Explore the colorful city of Cartagena in this family-friendly trip, starting with a guided walking tour through the city's colonial past and its 17th-century fortress, plus a cooking class with a local family. Enjoy a day trip to the white-sand beaches and protected coral reefs of the Rosario Islands, with activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and swimming. End your trip in the town of La Boquilla, where you'll learn traditional fishing techniques from local fishermen and enjoy a seafood lunch based on your daily catch.

Highlights

  • Walk the colorful streets of bohemian Getsemani enjoying its street art
  • Explore the pristine beaches and coral reefs of the Rosario Islands
  • Learn to cook traditional Colombian recipes with a local family
  • Try your hand at local fishing techniques with fishermen in La Boquilla
  • Discover the history of Cartagena with a guided walking tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cartagena - Enjoy a guided walking tour Cartagena
Day 2 Discover the neighborhoods and castle of Cartagena Cartagena
Day 3 Learn to cook traditional recipes with a local family Cartagena
Day 4 Enjoy the beaches and coral reefs of the Rosario Islands Cartagena
Day 5 Explore traditional fishing techniques and enjoy a seafood lunch Cartagena
Day 6 Depart Cartagena  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cartagena - Enjoy a guided walking tour

Colorful Streets of Getsemaniaera in Cartagena
Colorful Streets of Getsemaniaera in Cartagena

Welcome to Colombia!

Upon arriving at the airport in Cartagena, you'll transfer to your accommodation with your English-speaking guide. Along the way, you'll receive all the necessary information and documentation for your trip. After settling into your hotel, take some time to relax and explore the surrounding neighborhood.

In the afternoon, you'll join a guided walking tour to help you discover Cartagena, often referred to as the "Pearl of the Caribbean". The cobbled streets will transfer you back to colonial times as you stroll amid colorful houses and lively squares. You'll start in the expansive Plaza de los Coches, at the entrance to the city's Old Town. Enjoy the bright buildings housing bars and cafes, with their arched entryways and terraces. You'll find the city's Clock Tower here, acting as a gate in and out of the Old Town. Nearby is the pier with the Los Pegasos monument, where you can cross into the bohemian neighborhood of Getsemani.

Make your way through the twisting streets to the Cartagena Cathedral, built within the 16th and 17th centuries. Then head to Ciudad Amurallada along one of the most colorful streets in the city. You'll pass by Plaza de San Diego, a great spot to grab dinner later in the evening. 

End your tour at the yellow arcades and galleries of Plaza Las Bovedas, where you can look out to the Carribean Sea. For better views, walk along the old Walls of Cartagena, which are particularly beautiful at sunset.

Day 2: Discover the neighborhoods and castle of Cartagena

Balconies of Cartagena de Indias
Balconies of Cartagena de Indias

After breakfast, you'll meet your guide for another tour of Cartagena, this time focusing on the city's neighborhoods. First, you'll notice that Cartagena was designed like a fortress; this is because it was once the principal shipping port of gold from the New World back to Spain. No other site shows this in such detail as the city's castle, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.

This 17th-century fortress sits strategically atop San Lorenzo Hill, with panoramic views of the city and its coastline. After wandering the tunnels, you'll walk along the castle's ramparts, which helped protect it from countless pirate attacks.

As you make your way to the more modern neighborhood of Bocagrande, you'll pass monuments such as the 16th-century church Parroquia San Pedro Claver. Enjoy walking through the Old Town, strolling along streets lined with colonial houses featuring bougainvilia-draped balconies. As you reach Bocagrande, you'll see the contrast between modern architecture and the beauty of the old houses from the twentieth century. This long peninsula is lined with skyrise hotels and beaches.

Next, you'll visit the trendy, artistic, bohemian neighborhood Getsemani, one of the most traditional and popular sectors of the city. This is a great place to enjoy a traditional lunch. Afterward, explore some of the artisan shops featuring local craftsmanship, such as shoes, leather, jewelry, tailoring, and more. As you wander back toward your hotel, enjoy the street art along Calle De La Sierpe.

In the evening, grab a seat at one of the terraced cafes for a sunset aperitif, then head to dinner in the Old Town.

