Cartagena, Colombia is one of those destinations that feels completely different depending on the area in which you stay. The city is broken up into three primary areas. Visitors to the colorful coastal city typically stay in either the Old Town Cartagena; Getsemani; or Bocagrande. First-time visitors often have a lot of questions about Cartagena including where to stay in Cartagena.
This guide to where to stay in Cartagena breaks down the three best places to stay in Cartagena – the old walled city, the trendy and hip Getsemani, and the modern Bocagrande neighborhood. Plus, we provide recommendations for the best Cartagena Colombia hotels in each of the three districts.
About the best neighborhoods to stay in Cartagena
Cartagena – or Cartagena de Indias – is known for its flower draped terraces and colorful colonial buildings. This Colombian city on the Caribbean coast is rich in culture and beauty. But if you are wondering what area to stay in Cartagena, the neighborhood you choose will greatly determine your experience in the city.
Perhaps the most popular district for visitors to Cartagena is the historic city center, also known as the walled city of Cartagena or Old Town Cartagena. This beautiful, original area of the city encircled by a defensive wall is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the most striking area in the city.
A bit more budget-friendly than the old walled city, Getsemani is a trendy and youthful area of Cartagena to stay in. Popular among backpackers or those wondering where to stay in Cartagena for an extended amount of time, Getsemani is right outside the walled city and has an abundance of restaurants and nightlife.
Bocagrande is the final place to stay in Cartagena popular among first-time visitors. The modern, beachfront district features high-rise hotels and recognizable chains overlooking the ocean.
Where to stay in Cartagena for culture and beauty: Old Town Cartagena
If you want to stay in the heart of Cartagena, close to all the best things to do in Cartagena, the fortified old walled city is perhaps your finest option.
Often referred to as Old Town Cartagena, the walled city consists of the districts of El Centro and San Diego. The walled city is the most historic area of Cartagena. It is bustling with activity day and night, and without question, Old Town is the primary attraction of Cartagena. With colorful buildings, shaded plazas, and historic churches, the walled city of Cartagena is positively charming, picture perfect, and quintessential.
Lodging in this historic colonial area is primarily made up of boutique, locally owned and operated hotels called “casas.” Casas in Cartagena are old homes, mansions really, that have been renovated and converted into boutique hotels with just a handful of rooms. The hotels inside the walled city of Cartagena are old, charming, and unique. There is something truly enchanting about staying in a building that is 400 years old. Although it is more expensive to stay inside the walled city of Cartagena, you will feel much more immersed in the culture and magic of this enchanting city.
Pros of staying in the Cartagena walled city
- Walking distance to everything including restaurants, bars, and attractions
- Immersed in the culture and experience of Cartagena
- Charm and beauty right outside your hotel door or flower-draped terrace
Cons of staying in the Cartagena walled city
- Street noise from tourist crowds can be loud at times
- Swimming pools at most hotels are small, if they have them at all
Best Places to Stay in Cartagena’s Walled City
If you’re wondering where to stay in Cartagena’s walled city, there are a lot of hotels that come highly recommended for their location and charm.
Hotel Casa Quero
While we were in Cartagena we stayed at Casa Quero. Casa Quero is a charming boutique hotel located in the San Diego district of Old Town. It is conveniently located on a quiet and beautiful street inside the walled city of Cartagena. We stayed in the Grand Suite Condesa room which has high, vaulted ceilings and lovely, antique furnishings. The room had a shaded balcony overlooking the street. It also had a large bathroom with a separate shower and tub, which is great if visiting Cartagena with kids who still take baths instead of showers.
The hammocks, rooftop pool and rooftop terrace at Casa Quero were our favorite places to spend the afternoon when the Colombian heat became too unbearable to walk around and explore the town. Our stay also included a complimentary breakfast. The selection is limited, but the food and service were wonderful.
Bastión Luxury Hotel
Bastion Luxury Hotel is old-world charm meets modern amenities. Located near San Pedro Claver Plaza, from its large, rooftop terrace and pool you’ll have some of the best views in the city. The rooms have updated modern furnishings and the on-site restaurant offers gourmet options.
Although it has been completely renovated and remodeled, the hotel in El Centro district maintains some of its original 16th century appeal.
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena
If you’re looking for 5-star luxury with a large resort feel all within the walled city of Cartagena, Sofitel Legend Santa Clara is your splurge! Rated the best hotel in South America, this historic convent converted into a hotel boasts 125 guest rooms, including 25 suites along the Caribbean Sea.
The hotel also has two restaurants and three bars on the property and one of the best swimming pools in the city to relax and enjoy the atmosphere in Cartagena.
Where to stay in Cartagena on a budget: Getsemani
Located just south of Old Town, Getsemani is an up-and-coming area of Cartagena. Years ago, you wouldn’t have wanted to visit Getsemani, let alone stay the night there. It was a hotbed for drug activity and crime. But this area of Cartagena is now becoming increasingly touristy. It is particularly popular among backpackers and younger travelers due to budget-friendly lodging options and youth hostels, some of which are family-friendly.
