You know, sometimes I get this craving to go back to Cartagena. My mind takes me back to the vibrancy and colour, the delicious smells of local food wafting through the air and the endless tropical stretches of beach. It hits me randomly and when it happens it hits hard. The craving to go back fills my soul and I just can’t shake it. 

If you’ve booked to go to Columbia’s beautiful Cartagena, you’ll probably end up like me and have the most incredible trip EVER and be forever dreaming about that time you went to Cartagena. 

Whether you want to explore the historical walled city, get a taste of Colombia’s legendary nightlife, or base yourself near the Caribbean, there is something in Cartagena for you. You just need to know where to base yourself to make the most of your trip.

Unfortunately, deciding where to stay in Cartagena is no easy mission to be tasked with. The city has grown exponentially, so the districts can feel very different from one another. 

But never fear! That’s where I come in. I’ve compiled everything I know into this guide to help you decide where to stay in Cartagena. I’ll take you through the best areas to stay, as well as, my top picks for accommodation and things to do in each. You’ll be an expert on the areas of Cartagena in no time. 

Vamos, amigo! Let’s get into the good stuff.

Where is the Best Place to Stay in Cartagena?

If you were looking for a specific place to stay while backpacking Cartagena, then look no further than my top three accommodation picks for Cartagena below…

For all the budget backpackers, staying at one of Cartagena’s epic hostels will be the best choice. Keep the costs low while enjoying a comfy bed and a safe place to rest your head. For others, there are a handful of gorgeous hotels and private stays to be had at some juicy prices too!

Cartagena Coffee Shop
Right by a coffee shop, duh!

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Casa Pizarro Hotel Boutique | Best Hotel in Cartagena

Casa Pizarro Hotel Boutique

Big, comfortable, modern-style rooms plus friendly, helpful staff make this boutique hotel a real gem. A few things that make this hotel one of the best places to stay in Cartagena are a refreshing pool for guests to use, a large traditional breakfast, and a convenient location within walking distance to the historic walled city and tourist site, but still in a fun local neighbourhood.

Republica Hostel | Best Hostel in Cartagena

Republica Hostel

Republica is undoubtedly the best hostel in Cartagena. It’s clean, social, cheap and fun! Personally, I have stayed here several times and just love the vibe. The dorm rooms are neat and organised, the shared kitchen is great and the pool is always glistening. Whatever your reason for coming to Cartagena and whoever you’re travelling with, chances are Republica Hostel will tick all the boxes for you!

Studio in Awesome Location | Best Airbnb in Cartagena

Studio in Awesome Location

Situated among the winding lanes of the old town, this chic, modern studio apartment offers everything you need for your trip to Cartagena.

Its small kitchen is ideal for whipping up eggs and brewing your morning coffee. The bathrooms are clean and large, and more importantly, the bed is uber comfortable. There’s even access to a terrace with a jacuzzi!

Cartagena Neighborhood Guide – Best Places to Stay in Cartagena

FIRST TIME IN CARTAGENA
Centro
FIRST TIME IN CARTAGENA

Centro

Centro is the undisputed center point of Cartagena’s tourism industry, and for a good reason. The streets here are pristine, vibrant, and filled with relics of the past hundreds of years.

ON A BUDGET
Manga, Cartagena
ON A BUDGET

Manga

Whereas Centro is bustling and busy and touristed, Manga provides the antidote since tourists don’t seem to visit this part of Cartagena often. That means a naturally more laid-back character.

NIGHTLIFE
Getsemani in Cartagena
NIGHTLIFE

Getsemaní

Getsemani is Cartagena’s bastion of alternative cool, an area of street art and the city’s emerging hipster scene. Set just outside the old walled city, Getsemani was previously known for its crime – and some parts still don’t feel 100% safe at night – but musicians, artists, and backpackers are beginning to make a community in this bustling area.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
San Diego, Cartagena
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

San Diego

Just to the north of Centro, and still inside the environs of the old walled city, is the area of San Diego.

FOR FAMILIES
Bocagrande in Cartagena
FOR FAMILIES

Bocagrande

This strip of seaside skyscrapers is Cartagena’s modern heart, a beach resort with a cosmopolitan backdrop of international hotels and a host of restaurants serving food from all over the world.

