Arbiter Insider’s Guide: Jaclyn Mason x Cartagena
Options for international travel are still pretty limited this winter. But one spot that is open to Americans and could be a perfect getaway is Cartagena, Colombia. This vibrant, historic, charming city is closer than you might think (less than 5 hour nonstop from JFK). And it has a little bit of everything – culture, architecture, style, food, nightlife, and beautiful beaches – making it an ideal winter destination.
Our friend Jaclyn is a frequent visitor of this Latin American hotspot, and is sharing her tips and favorites in her (second!) Arbiter Insider’s Guide. Read on – and reach out to Arbiter to plan your winter escape.
First stop off the plane: La Cevichería! I basically live off of ceviche when I’m in Cartagena and that includes breakfast! There can be a long wait at this Anthony Bourdain-approved spot. A little insider tip: put your name in and head across the street to the bar at the Sofitel for a drink. Let the host know at La Cevichería and they’ll come get you when your table is ready!
Signature drink: You have to try Aguardiente, a Colombian liqueur. It tastes like black licorice and OMG is it good! And I usually don’t like beer, but there’s something about having a nice cold Aguila (Colombian beer) in the afternoons that just does the trick.
Local flavor: Ceviche with plantain chips on repeat!
Can’t miss: Townhouse rooftop during the day for fun drinks and great views of Cartagena. Dinner at La Vitrola – make sure to have a reservation in advance! It’s a must/Cartagena institution. You enter through a little secret door and you are instantly transported back in time. Many US presidents have dined here! Go to the bar at Alma at Hotel Casa San Agustin for lobster empanadas and a drink! Last trip I went here two nights in a row, they are THAT good. Also, on weekends there’s live music in the courtyard. After dinner head to Café Havana outside the walls for a drink or two and live music!
Stay at: Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. This is one of my favorite hotels in the world! Located within the walls, it was built in an old monastery and is absolutely stunning. Their pool area is the perfect spot to lounge in the afternoon after wandering the streets. Like all the people in Colombia the staff’s energy is amazing: warm, sweet and there to make sure you are having a good time!
Shop at: St. DOM and AGUA DE LEON Heritage have the most incredible, splurge-worthy pieces from Colombian and Latin American designers! In between stores grab a popsicle at La Paletteria to cool down. Casa Chiqui is a must for home décor and more. And there’s countless other boutiques and galleries that you’ll find throughout the city!
Uniform: Cartagena is hot and humid all year round. Less is more! Dresses and breathable fabrics are a must.
Insider tip: To escape the city for a day head to Blue Apple Beach House. Just a 15 minute boat ride from town, this place is a little oasis right on the beach. There are two pools, beachside service, a DJ on the weekends and a restaurant with amazing Colombian food! Opt for a beachside spot then head to the pool where things tend to turn-up in the late afternoons. Think a poolside dance party – liquid courage highly recommended – the Latin moves are no joke!
Best moment: The best thing about Cartagena is just wandering and getting lost in the streets and feeling the amazing, magical energy the city has!
Most ‘grammable: The streets! Cartagena is so picturesque with the Spanish Colonial architecture and the brightly colored buildings, you’ll have no problem getting a Instagram-worthy shot.
Theme song/playlist: Maluma and my Latin Jams Spotify playlist! All about those Latin vibes.
Carry-on or check: For most people carry-on, for me I check. I like to have options!
Souvenir: Art and of course some Colombian coffee to bring home!
Lesson learned: I should always book more nights.
Next on my bucket list: Argentina, Greece and getting back to Cartagena!
Check out Jaclyn’s cheat sheet to her Cartagena favorites below, and reach out to Arbiter Travel Co. to plan your Colombian getaway!
Inspired to take a trip of your own? Get in touch and go!