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There are few cities in the world that compare to Cartagena Colombia, and it’s an absolutely amazing place to visit with kids. From the colorful colonial buildings to the incredible location right on the Caribbean Sea, it’s basically the Venice of Latin America (well without the canals…). If you’re looking for good food, incredible culture, and warm weather all wrapped up in a safe and affordable destination, Cartagena is the place for you.
At the end of our family’s 2-month stay in Colombia, we spent a week in Cartagena. Everyone instantly fell in love with the city, and after all of our exploring, I’m here to share with you the best things to do in Cartagena with kids. It’s very different from most other Colombian towns, and Cartagena is set up so that it’s very easy for families to get around and enjoy.
Is Cartagena Safe for Kids?
Absolutely YES! In fact, after traveling all over Colombia with our kids, we can easily say that we felt the absolute safest when we were in the tourist areas of Cartagena. We didn’t encounter any scams, felt safe enough to walk around with our phones constantly out and taking pictures, and felt that everyone was really welcoming to our kids. Best of all, unlike most other cities in Colombia, traffic within the tourist areas of Cartagena is VERY LIMITED, so you can comfortably walk just about anywhere and not worry about traffic hazards.
Where to Stay in Cartagena with Kids
Choosing a good place to stay on your family visit to Cartagena can make or break your trip. We saw some incredibly charming hotels, as well as some that were just gross. Our top recommendation is to find a place with a pool. The weather is hot year-round in Cartagena, so my top tip is to get a place with a pool (even if it’s small). Cartagena hotels with pools are almost always nicer and I guarantee that the kids will be happier if they have a cool pool to hang out in after a long and hot day of walking around. Most of the large hotels are in Bocagrande, but if you can stay in the Old City or Getsemani, you’ll get more of the local culture and flavor.
Here are our top recommendations for family-friendly places to stay in Cartagena:
Casa Morales Cartagena A great option for families since all of the rooms here are actually small apartments. This gives you access to a kitchen and separate bedrooms, while still having pool access and fantastic views. If you have a large family, this is a great option since some of the apartments can sleep up to 8 people.
Nacar Hotel The Nacar Hotel Cartagena is so beautiful, and with its incredible architecture, you’ll feel totally immersed in the Old City. It’s a fantastic mix of modern and old, and a very unique property. The kids will love the pool too!
Luxury Colonial House with Full Service If renting a house is more your style, you can’t go wrong with this Luxury Cartagena home. The pool and outdoor spaces are incredible, and the kids will love how the indoor and outdoor spaces just flow together.
Best Things To Do In Cartagena with Kids
During our family visit to Cartagena, our 5 kids were 6, 9, 11, 13, and 16, so we’ve got a bit of every age and stage we’re trying to keep happy. Luckily, nearly everything we saw and did, appealed to most of our kids. Here are some of the best things to do in Cartagena (ranked by our kids in order of how much they enjoyed it, with the best listed first).
Rent Electric Scooters and Ride Around Cartagena
Hands down the best thing to do in Cartagena with kids is to rent electric scooters and ride around town. We loved it so much that we did it on three separate occasions (and the kids would have loved to go another time). At the entrance to the clock tower, and at several points around town, you’ll find people with electric scooters for rent. We rented our scooters through a company called Skateboard Rental and they were absolutely amazing. If you send them a message, they’ll bring the scooters wherever you need them and drop them off for you, which makes them incredibly convenient.
We had our 4 older kids (ages 9, 11, 13, and 16) ride their own scooters, and our youngest son, age 6, rode with a parent. THE KIDS LOVED IT! While I wouldn’t just let them ride in every city, the Old City of Cartagena felt like an excellent place to try out electric scooters in Cartagena with kids.
Cartagena’s streets don’t have a lot of traffic (with the exception of a few streets that you can just avoid), and the cars that are there drive surprisingly slowly. We started by letting the kids ride scooters in Cartagena’s plazas and pedestrian walkways, then went up on top of the city walls, and eventually, let them ride on the streets of Cartagena. It was the absolute best way to see Cartagena with kids, and everyone had an excellent time!
The cost to rent electric scooters in Cartagena was $15.000 pesos for 30-minute ride (about $3.30 usd/30 minutes).