Cartagena is an old port city that has long been important for the import and export of goods. Founded by the Spanish in 1533, today this old colonial town is Colombia’s fifth-largest city, but the history of this place attracts visitors to its central area, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But it’s not all about history: Cartagena’s tropical climate and beaches make it an epic city for a Caribbean getaway.

Taking up a triangle-shaped space in Cartagena’s oldest area, the walled city, we begin with Centro, short for Centro Historico. Simply meaning ‘historical centre’, here is where you will find the astoundingly well-preserved colonial architecture that this city is famous for. 

As such, Centro is also the busiest and most touristy area of Cartagena. The backpacking scene is thriving here thanks to the amount of great hostels nearby.

Cartagena City Wall
Walking along the city wall.
Photo: Sasha Savinov

To the south of Centro on an island sheltered by the spit of land is Manga. Manga is a leafy residential area with a laid-back atmosphere.

To the northwest of Manga is the hip area of Getsemani. Previously known as a haven of crime (and still somewhat sketchy at night in some parts), the district is known for its street art and cool edge that other parts of the city lack.

And comprising the northeastern portion of the old walled city is San Diego. Though bordering Centro to the south, San Diego is far less about luxury and has more of a bohemian, alternative vibe.

Finally, we move on to Bocagrande. This is New Cartagena, a spit of land covered in skyscrapers that represent modern Colombia as it is today.

Each area has a certain flavour you’ll want to consider when thinking about where to stay in Cartagena, so let’s go into it in some more detail…

Cartagena’s Five Best Neighbourhoods to Stay In

Though a mountainous region, Cartagena is well linked by its roads; bus routes regularly ply the most obvious routes between major towns. Boats roll up and down the river too, connecting Avanos with other riverside towns and villages.

The appeal of Cartagena as a destination for those travelling in Colombia is the fact that it is the perfect cocktail of sightseeing and history. Add a dash of cool, authentic atmosphere, and garnish of modern cosmopolitan, beachside charm. This unbeatable recipe means you’re unlikely to bore.

You could be eating sushi in Bocagrande for lunch and then checking out the backpacking bars of Getsemani that night. Taxis are very affordable, so whether it’s skyscrapers or saintly churches you’re looking for, you can get there easily.

But when it comes to a specific area, where will suit you (and your budget) the best? Here’s a breakdown of the best neighbourhoods in Cartagena to help you decide.

1. Centro – Where to Stay in Cartagena Your First Time

Centro is the undisputed centre point of Cartagena’s tourism industry and for a good reason. The streets here are pristine, vibrant, and filled with relics of the past hundreds of years. You can easily get lost among the charming streets taking pictures all day, it’s that beautiful.

Centro

With the influx of tourists, obviously, the Centro Historico can get very busy. However, because of that, you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of things to do here, luxury and boutique hotel options, and there are a whole host of cafes and restaurants to dine in too.

Casa Mantilla | Best Hotel in Centro

Casa Mantilla

Beautiful and historic, this hotel is breathtaking. The location down an old street adds to the ambience of the building; spend evenings on the balcony listening to the sounds of the city and enjoy a morning swim in the pretty pool.

The rooms are very spacious and all of the facilities are well-maintained.

Republica Hostel | Best Hostel in Centro

Republica Hostel

Republica is undoubtedly the best hostel in Cartagena, and possibly one of the best hostels in Colombia. It’s clean, social, cheap and fun! Personally, I have stayed here several times and just love the vibe.

The dorm rooms are neat and organised, the shared kitchen is great and the pool is always glistening. Whatever your reason for coming to Cartagena and whoever you’re travelling with, chances are Republica Hostel will tick all the boxes for you!

Studio with Jacuzzi | Best Airbnb in Centro

Studio in Awesome Location

This amazing one-bedroom studio is in one of the best buildings inside the old city- centrally located only 1 block from the cathedral and all the great shops and restaurants that Cartagena has to offer. Guests in the apartment building also have access to an amazing terrace with a jacuzzi.

