From the moment you enter the stone walls of Cartagena’s old city, you are at once transported into another era. Spanish colonial architecture—dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries—appears virtually untouched; Bachata music, blaring from apartment windows, fills the streets; locals slurp mojitos to stay cool in sticky open-air bars.
A city that was once South America’s best-kept secret is no longer under the radar. Americans are flocking to Cartagena in droves, and with that comes the threat of homogenization—a fate suffered by countless Starbucks-laden Caribbean islands overrun by sprawling big-brand resorts. But for now, Cartagena still feels decidedly authentic, and intimate boutique properties far outnumber those with names you’d recognize.
One such property, Casa San Agustin, promises both the luxury of a five-star hotel and the rich history that makes Cartagena so unique. It’s comprised of three 17th Century mansions that surround a palm tree-lined aqueduct, where guests can lounge and take in the ancient scenery.
San Agustin’s charm goes beyond the façade, though. With just 30 rooms and suites, the staff forms a personal relationship with each guest, offering insightful recommendations to first-time visitors. The concierge has even been known to make magic happen—like arranging a coveted Saturday night reservation at the hottest restaurant in town on just a day’s notice.
The on-property restaurant, Alma, is also a hotspot in its own right, serving up what is arguably the most delicious ceviche in town. And the best part about it? After a leisurely seafood dinner and a few handcrafted cocktails, you can stumble back to your room and climb into bed moments later.
At Casa San Agustin, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, each room is designed with an authentic Colombian aesthetic; rich dark wood runs throughout, and bathrooms feature gorgeous mosaic tiling. The hotel’s manager, Carolina Bernal, says that one suite in particular draws the largest number of requests—she gives us the inside scoop below.
The most requested room:
The Virey Suite.
What makes it so special:
The suite is on a top floor that includes a large and multi-tiered private terrace with a sitting area and a Jacuzzi. In the evenings, you can experience sunset over the city’s rooftops. You are truly in your own little world.
$ 1,200 per night.
We never reveal what high profile people or celebrities have stayed, and that keeps them coming back.
Your personal favorite:
There is room on the first floor that has a small terrace, and almost on a daily basis, we have a toucan that comes and sits on the table and chairs in the morning. He is quite at home and isn’t afraid to have his photograph taken by guests.
Casa San Agustin is comprised of three colonial buildings and sits around an aqueduct—it’s the only one of its kind in Cartagena de Indias.