Relaxing in Cartagena Colombia

After the completion of a trial my boyfriend had long been working on, we were both more than ready for a vacation. We quickly booked our tickets for a 5-day 6-night adventure to Cartagena, Colombia with only three days to plan our itinerary before leaving! Wanting to split our vacation into two parts, we spent the first few days at the Sofitel, a resort-like beachside hotel, and the final days at the cozier El Marques Boutique Hotel. We were thrilled with both locations and do not think we could have picked better places for our stay.

Aged Buildings in Cartagena Colombia
Balcony of Flowers in Cartagena Colombia
Park Statue in Cartagena Colombia

The Sofitel was the most luxurious hotel listed in our travel books and we could immediately see why. This colonial building dates back to 1622 and was once the Convento de Santa Clara. The hotel featured two upscale restaurants, a poolside restaurant, and a bar with live music. We personally love historic buildings with modern contemporary styling. The furniture in our room was so chic and playful, while the courtyard lobby was much like a polished rainforest. The lobby also featured a statue from the renowned artist Fernando Botero, often referred to as the Picasso of Latin America. His bro-figurative works of art are sometimes described as fat, though Botero defined them as exaggerated.

Outdoor Space in Cartagena Colombia
Wood Bench in Cartagena Colombia

During our first morning in Cartagena, we enjoyed breakfast at El Claustro, one of the upscale restaurants in the Sofitel. After breakfast we walked aimlessly, exploring the colorful streets of the city and stopping every few blocks to see vendors selling paintings, watermelon, and necklaces. After locating the Plaza de Las Dulces and Plaza de Los Coches, we decided to stop at Crepes & Waffles for a mid-afternoon snack. Later that day we spent our first sunset at Cafe del Mar, an outdoor bar and restaurant overlooking the ocean that provides truly spectacular views.

Fruit in the Street in Cartagena Colombia
Bikes for Rent in Cartagena Columbia
Lush Balcony in Cartagena Colombia
Man Pushing Cart in Cartagena Colombia
Shoe Shine in the Streets of Cartagena Colombia
Lilac Home in Cartagena Colombia
Hot Dog Stand in Cartagena Colombia

Our next few days were spent enjoying a combination of poolside drinks, evenings at the hotel restaurants, and casual walks down the quaint streets of the city. We also took the opportunity to hop a quick trip by water taxi to the Hotel del Canto. Here we fell in love with the secluded island and local life. Dinner at Santo Domingo Plaza was a highlight for the spectacular people watching and romantic live music.
After checking in at El Marques Boutique Hotel for the second portion of our trip, we were greeted with pina drinks and a suite overlooking the courtyard. El Marques was only recently transformed into a hotel. The beautiful hotel was once the home of the famous New Yorker, Sam Green, who regularly hosted Yoko Ono and the Kennedys in his 17th century colonial building.

Teak Lounge Chairs in Cartagena Colombia
Pool Cabana in Cartagena Colombia
Patio Furniture in Cartagena Colombia

The final days of our stay were spent exploring the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, Colombia’s largest and most impregnable colonial fort. I was excited about seeing a beautiful castle but realized it was more like a rustic fort with cave-like tunnels running throughout. The walk back to town is beautiful and passes by a peaceful residential area with few tourists. After lunch we walked through the Convento de San Pedro Martir before leaving for our next adventure to the Volcan de Lodo el Totumo. At the volcano we were spoiled by the thermal mud baths and the spa-like experience of massages and, after the mud, ocean bathing. The experience is amazing but I definitely recommend wearing an old swimsuit, as the mud tends to stain!

Quiet Streets of Cartagena Colombia

We were sad to see our trip come to an end, but not before spending our final morning shopping for emeralds and gold in the city center. Colombia is famous for their first-grade emeralds, but I opted for a pair of gorgeous pre-Colombian styled gold earrings, very similar to the pieces we saw in the gold museum.


Sofitel Santa Clara
Calle del Tomo #39-29,
Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
+57 5 6504700

El Marques Boutique Hotel
Calle Santo Domingo
Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia
+57 5 6647800

The Details

  • Grab a drink and watch the sunset at Café del Mar.
  • Restaurant 1621 inside the Sofitel is a feast for both the stomach and the eyes (and be sure to try the Beef Camille)!
  • For those wanting to see the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas (which I highly recommend), I would suggest the electronic tour, allowing one to move at her own pace. And make sure to apply plenty of sunscreen, bring a hat, and wear comfortable walking shoes!

Sweet Tea Photography is a photography studio in Washington, DC. Their approach to photography can be described as a combination of fine art, editorial, and photojournalism. Incorporating a variety of film cameras along with digital helps in creating their unique style.



  1. Kate Hickey Avatar
    Kate Hickey

    Thank you for this info!

    Just wondering if you liked one hotel better than the other? As always, location is super important. Just wondering if you could comment on the differences/advantages/disadvantages to the 2 hotels:) Thanks in advance,


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