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Welcome to one of the most magical places in the world — Cartagena! The Spanish colonial-meets-Caribbean town on Colombia's colorful coast is endlessly charming, inspiring, and romantic. It's where Gabriel Garcia Márquez set his classic novel Love in the Time of Cholera, and where lovers could happily wander aimlessly and endlessly on vibrant cobbled streets. Here, we round up how to spend three days in one of South America's most romantic towns. Getting there has become easier as Cartagena gains in popularity (but maintains its off-the-beaten path mystique). Direct flights are available from New York and Miami while many East Coast cities get you there with only one stop.
Afternoon: After arriving in the late morning (with no jetlag might we add!), check into the Sofitel Santa Clara, a hotel in the upscale San Diego neighborhood with a beautiful pool, refined restaurant and cool bar featuring live music many nights a week. If you're romantic trip for two is planned for later in 2016, look into the newly-opened Viceroy hotel which is set to open later this year. For a more intimate experience opt for Casa Lola in emerging Getsemaní. It's eclectic and lush, with a secret garden vibe (and a rooftop pool, of course — it gets hot!). As attractive as both hotels are, you'll want to wander and soak in the lively scene. Grab a drink at Cafe del Mural, a sort of coffee laboratory.
Evening: Before dinner, stop by Crazy Salsa, in the old town, and take an intro salsa class. Trust that the music you'll be hearing is infectious enough to make you dance even if you (or your new hubby) have two left feet. Nothing heats up a honeymoon quite like a night of dancing. Dinner should be at El Barón, an intimate spot with a Madrid-trained mixologist (try his Aviation) and incredible salads and pressed sandwiches. (For a larger menu, try Restaurante Maria's mind-blowing risotto.)
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Morning: Walk the ancient wall. Take lots of pictures — you'll want to remember this trip forever after all. Shop for colorful woven Wayu bags on the sidewalks; natural, indigenous beauty products at Loto del Sur, and local designer fashion and jewelry at St. Dom. Buy too-pretty-to-eat artisanal popsicles at La Paletteria and Ciocolatto Pop Bar. Then take it easy with some pool-side sun.
Afternoon: After a couple of blissful hours of sun bathing, take the ultimate street food tour with Cartagena Connections, designed for people who don't like tours. Start with fresh coconut water and get gradually more adventurous, trying three kinds of arepas, chicharrones, and holey local cheese with quince (among other local delicacies) as you wind through the bright vendor-filled streets and take in Cartagena's fascinating history.
Evening: Watch the sunset from Cafe del Mar over what is hopefully your eighth mojito of the trip so far. You'll be dancing soon enough, so keep dinner light yet protein heavy at Gaucha, an Argentinean grill with romantic vintage Parisian decor and impeccably cooked steaks, not to mention a lovely wine selection. Afterward, just down the street, check out the most iconic spot in town: Cafe Havana. More mojitos — or a Cuba Libre — are a given as you salsa the night away in front of a gigantic, energetic band.
Photo: Kathryn Romeyn
Morning: A bit hungover? No problem. Hop a boat to Playa Blanca on Isla Barú, where you can kick back on the fine white sand, swim in the turquoise water together, and sip rum-based coco locos or pineapple drinks, and sample fresh-fried fish, coconut rice and fresh fruit.
Afternoon: Indulge in side-by-side massage from the vendors on the beach. Or rent a snorkel. Or just kick back El Pescador de Colores, a beachy hot spot dotted with royal palms down the island road that features daybeds made from repurposed fishing boats and more elevated bites like ceviche and Champagne.
Evening: Head to Plaza Trinidad, where all walks of life come together, and order tapas and a craft beer in Demente's on-trend outdoor beer garden. If you're feeling energetic, you might even join the zumba class in the square. For the last dinner, go big: Bohemia, one of the finest restaurants in town. Order the "crabs on coral," and asparagus, parmesan and truffle dishes from the patio, live band and twinkling stars create that magically romantic ambience that defines the jewel of the Caribbean.