Cartagena-Travel With Kids

Thanksgiving week 2016 we went on a 4 day trip to Cartagena, Colombia.  We spent a few days in Miami prior to going, then took a short 2.5 hour flight to Cartagena.  It’s the perfect destination for a long weekend getaway and great if you’re traveling with little kids.  We flew JetBlue out of FLL and it was a great flight.  As always, Milana just had to say hi to the pilots!

pilots

Cartagena is the 5th largest city in Colombia, and known for its Old Town, which has squares, cobblestone streets and lots of colorful buildings.  Because it’s also a port town, you may encounter throngs of cruise ship passengers, but they are easy to avoid as they seem to stick to their groups of 60 and only visit the very popular places, not going off the beaten path.  While staying in the walled city would be fun, because we were traveling with Milana we wanted something more kid-friendly with a pool.  We chose the Hilton, which is in Boca Grande and a 10 minute cab/Uber ride from the walled city, and loved the hotel! I highly recommend it if you are staying with kids. It’s a large hotel, with 3 pools, a playground for the kids, beach and a game room.  It was nice to enjoy the pool in the 90 degree heat!

poolslide

And of course, the obligatory pina colada by the pool picture:

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On one of our days, we hired a private guide to show us around the city.  It was the best decision ever! You’ll see lots of tour buses, filled with a ton of tourists who are dragged from place to place looking miserable.  Martin picked us up in an air conditioned van and we were the only family with him, doing things at our own pace.  His website, Cartagena Tour Guide, has lots of tour options. I highly recommend checking it out and booking a  tour with Martin. You won’t regret it!  We opted for the afternoon tour (2:30) and it was a much better choice since not only was it a bit cooler, the lighting for photos was perfect as the sun was going down.

Our first stop with Martin was a fortress.  You’ll see walls and cannons all over the city, and it’s so cool to see them up close!

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After the fortress, we headed to the popular La Colina de la Popa, which offers great views of the city.

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Then (this is the best part about having a private tour), we opted to skip the rest of the historical stuff and instead headed to the walled city, where Martin showed us some famous landmarks and told us the history of the city.  San Diego square is a great place to start, and then you can walk anywhere from there. Milana loved looking at all the different building colors and would point out where she wants her picture taken! You can easily spend hours inside the city alone, wandering the narrow streets and checking out shops, restaurants and street vendors.  We ended up going to the walled city on our own a few more times during our stay, just to explore the different areas.

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There are several places inside the city that sell fresh fruit popsicles, and Milana couldn’t get enough of the mango, her current fruit obsession!

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Martin also took us to the area where are the candy vendors are.  Without him, we would have never known what anything was, as nothing is labeled, so it was nice to have him describe each item. We ended up buying lots of yummy Colombian treats!

candy

You will also see lots of street food. As always, we love eating street food and were very excited to see arepas being sold.  They are some of our favorites and these didn’t disappoint.  They were huge, filled with yummy cheese and at less than $1 each, a bargain! Milana also loved the various fruit carts, and ate quite a bit of mangos while there!

street-food

We normally aren’t souvenir people, but the one thing I really wanted to get while in Cartagena was a Wayuu Mochila bag.  These bags are beautiful and come in a variety of sizes and colors. They are sold in stores and from street vendors, and the street vendors are a lot cheaper than stores. We ended up buying 9 and will use the large ones in place of baskets in Milana’s playroom at home.  You can read the history of these bags here.

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As far as food goes, we ate a lot of yummy street food and at a few mediocre restaurants that I won’t mention. However, you must go to La Olla Cartagenera at least once during your visit.  It is definitely one of the best meals we have had anywhere in the world.  The whole red snapper was super fresh and the arroz con pollo was the best we’ve ever had.  Their brown coconut rice is out of this world, we could have eaten just that!  Milana really enjoyed her shrimp with garlic sauce as well.  Don’t miss this gem!  Martin is the one who told us about it, and we are so glad he did.

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Cartagena is a beautiful city, filled with rich history and culture,  that is perfect for a 3 night stay. I personally wouldn’t stay longer as you can see pretty much everything during that time, but it’s definitely worth a visit!

