Luxury Hotels in Colonial Cartagena, Colombia

Colombia’s Cartagena is almost certainly South America’s most beautiful colonial city.  The old quarter is a charming and romantic place to explore, eat fine food and marvel at the stunning colonial architecture.  Following a recent visit to Cartagena where I scoped out various hotels, here follows some advice and reviews about luxury-end hotels in Cartagena.

Most luxury hotels in Cartagena are similarly priced at around 600,000 Colombian pesos (USD $300) per night for a double.  While the prices for top end hotels in Cartagena are similar, the style, standard and ambience of each is highly variable.  The luxury hotels I just took a look around include the Santa Clara, Hotel Cartagena de Indias, Hotel Agua, Silvia Tchessari Hotel, Casa del Arzobispado and Casa Pestagua.

The best luxury hotel in Cartagena I believe to be the 35 room hotel Cartagena de Indias.  It’s the only SLH (small luxury hotels) branded hotel in Colombia.  It’s standard of rooms and service seemed to be a little higher than that of the competition.  What is particularly amazing about this hotel is the lovely roof-top pool from where there are panoramic views of the old town – this was certainly the most exquisite pool area of any hotel I saw in Cartagena.  As an added bonus, with your room comes a private butler, who you can use to show you around the old town, go shopping with you, or whatever – a nice extra touch.  This hotel is Cartagena’s best, however it does have a more modern feel than some of the other more colonial hotels in the city.

Many people might prefer a more colonial hotel, in which case two of the best luxury options are Casa Pestagua (where I stayed) and Casa del Arzobispado.  Both are very good for different reasons.  The 9 room Casa Pestagua is found in a truely stunning building that was the former home of a Marquis. The grand old building is a tourist attraction in its own right – this is a very historic place to stay with many rooms full of old antique furniture.  Considering the perfect location and wonderful building, the Casa Pestagua should be the best luxury hotel in Cartagena, however it is not quite there – it is a little let down by a lack of attention to detail.  Having said this, it was a great, atmospheric place to stay.

Ten room Casa del Arzobispado is another luxury colonial hotel.  It’s different in style from Casa Pestagua.  Casa del Arzobispado seems to be very well cared for and maintained, and had a lovely peaceful atmosphere and ambience, especially in the central courtyard where the small pool is found. 

An overdressed, frilly bellboy greets you as you walk into the Santa Clara, which is Cartagena’s most famous luxury hotel.   This is a larger hotel that is found in an old monastery.  The large colonial courtyard is the centrepiece of this beautiful building, however the rest of the building and the actual rooms are a slight letdown in comparison (according to my girlfriend who looked around recently).   People who prefer larger hotels with more tourists milling around would prefer the Santa Clara.  The reception desk staff where too busy dealing with the longer than would be desired check out queue in the reception to bother finding someone to show me a room. Not so impressed.

The Silvia Tchessari hotel offers an altogether very different option from the hotels already mentioned.  I’d describe the Silvia Tchessasi hotel as “chic”, “posh” and “exclusive”.  Owned by a very famous Colombian fashion designer, decor is pretty funky and more modern than colonial.  It’s all done very stylishly and very well, and the restaurant (open to non guests) came up with some lovely food when we ate there.  This is a true luxury experience - my girlfriend stayed earlier in the year and reckons the hotel’s spa is the best she has ever been to.  There is, perhaps, one problem with this hotel – it’s clientele.  This is where Colombians who fancy themselves, think they’re important, or uber-trendy, or those like to splash out on expensive luxury tend to do so in Cartagena.  It seems like it’s become the place “to be seen” because it’s owned and designed by Colombia’s most famous fashion designer.

The last hotel I tried to look around was the hotel Agua. I knocked on the door on two different occasions, and each time there was a different excuse as to why they couldn’t show me around (there’s a private breakfast taking place; we’re doing some painting).  So the only comment I’ll make is that my girlfriend looked around earlier this year and felt that all the hotels I’ve already mentioned slightly shaded the hotel Agua.  Shame I couldn’t see it to form my own opinion.                     

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