Okay seriously, bringing in the the New Year in Cartagena is badass. Few cities in the Hemisphere–or the world–bring together such an amazing combination of Caribbean sun, beach, island hopping adventures, colonial architecture, thumping music, fresh tropical delights, and outstanding street parties as Cartagena.

First and foremost, if you are planning a trip to Cartagena for NYE, you MUST figure out your lodging in advance. Cartagena is a very popular tourist destination not just for international tourists, but for many Colombian tourists as well, at that time of year. We booked our lodging three months in advance and already there were hardly any options available. Try to book inside the Old City (also sometimes known as the Walled City, or simply Centro, in Spanish). That’s where you will find some beautiful and unique boutique hotels. We ended up staying right outside the walled city, in the beachfront casino district known as Bocagrande, at the Intercontinental. There were three of us when we booked a room for with two queen beds. Be wary that the hotel charges extra for a third person. Of my other Colombian visits: Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali – Cartagena was our favorite city in Colombia. Just a trip here itself will do justice but do realize that Cartagena is not representative of the majority of Colombia. Cartagena–at least so far as its gem, the Old City, is concerned–is an impeccably colorful colonial town with cobblestone streets in a tropical climate. All of this and more makes this coastal city of Colombia unique.


Planning a trip to various cities in Colombia? Make sure to read ‘The Stuff You Want to Know Before Planning a Trip to Colombia.

This post contains a detailed trip itinerary for a stay in Cartagena of 3 days and 3 nights. I spent days doing research and talking to experienced visitors and locals before creating my itineraries and my purpose is to share with the world the most idyllic trips. I believe you will find this helpful in your planning. This trip to Colombia included the following cities which you can also find detailed itineraries for – Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali.

Day 1:  Cali –> Cartagena

7:30am. – 9:00am: Flight to Cartagena

9:30am. – 11:00am: Settle into the Intercontinental and get ready for the day’s activities

1:00pm -4:50pm: Leave for El Centro

5:00pm – 7:00pm: Watch the Sunset over Cartagena at the Roof of Hotel Movich

7:00pm – 9:00pm: Downtime

Day 2:Island Hopping

You will need to book a tour ahead of time to visit the various Caribbean islands outside of Cartagena. We used Viator to book our tour which we found to be a family friendly tour that included lunch and snorkeling equipment. If you are looking for a more lively tour, our advice would be to book a boat with an individual agency to enjoy the turn up.

You will notice that the islands are known for having boats dock on them, blaring reggaeton music, and consuming copious amounts of aguardiente (the infamous and dangerously drinkable Colombian anise-flavored liqueur). If you’re in Cartagena for New Years–I mean, might as well!

Our favorite island was Rosario. There were boats docked with people from all over the world, dancing waist-deep in the water and partying under the sun.

Day 3: NYE in Cartagena

12:00pm- 2:30pm: Crepes and Waffles for Brunch

3:00pm – 4:30pm: Visit Castillo San Felipe de Barajas


4:30pm – 5:30pm: Downtime

5:30pm – 7:00pm: Watch the sunset on the walls of the Old Town

7:00pm – 11:00pm: Naps, Get Ready, Pregame, Go watch Fireworks

11:45pm: Watch the fireworks show inside the walled city 

Ok so let me fill you in on what not to do in Cartagena for NYE

There will be a lot of “exclusive” NYE events and parties that cost $100 – $300–or more–to get in. Yes, the price tags to go out on NYE even in Colombia can be quite expensive. Well, we ended up at one of those $300 per person NYE parties. Arrived at the party around 1:30a.m., only to find it be half empty with pretty terrible music and NO ONE dancing. Sure the drinks were flowing as the ticket included an open bar. But for a party that costs $300 per person, I would not expect the bathrooms to be porta-potties. Yeah, you read that right.  Well, we ended up meeting a few folks that were thinking the same thing we were. So what happens next? We all decided to leave the party and HIT THE STREETS!  AND FOLKS – partying on the streets with the locals is the way to do New Years Eve in Cartagena. You don’t need an exclusive party! Just be fluid with your plans and let it all happen. If everyone goes in with a good attitude and openness to spontaneity, you’ll wind up embracing local music and drink and white linen banquets and revelry in what amounts to a truly memorable experience.

Maybe you’re thinking…What exactly do you do…on the streets? If you’ve been to NOLA, you get what you do on the streets. You walk around with hundreds and hundreds of people, enjoy the street corners have DJs that have set up outside restaurants, playing music from all around the world. And you basically go from DJ to DJ dancing the night away. Another one of those things you have to experience for yourself.

Who knows, you may just meet someone special as the night goes on 😉 Stay partying till the sun comes up if you’re adventurous!

Day 3: Jan 1 – hungover AF

11am: Room Service

Alright folks – I don’t have much of an itinerary for this day as we are experiencing extreme exhaustion from day partying, boat partying, night partying, crazy all day excursions, and break-of-dawn flights from the entirety of the Colombia trip (Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali). All 100% worth it. A lazy day at the Intercontinental’s infinity pool with some new friends was the move. Here’s some poolside pizza we devoured

8:00pm: Dinner at Carmen

Cheers and happy New Year!