What can I say? I pulled it off! A girlfriends’ trip to Cartagena. I got nine girlfriends to get together and take a short, but amazing trip from Washington, DC to Cartagena, Colombia. Nine busy women, who have careers, husbands/mates, children, parents, and pets, all said “Yes!” three months ago, and all followed through. Times like these remind me of how very special my life is, and I am grateful.
Have Birthday, Will Travel
Leading up to my milestone birthday, my best BFFs asked me how I wanted us all to celebrate. Since they know that I live to travel, they knew a trip was in order. They probably weren’t even surprised when I said that I wanted us to celebrate in Cartagena. I think, though, almost all of us were surprised that we were able to make it happen. But, with a couple of minor tweaks on the dates, and adding a new friend to our party about three weeks before the big day, we set off on our adventure.
We took a 7 am flight out of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport , connected through Fort Lauderdale, and arrived at Rafael Núñez International Airport by 2:30 pm. Most of us slept through the first leg of the trip, so our 2 hour layover at FLL got the party started. As we gathered at the bar close to our gate, we had quick salads, sandwiches, snacks, and then…Prosecco.
We were so excited to see that the airport bar carried our favorite…splits of La Marca. As we enjoyed a couple of rounds, strangers came up and asked what we were celebrating, where we were going, and offered to take group pictures for us. It was almost like our excitement was contagious.
Even The Best Plans Change
Our early morning flights had us running on fumes, and we were pretty beat when we arrived in Cartagena. As a result, I could see some of the action-packed adventures that I had planned for our first evening fading away. I totally understood. Laura of Gema Tours, was waiting for us as we cleared customs. Her team quickly loaded our luggage into the mini-bus. We excitedly started on the 15 minute ride to the Intercontinental Hotel.
After a check-in, we made quick wardrobe changes (it was a sunny 93 degrees F), and met in the lobby. We walked to Kokorico, for a late lunch of roasted chicken, fried chicken, yucca, and arepas.
One at a time, we placed our orders at the register. We sat and enjoyed how cool it was to see that at this fast-food restaurant, they have servers. They delivered our silverware, soft drinks, napkins, and gloves (for eating the fried chicken!). While the wait was a bit longer than we are used to at a fast-food restaurant (about 25 minutes), we agreed the outcome was well worth it. Hot, juicy, delicious chicken made to order!
Lazy With The Locals
After our late lunch, we attempted to walk off the ton of food we’d just eaten. I’d planned for us to go back to the hotel, nap, and get get dressed for dinner and dancing. Instead, we walked a few more blocks, reached the beach, and answered the call of the tiki hut servers to come, sit and have cocktails.
With the waves splashing and the sun setting as a backdrop, we soon realized this was probably not a bad decision. A couple of local “musicians” sang songs for us, a stray beach dog slept at our feet, and growled at anyone that came near us. We sat happily, lazily, and decided that this was pretty much how our first day in Cartagena was going to wind down.
After a couple hours, we headed back to our hotel. There was a huge party about to take over the bar and rooftop pool deck. The hotel manager stopped us as we headed to the elevators. She offered us 2 for 1 nightcaps, and our own private section of the rooftop pool area. Who could turn that down? Finally, after a couple more hours, we turned in. In addition to being totally wiped out now, we had an 8 am pick-up the next day for out trip to Isla de Rosario, and we wanted to be ready.
Travel Tips – Cartagena, Colombia
Getting There ~ Jetblue had the best flights for us from the Washington, DC area airports.
Stay ~ We enjoyed our stay at InterContinental Cartagena de Indias in Bocagrande. Located in the midst of everything, and across the street from the beach, it looks just like it’s website pics!
If you’d rather stay in the Walled City (Old City), definitely consider the beautiful, stately, Hotel Casa San Agustin.
Getting Around ~ I suggest making airport/port transfers, and excursion arrangements with Gema Tours and Holidays With Downtown (ask for Rosa or Claudia). Taxis are great to get around town. The 9 of us typically used 3 mini-cabs to get to and from dinner and dancing. Approx. 10 Colombian COP from Bocagrande to The Walled City.
Official Language ~ Spanish.
Currency ~ The official currency is the Colombian Peso (COP). 2859.85 COP equals $1 USD. The preferred currency is the COP, so change money.
Credit and Debit Cards ~ U.S. credit and debit cards are widely accepted in Cartagena. Be sure to let your home bank know that you are traveling.
Weather ~ While we were there last week (early February), the average high was 90 degrees F, and the average low was 76 degrees F. It was very sunny. I strongly recommend sunblock and a hat.