Take A Pirate Ship Sunset Cruise
Our Cartagena Pirate Ship Cruise is another one of the standout activities in Cartagena with kids. I’ll be honest in saying that I was a bit skeptical about this trip, but it exceed our expectations in every way. We started from the port just outside the Old Walled City of Cartagena and boarded what looked like an old wooden sailing vessel.
The kids were immediately whisked away below deck by the crew to change, and from there, the fun was nonstop. When the kids reemerged, they were wearing pirate hats, had cutlasses in their hands, and the rest of the night was a sword-fighting, swashbuckling success. While this wasn’t nearly as engaging for our teens, our younger boys, ages 6, 9, and 11, got completely wrapped up in the excitement of our Cartagena pirate cruise and had the time of their lives. The tour was 2 hours and had lots of stories, music, and bottomless coconut lemonade, which felt pretty perfect for a Cartagena outing with kids.
Our tour went from 5-7 and while it was perfect for watching the Cartagena sunset, it was a bit tricky with dinner. Of course, we weren’t prepared, and the kids were STARVING by the end of the tour. We rushed over for a quick dinner at Terraza Municipal food court for some quick bites. Next time, I would remember to grab everyone a snack so we can stretch their hungry appetite just a little bit farther. There seem to be vendors selling empanadas on every other block, so this shouldn’t be a problem unless you just totally forget like we did.
When comparing other options, this was the most affordable family friend;y tour around Cartagena.
Spot Wildlife at Centenario Park
Centenario Park was the green space highlight of our family trip to Cartagena. Located just between the Old Walled City of Cartagena and the popular Getsemani neighborhood, it’s a must-visit spot.
While there are lots of little highlights to this park, the real stars of the show are the WILDLIFE. Yes, wildlife in the middle of Cartagena! And not just any wildlife, monkeys, iguanas, and sloths! My kids couldn’t believe it.
I was shocked when people told me about it, but it’s true, and the wildlife is incredibly easy to spot.
The sloths are typically in the large trees near the west side, and when we were there we saw a total of 4 sloths. We went to the park at least 8 times during our stay and every time, we saw at least 2 sloths. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert animal spotter, there are always locals there who will point them out to you if you’re having a hard time spotting them.
There are also a group of small monkeys that live at Centenario Park in Cartagena. They tend to stay more or less as a group, but they do move all over the park. Keep an eye out for groups of people pointing up at the trees, since they’re usually looking at the monkeys. If you can’t find them, just ask one of the local vendors “Monkeys?” and they’ll usually happily point you in the right direction.
To find the iguanas, look in the open areas between the sidewalks since that’s where the iguanas usually hang out. We found that most of them were perfect to hang out in the shade under the bushes in the heat of the day and they were more active (and easier to see), in the morning or early evening.
Centenario Park was created in 1911 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence, hence the name “Centenario,” meaning “centennial.”
Despite its location amid bustling streets, Centenario Park offers a quiet retreat for locals and tourists alike. It spans an entire block, housing monuments, lots of local vendors, space to run around, and a handful of special wildlife that will make your trip unforgettable.
Explore The Tunnels at Castillo San Felipe Fort
The San Felipe Fort looks over the town of Cartagena and is one of the most popular places to visit in Cartagena. While the fort is cool, and the views are pretty incredible, the best part about the Castillo San Felipe Fort is something that most people miss. The typical visitor goes up to the top of each section, looks around a bit, and leaves.
However, if you’re visiting Castillo San Felipe with kids, plan on staying longer. That’s because there is a series of underground tunnels at El Castillo that are absolutely incredible to explore. Our kids had such a fun time exploring everywhere, hiding in all the nooks and crannies, and imagining what life would have been like 400 years ago there.
We spent at least half of our time there in the underground tunnels and we saw only one other person inside of the San Felipe Tunnels, so it’s definitely not a well-known attraction, but it’s the perfect thing to do in Cartagena with kids.
Visit Museo Navel de Carribe
Typically, a Naval Museum would not be this high up on our list of the best things to do in Cartagena with kids (or really any city), but this one was different. The Museo Naval de Caribe was easily the best museum that we visited in Cartagena with kids. The exhibits were really well done, the history felt really comprehensive, and the overall experience was great.