Things to See and Do in Centro

  1. Marvel at the almost 500-year-old church of Iglesia de San Pedro Claver.
  2. Visit the Palace of the Inquisition, ironically one of the most beautiful baroque buildings in the area that houses a sombre museum.
  3. Admire the details of the stunning Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría.
  4. Stroll around the pretty Parque da La Marina.
  5. Take a guided street food tour and discover Colombia’s Caribbean cuisine.
  6. Learn about Colombia’s navy, culture, and history at Museo Naval Del Caribe.
  7. Walk down the colourful Calle de Los Siete Infantes.
  8. Check out the gold, silver, and ceramics of Museo del Oro Zenú – all about pre-Colombian culture.
  9. Go see the fortress of Baluarte de Santo Domingo for stunning sea views…
  10. … And sip delicious cocktails at Café del Mar (also at the fortress) as the sun sets.
  11. Embark on a catamaran cruise through the Rosario Islands.
Rosario Islands in Colombia
The Rosarios in all their glory!
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2. Manga Neighborhood – Best Place to Stay in Cartagena on a Budget

Whereas Centro is bustling and busy, Manga provides the antidote since tourists don’t seem to visit this part of Cartagena often. That means a naturally more laid-back character.

Manga, Cartagena
Manga is fabulous
Photo: Felipe Ortega Grijalba (WikiCommons)

Because of its quiet nature, it may be less stressful to stay here with your family. This area might also be the best place to stay in Cartagena for couples since it is romantic and secluded.

Manga isn’t exactly brimming with sights like Centro is, but that’s why it is easier to get cheaper accommodation here. Moreover, the area is still quite charming with its quieter streets and harbour-skyline views.

Bahia 79 Apartasuites | Best Hotel in Manga

Bahia 79 Apartasuites

The view from the top-floor lounge in this gorgeous hotel is to die for. Bahia 79 Apartsuites is a fantastic option for those looking for a hotel in Manga that’s close enough to the action-packed city centre of Cartagena without being so close that it keeps you up at night. There are a variety of room options at very fair prices.

San Jacinto Hostel | Best Hostel in Manga

San Jacinto Hostel

San Jacinto is a wonderful little hostel. They have 4 or 6-bed dorm rooms as well as 4-bed female-only dorms. They also offer private room or family room options. This place is ideal for couples looking for a quiet, cosy hostel where they can base themselves. It’s super clean and also serves up a yummy breakfast.

Aparthotel – Couple Room | Best Airbnb in Manga

Aparthotel Couple Room

Ideal for couples in an exclusive area of Manga, this one-bedroom comes equipped with modern amenities like a private bathroom with a rain shower, air conditioning and a smart TV. The building has a receptionist with 24/7 video surveillance, WiFi, and a small pool are part of the enjoyment of the hotel. It is located near the Historic Center of the city of Cartagena and a few steps from Castillo San Felipe.

Things to See and Do in Manga

  1. Admire the Church Santa Cruz de Manga and its ornate bell tower.
  2. Eat at Club de Pesca, perhaps the best seafood restaurant in Cartagena.
  3. Wander around the Cementerio Santa Cruz de Manga, jostling with white mausoleums.
  4. Snap a pic of Casa Roman, a colourful arabesque private home.
  5. Take a walk through the green, sea-hugging San Lázaro area.
  6. Simply stroll around discovering some of the spectacular old mansions of Manga.
  7. Walk along the Parque del Pastelillo with views across Bahia de Manga. You can see the skyscrapers of Bocagrande across the water.
Manga Cartagena
Photo: Reg Nataraja (Flickr)

3. Getsemaní – Best Area to Stay in Cartagena For Nightlife

Getsemani is Cartagena’s bastion of alternative cool, an area of street art and the city’s emerging hipster scene. Set just outside the old walled city, Getsemani was previously known for its crime – and it can be a dangerous part of Cartagena. Some parts still don’t feel 100% safe at night – but musicians, artists, and backpackers are beginning to make a community in this bustling area.

Getsemani in Cartagena
Getsemani is photogenic AF

Although it’s outside of Cartagena’s historic walled city, there are still many examples of colonial architecture here, which combined with the vibrant street art and graffiti daubed onto the sides of old buildings, make it a unique and fun place to explore.

Hotel Casa Tere Boutique | Best Hotel in Getsemani

Hotel Casa Tere Boutique

Easy walking distance to lots of eateries and bars, this boutique hotel is close to the old city, but in a safe and quiet location. Rooms up high have beautiful views and there is a tapas bar attached to the hotel which serves tasty Colombian food and wine.