Although Getsemani still has colonial charm similar to Old Town Cartagena, it also has a hip, urban feel to it with beautiful street art and murals, inexpensive food carts, and an exciting nightlife. With that said, it is still a district on the rise. While it may be safe, it is not quite as picturesque as Old Town. Many of the old, historical buildings are still a bit rundown and in need of renovation.
Because it is less expensive than the walled city, it is a great place to base yourself if you work remotely or lead a digital nomad lifestyle and you are planning an extended stay in Cartagena. It puts you close to the heart of the historic city center without the higher cost of actually staying there. So if you’re wondering where to stay in Cartagena on a budget, Getsemani is your diamond in the rough!
Pros of staying in Getsemani
- Less expensive than staying in the historic center of Cartagena
- Still within walking distance to the Historic Walled City
- Great street food and inexpensive restaurants and bars
Cons of staying in Getsemani
- A bit more run down than the Old City
- Can be noisy at night near the main plaza
- Outside of the heart of the city
Best Places to Stay in Cartagena’s Getsemani
If you are looking for a few hotels in Getsemani, here are a few of the best places to stay in Getsemani Cartagena. These hotels come highly reviewed and are great for families.
GHL Armeria Real Luxury Hotel
In Getsemani, Armeria Real Luxury Hotel offers townhouse style accommodations, which would be great for families traveling with children. The hotel provides the same charm and character that you’ll find in the walled city and 5-star luxury.
Additionally, the rooftop swimming pool at Armeria is an extra treat for those who value a place to swim. It overlooks the bay for picturesque views that will make the hot afternoons that much more enjoyable. Armeria also boasts a beautiful private patio for guests with a central fountain adding to the ambiance.
Hotel Boutique Casa Isabel
Another great boutique hotel overlooking the waterfront right on the edge of the Walled City and Getsemani, Hotel Boutique Casa Isabel has so much character! Small and intimate, this colorful casa has exceptional views of Castillo San Felipe from its rooftop terrace and guest patios.
Cozy and cute, this boutique hotel has so much detail and authentic decorations in the air-conditioned rooms.
Casa Pizarro Hotel Boutique
The bohemian neighborhood of Getsemani is also home to the lovely Hotel Casa Pizarro. This boutique hotel is a beautiful blend of contemporary and colonial elements.
With only 15 rooms, a central courtyard swimming pool, panoramic terrace, and complimentary, traditional Colombian breakfast, you’ll feel right at home in this cozy hotel. In fact, you may never want to leave!
Where to stay in Cartagena for beach hotels: Bocagrande
Bocagrande is known as modern Cartagena or the New City. It’s full of high rise buildings and North American hotel chains. If you prefer luxury over old-world character, Bocagrande would probably be more your scene. Many of the hotels have really nice pools and resort amenities. The hotels are located right on the water next to a public beach. Truthfully, the beach isn’t the greatest. It is crowded, the sand is dark, and the water isn’t really clear, but it is convenient if you want to be by the ocean.
Most visitors to Cartagena take a day trip to the Rosario Islands if they want to go to explore Colombia’s beaches. You can actually get a decent deal on a hotel room in Bocagrande, but on the downside getting to tourist sights or Old Town requires a 10-15 minute taxi ride.
Pros of staying in Bocagrande
- Modern, luxury hotels (if that’s your travel style)
- Large swimming pools
- Less expensive than Old Town
- On the beach
Cons of staying in Bocagrande
- Must take a taxi or rent a car to get to everywhere
- Lacks the charm and historical feel of Old Town and Getsemani
- The beach isn’t all that great
Best Places to Stay in Cartagena’s Bocagrande area
There are a number of hotel chains that you will recognize and trust located in Bocagrande. Here are two of the top-rated hotels in Bocagrande Cartagena that offer great pools and excellent amenities.
Hilton Hotel Cartagena
A great hotel in Bocagrande for families, the Hilton Cartagena offers mid-range accommodations with chic and modern vibes. The best part about the hotel though is the large swimming pool with a fun slide that is perfect for a vacation to Cartagena with kids. The hotel also has a kids center and a shallow splash pool with spray features perfect for younger children.
Hyatt Regency Cartagena
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena is another ultra-modern hotel in Bocagrande with a phenomenal swimming pool. The hotel has a long, narrow pool spanning the length of the building overlooking the beach and ocean. The rooms also have large windows offering epic ocean views and views of the Bay of Cartagena, as well. And with a wonderful restaurant on-site, you don’t have to make the drive into Old Town Cartagena for dinner unless you want to.
Where to stay in Cartagena: Old Town, Getsemani, or Bocagrande?
Where to stay in Cartagena, Colombia depends largely on your travel style and budget. If you can afford it, we highly recommend staying inside the walled city in the districts of El Centro or San Diego for the most authentic, cultural experience. Staying in a centuries-old casa is much more personal, and it puts you within walking distance to many of the main things to do in Cartagena.
Although staying in Old Town Cartagena is an incredible experience, both Getsemani and Bocagrande can offer a great vacation stay without the higher cost. Regardless of where you stay in Cartagena, the picturesque colonial city will definitely not disappoint!
Do you have a question about where to stay in Cartagena Colombia or about Cartagena’s Old Town, Getsemani, or Bocagrande neighborhoods? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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This Cartagena where to stay guide was first written in July 2018 and was updated in May 2022 for accuracy and current travel information.