Where to stay in Cartagena: Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa review
One of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America, Cartagena is a true Colombian gem, where the UNESCO-protected architecture is straight out of a fairytale, the restaurants are some of the finest in the country and romance is always in the air. If a holiday of a lifetime is what you have in mind, look no further than the show-stopping Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa, the finest of five-star hotels in the Caribbean port city.
Occupying a bright yellow building which houses a convent in the 17th century and situated just metres from the famous city walls, the Santa Teresa's splendid location is just the start of all it has to offer. The luxury hotel boasts a unique charm with its grand interiors, timeless style, swanky atmosphere and history round every corner.
What's to love?
Oh, the glamour. From the tall white flower arrangements and sophisticated ambience that greet you as you walk in, to the gorgeous guestrooms and panoramic rooftop pool, the Santa Teresa exudes grace and exclusivity, making you feel like a VIP throughout your stay. Preserving many of its 17th and 20th century features, the historic hotel reflects the colourful spirit of Cartagena in the utmost grace. Here, it's all about the details: expect to be welcomed into the hotel with a glass of delicious coconut lemonade, discover the most exotic of Colombian fruits with a selection of freshly squeezed juices in your room and enjoy the Santa Teresa's own Spotify playlist.
Best room in the house
You'll love the elegant décor of the rooms, which is both classic and contemporary, incorporating traditional elements of Cartagena with fresh, modern styles. The beautiful rooms feature warm blue hues, marble bathrooms and exquisite furniture, creating a space filled with light and a luxurious coastal feel. The Superior Rooms (from USD 309/£241 per night) offer a wonderfully cool sanctuary from the steamy outdoor heat (the average year-round temperature in Cartagena is 28C), as well as a delightful space to relax after a day of exploring the city. With magnificent views from the private balconies, large beds to sink into and the latest technology including an in-room iPad, you could easily spend lazy mornings holed up in your room.
This place is perfect if you...
...are a couple looking for the ultimate in romance, five-star luxury and an unforgettable holiday. The hotel is a superb base for exploring Cartagena, providing desirable drinking, dining and relaxing spaces, but so much more. Fancy waking up to a private sunrise yoga class? It's easily arranged. A dreamy day trip for two? The hotel will take you to the dreamy Rosario Islands for snorkelling and lunch at the gorgeous Hotel Agua on the island of Baru, where you'll feast on fresh grilled fish, coconut rice and plantain - bliss! When it comes to local experiences, the Santa Teresa has you covered and will make your trip to Cartagena as indulgent and authentic as you wish.
Where to eat
Dining at the hotel is a truly special experience. Home to celebrated chef Harry Sasson's first restaurant outside of Colombia's capital Bogota, the hotel's much-loved dining spot invites fans of fine cuisine to feast on some of the best dishes in town. Expect exceptional ceviche, terrific twists on traditional Colombian specialities and decadent desserts from the top Latin American chef. As the hottest table in town, Harry Sasson Restaurant affords an impressive location in the hotel's Republican patio and attracts Cartagena's well-heeled locals as well as hotel guests. Try the fish of the day ceviche with tropical fruits, followed by Cartagena-style slow-cooked rump steak, topped off with the coconut pie and Harry's signature millefeuille with three types of cream, Nutella and strawberries - trust us, you'll want to order both desserts! Santa Teresa's La Terrazza is another restaurant you won't want to miss and offers an unparalleled view of the Caribbean Sea and San Pedro Claver Church as you sample the likes of Cartagena-style braised ribs, grilled spiny lobster tail with passion fruit butter, and divine desserts including guava tart and soursop with caramel sorbet. A perfect location for a romantic meal, it's especially memorable with traditional Colombian dancers performing as you dine.
Retreating to the tranquil haven of Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa's chic spa is an absolute must and allows you to enjoy the best of its relaxation offerings with a marvellous treatment. Guests can enjoy glorious views of the Caribbean Sea in this superb sanctuary for spoiling yourself. The treatments combine thousand-year-old Eastern therapies and traditions with Caribbean elements, using extra virgin coconut oil and essential oils such as ylang ylang and mint in the massages. For a heavenly hour of being pampered from head to toe, opt for a massage tailored to your preferred areas of focus and pressure. After your treatment the relaxation area awaits, where you can soak up the serenity of the spa over a glass of cucumber water.
Don't leave here without...
... experiencing the local culture Santa Teresa-style. If you're looking for a cultural trip to Cartagena with the added luxury, you've come to the right place as the hotel offers amazing experiences that range from rum tasting to island excursions. With an abundance of fruits on offer in Colombia, a tasting of the diverse varieties introduces you to the likes of star apple, lulo and sapote. A lovely addition to breakfast on the hotel terrace, the fruit tasting takes you on an incredible tour of Cartagena's tropical delights as the chefs reveal the health benefits and intriguing facts about the colourful fruits. For a fun and thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the hotel, you can immerse yourself in the local way of life with a Colombian dance lesson. Taking place in the former chapel, you'll learn the basics of the vibrant dancing styles of champeta, merengue and salsa. And a trip to one of Colombia's top foodie destinations isn't complete without a cooking class. At the Santa Teresa, you can master classic local dishes in the unique setting of the chapel while sampling your delicious creations along the way. The traditional menu includes hogao (tomato and onion relish) with patacones (fried plantains), arepa (corn cake), shrimp ceviche with mango, as well as grilled fish and soursop with arequipe (Colombia's answer to dulce de leche) pavlova.
Rooms start from USD 269 (£210) per night. Visit hotelcharlestonsantateresa.com