But there’s a trick to having an AMAZING visit to the Museo Naval de Carribe – hire a tour guide. For just $30.000 pesos (about $6.75 usd) you can hire a tour guide to take you around the museum and explain things to you. If you don’t speak and read Spanish well, this is especially worth the money since most of the museum is in Spanish.
The best part of the tour guides at the Naval Museum is how wonderful they are with kids. Ours sat the kids down, gave them a lesson on Colombian Naval history (complete with a quiz to make sure they learned everything they needed), and then took them around to the different exhibits to give them a first-hand glimpse of what things are like in the Colombian Navy. He took them to the exhibits of the submarine, the helicopter, the cruise ship, and more and explained everything about the ships, and taught the kids different roles for people on board. Then he gave everyone a position on board, a script to follow, and how to react to different situations, so the kids got a feel for what it’s like to be in the Navy.
It was so incredibly well done, and I think my kids learned more on this tour through play, than they have on any other tour we’ve taken EVER! I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Go Out For Ice Cream and Popsicles
It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Cartagena with kids, it’s pretty much always hot and humid. The main way that we survived was with daily stops for popsicles and ice cream. There is no shortage of great heladeria (ice cream shops), Gelateria (gelato shops), and Paletteria (popsicle shops) in Cartagena. While it may be tempting to just pick one favorite heladeria and visit it every day, there are so many amazing options that it’s worth going to a new one each day. You can also go just outside of the clock tower and usually find vendors selling raspados (snow cones) covered in sweetened condensed milk, and they always hit the spot on a hot day.
While the ice cream in Cartagena was one of the biggest highlights for the kids, for me it was the vendors all over selling cold water and drinks. We made the mistake of not drinking enough one day and we were all super dehydrated and felt horrible. For $2.000 pesos (less than $0.50 usd) you can get a cold bottle of water, so there’s really no excuse for overheating and not staying hydrated.
Take A Biking Tour of Cartagena
Our kids LOVE to bike, so we try to integrate biking into every trip that we can. When we found a biking tour of Cartagena, we quickly signed up for my oldest three kids and me for the afternoon. Everyone loved seeing the city by bike, and we got to see things so much faster than we had on foot. I especially loved that we got to learn the history of the city and different areas as we went, so it was a great combination of learning and fun.
We looked around at lots of different tours and were unable to find one with kids-sized bikes, so we didn’t take the whole family. Only our older three kids can ride an adult-sized bike, so this is an activity that’s best if you’re looking for things to do in Cartagena with teens.
We did make the mistake of doing our biking tour of Cartagena with kids on the next to last day of our visit. In retrospect, this should have been one of the first things that we did on our trip to Cartagena so that everyone had more historical context for everything that we would see.
Wander Through The Street Art in Getsemani
Getsemani used to house the poorest families in all of Cartagena, but it’s morphed into a fun and eclectic neighborhood packed full of some of the best street art in all of Colombia. The whole neighborhood is relatively small and we could walk from one end to the other in 10 minutes (that is if we weren’t constantly distracted).
We probably walked all through the neighborhood at least 15 times during our stay, and we always found something new. If you’re looking for some street art to buy, stroll down Calle San Juan where several local artists have shops and display their work in the street for purchase.
Enjoy A Break at the Abaco Libros Cafe
If you have a book lover in your family, you cannot miss a stop at the Abaco Libros Cafe. The entire place is so charming and the workers there are beyond kind. We have a few major bookworms and there were in heaven looking at all the books here. While a majority of the books are in Spanish, they do have a few sections of the bookstore for English and other language books. We also really enjoyed that there was a section of books dedicated to the history and beauty of Cartegena, including several children’s books.
Of course, plan on staying for a while and enjoying the cafe and some of the treats there. Make sure to try the carrot cake – it’s absolutely incredible.
Check Out Museo del Oro Zenu
If you want a little change of pace, and a good place to cool down in the air conditioning, check out the Museo del Oro Zenu in Cartagena, aka The Cartagena Gold Museum. The museum is free to enter and a visit there won’t take long. There are a few exhibit rooms that you can walk through and it’s a good introduction to how gold was used and the importance of gold in the early days of Colombia. The kid’s favorite part was the trading cards that the museum host gave them that they could trade with each other and find the pieces on their cards inside the museum.
