For many travelers to Colombia, the Caribbean Coast is their entry point into Colombia. They came for a day on a cruise ship or a wedding and return realizing that there is so much more to see. After the colonial city, there are islands with palm-fringed beaches, national parks home to eco-friendly hotels, and plenty of opportunities for things like windsurfing and fishing.
Days 1 & 2: Cartagena
Cartagena’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one the most-visited destinations in all of Colombia. There’s a reason that hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers stroll through these 16th-century streets each year. Begin at the Plaza de las Coches before moving to Plaza Santa Domingo, stopping for lunch at La Vitrola, and watching the sun set into the ocean from the old city walls while drinking a mojito at Café del Mar. On Day 2 visit the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, an imposing hilltop fortress built by the Spanish. In the afternoon go to Plaza de la Trinidad in the once-gritty Getsemaní neighborhood, where you can take a break with a drink and some tapas at Demente, followed by live music and dancing at Café Havana.
Days 3–6: San Andrés & Providencia
Catch a flight to the postcard-perfect island of San Andrés, a popular honeymoon destination and the home to large all-inclusive resorts from the chain Decameron or small beachside properties like the Posada San Andrés. Spend your days snorkeling the coral reefs of the seahorse-shaped island Providencia, a catamaran ride away. After enough sunbathing, rent a scooter and ride around the island to the villages of San Luis and La Loma.
Alternatively, instead of catching a flight to San Andrés, you can take a boat to Las Islas del Rosario, an archipelago of tiny islands not far from Cartagena. go snorkeling and swimming in the bright green waters of Isla de Barú, 45km (28 miles), where you can stay at the Agua Azul Beach Resort.
Day 7: Barranquilla
After returning to Cartagena, rent a car or hop on a bus to Barranquilla, a bustling port town and Shakira’s birthplace, situated about an hour and a half up the coast. See where the Magdalena River meets the ocean and dine on fried bocachico, but save some time for a soak in the pool at the Hotel el Prado. If you happen to be there during Carnaval, second in size only to the one in Rio de Janeiro, don’t go anywhere!
Day 8–10: Santa Marta & Parque Nacional Tayrona
Continue up the coast to the city of Santa Marta, South America’s oldest surviving city. At night, wander around Plaza de Bolívar, hitting up the city’s excellent crop of bars and restaurants. During the days, take trips to the fishing village of Taganga and Tayrona National Park, where you will find unspoiled beaches. Choose between boutique colonial hotels like Casa Carolina or a green hotel like Tayrona’s Ecohabs. Take a flight home from Santa Marta, or return to Cartagena.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.