Colombia? For Spring Break? Hardly seems like the first choice of most breakers, but this beach side South American city is slowly proving all the naysayers wrong – it is now the country’s most-visited city by tourist numbers. Sitting on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Cartagena was first established as a Spanish port in the sixteenth century. The architecture and monuments from that era have earned the city a UNESCO World Heritage site listing. However, modern Cartagena is a vibrant mix of old and new and visitors find themselves drifting between the two worlds as they wander and discover.
For those in a party state of mind, Bocagrande is the destination of choice. Dubbed the Mini Copacabana (of Brazil), it is designed along the same lines. It is the hub of the action both in the daytime and at night, with chain hotels, upscale restaurants and bars and shopping malls.
The beach scene is still in its infancy and you won’t find some of the big-money activities like ATVs that many other Spring Break towns invariably offer. That said, there is a small cluster of islands 20 minutes by boat from the coast that will give you exactly the kind of adventure people associate with Caribbean vacations.
The best thing about the slight inaccessibility is that it keeps the bulk of the cheap-thrill crowd out. So, you will avoid the massive crowds, inflated prices and long waiting lines of the more popular destinations. However, if you are an avid sea monkey, the warm, crystal clear waters of Cartagena are a delight. Scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing and water skiing are easily available, and for considerably less than you would pay at some more popular Break destinations.
The Volcan Del Totumo volcano located just outside the city has become a popular destination for vacationers. It secret? Volcanic mud that is renowned for its marvelous healing properties.
As the old city morphs into a more sophisticated incarnation, it has not forgotten its history and heritage. For anyone looking to spend the day discovering Caribbean pirate history, Cartegena is an ideal destination. Because of the massive amounts of shipping passing through the area in centuries past, buccaneers were very active here. There are dungeons to explore where those captured were held. Most of the fortifications are crumbling but are easily recognizable for their utility. The San Felipe fortress with its maze of underground passageways and large watchtowers is one of the best ways to connect with this part of the city’s past.
The peak seasons for tourism in Cartagena are December to mid-January, March/April and mid-June to July. The middle period coincides with Spring Break and you might face large crowds. It would be better to push your holiday to the start of March and end of April for the best experience.