NOTE: There is also a gold museum in Bogota and this one does not compare to how amazing the Bogota museum was. After going to the Bogota gold museum a few weeks prior, this was a little bit of a disappointment.
Walk The Walls of the Old City
The Old City of Cartagena is surrounded by a giant wall, and you can actually walk on top of it! Originally built to withstand attacks from both the sea and the harbor on the other side, the wall of Cartagena is a great place to explore with kids.
On top, you’ll see lots of canons and it’s usually not too crowded so in the bigger sections, it’s a good place to let the kids run around for a while. We also took both our electric scooters and our bikes on top of the wall for a ride, which made it extra exciting. The only downside to walking the walls of the Cartagena Old City with kids is that there’s almost no shade and it can get really hot. If you’re planning to do this on your family trip to Cartagena, plan on going early in the morning, or right around sunset.
Have A Family Photoshoot in Cartagena
Cartagena is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Latin America, so it’s the perfect place for a family photoshoot. While it may not be at the top of your kid’s list of things to do in Cartagena, you’ll be grateful that you took the chance to capture your time there.
The absolute best option is to hire a photographer with Flytographer, since they specialize in vacation photoshoots. You’ll have your edited photos back within a couple of days, and it’s our favorite way to preserve memories.
Best Places To Eat In Cartagena with Kids
Cartagena has some of the best food in ALL of Colombia. Generally speaking, Colombian food can be pretty bland and often deep-fried, so having a very diverse variety of food in Cartagena was a breath of fresh air. Food in Cartegena (well, everything in Cartagena) was more expensive than the rest of the country, but it’s still more affordable than most Western countries. Here are the top places to eat in Cartagena with kids:
Amasa Cafe Brunch: This was hands down our favorite place to eat in Cartagena, and the kids all LOVED it here. We had brunch and lunch here several times and it was so delicious. The best things we tried were the Churro French Toast, the Eggs Benedict Sandwich, and the Pancakes with Pistachio Cream.
El Bololo: If you’re craving some healthy and flavorful food, head to El Bololo. We loved their bowls that were PACKED full of fresh veggies, and the meats they were topped with were always cooked perfectly and so delicious.
Terraza Municipal: This is a food truck sort of setting but with waited tables. For our family, it was a great option after our sunset cruise since we could all get just what we wanted. It’s right on the waterfront so it’s great to eat here around sunset, and we loved that there’s lots of room for the kids to walk around and play.
Di Silvio Trattoria: This Italian restaurant was absolutely amazing. We loved everything from the ravioli to the lasagne, and even the regular spaghetti was amazing. We highly recommend grabbing a gelato to go after you eat and wandering around the nearby streets looking at street art!
Yes, baby supplies are readily available in Cartagena. There are numerous supermarkets and pharmacies where you can buy baby essentials, including diapers, baby food, and formula. The popular chains are Exito and Carulla.
The walled city of Cartagena, with its cobblestone streets, can be challenging for strollers. However, neighborhoods like Bocagrande have smoother pavements suitable for strollers. It’s always handy to bring a lightweight and easily foldable stroller, even if you don’t use it much. Overall, we recommend a baby carrier instead of a stroller in Cartagena.
The best times to visit Cartagena are during the dry seasons, from December to April and July to August. The weather is warm all year round, but in the rainy season, you’ll get the occasional downpour. We visited during the rainy season and loved that it was less crowded and that the afternoon rain storms always cooled things down nicely.
Yes, Cartagena has several parks and open spaces. Centenario Park, for instance, has ample space for children to play and is home to a variety of wildlife. The city’s beaches also provide great open spaces for kids.
Due to Cartagena’s tropical climate, lightweight, breathable clothes are recommended. Our kids wore loose shorts, hats, and quick-drying athletic shirts when we were there. We all got SO SWEATY, so plan on either packing a lot or staying somewhere that has laundry facilities. Don’t forget swimwear for beach visits and a hat and sunscreen for protection against the sun. A lightweight and packable rain jacket is also a great idea.