 

35 comments

  1. Cartagena looks like a great spot for a getaway! You daughter is also the perfect little model – there are some gorgeous shots in this post!

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  2. This is such a cute post! I loved all of the pictures of Cartagena and your adorable child! The walled city seems really cool and I’m with your daughter – mango ice cream is always a good idea! 😀

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  3. Never realize how close Cartagena is from Miami, definitely a cool weekend getaway destination. Sounds like hiring a private guide to show you around and get great food recommendations was definitely the way to go.

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  4. Cartagena is always good for great colourful photos, isn’t it?

    I love the markets and the little bags, and the food really does look good.
    Interesting that you do it as a weekend destination from Florida too; I wouldn’t have thought to do that.

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  5. Some super-adorable snaps you got here, particularly the first with the pilots while the one in which your daughter coming off the slide really made my girlfriend and I laugh. Aside from that, Cartagena looks like a great spot and the street food in Colombia really is among the best I’ve had. Looking forward to future posts!

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  6. Your daughter is just adorable! Cartagena seems like a great destination for traveling with kids. I was actually supposed to be there this week but my trip got moved. Here’s to seeing Cartagena in the future 🙂

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  7. Ok I seriously died over this… Could your daughter be any cuter!?!? Is she Instagram famous yet?! She’s such a little model. So cute. Great info here — I love how colorful it all is! (I’m color obsessed) San Diego square reminds me a lot of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico which I loveeeeeed. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. Omg. Your daughter’s is absolutely adorable! I agree with Christie (above)! I have been wanting to visit Cartagena for the longest time. The colors, the culture, the history — it’s all so inviting! Love love love your photos!

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  9. What a great getaway. We always resist getting a guide or a tour, but then love it when we do. You learn so much and it makes the visit more meaningful. And a big yes to the mango ice cream!

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  10. Cartagena is so colorful! All your photos were so fun, especially with your daughter’s big happy face! Would love to try the street food and visit those street markets. It looks amazing!

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  11. Having a private guide is so much better. We did the same in Beijing. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll definitely reach out to him when we make a trip there. And those bags are so colorful.

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  12. This is on my list of places to take my daughter! It is so colorful and looks amazing for kids! I am glad to know that it can be done in just a few days so it would be perfect for a short getaway! Also, I am totally drooling over the mango pops 🙂

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  13. What an absolutely beautiful looking place. It’s sooo colourful there! It looks like your family – especially your daughter, had a wonderful time.

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  14. When I first read the title of the article, I thought it will be a story about Cartagena in Spain ha! But what a great place in Columbia is that! Sounds safe too, which is great! I would love to go on a tour with Martin! Sounds like a great day out exploring. Your kiddie makes a great model too! Thanks for sharing!

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  15. Colombia is so high on my bucket list, and I’d love to visit Cartagena! Sounds like a private guide is definitely the way to go to make exploring the city easier. Thanks for the tip! But to be honest, I’m probably most excited by that street food! Yum!

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  16. Private tours are the best way to see a city! I love that you can customize it for your specific interests, while in a more comfortable transport.

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  17. Hahah awee Milana is such a good model!! She really knows how to work the camera haha. You should see photos from when I was a kid… such a disaster. Anyway, this looks like such a great trip! I’d love to try some of the street food you mentioned and get myself one of those Wayuu Mochila bags. I’m not surprised at all that you got 9 haha. PS: I really hope that pina colada from the pic is non-alcoholic 😉 haha

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  18. I have to say, I have never traveled with young kids but Milana seems to really enjoy it! I love the photos, by the way. What kind of camera/lens do you use? They came out so clear and beautiful.

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  19. It’s definitely interesting to read a travel with kids perspective on somewhere normally so popular with backpackers. I’ll be picking up one of those mochilas for sure when I visit!

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  20. First of all, your little traveller and her dress is just adorable! Second, this is one place I would love to visit! Especially intrigued from your descriptions of the street food 🙂 thanks for sharing!

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  21. Aw that’s so nice of the pilots to take a photo with Milana! She looks like she had a blast on the water slide. The market looks really vibrant – I am always a fan of checking out the local markets when I travel to a new city.

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