Colombia was off limits. As in totally off limits. Growing up in South Florida in the 90s, well, to put it lightly, Colombia had a bad reputation. I never dreamed of traveling there, but times have changed and with it I took a chance on Cartegna, Colombia.
Cartegena is the crown jewel of Colombia. It’s an historic walled city dating to the 1550s, situated at the foot of the Caribbean along Colombia’s northern coast. It's possible you have never seen color until you walked the cobblestone streets of Cartegena. There is color everywhere. The buildings? All sorts of gorgeous hues. The people? The music? The food? Every shade of vibrant.
But, when I think of Colombia, it is the food that I still swoon over. Cartagena is a food lover’s dream filled with the freshest Caribbean seafood and the most amazing tropical fruit. If you happen to be heading to Cartagena make sure to check out some of the spots that stood out.
And, if you're not? Well, then make this ceviche recipe with coconut, avocado and mango. It's every bit as vibrant as Cartagena and reminds me that Colombia was one of the best chances I ever took.
WHERE TO STAY
Sister to the gorgeous Sofitel Legend Santa Clara, this boutique hotel let's you have the quaintness of a smaller hotel but benefit from the amenities of a large luxury resort just down the street.
The Casa San Agustin might be my dream hotel, between a perfect location in the heart of Cartagena and the décor, this luxury boutique hotel has it all, including a must-try restaurant, Alma.
WHERE TO EAT
There are very few dinners where I remember exactly what I ate, the dinner at Alma is one of them. I am still dreaming about the lobster empanadas and the pasta with shrimp and lobster.
Ceviche is everywhere in Cartagena but there is good and then there's amazing. For the best ceviche there is, the crema ceviche at Salou is a top contender.
A short walk from the walled section of the city, this restaurant is in the Getsemani neighborhood and serves a mix of Colombian and Caribbean food.
Be sure to try the street vendors, particularly from the Palenquera women who sell fruit throughout the city.
WHERE TO GET OUT
The beaches and the heat inside Cartagena proper can both get overwhelming. To find a little more calm and some gorgeous beaches, charter a boat to the Rosario Islands.
The walled city is amazing — it is small enough to walk and very safe. So wander the streets and admire the colors, the food, and the people.
Sunset Cocktails On The City Wall
Instead of going to one of the fancier cafes, save some cash and buy drinks either from one of the beer vendors or grab a “to go” cocktail then set up camp to watch sunset.
Opening photo of Las Palenqueras via Flickr by MM; Flower Vases on bench photo by Per Swantesson; Bougainvillea photo via Flickr by Nick Harris; Rosario Islands photo by Anthony Asael; Toucan photo by Alan Shapiro; all other photos by Amanda Frederickson