Don't come here for the beaches, they are dirty brown and the water does not look clean either. Lots of trash and the peddlers of fruit, massage, and trinkets will go beyond annoying! The best part of Cartagena is Centro, the old walled city.
The walls are stone from hundreds of years ago and great architecture inside the walled city.
Do NOT go to Cartagena to relax on the beach, it will NOT happen. You will be pestered each and every second you are on the beach, massage, food, music players, etc.
.. will hound you until you want to leave. You will have NO peace and quiet at ALL EVER! Cartagena is best for sight seeing the old walled city and fort. If you want to see a beach Tayrona is THE place to have a relaxing time on the beach but it is very remote and only has one over priced hotel so you must be willing to pay over $300 a night or drive one hour each day and walk for one hour or rent horses to take you to the beach as it is remote and in a National park which you will have to pay like 36,000 pesos for foreigners for entry which is well worth the price as these beaches are awesome! Tayrona is about 4 hours north by Taxi which is the BEST way to get there unless you don't mind LONG bus rides with multiple stops and waiting (total time by bus is around 5.5 to 6 hours) The bus is cheap only 40,000 pesos per person, so I feel a taxi at 300,000 pesos is to me WELL worth it as time and comfort is more precious to me!
Fantastic place- is a cross between elegance and a state of decay depending on the street, but overall you feel like you have stepped back in time.
Forget the big hotels of the Bocogrande and stay inside the old city for a true experience of this great historic center. The beach is not great, or with blue water- you must travel further north or south for that
The best part of the city is the beaches. The historic city can be seen in a couple of hours and it isnt that great, other than the restaurants.
It's too touristy in the center and it doesn't feel like any locals really live there
In my opinion, Cartagena is beautiful. Lots of history and the nightlife is great. In checking out the sights, I would suggest "La Chiva".
If you go, you can't miss the bus with all the people inside. It will take you to all the major sightseeing places. There is a stop in front of the El Dorado hotel on Ave San Martin. Taxi rides for the most part are inexpensive. Beaches are clean. The only complaint, people trying to sell you stuff all the time.
This was my second visit to Cartagena. The local food is fantastic and there are lots of bars and restaurants open late into the evening.
Be sensible, though, and don't flaunt cameras, etc, as there is still a lot of poverty to be seen, particularly in the non-touristy areas.
I went in November: too hot during the day. Besides for walking in the city, touristic attractions are expensive.