Top 6 Things to Do in Cartagena

This famed Caribbean port city oozes with romance, legend, and beauty. With its massive churches, cobbled alleys and plenty of greenery all at reach within the stone walls of the old colonial city, Cartagena is a fantastic destination for your next cruise vacation.

Sparkling emeralds, clear waters, and lively culture all await you on the beautiful Colombian coast. When you cruise to Cartagena, don’t forget to make time for one or more of these great activities to explore the area. Here are 6 of our top things to do in Cartagena.

1.   Bocachica Bay and Historic Forts

Trade in your cruise ship for a speedboat! The Cartagena by Land & Sea excursion begins with a fast boat ride to two of the most iconic forts in Cartagena, Fort San José and San Fernando de Bocachica. On your way into the bay of Cartagena, take in other impressive forts and great views of the city. You’ll be fascinated to learn about the history and highlights of the city and port of Cartagena.

Fort San Fernando de Bocachica, Cartagena Colombia

Continue by bus to the ancient grounds of Fort of San Felipe de Barajas. Time travel to the 17th century as you hike around the fort and explore the picturesque grounds. Quench your thirst for history with a visit to one of the many bastions built in colonial days. As no excursion is complete without an opportunity to buy local handicrafts from both traditional and modern shopping centers.

2.   Bird Watching

Colombia is famous for its natural beauty – not the least of which is the diverse array of bird species. With over 19,000 unique species, Colombia boasts some of the world’s greatest bird diversity. Breathe deep and savor the gorgeous views of Cartagena and the lush countryside en route to the island of Brau. At the National Aviary on Brau, prepare to be impressed by 20 separate exhibits and visit an artificial lake crowded with hundreds of migratory birds.

 toucan in National Aviary on Brau, Cartagena

On this walking tour you can see colorful macaws, harpy eagles, tangaras and other varieties of species amid palm trees and flowing waterfalls. Have your camera ready in case you encounter the friendly macaque monkeys who also call this area home. Bring a bottle of water and comfortable shoes to make the best of this fun excursion.

3.   Cartagena Party Bus

If you’re looking for an activity that’s festive and laid back but still offers a taste of Colombian culture, then this is for you! What better way to explore a lively destination than aboard a colorful party bus? Your hand-painted artisan bus resembles a “Chiva”, the name for the buses used in rural areas for public transport. Partake of complimentary drinks as you’re serenaded with traditional music along the ride to some of Cartagena’s most important historical and cultural sites.

tourist on board a colorful party bus in Cartagena

4.   Best of Cartagena

Explore the best of Cartagena on our most popular excursion! From elegant residential neighborhoods to historical monuments including an over 400 year-old monastery, a 17th century fort, and late 18th century dungeon, you’ll find plenty of Instagram-worthy vistas. Transport yourself to former times as you meander the charming cobblestone streets inside the walled city still brimming with life and energy. All of this will get you in the mindset to search for the perfect emerald or other local products during a fun shopping outing.

Fort of San Felipe de Barajas, Cartagena Colombia

5.   Shopping and Historical Highlights

For a little bit of something for everyone, consider the Shopping Tour and Historical Highlights excursion. See where modern meets historic as we visit several of the city’s most noteworthy sites. Think back to simpler times as you walk through the famous walled city, surrounded by colonial buildings and age-old fortifications.

Then catch the contagious buzz of Colombian life on a walk through a modern residential area, where the streets are overflowing with hotels, shops, eateries, nightclubs and art galleries. Get ready for an emerald shopping stop before heading back to port. For a unique shopping experience to please both the shopaholics and history enthusiasts alike, you’ll visit an artisan market housed in a former dungeon!

6.   Sea Rumba and Old City Tour

Music and dance are a big part of Colombian culture. A day on the Sibarita Express will have you dancing and singing as you set forth to fantastic destinations. Experience the intrigue and wonder of Cartagena’s walled city with a walking tour and visit to some of the old city’s colorful plazas. There will be plenty of shops and photo ops as you explore the area. Then it’s back to the boat for some relaxation, filled with sea and sun. Drink, laugh and take in the sights during a scenic cruise through the Inner Bay, complete with an onboard guide, as well as musicians and dancers for your entertainment. Open bar is included!

Colombian woman dancing next to Sibarita Express boat

Thanks to its rich history, stunning scenery and rich culture, a trip to Cartagena is a must for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re hoping for some relaxation, energetic adventures, searching for that perfect emerald, or a little bit of everything, we know you’ll enjoy your Carnival cruise to this Caribbean gem.