Cartagena with kids

Visiting Cartagena with kids was a great decision for our yearly spring break trip! The historic, colonial-era city is located in the north of Colombia, and is brimming with architecture, culture, and kid-friendly activities. When my family decided to visit during April, we split our time between Cartagena’s two areas: the walled city, and a nearby island. Besides a great way to escape the New York cold, it also provided us with a dual perspective on how wonderfully diverse a trip to Cartagena with kids can be! 

Hotels:

Charleston Saint Teresa

Beginning our trip on the walled side, we booked a stay at Saint Teresa – an iconic Cartagena hotel. Converted from a convent to a luxury boutique destination, Saint Teresa had a beautiful open courtyard to relax in and a rooftop pool, which my kids loved splashing around in during the extreme heat. We also appreciated the hospitality. Upon arrival the staff made my children feel so comfortable and even served us a tasty coconut lemonade drink — which we loved it so much we went back and drank it for every meal! Charleston Saint Teresa is a popular choice for families traveling to Cartagena due to its convenience to amazing restaurants, shopping centers, and, of course its view of the ancient fortifications! Plus, it has a relaxed atmosphere that’s ideal for winding down. Overall, it was a great place to spend our first few days in Cartagena, particularly because it provided us with easy access to the Cartagena wall and the rest of the ancient city. 

Other Recommended Hotels: 

Though we really enjoyed our stay at The Charleston Saint Teresa, you honestly can’t go wrong with a boutique hotel when visiting Cartagena with kids! Here are a few others that come to mind: Santa Clara, San Augustin, and the Casa Claver Boutique Hotel. 

Restaurants: 

While we stayed in Cartagena, we had the pleasure of dining in some of the city’s most delicious restaurants, including: 

Harry Sasson

During our first afternoon in town, we ate at Harry Sasson, Saint Teresa’s famous on-site restaurant. Located in an open-air atrium with a retractable roof, the restaurant offers a seafood-centric menu and views overlooking the courtyard. From crispy rice to calamari and patatas bravas, there are plenty of kid-friendly meals for little ones to enjoy — not to mention enormous portion sizes the whole family can share! My children really enjoyed their meals. And though we weren’t able to try any, this restaurant is also known for its pizza.

Mistura

Dine on seafood fusion with Cartagena’s twinkling city lights as your background at Mistura! This restaurant was the perfect date night for my husband and I. Focused on Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, the dining room was bustling, and even had some nice live music playing. Though we did see a few children eating there, we decided to leave our kids at the hotel with the babysitter and enjoy some quality time together. The menu, which ranges from Korean BBQ to fish risotto, sashimi, and black miso cod, was a perfect compliment to the extensive wine and sake menu, as well as the lively ambiance. I can’t wait to return! 

La Cevecheria

Famous for all things ceviche, La Cevicheria is a popular restaurant made even more famous by an appearance from the late Anthony Bourdain. It’s set in an intimate dining room and has a nautical theme that almost makes it seem like you’re dining in a replica ship, — which is a treat for kids! Bear in mind, however, La Cevecheria doesn’t take reservations and it gets crowded. But the wait was definitely worth it. All the different types of ceviche were so appetizing for my entire family. Try the Mexican or Columbian kind and you won’t be disappointed! Since the restaurant is fairly intimate, you can consider waiting for your table while having a drink at the nearby Hotel Santa Clara. 

Plaza Santa Teresa

Take in the soft sea breeze while you soak in Plaza Santa Teresa’s cheerful ambiance. A fabulous outdoor restaurant situated in Hotel Santa Teresa, its courtyard is ideal for dining on a cool Cartagena night. Perfect for kids, dinner here often features entertaining live music and some menu options for picky eaters. So, between pizza, empanadas, and fries, it’s sure to be a hit! After dinner, we took a carriage ride around the town to end our perfect day. Since carriages are located throughout Cartagena, they’re a great way to explore the city and everything it has to offer! 