Day 3: Learn to cook traditional recipes with a local family

Old Town Cartagena

Enjoy a leisurely morning with a relaxed breakfast at your hotel. Then head out to enjoy the city on your own, perhaps with a stroll through the residential Manga neighborhood, another one of the city's more modern areas where you can witness blunt contrast between historic colonial buildings and skyscrapers. You'll also enjoy views of the port and skyline, plus the old fort at Pastelillo Park.

Return to the Old Town through Getsemaní, enjoying a refreshment and lunch at one of the patio cafes around Plaza de la Trinidad. The plaza's focal point includes an old yellow church of the same name, which was built around 1600. Then stroll along Calle Tripita, one of the city's most photographed areas. If you need something sweet, visit the Museo Del Cacao (Chocolate Museum).

In the late afternoon, it's time to explore the culinary scene of Cartagena. The region's cuisine is known for its warmth and flavor, mainly due to the generosity of the locals who've carried on generations of traditional techniques. For the best experience, you'll learn how to prepare the most authentic dishes of Cartagena in the comfort of a local family's home kitchen. Your hosts will welcome you with a traditional fruit drink as they explain the typical ingredients and techniques used in the recipes of the city.

Step-by-step, you'll learn how to prepare a menu of local delicacies, including appetizers, snacks, main dishes, and desserts. Armed with your fruity drinks, new friends, and a freshly-prepared meal, you'll enjoy a home-cooked dinner with your hosts in true Colombian style, by sharing your dishes and socializing into the night.

Day 4: Enjoy the beaches and coral reefs of the Rosario Islands

The Caribbean Landscape of Isla Grande.
The Caribbean Landscape of Isla Grande

A visit to the Rosario Islands will take you on an exciting day trip to the warm, crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea. Located just 45 minutes from Cartagena, this beautiful archipelago is made up of 27 islands off Colombia's west coast.

The Rosario Islands are part of the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Park, one of the most important nature reserves in the country. Here, both the islands and the surrounding waters are protected, leaving them as remarkably well-preserved ecosystems.

In the morning, you'll transfer from your hotel to the pier, where you'll board a boat headed for Isla Grande, the largest of the islands. Start with lunch at San Pedro de Majagua, and spend the afternoon discovering coral beaches and swimming amongst the diverse fauna of the reefs. If you're interested in water sports, Isla Grande is known for its scuba diving, snorkeling, standup paddleboarding, and kayaking. You can also take short boat trips to neighboring islands.

You'll return to Cartagena in the evening, where you can relax at your hotel and enjoy dinner.

Day 5: Explore traditional fishing techniques and enjoy a seafood lunch

La Boquilla Fishing Village near Cartagena
La Boquilla Fishing Village near Cartagena

Rise early to enjoy a day trip to the fishing town of La Boquilla, which is just north of Cartagena and home to many families of African origins. The village consists of two big lagoons: the Ciénaga de Juan Polo and the Ciénaga de la Virgen. Various species of fish are caught in these lagoons, and the fishermen use traditional techniques.

The three common fishing techniques used in La Boquilla include fishing line, nets (called atarrayas), and traps. The fishermen catch róbalo (sea bass), sábalo (shad), mojarra (common, two-banded sea bream), pargo negro (ocean bass), and lebranche (mullet), as well as sea snails, clams, shrimp, crawfish, and lobster. 

To truly learn the local techniques, you'll join seasoned fishermen out on their traditional fishing canoes. Your guide will act as a translator so you can ask questions, listen to stories, understand the routines, and try your hand at the different fishing methods. After about 2-3 hours, you'll take your haul and join one of the fishermen in their home, where you'll then learn how to prepare and cook your seafood. Together, you'll enjoy a fresh and delicious lunch, learning about the lives of La Boquilla locals.

In the late afternoon, you'll return to Cartagena for your final night in Colombia.

Day 6: Depart Cartagena

A traditional horse-drawn carriage in Cartagena.
A traditional horse-drawn carriage in Cartagena.

It's time to say goodbye to Colombia. After breakfast at the hotel, a driver will transfer you to the airport to catch your return flight home.