The reigning queen of Colombia’s beach scene has high-end hotels that have ushered in rock royalty such as Mick Jagger.
Cartagena rightly claims to sport Colombia’s most prized tropical hideaway hotels. Elect to unwind in centuries-old retreats or plump for palm-fringed properties ushering guests out onto unpeopled sands and into crystalline waters. Some resorts are close to the city center; others stretch away both north and south along the coastline – perfect if you’re a second-time visitor to the city seeking more space. Here are the best.
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“Paradise closer than ever” sings Baru Playa Eco Beach Resort’s siren call and, though you have to travel 31mi (50km) south of Cartagena to get here, it’s hard to conceive a stay with a more paradisiacal feel than this, becalmed as it is at the end of a gangly, mangrove-knotted peninsula. A divine 656ft (200m) stretch of palm-dotted white sand is the hotel’s own, and with just nine rooms, there are precious few others you’ll have to share it with.
Very close to Cartagena’s Walled City, La Emita (the hermitage) stands prettily out from its neighbors on beachside Avenida Santander with its pearl-white, colonnaded exterior. This hotel is part of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio and looks quite the distinguished part. Rooms, with leaf-silhouette wallpaper and teal-tinted fabrics, are debonair and there’s a refined old-world elegance to the Middle Eastern-themed Seňora Ayda Restaurant and La Biblioteca Bar.
Tucked away in a palm-flanked nook of Tierra Bomba Island, just offshore from Cartagena, low-key Fénix Beach provides paradise-seekers with superior doubles or huge bungalows, all with private balconies, terraces or courtyards. The boat trip out from the Marina Santa Cruz in the Manga neighborhood of Cartagena is included in the price of a day pass; and the path to the buff-colored sandy beach passes through a beautiful domed trellis trailed by flowers.
This is one of the most Zen-like retreats you can find in the Cartagena area, made peaceful by virtue of its location on Isla Tierra Bomba, and further helped in the spiritual healing stakes by a Zen-themed room and a beautiful yoga and meditation area. It also has one of the coolest beach clubs of any Cartagena resort: the Namaste, with its lovingly crafted rattan furniture and palapa-roofed four-poster relaxation beds.
At the end of the peninsula protruding south from Central Cartagena, this one is definitely a looker, ensconced in a palatial white carapace, adorned by fetching campanarios (belfries) and hemmed in by palm-dotted grounds. The 363 rooms are all finished in soothing tones that err toward a maritime feel. There are three restaurants, a half-Olympic-size pool (as well as one for kids), plus minigolf, a solarium, a gym and a spa with massage services and a sauna.
At a mere 3.8mi (6km) northeast of the Walled City, this all-inclusive complex is one of the closest resorts to Cartagena, and among the closest to the airport. It sits behind Buena Vida Beach and consists of an eight-floor block, the Torre del Mar, and a prettier series of white, terracotta-roofed low-rise villas, plunged within thickets of greenery. It’s easy to lose count of all the pools here, which are scattered in four key areas, mainly outside Torre del Mar.
The Kohsamui is where decadence meets tradition. Named after the Thai island renowned for its luxury resorts, and set amid palm-fringed beaches, this is a Cartagena take on a beachside paradise, and despite being in the city’s resort zone, it feels more authentically and rurally Colombian than most other accommodations hereabouts. Beneath the rustic palm-thatched roofs, rooms are big and beautiful with hardwood floors and airy terraces slung by hammocks; the swooshing of the nearby ocean is ever-audible.
Looking for more? Explore the rest of Colombia and stay at one of the best resorts across the country – now bookable through Culture Trip.
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