Contributor: Adrienne Sharon
Dates of Travel: April 2017
Accommodations: Hilton Cartagena Hotel
If you were a kid in the 1980s like I was, you likely never envisioned a vacation in Cartagena, Colombia. But, guess what, you can now spend a wonderful, warm, tropical vacation with your family in a city that’s safe, vibrant, and historical.
There are several boutique and resort hotel accommodations to choose from in Cartagena. We opted for the Hilton Cartagena Hotel and we weren’t disappointed. With four pools, a water slide, a beach, a game room and a ping pong table, your kids will never be bored. The pools alone kept my two energetic boys entertained all day. The hotel guests were predominantly Latin American families so my kids felt at ease playing in the pools as kids do, but they also got to interact with Spanish-speaking children.
When you need a break from the water play, take a licensed taxi into the historic center. The perfectly preserved fortress walls and canons will delight little eyes. The colorful buildings and cobblestone streets make for a lovely stroll or horse-drawn carriage ride.
As far as food goes, there is no shortage of great restaurants in Cartagena. The only tricky thing is that it’s a late night kind of town. Be sure to check opening times before you drag your sun-soaked kiddos out to eat. I also highly recommend grabbing a mojito and some apps at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena at dusk. In keeping with the 500 year-old tradition of the building’s monastic origin, at sundown hooded monks come through and light candles. It’s a small old-world practice that will momentarily transport you back to the founding of Cartagena in the 1500s.
When we travel, we often try to incorporate at least one day trip just to mix things up a bit. In Cartagena, the perfect day trip is an outing to the Rosario Islands. There are many tour company options that depart daily from the main dock downtown. We chose Isla del Sol. They use speed boats instead of ferries which fare better for my kids’ delicate tummies. The hour-long ride took us out of Cartagena harbor past enormous cargo ships and into the open ocean where we watched the coastline fade away. Soon we came upon the turquoise waters surrounding the Rosarios. We enjoyed our time at Isla del Sol. There was a rustic hotel that allowed us to use their beach and salt-water pool. We took a hop over to another nearby island to see the aquarium and catch the dolphin show.
Our ride back was especially enchanting. We came up the river leading to Cartagena. We watched the immediate switch from the ocean ecosystem to that of the tropical forest. We witnessed traditional Colombian families living along the river as they have for thousands of years. We saw a variety of tropical plants and incredible birds flying overhead. It felt like stepping back in time.
Unquestionably, Cartagena de Indias is a charming destination for a memorable family vacation. It is, however, extremely hot and humid there so plan accordingly, especially for your little travelers!