Club de Pesca

Offering mesmerizing views of Cartagena, you can dine on an al-fresco terrace at Club de Pesca! One night, my family decided to venture a little outside of the walled city and watch the sunset over the harbor at Club de Pesca. I can’t recommend this place enough. Not only was the food good, but it also has a spectacular view of both the old and new town — unparalleled at any other restaurant in the area. The menu, which ranges from unique options like tuna with plantains to coconut rice and pasta with lobster, even features its own section for children. With a bit of a romantic ambiance, however, it could be great for a date night if you’re looking for an escape. Still, we also had a fantastic time here with our kids. They had so much fun watching the boats and yachts sail the marina!

Restaurant 1621

Combining French haute cuisine with Colombian classics, Restaurant 1621 is another great date night destination — though it can get pretty crowded in the evening. My husband and I needed to make a reservation in advance for this fine dining restaurant, located in the Santa Clara hotel — one of the most famous hotels in Cartagena! With an option of either sitting inside or on the outside veranda, we chose a table in the courtyard and decided to go the extra mile to make the evening even more romantic by taking a carriage to and from the restaurant. The ambiance was impeccable, and the food matched. The menu features elegantly crafted dishes like ratatouille, amuse bouche, filet mignon, and sea bass, each more mouth-watering than the last! Before we left, we went to the stunning hotel bar and walked around the pool area to enjoy the atmosphere some more. 

La Vitrola

La Vitrola boasts an up-scale ambiance and a congenial staff. Its coveted location on the seaside appealing to both locals and tourists alike. Still, the restaurant doesn’t allow kids at night. Fortunately, we were able to have the entire restaurant to ourselves during the day! I could tell it was a very swanky place, so I can only imagine the scene during the evening — once the sun sets, the restaurant is famed for its reputation as “the place to be,” with a live Cuban band that gets diners off their feet and onto the dance floor! When we ate during the day, my children specifically enjoyed the pasta with meat sauce. The menu features plenty of kid-friendly options such as tuna tartare or carpaccio. What put this restaurant above all the rest, though, was the special attention the staff gave my children — they treated them like royalty and made the whole experience so special! 

Carmen

Situated in a colonial house, Carmen is a tourist hotspot serving seafood-centric cuisine. Be aware that dinner here usually needs a reservation! Often called one of the “best restaurants in Cartagena,” my family chose to eat here one night to see what all the hype was about. Carmen’s menu, which features plates such as sea bass, beef brisket, and local red snapper, sources ingredients from local food purveyors and usually puts a twist on traditional dishes. The food we ate was fine — innovative and experimental, but not entirely memorable. If you’re looking for an authentic, local Cartagena experience, you definitely won’t find it here. But we did have a pleasant time. 

Cande

Cande is a complete cultural immersion. With an exotic blend of Carribean, Spanish, and Colombian influence, the restaurant aims to accompany Cartagena’s multicultural diversity. When we ate dinner here, it was undeniably full of tourists, but the food was appetizing and presented well. Its menu riffs off kid-friendly favorites like coconut rice, grilled lobster, and empanadas, fusing flavors as unique as the experience that unfolds throughout your meal. Dressed in traditional clothes, live entertainers will then put on a fantastic dance performance intermittently, making your meal even more special! My kids loved it and took so many pictures — it was definitely a night to remember! Be sure to make a reservation, though. The dining room will be jam-packed with families looking for the same experience. 

Cafe del Mar

Overlooking Cartagena’s ancient walls, Cafe del Mar can be enjoyed with or without kids. Watch as palm trees sway near the seaside, mirroring the restaurant’s seafood-heavy menu, which features kid-friendly dishes like squid rings as well as a designated kid’s entree: chicken breast with coconut rice. My family visited in the evening for drinks and it was definitely happening, so I’m really glad we made a reservation! Though the service was a little slow, it had a gorgeous view of the city, and my kids really loved the replica cannons on display and the live musical performances. If you plan on dining here, however, I highly recommend you bring some bug spray — its proximity to the water makes it a hotbed for mosquitos! 

