to Isla Barú and the Rosario Islands for that), and there’s not a lot of charm in this part of town.
You can find quite good value for money around here, and most accommodation blocks have a rooftop pool, but in the neighbourhood itself there’s not much around except high-rise, mid-range hotels, and getting a taxi in and out of town every day can be a bit of a bore. It’s also much more difficult to find decent meal options in this part of the city.
It’s not a complete write-off, though; this is a nice place to return to cool off after a long, hot day of pushing your way through mobs of sweaty tourists. You can be pretty safe in the knowledge that since El Cabrero is not normally on the radars of people looking for the best places to stay in Cartagena, nothing around this area will ever become over-crowded!
So where would I recommend as the best places to stay in Cartagena Colombia’s east wing?
For backpackers: Again, for backpackers, this isn’t one of the best places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia. There are just very few hostels in this area. We did visit one for lunch when we stayed in the area, but it had a weird vibe, and appears to have been taken off all booking sites.
For glam-packers: Hotel Boutique Del Mar is a cutesy little place with a deck looking right out onto the beach. It also has a secluded pool in case you don’t fancy a beach day every day. It has a great location too, being just a few blocks’ walk away from the walls of the old city.
For honeymooners: Bask in the beauty of what I’d say is the best hotel in the entire area of El Cabrero, Ermita: Tribute Portfolio Hotel. I mean, anywhere with that many varieties of salami at breakfast is always going to get my vote, and the rooms are just gorgeous. So much room for activities!
For groups: Not much in El Cabrero for groups, I’m afraid! The best thing to do here is to all book into the same hotel; Casa Bustamente Hotel Boutique is lovely and has a really nice lounge and courtyard for chilling with other guests.
For ballers: Nope, nothing for big spenders here!
And there we have it! All the best places to stay in Cartagena, Colombia! Now that you’ve reached the end of this post, don’t miss these relevant guides to help get the most out of your stay in Cartagena: