Cartagena Lifestyle Highlights
- Feel as you are continually living against a backdrop of a movie set
- Soak up the atmosphere in the city that inspired and continues to inspire Colombian Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Trendy boutiques ensure that fashion is not found wanting
- Sophisticated dining options make Cartagena Colombia’s culinary capital
- Off the hurricane belt, you can enjoy a cocktail on your balcony with views of the Caribbean with no fear of being blown away.
With the Caribbean ocean lapping the fringes of the city, so elegantly framed by the impenetrable fortifications created by the Spanish to keep marauding pirates at bay, Cartagena is perhaps the most stylish and desirable city in northern South America in which to live.
Located on the northwestern corner of South America and just out of reach of the infamous Caribbean hurricane belt, Cartagena enjoys an above average year-round temperature in the mid 80s that varies only when the rainy season moves in between August and October. But, don’t let this rainfall deter you, it offers a welcome respite to the humidity, washes the streets clean and the deluge is conversely proportional to its brevity, yes, it’s tropical!
Cartagena is often referred to as the eternal city of Colombian tourism given that despite the warring that has gone on in the country as a whole over the past 30 years, Cartagena has remained largely untouched. This status as Colombia’s UNESCO Caribbean jewel has led for both the central and local Governments to protect the city and promote foreign investment.
The upside is that Cartagena is a remarkably safe city by Colombian and Latin American standards, but then, this is reflected in the high cost of living in the more upscale barrios of San Diego, Laguito, Manga, Bocagrande and to a lesser extent Getsemani.
Since prices for real estate climb year upon year, one must decide whether it is better to invest in a decaying colonial or republican era mansion in San Diego for its resale potential or a contained and new-build high rise condominium in Bocagrande. There are benefits to both, but regarding infrastructure such as supermarkets, pharmacies and shopping malls, Bocagrande and Manga are the pick of the bunch.
Given that there is a considerable expat crowd running hotels and various restaurants you will not feel completely isolated in Cartagena but we do recommend you brush up on your Spanish. The coastal accent in Colombia is nothing short of unintelligible and hints at the delightful chaos that could greet you here, after all most people sound as if they are speaking with a boiled egg in their mouth!
Cartageneros are friendly and fun-loving and will embrace you as one of their own so long as you are prepared to understand the culture and tolerate their preferred upbeat Vallenato music played loudly. You need not grimace, there are many more refined activities with which to content yourself here and live music is just one facet of life in Cartagena.
The guest-list of attendees for Cartagena’s renowned Hay Festival reads like a who’s who of literary greats and has included the authors Ian McEwan, Germaine Greer and even Nelson Mandela. Alongside the event runs a musical feast with open air concerts by notable artists such as the Buena Vista Social Club and Ruben Blades. And we haven’t even touched on the annual Cartagena International Film Festival or even the Miss Colombia Pageant!
Your heart may be racing at the prospect of so much to see and do, but, the reality is that you can take it easy in Cartagena, enjoy a sundowner on the city wall at Café del Mar, some spectacular fish at La Vitrola and relax at a day spa in Bocagrande. And with the city’s agreeable climate, take out a bicycle or jog the waterfront in the morning before the sun is at its fiercest and organize a scuba diving excursion for the afternoon.
Cartagena’s location is fantastic as, while the city itself is not a beach destination, just a couple of hours to the North are the seaside towns of Tolu and Covenas and heading East is the industrial hub of Barranquilla, renowned for its excellent restaurants, shopping and Carnaval celebration. For those who don’t mind journeying over five hours, Santa Marta, the nearby backpacker haunt of Taganga and the pristine beaches of Tayrona National Park are accessible and offer something for all tastes.
For those interested in learning about the African history of the Colombian Caribbean coast, a short day trip can lead you inland to the town of San Basilio de Palenque, a community created by escaped former slaves. And for the most adventurous, follow the Magdalena River south to the forgotten, yet UNESCO recognized, colonial relic of Mompos where desirable riverfront properties can be found for $50,000 and upwards.
But closer to home is a boat trip to the white sandy beach of Playa Blanca, the Islas del Rosario and Isla Fuerte.
Location Map of Cartagena
Cartagena Basic Facts
— Population 900,000
— How To Get There
Cartagena’s airport Rafael Nunez receives international flights from the USA with Avianca and Spirit from Miami and Ft Lauderdale respectively. Barranquilla, just under two hours away also receives Avianca flights from Miami.
— Travel Time From Nearest U.S. City
Flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to Cartagena are a mere 2 hours and 45 minutes in duration.
— Average Cost to Buy a 2 Bedroom Home in Prime Central Area: From $250,000 and upwards
— Average Cost to Rent a 2 Bedroom Home in Prime Central Area: Most are unfurnished and expect to pay in excess of $1500 per month.
— Primary Advantages Over Other Retirement Communities: Cultured coastal lifestyle a stone’s throw from the US.
— Primary Disadvantages Over Other Retirement Communities: This is Colombia, there’s always a perceived security issue.
Mean temperature and mean rainfall for each month of the year in “Cartagena”
Source: World Meteorological Organisation
Places To Stay
http://www.cartagenainfo.com/ is a fantastic site listing all hotels, hostels, guesthouses and apartments for rent in the city. If you prefer walking and remaining close to everything, then look for a property in the well-heeled barrio of San Diego.
Recommended Research Links
World Meteorological Organization – http://worldweather.wmo.int/057/c00161f.htm#climate
Metrocuadrado – www.metrocuadrado.com
All images are the property of the author, Richard McColl