Cartagena is on the rise, and new neighborhood jewels are just starting to pop up on the world’s travel radar. Getsemaní is the newest up-and-coming neighborhood for soaking up local culture, drinking mojitos, and dancing all night. Barú is the mini-island escape just off the Cartagena coast they don’t typically tell you about in the guides. With some help from our on-the-ground team, we take you through the newest stops on your Cartagena hit list.
Like all great emerging spots, the neighborhood of Getsemaní has a storied and complicated past. The burgeoning barrio, just outside the fabled walls of Cartagena’s historic Old City, was formerly a haven of crime and misery. But the once-seedy neighborhood is now the coolest, most invigorating and up-and-coming spot in town.
Getsemaní is so authentically charming and on the cusp of commercial explosion, we almost want to keep it a secret. But where’s the fun in that? Come to get lost amid the Spanish colonial architecture, dance halls, graffiti art, food vendors, public plazas, and poets. Here are just a few points to check out:
Open Air Street Art Gallery: There is a daily free walking tour at 10:00 am in the main Plaza, to see the sights and hear the stories.
Great Gastronomy: you can try the a la carte menus at Red knife, La cocina de Pepina, Di Silvio, and Chachara, or opt for tapas at Demente. For a truly local feel, try Colombian street food like corn cakes filled with chorizo, chicken, cheese, or sweet corn. If you’re a sushi lover, nearby Kokoa Sushi Wok is one of Cartagena’s best options.
Drinks, Bars, & Nightlife: You can go to Cafe Havana where weekend crowds jam-pack the floor and surrounding sidewalks to hear the talented house band (and where once a visiting Hillary Clinton famously danced the night away…). Also for fresh new experiences, a few of our favorites are Bazurto Social Club to learn champeta, the Media Luna Hostel party on Wednesdays, Bar del Sur for drinks, and the rooftop at Con – Fussion for a couple of cocktails and local beers.
Isla Barú (part of the Islas del Rosario) is just shy of an hour outside Cartagena and home to Playa Blanca; a white sand beach with clear Caribbean water that’s consistently the perfect temperature. No longer a secret, the gorgeous beach now welcomes throngs of tourists, but there are still plenty of hidden spots if you know where to look.
Heading Out: All the boat tours will try to take you to Isla Rosario first for snorkeling and a visit to the eco park–don’t do it. Book your tour and boat with the plan to go straight to Barú. This allows you plenty of time to arrive early in the day, a solid couple of hours before any others who get suckered into the snorkel tours.
Once You Touch Down: Once you get off your boat, immediately head left down the beach. Avoid vendors pitching regalitos (little gifts) for as long as possible until you reach the less populated end of the beach. A five-minute walk will put a comfortable stretch between you and the chaos of the boat landing.
Hit the High Seas: Make island hopping in a private boat your number-one priority for a number of water-centric activities including snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, and kayaking.
Keep Those Poles Handy: Also, for fishing lovers, all-day fishing trips with seasoned experts are available for charter.