Cartagena for Foodies

“One day, you will wake up and there will be no more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now!” – Anon


Top places for foodies in Cartagena

Ask any hotel concierge in Cartagena about the things to do in Cartagena and they will probably mention the mud volcano, a party chiva bus and the castle. I did none of these activities. I spent most of my time in Cartagena eating and don’t regret it at all.  

Here is my top 10 list of the best food experiences Cartagena has to offer!

  1. Pizza at La Diva

    Pizza at La Diva

    La Diva. Best pizza in the world. Seriously. We entered the small restaurant thinking we would “grab a quick easy bite” and left in astonishment at discovering the best pizza ever. I have been to Italy. In fact I have been to lots of places that claim to make the best pizza but La Diva is miles ahead of the rest of the game! I would recommend the Salami Milano (and wash it down with a delicious sangria!)

  2. Ceviche at La Cevicheria

    Ceviche at La Cevicheria

    La Cervicheria. Sponsored by Anthony Bourdian, this little gem is constantly packed. We came on a mid Monday afternoon and only managed to secure the last table in the restaurant. We ordered the fish ceviche (wow!) and crab claws drizzled in mango sauce. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we tried our first coconut lemonade. Enough said. 

  3. La Vitrola. I had read about this place as being “the best in Cartagena” and instantly wanted to go however when walking past the restaurant one day I was kinda disappointed to see how fine dining it was. We prefer the more casual and quirky dining options and this looked super fancy. We went anyway to spoil ourselves. We were blown away by how fresh and delicious the grilled grouper was and it came with an awesome coconut risotto. We really liked the wine list and live music too so we ended up having a really great night!
  4. Coconut Lemonade

    Coconut Lemonade

    La Casa de Sorocco. I had read about this place from another travel blog. The best advice I got was to make sure you share because the dishes are so big! Lucky we did because it is true. We had their famous seafood stew which was insanely delicious!! 

  5. La Patagonia. We were reluctant to try this place because it is an Argentinean steakhouse and we had just come from Argentina. (although there is no such thing as too much steak) Glad we did – it was pricey however yum! Our favourite was the grilled chicken with lemon!
  6. Shepards Pie at Oh La La

    Shepards Pie at Oh La La

    Oh La La. Raved about in reviews, I immediately want to write how amazing this place was on Tripadvisor. In fact, we even went there twice (usually a big no in a new city) and ordered the exact same thing! (Pretty embarrassing) We shared fish ceviche, shepherds pie and a fudge brownie. They sound extremely boring and simple but were so well made! Totally recommend!

  7. La Perla. Nice simple atmosphere and great cocktails! Reuniting with an espresso martini kept us over the moon all night and the fresh fish was great!
  8. Grouper & Coconut risotto at La Vitrola

    Grouper & Coconut risotto at La Vitrola

    Chicken shops. We decided to wander the local area and find some cheaper street food or takeaway and soon found a little chicken shop on Calle S. Andres. Tasty chicken and fries for $4? yes please!

  9. Yogyou Natural Frozen Yoghurt. Oh my god. I cannot express how great this yoghurt is. The owner is very friendly. I would recommend just going there to say hi even if you don’t like frozen yoghurt. They have 4 flavours – greek, natural, passionfruit and milo. All were amazing and he finishes it off with fresh toppings and can also make smoothies. Don’t miss it!
  10. Gelato. I am a gelato freak. I try gelato in every country and city I visit and am very critical. The best gelato I had was on the corner of Del Rosario and De Piedra. Try the pistachio!

