Nestled among Cartagena’s carved balconies and vine-draped doorways are some of the world’s best spas.
Take a break from the heat of the streets to refresh and replenish your energy with the city’s most relaxing rituals and treatments. The only stress is how you’ll choose between spas inspired by local ingredients, historical settings and the Caribbean Sea.
Courtesy of Casa San Agustin
Ancient Colombian civilizations revered the sun as a god, and the sun was believed to live in the earth itself in the form of gold, or aurum in Latin. Gold lives on as a deity at the Aurum Spa, whose stunning rooms are themed around the metal, as is its signature treatment: a nourishing gold body wrap. Aurum has Cartagena’s only authentic Moroccan hammam, as well as a plethora of multisensory rituals involving coffee, volcanic mud and pure tobacco. The spa lies inside Casa Santa Augustin, a boutique hotel that brings together all of Cartagena’s glory in a set of colonial-era houses once frequented by beloved Colombian author Gabriel Garciá Márquez. Bursting with original features, the spa even has an aljibe (a traditional wishing well) just in case your most golden dreams haven’t been fulfilled. After an afternoon at Aurum, it might not be necessary.
Get fruity with this spa’s unique focus on tropical products and aromatherapy. For travelers with aching necks from looking up at Cartagena’s endless beautiful architecture and balconies overflowing with pink bougainvillea flowers, there’s a bamboo-cane massage available to relax muscles and joints. For an afternoon of deep relaxation, Bastión Luxury Spa offers a three-hour head-to-toe experience using Colombian products, which includes a body wrap of local sea salt to a facial treatment of cane sugar and lime. Tucked away in the Bastión Luxury Hotel – a beautifully re-created colonial home in the middle of Cartagena’s walled city – the spa has two cabins with a jacuzzi and daybeds for post-treatment relaxation.
It may not technically be a spa, but to get treatments directly from Mother Nature herself, you can’t beat this volcano-top mud bath, known locally as ‘the volcano of youth.’ The volcano’s magnesium-rich mud conditions the hair, exfoliates the skin and can even improve circulation or alleviate some skin conditions. Be prepared to climb a wooden ladder before diving into the thick, gray mud bath at the top, where visitors sit suspended and absorb the natural goodness. You can even get a traditional massage in the volcano crater. Once the wallowing is done, there’s a nearby lake in which to wash off the mud. There are several companies in Cartagena that can arrange a tour here. Alternatively, hop in a cab – it’s right outside the city.
If you like your spa experience served straight up, SoSpa is the one for you. Named Best Luxury Romantic Spa in South America at the World Luxury Spa Awards in 2019, it’s a classy but sumptuous place for pampering. Treatments are available for everything from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes, and it also has a gym and solarium on offer. SoSpa is tucked away in the Hotel Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena, a colonial gem in the heart of Cartagena’s walled city. Walking through the courtyard – dense with plants and palms – makes visiting the spa worthwhile before you’ve even unfurled your towel.
Santa Teresa Spa was named Colombia’s Best Hotel Spa 2019 at the World Spa Awards for its fusion of philosophies; the spa combines modern techniques and technologies with traditional Eastern knowledge. In addition to its jacuzzi and Turkish baths, Santa Teresa offers beauty treatments and a gym. Set inside the cloisters of the Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa, a multi-award winner in its own right, this building dates back to the 17th century and has been used as a convent, a school and a barracks. The hotel’s orange arches are archetypal Cartagena architecture, and the walls exude a grandiose calm that you can’t help but absorb while at the spa.
If you’re looking for something holistic and maybe even a little spiritual, Kúa’s philosophy is based on the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. The spa’s fire therapies will connect you with your body’s energy, ignite motivation and reactivate passion for life. The water therapies will help the mind and body flow. Air treatments aim to reduce stress, connect you to your breath and reoxygenate the body. Finally, earth therapies seek to help refocus and reroot in what’s important. There are individual massage cabins or those for couples, all nestled in the Movich Cartagena de Indias Hotel, which itself is a taste of colonial Cartagena.
This hotel spa is a tribute to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a remote mountainous region in northern Colombia, not too far from Cartagena. It’s stowed away in the Casona del Colegio – a hotel in the heart of Cartagena’s walled city that focuses on uniquely personalized experiences of comfort and privacy. The Sierra inspires the spa treatments here – both in products and in rituals. Locally produced coffee and chocolate form a central part of the treatments, as do the wisdom and rituals of local indigenous communities, whose knowledge of anatomy and natural remedies are integrated into the spa’s philosophy.
Feel your stress melt away in this luxury oasis in the center of Cartagena’s historic district. Tcherassi’s therapies, treatments and rituals are based on the WakanSpa concept, which is inspired by traditional Chinese medicine. WakanSpa combines Eastern and Western traditions, balancing sensory and technological stimulation to maximize relaxation and well-being. Consult Tcherassi’s expert team to help decide between its many therapies and treatments that incorporate special ingredients such as pearls, volcanic rock and Colombian coffee.
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For a Caribbean-inspired spa, visit Aqoral Spa, located in the Hyatt Regency – a swanky modern hotel building in Boca Grande, a beachy peninsula just outside the walled part of the city. Aqoral offers a range of treatments that use local ingredients like Colombian coffee. Taking relaxation to the next level, the spa also has innovative treatments using medicinal cannabis oil.
If you’re in a culinary mood, take your pick of Casa Pestagua’s range of treatments based on wine, caviar, chocolate, sea salt and coffee. After a day on the sunny streets or one of Cartagena’s scorching beaches, you’ll definitely be craving this spa’s unique after-sun treatment. According to the treatment’s description, “There’s no such thing as lovely skin without good exfoliation.” This ritual naturally begins with a healing rub and then a deep hydration treatment to repair your skin from the ravages of the Caribbean sun. Casa Pestagua also has a terrace, complete with a jacuzzi that looks over the Caribbean and the old city, and one of the best sunset views in Cartagena.