Things To Do:

When vacationing in Cartagena with kids, there are so many family-friendly activities we found it a bit hard to choose! Here are some of our favorites: 

Explore the Old City

Cartagena is famed for its Old City, where a famous clock tower still stands as the symbol of the city’s history! Surrounded by stone fortresses and other Spanish fortifications, the area’s charm saturates each cobblestone road, inviting families to immerse themselves in the whimsical ambiance. When we visited, we didn’t hire a guide but instead chose to download an online app: Garcia-Marquez’s Cartagena. This way, my kids could learn at their own pace and keep themselves entertained with flexibility. There are plenty more apps you can download for free. Regardless, the best way to enjoy this quaint quarter is by roaming around spontaneously, taking in the beauty, and following wherever Cartagena leads you! 

The Aviary

The Cartagena Aviary showcases the country’s natural beauty throughout acres of lush forests! My kids have an interest in wildlife, so we planned a trip to this bird sanctuary on Baru, a small islet just a short drive south. Luckily, we left very early in the morning — which I definitely recommend because by the afternoon, the heat becomes almost unbearable! The Aviary showcases nearly 2,000 species of birds roaming free, some of which are endangered species, such as the harpy eagle. And, since it’s an educational facility, it’s perfect for parents who want their children to spend a few hours learning while on vacation! After driving for about an hour, our lovely chauffeur even escorted us in and acted as a guide, which was helpful and informative. Then we were given a map route and were told to go to the show first. 

Every day at 11:30 AM and 3:30 PM, The Aviary puts on a 15-minute show, where expert trainers discuss bird fun-facts and current efforts to preserve the species. Even though it was in Spanish, we still found it really entertaining! Kids can watch in amazement as a falcon flies up for food or a scarlet ibises circles the area. Afterward, we took some time to explore and saw peacocks, parrots, and pretty pink flamingos in their natural habitat! My children were mesmerized, completely immersed in the process. We even did a scavenger hunt to see if they could spot all of the species. The facility seemed to be environmentally-conscious and the birds were well-kept. 

I highly advise you to take spray bottles, umbrellas, and anything else to stay hydrated, regardless of the time of day!

Getsemani

The up-and-coming neighborhood of Getsemani boasts vibrant street art, trendy restaurants, and an authentic Cartagena vibe! It’s the perfect place to take an afternoon stroll or spend a few hours wandering spontaneously. My family and I roamed its streets one early evening and we loved what we saw: little flags hanging throughout the neighborhood, umbrellas suspended in the sky, and more murals than we could count! Plaza de la Trinidad is at the heart of all the action, so be sure to take it all in, and maybe even try some street food while you’re here. My kids loved posing and taking pictures with all the art we encountered throughout the neighborhood! 

ChocoMuseum

With multiple locations throughout Colombia, the ChocoMuseum comprehensively focuses on the country’s chocolate production! The Cartagena location features an on-site museum and a few workshop options, so my family booked a chocolate-making class to escape the heat and entertain ourselves for a few hours. ChocoMuseum’s Bean 2 Bar class is its most popular choice, lasting about two hours overall and even including a few drink samples. After waiting for our turn, we dressed up in matching aprons and adorable little hats, prepared to learn more about chocolate production! A unique feature about taking a chocolate class in a museum is that we were given a full history of the process before we began — from the fruit to fermentation, drying, and grinding. 

Then, we tried it for ourselves! With some instructions, we took the cocoa beans and made chocolate from it by sorting, deshelling, roasting, and grinding. Everything we initially learned, we eventually implemented, so it was very educational for kids. After grinding, we watched the chocolate become very creamy, and were then taught how to make special Columbian chocolate milk. Our “private chocolate course” also included a tasting of various kinds of chocolates and densities. The chocolate tasted okay. It was more about the actual process than the result, but we still had an amazing bonding experience. We brought so many goodie bags home to our friends, and my kids were so inspired by our time at the CocoMuseum, they later decided to do a science project on the process! 

