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Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursion Reviews

Cartagena (Colombia) (Photo:rocharibeiro/Shutterstock)

Popular Things to Do in Cartagena (Colombia)

Cartagena, Colombia, is an old and culturally rich city with much for cruisers to see and do. The city is large, so if you're short on time, consider booking a shore excursion to see some of its more significant sights. History buffs will enjoy exploring Cartagena's complicated past at the old forts and churches, as well as at some of its museums like Museo del Oro Zenu and the ChocoMuseo. There's even an old monastery. Water-lovers can partake in excellent diving and snorkeling, and more adventurous types can venture out further on an excursion to take a volcanic mud bath.

Cartagena is hot year-round, with very little variance beyond changes in humidity. Most people visit during the winter and spring months, when temps are just a bit cooler. Spanish is the official language, though some locals who work in the tourism industry might speak English as well. Currency is the Colombian peso, but many if not all businesses will also accept U.S. dollars.


Find Things to Do in Cartagena (Colombia)

18 Excursions Found

#1 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

City Tour

367 Reviews
Enjoy Cartagena's restored colonial mansions, fusion restaurants and the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the greatest fortress ever built by the Spanish colonies.
#2 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

48 Reviews
Travel back to the colonial period and observe the ramparts and battlements of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, the strongest fortress built by the Spaniards. The undefeated walls of this historic landmark stand proud as they guard and protect its rich antiquity.
#3 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Horse Carriage Tour

46 Reviews
Take a memorable carriage ride through old Cartagena to see the best of the historically rich city.
#4 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Harbour Tour

24 Reviews
Take a tour of the beautiful harbour of Cartagena, which holds a Spanish Naval Base. It's in the heart of the city and a part of the bustling commercial district -- so you won't be at a loss of sites to see!
#5 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

La Popa Monastery

22 Reviews
A beautiful monastery with an even better view, Convento La Popa de la Galera makes for a fantastic visit.
#6 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Magnificent Cartegena

21 Reviews
Sample all the highlights of this beautiful city including La Popa Monastery, Las Bovedas Artisan Center, panoramic views and the Pierino Gallo shopping center.
#7 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Cartagena's Cathedral

18 Reviews
When you visit Cartegena's Cathedral in Columbia, you will be stepping into a world of rich history surrounded by beautiful architecture. This excursion is well worth the trip!
#8 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Mangrove Eco Canoe Journey

16 Reviews
Visit the mangroves at La Cienaga de Juan Polo, where a great diversity of birds such as Kingsfisher, White heron, Common Laura, Pink Spatula and Pelicans live. Relax as you enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna that encompasses this fascinating eco-system.
#9 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Palacio de la Inquisicion

16 Reviews
A beautiful building with a dark history, the Palacio de la Inquisicion now houses a museum with an array of attractions from throughout Colombia's history, from pre-Colombian pottery to Inquisition-era torture instruments and beyond.
#10 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Segway Tour

11 Reviews
Enjoy a short glide through the walled city where you will learn to operate the Segway PT while exploring the most representative landscapes of the area.
#11 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Culinary Tour

8 Reviews
Experience the varied and delectable food of Cartagena on a delicious culinary tour.
#12 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Las Bovedas

6 Reviews
At the northeastern corner of the old walled city is Cartagena's grandest arcade. It's a fun place to shop and a photogenic spot to enjoy, but the rather oppressive barrel ceilings that over-arch each vault (boveda) come with a bit of history.
#13 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Mud Volcano

5 Reviews
Who would have ever thought that climbing into a volcano filled with mud would be relaxing? Well, it is! In addition to your plunge into this marvelous mire, you will enjoy scenic views as you embark on your trek to this small but memorable volcano in Cartagena. If you haven't experienced it, this is definitely recommended to go on your bucket list!
#14 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Rosario Island Beach

5 Reviews
Spend a day at the beautiful Rosario Island Beach and enjoy a speedboat ride, an aquarium visit and the beautiful resort itself.
#15 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Las Murallas Walking Tour

4 Reviews
Enjoy intriguing colonial design in Cartagena as you walk the cobblestone streets of Las Murallas, translated as "the walls of the city." You will be transported in time, as your guide narrates the adventure-filled walk; pay close attention, as it's very likely that you will hear triumphant stories of pirate battles!
#16 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Botanical Garden

2 Reviews
Between seeing wild seals up close to real live lobster fishing, the Botanical Garden is sure to be a fun excursion!
#17 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Museo de Oro y Arqueologia

2 Reviews
Gold and pottery collections of the Tayrona, Calima and Sinu people are on display, as well as panel exhibitions about the Atlantic coast cultures.
#18 of 18 Cartagena (Colombia) Shore Excursions

Mangroves Walking Tour

1 Reviews

Food and Drink in Cartagena (Colombia)

All things are possible in Cartagena, from expensive dining at a five-star restaurant to a tasty, freshly cooked snack from an Old Town street vendor. On our day there, the bold Australian with whom we'd shared a taxi spent $2 on a plateful of butifarras -- small barbecue-flavored meatballs. The equally adventurous will find that the street vendors of old Cartagena offer many other local delicacies, including bunuelos (cheese balls) and arepas de huevo (fried dough balls with eggs inside).

For a sit-down lunch, Old Town offers many outstanding restaurants (open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.) serving everything from Spanish and Italian to French and Creole specialties at reasonable prices. Your best bet is simply to stroll around, eye a few menus, and see what looks good.

