DURING A RECENT VENTURE TO CARTAGENA, Proexport—Colombia's tourism board—took us on a tour of boutique hotels in the area, where we were pleasantly surprised to see the array of great products offered. We say they are all are suitable for clients looking to tour the historic city. Here's a peek at what we saw:
Casa La Fe
The 14-room Casa La Fe (www.casalafe.com) hotel is in the town square, Plaza Fernandez de Madrid, a busy and somewhat noisy area of Cartagena. The street is a bit congested, so prepare for some New York City-like audio when staying at this otherwise cozy boutique hotel.
Like most of the boutique hotels we will be discussing, rooms are relatively cheap, starting at about $130 a night. We toured room 306, which is an upstairs balcony room. There are four rooms with balconies, all recommended because they provide a great view of the city's houses and other buildings. The roof, which is open to all guests, has a small dipping pool.
Agents should contact co-owners Carmen Marrugo and Geoff Chew at +57-5-6640306 or [email protected].
El Cabildo de Bantú
This boutique hotel (www.bantuhotel.com) is similar in design to Casa La Fe but is night and day when it comes to location. This property is on a very quiet side street where you can hear a mouse sneeze. All rooms are between $120 and $200.
We particularly liked room 209, a small room with twin beds. We immediately thought it would be great for a girlfriends' getaway. The rooftop Presidential Suite is unique in that it has access to many of the roof's picnic tables and lounge chairs, as well as great views of Cartagena. In fact, most of the hotels we visited took a lot of pride in their rooftops, all designed to provide a relaxing setting while enjoying the view. Agents should contact Henry Marteo, hotel manager, at +57-5-6643362.
One of our personal favorites, Casa Quero (www.hotelcasaquero.com) has only six rooms: four Junior Suites and two Grand Suites. This is definitely a great property to recommend to couples, as the rooms are well spread apart. All accommodations are about $250-$350 a night, which is expensive by Cartagena's standards but well worth the price.
All rooms are labeled by name, not number. Junior Suite "La Popa," which was the first we saw, has a king-size bed and a flat-screen TV. It should be noted that most of the hotel rooms in the city—including this one—have an old-fashioned, colonial feel to them. The furniture resembles antiques—rooms look like something out of a history book. And then there is a high-tech, brand spanking new, flat-screen in the living room. Admittedly, this electronics element is a bit out of place aesthetically, but we think clients will agree that it's a welcome touch.
Here we recommend either of the two Grand Suites, "Conde Quero" or "Condesa," which are right next door to each other but do not have a connecting door. The rooms each have a large bathroom, a king-size bed and a wooden carved balcony. The shade of blue in "Conde Quero" created a sense of calm.
Agents should contact Luzelena Cuentas, assistant manager, at +57-5-6644493.
La Passion (www.lapassionhotel.com) is almost as small as Casa Quero, home to only eight rooms, all ranging between $250 and $350 a night. It has four impressive suites, and we recommend any one of them.
All suites have air-conditioning and king-size beds. It's a small detail, but the staircase leading from the suites to the rooftop is really interesting architecturally. It's a black, spiral staircase that really gives the hotel a classic feel.
Again, the roof provides a great view of Cartagena. There's a rooftop pool and a small picnic area that offers shade from the sun, which is not always easy to find in Cartagena. (You've probably gotten the picture by now that there is a reason why most hotels have at least one pool and why most are on the roof—Cartagena is extremely hot and humid all year.)
The location of La Passion is ideal for those looking to shop. It is in downtown Cartagena near stores and countless street vendors. Agents should call Liliana Acosta, hotel manager, at +57-5-6648605.
Charleston Cartagena Claustro de Santa Teresa
This was our favorite hotel we toured during our trip to Cartagena. This was also where we stayed, and perhaps if we stayed overnight at other hotels, our preference would change. But until we do, the hotel commonly known as the Santa Teresa (www.hoteles-charleston.com) tops our list.
We stayed in room 306, which was a Grand Suite and goes for $405 a night. Out of a total of 90 rooms, there are five of these suites, and any are recommended. Now, you're probably thinking 90 rooms means the hotel is big. Yes, it is big, but its boutique style makes it feel small.
Grand Suites comes with a living area, a large bathroom, a bedroom and a flat-screen TV. The building was the first convent built in the city about 400 years ago and was converted into a hotel only a little more than a decade ago.
Agents should contact Francisco Montoya, general manager, at +57-5-6649494 or [email protected].
Hotel Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara
Within walking distance from The Santa Teresa is the Hotel Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara (www.hotelsantaclara.com), commonly known as the Santa Clara. We were told by members of Proexport that this hotel and Santa Teresa are the two most popular hotels among Americans. We didn't have an official tour so we were unable to see any rooms, but Travel Agent took a self-guided stroll around this beautiful property.
Perhaps the most striking views are from the pool. The main pool is in front of a beautiful yellow colonial building with stairs leading to the roof and to another, smaller pool.
This hotel stands apart from the rest because it is the only one with a view of both the city and the ocean.