Cooking Class

Cooking classes are a dime a dozen in Cartagena — the city has so much delicious food and even more ways to prepare it! Though we took a private cooking class from our hotel, there are plenty of ways to arrange one, whether it be through your accommodations or a different tour company. During ours, we were surprised with a custom apron, which made the kids immediately excited for the experience! The head chef led the class, and we were able to select our menu beforehand to partake in the whole process from start to finish. After learning how to make ceviche, avocado salad, Columbian coconut rice, fried plantains, and fish, we sat down to an incredible feast. We were so full, we couldn’t even make it to the dessert table! It was definitely way too much food, but the experience was exceptional and highly recommended. Kids had the best time ever!

Convento de la Popa

Convento de la Popa is a historic church and convent set atop the tallest hill in Cartagena! To give our children some historical background on the city, we set aside some time to visit its interior and learn more about the artifacts it held. Dating back to 1607, the convent provides background on both the new and old city, and my kids really enjoyed learning more about its construction. Plus, the landscape is the best part — overlooking Cartagena’s panoramic views were truly an outstanding sight, stretching the entirety of the city and beyond.

Castillo San Felipe Fortress

Overlooking both land and sea, the Castillo San Felipe Fortress stands on a strategic location on the Hill of San Lazaro. Here, kids can spend time exploring ancient fortifications and replica canons, pretending they’re part of the action. One evening, my family took a car here to enjoy its sunset ambiance and we watched history come to life! Since my children learned about its history online, we had context about its role during the Spanish Colonial Era, which was fascinating and a great way to get them involved. The castle also had a gorgeous, panoramic view of the city of Cartagena that we couldn’t pass up! Afterward, we explored the spooky underground caves and passageways. 

Local Beach

Though the beaches near Cartagena are not necessarily the prettiest in the world, they are still a lovely place to spend a few hours with your kids. There are plenty of home rentals and hotels available on the beach, outside the walled city, if that’s more your style.

Tips:

Family Photoshoot: A family photoshoot is an amazing way to preserve memories! To capture all our precious moments, I arranged a photoshoot for my vacation in Cartagena with kids. I do this frequently when we travel since I love looking back on memories with my entire family included in the shot! Before we flew out, I booked a photoshoot with the company Memories, which I found from browsing local photographers on Instagram. With beautiful beaches and multicolored houses as our background, we left early in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat. The photographer made us feel completely comfortable and the experience couldn’t have gone better! 

For An Island Escape:  

Hotel Punta Faro:

Located on the island of Isla Muraca, Hotel Punta Faro is a natural paradise! Book a stay here and you’ll witness lush green gardens blend effortlessly into crystal-blue skies, providing the perfect tranquil escape for your family. After a few days exploring the culture and architecture in the walled city, we decided to switch here to experience a different side of Colombia. About two hours away, the island is sparsely populated with hotels and is only accessible by speedboat. Luckily, it was a comfortable ride — there were plenty of kids on the boat, and my children enjoyed the journey. We thought leaving the city for a beach getaway was the perfect way to mix up our Cartagena trip. Since it offers a variety of outdoor activities and proximity to the beach, Hotel Punta Faro was a great place to do so! It was all-inclusive, kid-friendly, and had plenty of desirable amenities. My favorite part was the luxurious on-site spa because they even offered some options for my twins! There’s also a playground with a trampoline, bikes available for rent, and the choice to arrange a few activities for us to enjoy during our stay. The main highlight was the Bioluminescent Tour we took of the sparkling ocean floor, as well as our snorkeling adventure. They also offered a bike tour, kayaking, and paddleboarding. 

With options by the beach and in the heart of the historic city, traveling Cartagena with kids is a great idea for your next family trip! I’m already planning my next visit!

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