Built as a fortress to protect its wealthy and prosperous community during the 17th century, Cartagena de Indias is now a mix between the new and the old. In the last 20 years, the city’s historical area was given a facelift as centenarian colonial mansions are being turned into exclusive boutique and luxury hotels. These adjusted abodes have become one of the city’s most prosperous businesses—and even Europeans and Americans are buying houses to then transform into small hotels.
Such is the case with Casa El Carretero. Originally remodeled by American Carlos Restrepo to be his own family house, a change of plans gave birth to an enchanting three-bedroom hotel. The property features a postcard worthy pool area and balanced decor that crosses Caribbean elements with Indonesian and African influences as well as paintings by Hermando Restrepo. The sophisticated kitchen located in the heart of the house is key to making the guests feel at home.
Casa Santa Ana is the newest boutique like hotel built in Getsemani. Although not inside the walled city of Cartagena, this zone is filled with the best salsa and cumbia bars and is also set with residential homes that can give you a sense of the region’s true flavors. Seeing the houses with doors and windows wide open, boys playing soccer in front of the church square and old ladies gossiping on the sidewalk feels bucolic and ideal. At Casa Santa Ana guests are welcomed by a baroque angel statue and refreshing juices offered by the friendly staff. Similar to Casa El Carretero, the house feels intimate and counts only five rooms. Each guest area is nicely decorated with L’Occitane amenities, while an additional Spa place allows guests to relax in the jacuzzi, have a massage or just hang out at the pool. The traditional Caribbean breakfast is a delicious though rich choice to sample.
Inside the walled city, Casa Veranera offers a similar home-away-from-home feeling. The common space of the house is beautifully decorated with antique style floors, vintage objects and a charming internal garden that hosts wedding parties and family gatherings. The grand suite includes its own Greek-style terrace. Super chevere (“very cool”), as Colombians would say.
If you are willing to spend a bit more, Casa Quero is a colonial mansion that offers an upscale family atmosphere with an elegant decor that mixes local artisan crafts with Mediterranean influences. The rooms are impressively vast and feature ample amenities, so be prepared for serious pampering. And for interested guests, cooking lessons are given in a spacious kitchen.
Launched six years ago, Hotel Água is the first-born of Cartagena’s boutique hotels. In addition to its prestige, it features magnificent decor and first class services. Featuring six fully furnished rooms—all carefully designed and decorated—Hotel Água is, as its manager puts it: “a lifestyle.”
If living the utmost Caribbean luxury is what you’re looking for, than LM Hotel will be the perfect fit. Located at La Mantilha street, inside the walled city, the hotel is one of those places with a strong personality that comes a local legend about a spurned woman. The decoration is underlined by bold vintage and modern furniture from different parts of the world and the seven rooms are all five star worthy. Also, LM guests are spoiled by luxury services, from sailing on the hotel’s private boat to a special service for golfers to a private house in Cholon, a sector of Barú island that has some of the most amazing Caribbean beaches.
Should you also make it to Medellin, the brand new Art Hotel has a boutique-like atmosphere and a strategic location near the hot neighborhood for trendy clubs and restaurants. Nearby is La Casa Medellin, yet another mansion that was transformed in a hotel. It counts a small number of rooms and a great pool area for relaxing and reloading after Medellin salsa nights. The intimate atmosphere is exactly what makes this hotel interesting and is sure to inspire more than a few fantasies about living in Colombia.