Cartagena, the colorful port city on the northern coast of Colombia, is not exactly a logical getaway if you want to spend time on the beach.
But if you are in the mood for some sun and sand, Cartagena’s best beaches lie beyond the city walls on the island of Barú, a 40-minute boat ride from town. The newly-opened Sofitel Barú Calablanca, where I recently had the pleasure of visiting courtesy of the resort, is the area’s first luxury beachfront property. It opened at the end of 2021 and offers clean, contemporary design that features an abundance of bamboo, stone, glass and muted neutral tones. The eco-friendly hotel is the only hotel on the island with LEED certification.
While the white sand beach is an obvious attraction, the four infinity-edge pools located throughout the property really steal the show. For guests wanting a bit more adventure, there’s also an onsite nautical center where you can book snorkeling, kayaking or paddle boarding experiences during your stay. And no luxury resort is complete without a spa. This one focuses on holistic treatments inspired by the island’s traditional healing practices.
The Sofitel Barú Calablanca is a great destination if you're looking to relax, reconnect with nature and enjoy the serenity of this Caribbean gem.
Each of the 187 guest rooms has its own private balcony or terrace with unobstructed sea views. The rooms are spread across ten towers, including 23 suites located on the top floor of towers 4-10. The rooms convey the same synergy between contemporary design and nature, with an emphasis on neutral fabrics, wood and stone accents. Most of the suites have both a shower and a bathtub, and include L'Occitane amenities. Some have private whirlpool tubs as well.
Three restaurants and seven bars (three of which are located poolside) are spread across the property. Themes and cuisines for each were developed by chef Patrice Guaus. The gorgeous Calablanca restaurant, one floor down from the hotel lobby, serves breakfast (the Sofitel signature buffet featuring fruit, fresh juices and locally-inspired favorites), as well as lunch and dinner with fresh seafood and traditional Colombian and Mediterranean dishes.
Humo offers dinners with pan-Asian, French and Peruvian influences. The rotating menu features local and seasonal ingredients and dishes are prepared over a Japanese-style robata grill.
The open-air Bahía beach grill offers cold and raw dishes, including some of the best ceviche I’ve ever had, as well as grilled fish, pork belly and roasted veggies prepared over the grill. This was my favorite spot for a cold cerveza and some truly noteworthy margaritas in a beachy, Bohemian venue.
Speaking of cocktails, the rooftop Bar La Pergola is the perfect spot to sip a cocktail while watching the famous Isla Barú sunset and enjoying live music.
Whether you’re looking to lounge and relax or you have your sights set on a bit of adventure, the Sofitel Barú Calablanca offers more than enough options to fill your days.
For guests wanting to slow down and spend their time soaking up the sun and experiencing some serenity, the four inviting pools or the beach itself are great places to start. Each aquatic sanctuary has its own distinct atmosphere and offers countless cabanas and loungers, as well as nearby bars to order a fresh piña colada.
The spa includes four treatment rooms, a Turkish bath, steam room, sauna and yoga room. Guests can choose from a menu of treatment options inspired by the region's traditional healing practices, including a facial designed with organic ingredients and tropical extracts.
The property also offers guests an opportunity to learn more about the island’s culture and history with a list of experiences that guests can book throughout their stay, such as a sailing lesson, coffee tasting, mixology class, guided mountain bike tour and more.
Getting to and from the property requires a bit of planning and coordination with the hotel. Guests can arrive either by boat or car from Cartagena. We opted for the shared Catamaran which picked us up at the Cartagena Nautical Club and delivered us straight to the resort’s dock where a golf cart was waiting to take us up to the lobby for check-in -- a seamless experience for both our arrival and return.
For an easy activity near the hotel, the Aviario Nacional is an incredible spot. The aviary is home to more than 150 species of birds from three unique ecosystems, including some of the rarest Colombian and Latin American birds. I was especially starstruck by the flamingos, peacocks and vultures.
Depending on the time of year, standard guest rooms start around $300 USD per night, while the suites range from around $400 - $800 USD per night, with the Presidential Suite costing around $4000 USD per night.