The traditional open feel is welcoming and there is a terrace, a swimming pool and a hot tub, where guests can take some time out from sightseeing.

Life is Good Cartagena Hostel | Best Hostel in Getsemani

Life is Good Cartagena Hostel

This hostel has everything you need to make your stay in the city comfortable. Choose from the dorm rooms with clean beds that have privacy curtains, or a private room with an ensuite bathroom.

The staff at the hostel are really helpful and will give you sightseeing and restaurant tips. There’s a rooftop hot tub to enjoy, too, as well as a complimentary breakfast.

Getsemani BATTLESHIP | Best Airbnb in Getsemani

Getsemani BATTLESHIP

This Airbnb in Getsemani is the quintessential Colombian home. It’s a great budget option for those looking for a private stay in the area without breaking the bank. There are two rooms in the property and it can accommodate up to four guests.

Things to See and Do in Getsemani

  1. Discover the area’s amazing murals – like those at Calle de las Tortugas.
  2. Take a breather and chill for a moment in Parque Del Centenario.
  3. Head for cocktails and tapas at Demente.
  4. Join a pub crawl with dancing and complimentary drinks.
  5. Visit the recently restored Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad.
  6. Eat pizza at the famous Di Silvio Trattoria.
  7. Visit Cafe Havana for old-world charm and party ‘til late.
  8. Meander down the Calle San Andres and browse its bars and eateries.
  9. Step along the Pier Los Pegasos, and admire the view and the Pegasus statues.
Getsemani Cartagena
Just look at the colours 🙂
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4. San Diego – Coolest Place to Stay in Cartagena

Just to the north of Centro, and still inside the environs of the old walled city, is the area of San Diego.

With as much history and many historic buildings as its southern neighbour, but with fewer tourists, this atmospheric district is where students come from the nearby art college of Bellas Artes to meet up and have fun.

San Diego, Cartagena
Photo: JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD (WikiCommons)

You’ll also find some of the best food and restaurants in Cartagena around the lively Plaza de San Diego, complete with historic church and street performers. This area is the place to come if you want the open-air museum feel of Centro but with less of the tourist numbers.

Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena | Best Hotel in San Diego

Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena

If you’re looking to splash some cash on a simply STUNNING hotel when staying in Cartagena de Indias, you should check out Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. This boutique hotel is luxury-defined.

Viajero Cartagena Hostel | Best Hostel in San Diego

Viajero Cartagena Hostel

Viajero Hostels are always fabulous. This Viajero in San Diego is a classic backpacking favourite hosting over 3000 backpackers already! There is always a great atmosphere in these social hostels (especially around the pool) and I love staying in them as a solo traveller.

Stylish Old-Town Duplex | Best Airbnb in San Diego

Stylish Old-Town Duplex

Airbnbs don’t get much better value than this Stylish Old-Town Duplex. Located in the heart of San Diego, it’s close enough to all the action, without the noise. There is space in this Airbnb for up to 5 guests and it’s fantastic for families or groups of friends.

Things to See and Do in San Diego

  1. Admire the entrance to the luxurious Santa Clara Hotel.
  2. Catch a play at renovated the theatre space of Sala de Teatro Reculá del Ovejo.
  3. Learn about the old walls of the city at Museo de Las Fortificaciones.
  4. Go to Plaza de San Diego, marvel at the church, and grab some street food.
  5. Check out the former dungeon of Plaza de Las Bovedas now home to souvenir shops.
  6. Watch the fisherman haul in their catch at the aptly named Fishermans Beach.
  7. Join a walking tour of the historic walled city of Cartagena de Indias.
  8. Enjoy a mojito and a cigar at Cuba 1940.
  9. Try the 5-course tasting menu at Carmen Cartagena – one of the city’s best restaurants.
  10. Head to the Murallas De Cartagena – the old walls of the city – for great sunset views.
San Diego Cartagena
Blue skies, blue buildings
Photo: Joe Ross (Flickr)

5. Bocagrande – Best Neighborhood in Cartagena for Families to Stay In

This strip of seaside skyscrapers is Cartagena’s modern heart, a beach resort with a cosmopolitan backdrop of international hotels and a host of restaurants serving food from all over the world.

