Looking for a Cartagena, Colombia Travel Guide to plan the perfect family vacation? Continue reading to plan a Cartagena itinerary that meets the needs of you and your family.

Cartagena, Colombia is a vibrant destination that’s perfect for a family vacation. This Cartagena, Colombia travel guide will help you plan an unforgettable trip with an itinerary that keeps everyone entertained. When my husband and I took our twin toddlers to Cartagena, we found the experience to be even more enjoyable than we anticipated. In fact, our kids had so much fun, they didn’t want to leave!

Cartagena is filled with colorful streets, a rich history, and a unique Caribbean charm. For families, this historic city offers a variety of activities and sights that cater to all ages. From exploring the walled city’s historic forts and plazas to enjoying the beautiful beaches and boat tours, there’s never a dull moment. The local cuisine is delicious and varied, with plenty of kid-friendly options to keep even the pickiest eaters satisfied.

We were pleasantly surprised by how family-friendly Cartagena is. The locals are warm and welcoming, and there are plenty of parks and open spaces where kids can play. Plus, with a well-planned Cartagena itinerary, you can hit all the must-see spots without feeling rushed. Whether you’re wandering through Getsemaní’s vibrant murals or taking a day trip to the Rosario Islands, Cartagena offers a blend of relaxation and adventure that’s perfect for family travel.

Cartagena Itinerary Day 1: Totum Volcano

Our Cartagena family vacation consisted of four unbelievable days exploring Cartagena with a great itinerary. In all honestly, we chose Cartagena as a result of on an amazing flight deal that was delivered to my inbox via Scott’s Cheap Flights. $200 per roundtrip ticket! 

As soon as we arrived, our driver, Luis, drove us for an hour to the volcano. When you arrive, you may wonder if you’re in the right place, as it doesn’t necessarily look like you’re at a volcano.

Yes, there is a tall and wide, dirt structure, but it doesn’t necessarily look like the pictures or what I envisioned. It dawned on me that we were in the right place as soon as our car parked, and a group of locals eagerly approached our car to serve as our tour guides. Normally, I would shy away from folks who are too eager to help, but Luis nodded his head in approval to proceed with the individuals. 

And I’m glad we did.

The tall, wide, dirt structure is in fact the location of the mud bath. The guides patiently escorted us up about fifty mud-covered, slippery stairs. I was a bit concerned about the boys, but they took their time and did an amazing job.

Having a driver made exploring Cartagena with kids so much easier. Plus, he’s affordable.

Cartagena Mud Volcano: The Experience

The mud bath is there as soon as you make it up the stairs. It isn’t big at all, but it has a decent view of the muddy water. The bath itself is warm. It contains so many minerals that it causes you to float. I attempted to defy nature and sink under the mud, to no avail. 

If you’re into massages, then you’re in luck. Maybe.

I could barely get my foot into the mud, before a “masseuse” started rubbing my back to massage the mud into my skin. Let’s just say it was awkward. I didn’t get a chance to get acclimated to the mud before a stranger started touching me. I did, however, love the feel of the warm, thick, mineral-filled mud on my skin, minus the men massaging me.

Here’s where the difference between twins comes in. Jameson hated it. He generally hates getting dirty. Initially, he obliged and let me hold him in the mud. That lasted all of one minute. The ledge quickly became his resting spot.

Marley, on the other hand, absolutely loved it. He was so proud that he could “float” on his own like a big boy. Let’s just say he was pissed when it was time to leave. So much he tried to get back in by himself.

The Cartagena mud volcano most definitely should be on your Cartagena itinerary- with or without kids in tow. It’s an experience that only a few destinations offer; so you should at least try it once.

Cartagena Mud Volcano: The Aftermath

The descent down the mud volcano was even more slippery than going up, as our bodies were covered with mud. Luckily, the guides were so helpful that they scooped the boys up and carried them down the stairs. There was so much mud that it kept pushing my feet out of my pool slip-ons that I eventually took them off.

When you’re done walking down the stairs, the guides escort you to the body of water, where they help clean the mud off of you. If I’m honest, it was giving “baptism” vibes.

Upon arrival to the water, there is a group of ladies waiting to take your hand and usher you to the middle of the water. Before you know it, you’re on your knees and they are taking bowls full of water and splashing it on you to get rid of the mud. They’re very detailed and attempt to get the mud from every area of your body- including your private areas. So be aware.

