A Barcelona-esque city stacked with beaches and nightlife.
For folks living in Florida -- or anywhere in the southeast -- Cartagena is an easier trip to make than most of the eastern seaboard. This might be why, on the weekends, you’ll find the beaches packed with families from nearby Bogotá frolicking next to Americans who’ve learned, as the tourism slogan says, the only risk is wanting to stay.
Of course, anywhere referred to as “The Hamptons of Bogotá” is guaranteed to be filled with plenty of pristine, white, powdery beaches. The best ones are at Islas Rosario just off the coast, or in Baru, a tropical, Caribbean paradise light on tourists. Inside the city, Bocagrande offers the most entertaining people-watching. If you’re into watching the ocean instead, hit up Castillogrande.
After a day of playing in the Caribbean Sea, have a sunset drink at Café del Mar. You’ll find it on the wall of the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a 17th-century colonial fortress that stands over the old city, a walled enclave full of colorful colonial buildings, churches, and delicious hole-in-the-wall eateries. Then, you eat. La Vitrola is the famous, big name destination restaurant, and is worth hitting for its impressively long menu. Quebracho is where to go if you want an epic steak dinner so cheap you’ll blab about it every time you go out for steaks back home. -- Matt Meltzer