My Top Tips if You’re Traveling to Cartagena with Kids
Cartagena, Colombia is a magical, colorful place that awakens everyone’s senses– and I do mean EVERYONE– Cartagena is definitely a great place to visit with kids! We went on a 10 day trip to Colombia last year and spent a good portion of that in Cartagena, and it was absolutely glorious.
My daughter is still talking about it, a year later! Here are my tips about traveling to Cartagena with kids:
TIPS IF YOU’RE TRAVELING TO CARTAGENA WITH KIDS
- Prepare before you go! Cartagena is a city FULL of history. It was a main port when the Spaniards colonized the Americas. It was also a slave trade port. Cartagena de Indias was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. I would recommend talking to your children about the history of it before you go, and you can link that to what you see when you’re on the ground.
- Try all the sweets. In the entrance of the Walled City is “El Portal de los Dulces” which translates to ” the Sweets Gateway.” It is where you can purchase homemade sweets made from fruit, chocolate, coconut (“cocadas“) and panela which is similar to brown sugar.
- Learn about the Afro-Caribbean culture in Cartagena (and Colombia). Colombia has a rich Afro-Caribbean culture, and you can feel that while walking in the streets of Cartagena — from the colorful Palenqueras to the lovely Caribbean beats and the food.
- Don’t pack your days (and if you can, opt for a rooftop pool). Cartagena is HOT hot hot! I made sure that our kids had plenty of time to decompress, sit in the shade or lounge at the rooftop pool. We stayed at the Gran Armería Real in Getsemaní that had a rooftop pool and breakfast included. We also stayed at Hotel Santa Catalina in the Walled City, which also had a rooftop pool.
- Refresh yourself with the most delicious lemonade and fresh squeezed orange juice. The hot days will mean you need to stay hydrated. Don’t miss the delicious lemonade stands and orange juice stands in the street. Watching the vendors’ expertise, speed and ease with which they squeeze the lemons is mind-blowing. Fun fact: what we call “limes” in the USA, is what lemons are in Colombia, they are simply called limones.
- Make sure to enjoy the street entertainment! In the evening, Cartagena’s street come alive. There are puppeteers, Afro Caribbean street dancers dressed in white, people playing music, and all kinds of street vendors.
- Don’t miss Getsemaní! So many beautiful colorful murals! Beautiful photo opportunities, yummy street vendors and entertainment at night.
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- Don’t be afraid to eat in nice restaurants! Our first night in Cartagena we ate at Casa Lola which is a lovely gourmet Caribbean food/ tapas restaurant. If you’re wondering if places are kid-friendly, we find that kids are usually welcome everywhere, Latin America is very family-friendly. **Reservations preferred.
- Make a reservation to catch the sunset at Café Del Mar. Café Del Mar has gorgeous views of the beach and is one of the best places to see the sunset. If you can’t make the sunset, any time of day will be fun.
*Note if you have picky eater or allergies, that the menu is mostly seafood. You can make reservations (book them as soon as you know you’re going) and you can also walk in, but I don’t recommend that if you want to catch the sunset. Kids waiting in the heat tend to not do that great, lol.
- Hire a photographer for family photo shoot: If you’re a mom reading this, you probably have a lot of pictures of everyone of your family and you’re usually behind the camera, not in the frame, amirite? We hired local photographer Marina Maldonado, from @Yourlocalphotographercartagena to do a family photo shoot and it was well worth it.
(Note: the photo shoot will be early in the day due to the light, the crowds and the heat, but totally worth it). Marina does all types of shoots, we did ours in the City Center but I’ve seen her magic in Getsemaní too. Tell her Diana sent you =)
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Some practical tips about traveling in Cartagena with kids:
Have cash as not all places take credit cards. Don’t exchange money at the airport, because those are not the best rates. Do so at a certified cash exchange “CAMBIO” in the city center.
Set up a shuttle service to pick you up at the airport so you don’t have to wait or get on the taxi line.
When possible, make reservations so you don’t have to wait with kids, waiting just makes kids melt down– especially in the heat!
Use WHATS APP to communicate: If possible and if you don’t have it already, download WhatsApp – some restaurants and tour operators use this to communicate.
Buy a SIM card for data (then you can use WhatsApp) and to be able to use Google maps. In my experience, there wasn’t a lot of free wi-fi in Cartagena in the streets.
Two options: you can buy a local SIM card, or an e-sim card. You do have to make sure your phone is compatible. The service I’ve used is AIRALO. *note this is not a paid ad, it really is what I used, and I’ve used it in different countries in the world.
Bring a life vest or floats for your little ones in pools so you feel more comfortable while they’re in the pool and you don’t want to get in. **Don’t forget the sunblock and hats! Cartagena is hot hot hot.
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