One of my sons wasn’t having it yet again. He stood at the entrance of the water where the lady had to bring the water back and forth to him to clean him. Needless to say, she got the job done.

As we returned to our car to depart the mud volcano, all of the individuals who helped us waited eagerly for their tips. For the four of us, there were about 8 individuals. In total, we spent around $55 on tips. 

Cartagena Itinerary Day 2: Palenque 

My twin boys posing in front of the I love Palenge sign- a great Cartagena activity with kids.

On day 2 of our Cartagena itinerary we headed to Palenque which is the first city developed by the formerly enslaved in the Americas. Palenque was founded by those who fled slavery and has been preserved. 

Our driver, Luis, picked us up from our hotel and we drove to Palenque. It is a two-hour drive each way from Cartagena. Luis was so amazing that he’d stop along the route for us to try the various local fruits that vendors were selling. This made our Cartagena with Kids trip so authentic.

As soon as our feet hit the Palenque soil, the sun’s heat clearly made its presence known. But we were determined to learn about the rich history and culture despite the heat.

Our Palenque Tour

The majority of our Palenque tour took place outside, with our local tour guide, Alberto. We walked around the village submersing ourselves into the culture, from meeting las pateras (midwives) to singing and playing drums with Kombilesa Mi, a native rap group.

We were amazed by the innovativeness of the formerly enslaved. A typical house is built with manure mix to keep it cool inside because there’s no air, even to this day. And their technique works. We had the privilege of going inside one, where we learned and tried our hand at some of their traditional cooking methods. And indeed, it was much cooler inside. 

Afterward, we took pictures in front of the famous “I love being black sign” and danced with the palenqueras. The palenqueras are black women in colorful dresses that balance baskets of fruits on their heads. They’re perhaps some of the most famous Colombians, as most people travel just to take photos of them.

A little-known fact is that although they’re mostly seen in Cartagena, they’re not from Cartagena. They travel there from Palenque daily to make a living. At first, they did it to sell fruit, the one thing that is abundant in their city. But they make more money by taking photos with tourists. 

When we were done visiting with them, we met the doctor of the village who proudly informed us that no one had COVID-19 in their town because of his remedies. Who knew!?

The Palenque experience was filled with so much love and culture. And to witness my kids learning this rich history, was the highlight of our Cartagena itinerary. A must-add for everyone.

Cartagena Itinerary Day 3: Rosario Islands

Me sitting on our private boat in Rosario Island with a yellow swimsuit and hat that says "Cartagena".

On Day 3 of our Cartagena family vacation, we gathered the boys up and took them on a private boat and beach day to the Rosario Islands. 

The Rosario Islands is an archipelago island on the Caribbean coast of Cartagena. It’s a 45-minute to 1-hour ride from Cartagena. And it’s beautiful. Mainly because the islands are a part of Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Park, so the water surrounding them is preserved and protected.

Cartagena Unique- Rosario Island
The contact information to Cartagena Unique, the company we used for our private boat tour. They were awesome. Super great with the kids.

Jaime, the co-owner of Cartagena Unique, a travel & transportation company, picked us up from our hotel. Before heading to the private deck, he took us to the grocery store to pick up snacks and drinks for the boat.

For our private boat tour, we paid $500. There were both cheaper and more expensive options. But this was the cheapest option that included a bathroom, which we wanted for the boys- which of course they didn’t have to use.

The name of our boat was Pink and our kids had a wonderful time on it. When we got on, there were two employees, the captain, and the assistant. Everyone was extremely kind and helpful. The boat itself was very spacious, probably fitting around 8-10 people. 

👉 Get Rosario Island Group Tour Pricing and Availability 👈

The Rosario Island Oceanarium

At our first stop, we visited the Oceanarium. It was super cool because you could only get there by boat. It was a pretty unique scene to see all of these boats pulling up and docking to go to an oceanarium.

Somehow I didn’t know the difference between an aquarium and an oceanarium until we visited. But I quickly found out. An oceanarium is basically a seawater aquarium.

To be able to witness sea life living and exploring the ocean, with only a rope separating us, is an experience like none other. Also, it’s pretty amazing how close you can get to the animals compared to an aquarium.

