Aside from the mountains and cool weather, Colombia is also known for their tropical beaches and jungles. Cartagena and Tayrona are on the Northern coast of the country and offer a different atmosphere and equally beautiful experience than Bogota, Medellin and Guatapé.
Cartagena is about an hour in a half by plane away from Bogota. Once you walk off the plane, you can feel the immediate temperature change and humidity. The city is lively and full of tourists. As we drove to our Air BnB I noticed the palm trees and endless ocean. It was beautiful. We had an amazing view from our place, which overlooked the ocean and had a rooftop pool where the tenants would play loud music and sunbath and hang with their friends. We stayed about 15 minutes outside the Walled City which is where most of the popular shops, restaurants and bars are located.
After we got settled we immediately took and Uber into the Walled City. The first thing I noticed was the colorful architecture. The “city” is legitimately inside a wall. There are horses that pull carriages in the streets, which are mostly cobblestone and very European influenced. Tourists roam through the alleys and walkways while browsing through the small artisan stores and maybe stopping to get street food in between.
We spent the rest of the night exploring the Walled City ending up at an outdoor bar that had belly dancers, loud music and plenty of drinks to chose from on their menu. I can’t for the life of me remember the names of these places as one of the best things about Cartagena is being able to bounce around to different spots and try a variety of different foods without getting lost as everything is pretty compact inside the Wall.
One of the best decisions I made while in Cartagena was booking a boat to take us out to the islands in the Caribbean. The beaches in Cartagena weren’t as clean as I’d hope however about 45 minutes off the coast are the Isla de Baru. We Air Bnb-ed a boat and spent the day (9a-4p) out cruising the islands. It was amazing. The water was clear blue and warm, we were able to stop for lunch, sunbathe and enjoy some adult beverages on the boat. We hopped to different islands, collected seashells and enjoyed some of the most amazing beaches I have ever seen.
Three days in Cartagena were more than enough and during one of our Uber rides we were able to meet a driver named Jaime, who offered to drive us 5 hours to Tayrona. He gave us a great deal and honestly it was more comfortable than taking a bus. My boyfriend and I woke up and at 6AM and left Cartagena in route to our next tropical adventure.
The drive is about 5 hours through some beautiful barrios and great landscapes. Tayrona is in the jungle where there are still some indigenous people living to this day. I found Villa Maria through some research and after reading the reviews, I knew I had to stay there.
We arrived a little before noon and realized we were right in the middle of the jungle. It was so beautiful. We could see hummingbirds, lizards and turtles all throughout the resort and we even had a nice walkway down to a secluded beach. The water was much nicer than Cartagena and still relatively warm.
The reason I wanted to go to Tayrona so much was because I found the Tayrona National Park throughout my Google searches and just knew I had to visit. Our hotel was only 10 minutes from the park, however it was a good 2 hour hike into the actual beach. Paul and I woke up at 7am on our 2nd day and started our adventure.
The hike was one of the best things I have ever decided to do. We walked through the jungle, through the other beaches and finally reached the end destination, Cabo San Juan. Tents were set up as you can camp there as well and there was also a nice restaurant by the beach in case you want some food.
Paul and I ran into a Norwegian couple we had met the day before and ended up eating lunch and swimming with them all afternoon. They were even nice enough to pay for us to take the horse ride out of the jungle, as we didn’t bring enough pesos with us. Note to anyone who visits, the park only takes pesos and unfortunately there are no ATM’s around (lesson learned).
The water was warm, blue and very calm when we went to Tayrona. The beach sand was nice and there was a lot of open space to put our backpacks even though there were a lot of tourists. It was one of my favorite places we visited. Everything we saw was so beautiful, the resort food was consistently delicious and the sound of the frogs and birds was so relaxing at night. There is nothing more magical than being in the middle of the jungle.
From the mountains to the jungle and beaches, Colombia had something to offer for everyone. The country is diverse and beautiful. This trip surpassed my expectations and I now have a new understanding of my culture and a new relationship with my biological family. I’m looking forward to my next visit and I now know I will always have family there to welcome me back.