Cartagena

“Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you’ve been all along” – Anon


Top 10 things to do in Cartagena

  1. 11188319_10152853905828513_2950493822915000793_nSunset at Cafe Del Mar. It is way more about the atmosphere and relaxing music than the cocktails. In fact, the cocktails are pretty poor considering what you pay, but the views are great. For those on a budget, buy a beer from the local store and sit up on the wall next door. Same atmosphere, half the price.  
  2. Try passionfruit and ginger gin at Laboratorio Bar. This cool bar makes their own gin! They have all sorts of quirky flavours to choose from and have designed some great cocktails to compliment them.
  3. For salsa lovers – head to Havana Bar. I didn’t do this, we preferred the bar scene here however heard from a few people that it was a very fun night out! Only open Thursday/Friday and Saturday. 
  4. Listen to live music at Plaza Trinidad. Regular buskers head down here to play anything from salsa music to rumba to DJ sets depending on time and atmosphere. The square comfortably allows seating on the walled edge and a local bottle shop is across the road so you can sit with a $1 beer and enjoy the music. Bliss. 
  5. Walk around the top of the old town walls. This is probably only do-able in the early morning or evening as the cement literally soaks up the heat from the sun throughout the day making it very uncomfortably hot. I got up early one morning and went for a run with my iPod and exploring the wall without the crowds. Definitely recommended. 
  6. Playa Blanca

    Playa Blanca

    Visit Playa Blanca. Hands down one of the nicest beaches I have ever seen. You can stay overnight in a gorgeous cabana or just do a day trip. 45 minutes by car (50,000 pesos) or go by boat which takes longer (16,000 pesos). Clean beautiful sand, crystal clear water, cold beer, fresh grilled fish, music, reading and best of all – an old man comes along the beach every hour serving fresh pina coladas out of his wheelbarrow. 15,000 pesos gets you a huge pineapple skin filled with icy cold rum and coconut.  This was paradise. 

  7. Try an arejpa at Bar El Sur. We stumbled across the cute French bar one night and were hungry. We were really surprised at how good the food was! An arepa is a fried corn bread stuffed with cheese, avocado and meat. t is served hot so they all melt together. Yum!
  8. Eat ice-cream
  9. Eat fresh fruit from the street carts. Pineapples, mangos, watermelons and papaya. Some geniuses also cut it all up for you to make an easy to eat fruit salad. Perfect!
  10. Cool down at Bocagrande beach. Definitely no where as beautiful as Playa Blanca, but close enough to visit for an hour or 2 without it taking up your whole day. Pools are limited in the old town, and the heat from the cobblestone streets is very intense! Taxis there will take 10 minutes and should cost 6,000 pesos. You can hire a shady tent for 10,000 pesos. I enjoyed watching the sellers with tanning oil, snow cones, fresh fish, beer, sarongs etc. It can get annoying after awhile but good enough for a short break from the city. 

Minca

“Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show” – Anon


11012082_10152861993973513_4314020911504333857_nPreparation goes a long way in Colombia. We learnt this upon arrival into Minca – a gorgeous little bohemian village in the mountains near Santa Marta. It’s known primarily for it’s awesome coffee and the relaxed hippy lifestyle but we were also interested in hiking. We were staying in the Dreamer Hostel in Santa Marta – extremely well known in the area and a great base to do day trips. We hitched a ride with an organised tour for 10,000 pesos each and arrived in Minca at 11.30am. Warning: There is very very little information around. No maps, not much English and no signage whatsoever! We sat at Minca Cafe at first to try the delicious coffee and then decided just to set off on a path in one direction and try our luck. 

giant hammockLater, we learnt that the 5 hour hike we embarked on was called the Los Pinos trek which leads up and around the top of the mountain. It started with a 2.5 hour climb uphill. Some parts were steeper than others but the scenery was beautiful. Every bend we turned, the temperature got cooler and the air felt fresher. We walked along paths with huge pine trees, small local run coffee bars, an Indian ritual retreat, waterfalls (slightly off the path) and once we got to the top, we were walking through clouds. By this point we were also dripping in sweat. We stopped at a hostel called casa Elemento perched right up the top with great views over the mountain range. They have a giant hammock over the cliff (the biggest in Colombia) and they have a pool, bar, hammocks and jungle zip lining. It is amazingly peaceful. We relaxed for awhile (and had an incredible burrito) before heading back down. Many people were staying the night. One traveller had been there for 3 weeks sleeping in a hammock outside!