Plus the shark and dolphin shows at Rosario Islands Oceanarium are second to none. Spectacular shows!. 

The highlight of this Cartagena with Kids day was swimming with the dolphins, which Marley and I did.

Again, Jam wasn’t having it.

I couldn’t believe that it was only $50 per person. Which is super cheap considering what you pay in the US to swim with the dolphins. What an amazing experience! Being able to touch and interact with dolphins, along with my toddler, is a memory of a lifetime.

If you or anyone in your family loves dolphins, be sure to add Rosario Islands Oceanarium to your Cartagena itinerary. It’s worth it!

The Rosario Islands

My twin boys looking at the water from the beach of one of the Rosario Islands private island- Great add to Cartagena travel guide

The next stop on our Cartagena itinerary was a short stent to see Pablo Escobar’s former house. In front of it were people swimming to see Escobar’s plane that was sunk by the Colombian government. Do note that the house is rather dilapidated. But it’s on a private island and that island is located right next to a nice hotel, so it’s worth the stop to observe.

What I liked about Rosario Islands as mentioned, is that it’s an archipelago of islands, so there are many islands to choose from and each represents its own vibes.

We went to Isla Grande and visited San Pedro Majagua for the day. The resort was quaint and beautiful. Plus the views were amazing. Despite the beach being relatively small, the clarity of the water made up for it.

Plus the boys didn’t seem to mind the size. They ran around and enjoyed every inch the beach had to offer.  While there, we had lunch, which was okay- not nasty but nothing worth bragging about. 

Overall, it was such a memorable way to spend the day. Unfortunately, we had to end our day soon after lunch as it’s recommended you leave Rosario Islands by at least 3 p.m. to get back to Cartagena. Around that time the water starts to get choppy. And the later you leave, the rougher the seas.

Although we left at 3, it was still choppy for me as we all got wet. I can only imagine how rough the water would’ve been if we left later. So word to the wise for your Cartagena travel guide- go to Rosario Islands early so you can enjoy as much of Rosario Islands before the water forces you to return.

Going to Cartagena without kids?
Add Bora Bora Beach Club in Rosario Islands to your Cartagena itinerary 👈

Additional Things to Do in Cartagena with Kids

With simply so many things to do in Cartagena – for adults and kids alike – it’s sure to be an excellent destination for family travel. Beyond what I’ve already mentioned thus far, there are plenty more fun and educational activities to enjoy with kids in Cartagena. Whether it’s exploring historical landmarks, soaking up the vibrant street art, or spending a day at the beach, there’s plenty to add to your Cartagena itinerary.

Cartagena ensures a memorable vacation for the whole family. Here are some additional things to do in Cartagena with kids- many of which are great for adults to do, even without kids in tow:

Visit Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

The Castillo San Felipe de Barajas fortress is a great spot for kids to explore tunnels, and ramparts, and get a feel for history. The views from the top are particularly spectacular – so don’t forget to bring your camera to snap some Christmas-card-worthy shots!

👉 Book a Castillo San Felipe and Cerro de la Popa Half Day Tour 👈

Chiva Bus Tour

Hop on a colorful Chiva bus for a fun tour of the city. These open-air buses often have live music and are a truly unmatched way to see Cartagena. If visiting Cartagena with kids, be sure to opt for a Chiva Bus Tour during the day as the evening ones are more of a party bus.

Getsemani Neighborhood

Wander around the Getsemani neighborhood, known for its vibrant street art, music, and culture. It’s a great place for kids to see colorful murals and enjoy the lively atmosphere.

👉 Learn more about a Private Walking Tour 👈

Café del Mar

Enjoy a family-friendly evening at Café del Mar, located on Cartagena’s city walls. Watch the sunset while enjoying snacks and drinks. The open space allows kids to move around freely while you can still keep an eye on them.

Playa Blanca

Take a day trip to Playa Blanca for some beach time with the kids. The clear waters and white sands are perfect for kids to play and swim. You can soak up the sun and finally crack into that novel while the kids are busy digging for shells!

Cartagena’s Gold Museum (Museo del Oro)

Visit the Gold Museum to see fascinating artifacts from the indigenous cultures of Colombia. These exhibits are sure to be a hit for both kids and adults alike. Plus, museums are a great way to sneak in some education for your little ones without them even knowing!

