With roundtrip fares from Miami as low as $215 and affordable luxury in endless supply, it’s no wonder Cartagena, Colombia, has surged to the top of many weekend-getaway lists. Cartagena’s walled-in Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is full of Caribbean breezes, laid-back vibes, breathtaking sea views and colorful colonial architecture. Use our guide to plot a romantic overnight stay, or, if you have more than a weekend, consider visiting the plentiful islands — like Isla Barú — just off the city’s coast.
Even an appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations hasn’t ruined the quiet and unassuming appeal of tiny La Cevicheria. Order a classic Ceviche and the Tostones de la Madre Teresa. The heavenly Mother Teresa plate brings fresh shrimp stir-fried with zucchini and mushrooms that are tossed in a spicy gooseberry sauce and served over thinly smashed and fried plantains. Be sure to get a table outside to take in Cartagena’s relaxed street vibes. lacevicheriacartagena.com.
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If you’re a literary buff, visit Nobel Prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel “Gabo” García Márquez’s resting place at the University of Cartagena, where he started his career. The courtyard garden and tomb is not only a good place to pay homage to one of the world’s most decorated writers, it’s also a great place to cool off from wandering Cartagena’s winding streets. unicartagena.edu.co.
For local art, stop by La Cueva del Arte, a large colonial structure featuring an immense central garden. Walk through the expansive photography collection, grabbing a refreshment along the way at the cool La Presentación café. There is an outdoor movie theater here, so check before you go for showtimes and other events. lacuevadelarte.com.co.
The cool, artsy, bohemian neighborhood Getsemaní is home to Café del Mural, a laboratory of coffee alchemy. Let owner David Arzayus Mercado prepare you a hot or cold coffee with an infusion of passion fruit or other local produce. Since this coffee shops opens at 3 p.m., it’s perfectly acceptable to skip the fruit and ask for a shot of liquor in your java. facebook.com/cafedelmural.
Live salsa bands perform nightly at Café Havana, the city’s hottest club, where Hillary Clinton let her hair down during the 2012 Summit of the Americas. After you’ve built up an appetite on the dance floor, step outside for some of Cartagena’s best street eats, including arepas that are so good. cafehavanacartagena.com.
Hotel Quadrifolio is a showpiece of historic Spanish colonial design with loads of contemporary appeal, including a rooftop lounge overlooking the Old City. Eight large suites are quiet, private and full of light, while large public areas like a living room and library invite guests to hang out. From $234 a night. hotelquadrifolio.com.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZAK BENNETT