Every destination has a taste or sound that burrows deep into our memory, instantly transporting us back. For me, In Cartagena, Colombia, the taste is mojitos and the sound is live music by a son cubano band.
Moments after the music strikes up, locals are on the dance floor, entangled in twosomes or gatherings of old friends. Both inside and out of the old walled city of Cartagena, there are bars, clubs, and outdoor venues where ceiling fans spin, mint leaves are muddled, and the band takes the stage several times a night. For music, mojitos, or both, here are some favorite places to drink and dance in Cartagena.
The best hotel bars are the ones that don't feel like hotel bars at all. They have their own separate entrance, are embraced by locals, and after one mojito too many, are luckily a few short steps away from a heavenly bed. That is precisely how I'd describe El Coro Lounge Bar at Sofitel Santa Clara: a generously sized space with private lounge areas of comfortable couches and a long bar where mojitos are whipped up with expertise.
This former convent is also home to a son cubano band, playing music so infectious you are likely to wake up the following morning still humming the tune. Whether you want to dance or not, snag a seat in good view of the band to watch the locals – and a few happily stumbling visitors.
2. Café del Mar
If you prefer your mojito with the entertainment of a colorful sunset instead of a live band, head to Café del Mar, a spacious bar set atop the fortified walls overlooking the Caribbean. Tall bar tables next to historic cannons are ideal for a couple cocktails while watching the sun set. Spacious in size, this outdoor bar can easily accommodate groups looking for a comfortable place to enjoy the ocean breeze and moonlight over Cartagena.
You won't find a live band at Café del Mar, but live DJs have been part of the entertainment since this venue opened in 2002. Electro-lounge music is a backdrop to a relaxed evening here, never too loud that you can't hear your companions.
3. Café Havana
Outside the walled city in a neighborhood called Getsemani, Café Havana is the city's most famous venue for live music and mojitos. In other destinations, this fact might turn the venue into a tourist trap that locals no longer frequent, but this isn't the case in Cartagena. The quality of the music – and the drinks – bring locals of a variety of ages to sip a mojito and savor the music.
The line grows, especially on the weekends, the later you arrive in the evening; avoid this by arriving just after dinner, snagging a table to enjoy the band as they take the stage for another set.
What are your favorite music and cocktail bars in Cartagena?