👉 Learn more about Cartagena Walking Tour that includes the Gold Museum 👈

Las Bovedas

Explore the historic dungeons turned artisan shops. The little ones will enjoy the unique shopping experience and the chance to pick up souvenirs – who doesn’t love a special something to remember the perfect family trip to Cartagena?

Cartagena Accommodations: Where to Stay in Cartagena

San Pedro Majagua II beach with palm hut- a beautiful private island on Rosario islands. A must add to a Cartagena Travel Guide

When it comes to Cartagena accommodations, choosing where to stay can impact your Cartenga itinerary. The first decision is to decide if you will stay within or outside of the Walled City. For those that may not know, the Walled City was constructed to defend the city from the pirate attacks that it suffered. It was built at the end of the XVI century and is known as one of the most preserved fortifications in South America. It’s also a World Cultural Heritage site, which makes it a great tourist attraction. 

Staying within the walled city offers a unique charm that’s hard to beat. Inside this historic area, you’ll find beautifully preserved colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and vibrant plazas. It’s a bustling area filled with boutique hotels, luxury accommodations, and plenty of dining options.

The convenience of being able to walk to most attractions, restaurants, and shops is a major perk. This area is ideal for those who want to be in the heart of the action and soak up the city’s rich history and lively atmosphere.

On the other hand, staying outside the walled city, particularly in neighborhoods like Bocagrande or Getsemaní, offers a different vibe. Bocagrande is known for its modern high-rise hotels and is perfect for those seeking beachfront accommodations with stunning ocean views. It’s quieter compared to the walled city, making it a great choice for families who prefer a more relaxed environment.

Getsemaní, just a short walk from the walled city, is trendy and vibrant with a bohemian feel. It’s less crowded and has a mix of boutique hotels and budget-friendly options, perfect for travelers looking to experience Cartagena’s local culture.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to be in the center of historical sights and enjoy a lively atmosphere, staying within the walled city is ideal. For a more laid-back experience with modern amenities or a bohemian vibe, outside the walled city might be the better fit. Both areas have their unique advantages, so you can’t go wrong with either choice.

Our Choice: Hilton Cartagena (Amenities for The Win!)

🌟 8.7/10 Book Here

My twin boys enjoying cotton candy they received from Hilton Cartagena Kid's Club- a great accommodation when traveling to Cartagena with Kids
The boys loving all the Hilton Cartagena Kid’s Club has to offer.

We personally chose to stay outside of the walled city at the Hilton Cartagena. Its beachfront location and amenities made this hotel perfect for our Cartagena family vacation.

During our time at the hotel, we split most of our time between the beach, pool, and Kid’s Club. The beach itself was nice with lounger chairs, cabanas, and ladies offering massages for $50/hour. We didn’t spend a ton of time at the beach as my kids were having the time of their lives at the pool.

And when I say pool, I actually mean pools. They offer multiple pools and slides, including a splash pad-like area for the smallest kiddos. The gift shop sold floaties and other items the kids could use to play in the pool.

Likewise, the activities for the kids were amazing. They had a kid’s club filled with games, activities, and even a movie area. Each evening they would offer free treats like cotton candy and popcorn.

I think my kids loved interacting with other little people the most, despite the majority of them speaking Spanish. My boys had so much fun each day that they did not want to leave. The convenience of the amenities made our Cartagena with kids experience so easy.

In fact, if our Cartagena itinerary wasn’t filled with other activities, we would’ve loved to spend more time at the hotel. Do note, that the hotel itself had all the amenities, but as far as rooms go, it was dated and a little old, and not the best kept. But it was right on the beach and the pool was amazing, so it made up for what the rooms lacked.

Additional Cartagena Accommodations

The Cartagena coastline- Cartagena Travel Guide

Luxury Hotels:

Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena
🌟9.0/10 Book Here

A luxurious hotel located in the heart of the Walled City, Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena offering excellent amenities, including a beautiful pool, lush gardens, and spacious family suites. The hotel’s historic charm and modern comforts make it a perfect choice for families seeking a high-end experience.

Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa
🌟8.8/10 Book Here

Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa is situated within the historic center, combining colonial architecture with cutting-edge luxury. It features a rooftop pool with stunning views, kid-friendly dining options, and easy access to the city’s main attractions.

Mid-Range Hotels:

Hotel Casa San Agustin
🌟9.3/10 Book Here

This boutique hotel, Hotel Casa San Agustin, offers a cozy and intimate atmosphere with beautifully decorated rooms and personalized service. Families will appreciate the small pool, delicious breakfast, and proximity to the Walled City.

Hotel Bantu by Faranda Boutique
🌟8.7/10 Book Here

Located in the vibrant Getsemani neighborhood, Hotel Bantu by Faranda Boutique is a charming hotel that provides comfortable accommodations and a welcoming ambiance. It features a courtyard pool, complimentary breakfast, and family-friendly rooms.

Budget-Friendly Options:

Hotel 3 Banderas
🌟8.6/10 Book Here

Hotel 3 Banderas is a budget-friendly option in the Walled City, offering clean and comfortable rooms. The hotel has a small pool and provides easy access to the city’s attractions.

Hotel Boutique La Artilleria
🌟 8.4/10 Book Here

Located in Getsemani, Hotel Boutique La Artilleria offers affordable accommodations with a friendly atmosphere. It has a rooftop terrace with a pool and provides complimentary breakfast.

Family Resorts:

Kids playing in the kids's pool at Hilton Cartagena- a perfect Cartagena accommodations with kid

Las Americas Casa de Playa
🌟8.6/10 Book Here

Las Americas Casa de Playa is a family-friendly resort located outside the city center, featuring multiple pools, a water park, and direct beach access. The resort offers a kids’ club, various dining options, and spacious rooms suitable for families.

Holiday Inn Cartagena Morros
🌟8.7/10 Book Here

Situated in the La Boquilla area, Holiday Inn Cartagena Morros offers a relaxing beachfront experience with modern amenities. It features a large pool, kid-friendly activities, and comfortable family rooms.

Vacation Rentals:

Airbnb: For families who prefer more space and a home-like atmosphere, Airbnb offers a variety of vacation rentals in Cartagena. From beachfront apartments to historic homes in the Walled City, there are options to suit every budget and preference.

Cartagena Travel Guide FAQ

Is Cartagena safe for families?

Yes, Cartagena is generally safe for families. However, like any tourist destination, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings.

What is the best time to visit Cartagena?

The best time to visit Cartagena is between December and April when the weather is warm and dry. The rainy season is normally from May to November.

Do I need to speak Spanish to visit Cartagena?

While it helps to know some basic Spanish, many people in the tourism industry speak English. It’s a good idea to learn a few key phrases to enhance your experience.

Are there family-friendly restaurants in Cartagena?

Yes, Cartagena has many family-friendly restaurants offering a variety of cuisines. La Cevicheria and Crepes & Waffles are popular choices.

What should I pack for a trip to Cartagena with kids?

Cartagena can become hot; therefore, pack lightweight, breathable clothing. As well as sunscreen, hats, swimsuits, comfortable walking shoes, insect repellent, and any necessary medications. Don’t forget a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.

How do I get around Cartagena with kids?

Taxis and rideshare services like Uber are widely available. Walking is also a great way to explore the city, especially in the Walled City and Getsemani areas. For longer trips, consider hiring a private driver.

Conclusion: Is Cartagena Worth Visiting?

My husband and I relaxing on a private boat tour to Rosario Island from Cartagena- a perfect add to a Cartagena itinerary

Absolutely! Cartagena has a bad reputation for not being a family-friendly destination. However, based on our personal experience, not only did we fill our Cartagena itinerary with an abundance of things to do with kids, but we also felt safe during our entire time there. Of course, we used the same precautions we implement while vacationing in any other destination like being mindful of our belongings and limiting wandering at night.

All in all, Cartagena is a wonderful and affordable destination filled with a beautiful culture, delicious food, and the kindest people. 

We didn’t get to do a number of the things I wanted to include on our Cartagena itinerary, such as the arepa cooking class, the dancing class, and a walking tour, but I need a reason to go back, right?

There are so many wonderful countries to visit in South America. Similar to Cartagena, Colombia, Peru should be on your list. Check out this post to learn the must-do activities in Peru.

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