One of the most expensive areas in the entire country, let alone Cartagena itself, this area is home to gated communities and wealthy Colombians.

Bocagrande, Cartagena
Bocagrande sure is grand

This is the best place to stay in Cartagena if you like modern luxuries. Keen shoppers will like this place, as will those of you who just want to kick back and unwind at the beach.

Hotel Almirante | Best Hotel in Bocagrande

Hotel Almirante

Is this the best luxury hotel in Cartagena? Maybe. Hotel Almirante is INSANE.

There are tons of different rooms or suites available and the pool and view are to die for. This isn’t the cheapest hotel in the world, but it may well be one of the nicest.

Hotel Ocean View | Best Hostel in Bocagrande

Hotel Ocean View

This simple, clean and budget-friendly hotel/hostel has private rooms or 6-bed dorms. There are also private apartment portions which are great for families or friend groups. If you are after a good value stay with an ocean view, look no further!

Spectacular 35th-floor studio with sea views | Best Airbnb in Bocagrande

Spectacular 35th-floor studio with sea views

This apartment is unique; it has a combination of the ocean which merges into the horizon and the constellations drawn in the sky, this is amongst the most beautiful apartments in Cartagena. The apartment can accommodate 4 guests, the building has a gym, sauna, pool, and jacuzzi for no extra charge.

Things to See and Do in Bocagrande

  1. Walk the streets in search of designer clothes from the many fashion shops.
  2. Look up in wonder at the Estelar Hotel, one of Colombia’s tallest buildings.
  3. Take a stroll around El Laguito, a little lake in the south of Bocagrande.
  4. Eat beachside (and affordable) at one of its most popular eateries, Kiosko El Bonny.
  5. Explore the mall of Plaza Bocagrande, complete with sea views.
  6. Chill out on one of several slices of the beautiful beach at Bocagrande.
  7. Push the boat out and treat yourself to a two-hour sunset cruise with a special someone.
Bocagrande Cartagena
Skyline by the sea… beat that
Photo: Reg Nataraja (Flickr)
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FAQs About Finding a Place to Stay in Cartagena

Here’s what people usually ask me about the areas of Cartagena and where to stay. Do you have any questions of your own? Feel free to drop them in the comments below. 🙂

Where NOT to stay in Cartagena?

Inland. Cartagena is great because of the coastline. With the Caribbean coastline right there, there’s nothing worse than being so far from the sea that you can’t even smell it. That’s my advice anyway.

Where to stay in Cartagena for kitesurfing?

El Laguito is my favourite kitesurfing spot in Cartagena which is just south of Bocagrande. So, staying in Bocagrande seems like a decent enough idea if you wanna kite surf. My favourite place to stay in Bocagrande is Hotel Almirante. It’s in a prime location for those wanting to access the kitesurfing in El Laguito.

Where to stay in Cartagena for singles / solo travellers?

Getsemaní. Whether you are a solo traveller or just a single looking to mingle, staying in an area with the best nightlife in the city is bound to be a good idea. If you are solo, I would recommend staying in a hostel. Both for the best social scene and for the best chance of meeting *special* friends.

What To Pack For Cartagena

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Product
Description
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

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Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

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Make Some New Buddies…

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Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Cartagena

Visiting Cartagena should be on everyone’s Colombia itinerary. The Caribbean vibes here are just to die for.

I’ve summed up the top 5 neighbourhoods, complete with the best hostels and hotels in each area. I hope you’ve found this list useful. 🙂 After spending a few days in this marvellous city, you’ll quickly see why seeing Cartagena is one of the top 17 reasons to visit Colombia.

Still wondering where to stay in Cartagena? Here’s my recap of the best places to stay in Cartagena.

If you’re a solo traveller in Cartagena de Indias, you should defo stay in a hostel. My favourite hostel is in Centro – it’s the Republica Hostel.

If you fancy staying in a hotel, Casa Pizarro Hotel Boutique is within walking distance of the walled city. It’s a modern, comfortable and stylish hotel with a pool!

If you’re looking for a nice Airbnb to relax in, check out This Awesome Studio. It’s perfect for couples in Cartagena.

Did I miss anything? Let me know below!

Try not to smile in Colombia, I dare you!
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