Fogon Costeno: Enjoy a selection of tapas (a perfectly substantial lunch in the midday heat), washed down with well-chilled local beer, at a table overlooking the lively street. The decor is quite appealing with warm ochre-painted walls, fresh white tablecloths and a vast array of local art displayed on the walls. (Calle de la Iglesia 35-38)

Restaurant Vesuvio: Located near Plaza de Santo Domingo, this restaurant specializes in Neapolitan cuisine. (Calle de la Factoria 36-11)

Parrilla Argentina Quebracho: The focus there is on Argentine specialties. Try the roast suckling pig if you dare, or play it safe with a nice steak. (Calle de Baloco 2-69)

Carmen: For a bit of splurge, check out Carmen, which specializes in upscale cuisine that features lots of fish and seafood. It's got a ridiculously trendy atmosphere, offering both indoor and outdoor dining areas. (Calle de Cuartel 36-77; open for lunch from noon to 3 p.m. daily)

El Boliche Cebicheria: If you're craving ceviche, this is the place to be. Served in a fashionable atmosphere on a side street in the colonial San Diego neighborhood, the food's gorgeous preparation is as astounding as its taste. (Calle Cochera del Hobo 38-17)

Best Cocktail in Cartagena (Colombia)

Aguardiente, a type of sugarcane liquor, is Colombia's most well-known drink, and it usually comes in shot form. For a more Caribbean experience, try a drink made with Colombian rum, or -- if it's an unbearably hot day -- go with a bottle of Club Colombia beer. Natural coconut water is also popular for nonalcoholic refreshment. Look for vendors selling whole coconuts, which will be cut open for you with a knife so you can drink from them with straws.

Beaches in Cartagena (Colombia)

Most Convenient Beach: Closest to port, you'll find La Boquilla, which lies about 5 miles north of Cartagena and is easily reached by taxi. A 10-minute cab ride beyond Boquilla is Manzanillo Beach. Both are well maintained each night by large tractors pulling sand rakes.

Prettiest Beach: White-sanded Playa Blanca lies about 14 miles south of Old Town and is generally reachable by bus or boat. Tickets for both are sold in Cartagena's main market, Mercado Bazurto, but departures are early (around 9:30 a.m.), so it's impractical for cruisers to get there unless it's by taxi or on a ship's tour.

Best Snorkeling Beach: There are also fine beaches and good snorkeling in the Rosario Islands, 27 of which lie in a chain about 19 miles south of Cartagena. Most cruise ships will run beach tours there; cruisers can also find local water taxis or organized private tours to take them to the islands. It's worth considering if you want a scenic boat ride and a hassle-free day.

Don't Miss in Cartagena (Colombia)

Plaza de Bolivar: If this is your first visit and time is at a premium, it's the heart of the Old Town -- the prettiest part of old colonial Cartagena -- that you'll want to see. Go through the second gate and head left toward Plaza de Bolivar. You'll hear the tinkling fountains in this lovely little park before you get there, and you'll know you're in the right place when a gigantic bronze statue of South America's liberator, Simon de Bolivar, rises above the treetops.

Getsemani: Between Old Town's first main gate and its second, you'll find yourself in an outer area called Getsemani, which circles the Old Town and is home to lively, low-cost cafes, shops and bars.

Museo del Oro y Arqueologia: At one corner of the square is the Museo del Oro y Arqueologia or gold museum (free admission) and a jewelry store heavily promoted by sellers who rove outside trying to usher in customers. If shopping's your thing, this is a good place to bargain for rubies, emeralds and gold. Also worth seeing is Cartagena's 16th-century cathedral, which lies nearby and was once bombarded by Sir Francis Drake.

El Centro and San Diego: A simple stroll through the narrow streets of the two Old Town districts of El Centro and San Diego is a pleasure in itself. Cartagena is full of colonial churches, monasteries and palaces, and even its ordinary houses are a delight, with wrought iron balconies crammed with pots of vivid geraniums and cascading with rich red and purple bougainvillea.

Las Murallas: If it's not too hot, a stroll around Las Murallas, Old Town's dense walls, will reveal striking sea views. If you prefer some shade, enjoy the tranquil dappled courtyard of the 17th-century Convento de San Pedro Claver, which lies in the street of the same name. Its small museum charges a nominal fee to enter. Next door, the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver has a fine Italian marble altar.

Palacio de la Inquisicion: If history, atmosphere and the darker side of human nature are of interest to you, head to Cartagena's most remarkable attraction, the Palacio de la Inquisicion (Plaza de Bolivar, free admission). This wonderfully spooky museum will certainly cast a chill over the sunniest Caribbean afternoon. Just inside the door lurks a figure swathed in black, topped off with a pointed executioner's hood. The main exhibition room contains pillories, a rack and a variety of rusting torture implements so bizarre that their use almost defies the imagination. Outside, a sunny, tree-lined courtyard contains a gallows and a chopping block, and other small exhibits show the type of paraphernalia involved in witchcraft. If you see one thing during your stay in Cartagena, make sure this is it, but be sure to allow yourself about an hour to go through it all.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas: The entire Old Town is one giant fortress with still more fortifications outside its gates. The most notable exterior fortress is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, which was first called for in 1533. Construction started in 1639, and it took 150 years to complete. When it was finished, the fortress proved completely impregnable, to the chagrin of various marauding hordes. You'll have fun roving the battlements and exploring the warren of underground tunnels, which were designed to amplify the faintest footfall so that enemies could not creep through. Tip: This is not the place to wear steel-tipped stilettos.

Seaside Area: To the south of the walled Old Town is an L-shaped peninsula broken into three districts -- Castillo Grande, El Laguito and Bocagrande -- that make up the "seaside resort" of Cartagena. Filled with high-quality hotels, bars, shops and restaurants, this area is a magnet for vacationing Colombians and international tourists. Scuba enthusiasts can get equipment and tours at a number of dive shops in Bocagrande; book in advance to be sure you'll have plenty of time to explore the underwater attractions. If you don't mind looking like a tourist, take a horse-drawn carriage ride. They run along the waterfront from Bocagrande to Old Town.

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