On the way back down, we suddenly realised how late it was getting. The sun was setting at 6.30pm and we didn’t think we would be back in time. We took the speed up a notch and powered down – absolutely exhausted! Ideally, if we had started earlier, we could have been able to fit in the Victoria coffee farm and Pozo Azul waterfalls however we ran out of time! Such an incredible day and great exercise!! We hitchhiked home with a local family back to Santa Marta and completely collapsed. Maybe if we were prepared for the intense hike, we may not have been so tired! Overall – it was insanely beautiful and we loved Minca overall. Muchos recommenda! 

Tayrona National Park

“You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again” – Azar Nafasi


tayrona hikeTayrona is one of the most beautiful National Parks I have ever seen spanning 15,000 hectares in the North East of Colombia. We had heard about it from friends and decided to stay there for a few nights and  camp at Cabo San Juan. The entrance fee to the park for foreigners is 39,000 pesos each. We got the bus from santa Marta to the El Zaino entrance which took about 45 minutes and cost 8,000 pesos) The start is a little bit confusing. We were told that you can’t get there by car – you have to walk. This is true. However we thought this was from the entrance. It is not. We walked for an hour to the “start” before realising. Ah well – more excersize is good! The walk then got interesting. Stunning boardwalk platforms have been built to carry visitors through a variety of beautiful terrains. Rocks, forest, palm trees, and dried up river beds. It was also insanely hot. I can assuringly admit that I have never sweated so much in my life than I did in these 3 hours but the swim at the end is AMAZING!

11173355_10152867361418513_5595903775118059758_n

There are 3 sleeping options at Cabo San Juan. There are cabanas (150,000 pesos per night), tents (50,000 pesos) or hammocks (25,000 pesos). Shower and toilet blocks are shared by all. We had 1 night in a cabana and the other in a tent.

Cabanas

Cabanas

The cabana probably wasn’t worth the money as the room was very basic but it did have incredible views over the water and was perched up on a hill. Sunsets were amazing and it was nice to have the privacy (and where you can stand up!) We enjoyed the deck. The tent consisted of 2 mattresses with protective sheets. No pillows (warning to pillow lovers) and they tents are pitched very close together making it a little noisy but overall – its a good option for a couple of nights. 

Hammocks

Hammocks

As it is a UNESCO heritage site, you can’t bring alcohol into the park (although we snuck in a bottle of rum!) however you can buy beers at the local shop.  We loved waking up with the sun and walking 50m to the sea. It is very refreshing. We sat on the beach for the entire day. We drank rum, ate cheesy bread, went for long swims, read books and napped. It is a truly magical place. 

TIPS: 

  1. Don’t bring too much. The 2 hour hike to get there is extremely difficult in the insane heat so make it easier for yourself! Cabo San Juan has a small shop selling Agua (4,000 pesos) and a restaurant for all meals (ranging between 7,000 – 20,000 pesos – pretty good!)
  2. Wear hiking shoes! Although beach side camping sounds relaxing – it’s a trek to get there and the ground is very uneven. Hiking shoes will be a godsend! (Plus there are many hiking options to do once you are there!)
  3. BYO Snoreklling gear. Options to hire the snorkels are expensive (20,000 pesos? but probably range depending on how foreign you look) I didn’t get any, however you can apparently buy very cheap equipment in Santa Marta at the local homewares/kitchen shop. 
  4. SUNSCREEN. Shade can be limited depending on the time of day so I recommend bringing enough. 
  5. Bring more cash than you think you need. There are no ATMS obviously anywhere near the campsite or in the park at all. They also have boat trips and horse riding tours too so make sure you have enough incase you want to do those. 
  6. If you choose to sleep in a hammock, others gave me the advice to ask for the hammocks close to the bathrooms – ironically. The other area of hammocks are perched on the hill under the cabanas and apparently they get quite cold at night. It is pretty hot during the day so I can’t imagine it getting freezing however that was mentioned by a few people we met so beware! 
  7. Careful if you sit under the palm trees (which is generally the only shade you will find) – a man warned us about falling coconuts which are actually really dangerous considering the height they fall from. watch out!
View from the cabanas

View from the cabanas