Where We Slept is our hotel roundup from our time on the road. We hope it helps budget travelers see how far their dollar can go—even though sometimes, it's not far enough!
Finding a nice and affordable hotel in Cartagena proved a challenge. You learn quite quickly that Colombia isn't the cheap destination people say it is when every room you look at is in the US$80 range and doesn't even offer breakfast.
With that criteria, we settled on Casa Relax in Getsemani, an artsy area a 10 minute walk outside of the walled city. The location wasn't ideal as we really wanted to be inside the Old City, but the fact that they had AC, a pool, and breakfast were all positives.
Casa Relax was kind enough to offer us a discounted rate from the usual $160.000COP price, which we really appreciated.
At first glance, the hotel was quite nice. The pool area is well landscaped and has plenty of seating, including some hammocks right on the side. Unfortunately, we were the last people to arrive for the night and got a room in the back on the bottom floor, which meant it was dark even during the day. Our AC unit may have been older than I was and took about 3 hours to cool the room down to a bearable temperature. It also made so much noise throughout the night that I actually considered shutting it off.
(The rooms on the side of the pool have new AC units that seemed to work much better.)
Breakfast was nice, though a bit crowded with only one table for all the guests. The biggest complaint we had about Casa Relax is that the staff spoke literally no English. This wasn't a huge problem for us as Rob speaks enough Spanish, but for other guests it could be a deal breaker. The staff offered no suggestions on where to go or what to see, so if you need a hostel-like info desk or a concierge-like experience, they won't be able to help you.
(The tricky part about this is that the website claims that they speak English, French, and Spanish and the owner emailed me back in perfect English. As these things often go in Colombia though, the expat owner wasn't around at all during our three night stay.)
My last complaint is the bag storage area, which literally doesn't exist. We had asked to store our bags overnight during our trip to Playa Blanca and when we were leaving the following morning, the woman at reception just told us to leave them by the desk. Since we travel with computers, we felt really uncomfortable doing this and took the bags with us. Chances are, had we left them, it would have been fine, but it's just one of those things that you'd expect a hotel to offer.
Final verdict? One of the best options in Getsemani, though that may not be saying much.
For tips on where to eat and what to see in Cartagena, check out our three day itinerary, which includes Playa Blanca.