Our recent trip to Colombia with kids was one of the best family holidays we’ve ever had. We had no trouble filling our Colombia itinerary with kids with some of the best things to do around Cartagena and along the Caribbean coast.
The Caribbean coast of Colombia is an amazing place to travel with your family. You will discover the incredible charm of colonial Cartagena and have a blast on beautiful Caribbean beaches. You’ll enjoy amazing food, go hiking through the jungle and perhaps even visit a lost city…
3 Week Itinerary for Colombia with Kids
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Planning a Holiday in Colombia with Kids
Is it Safe to Travel to Colombia with Kids?
Colombia’s old reputation was a violent haven for drug cartels, but the country has long since moved on. Colombia was named one of the Top 10 Countries to visit in 2017 by Lonely Planet. They state the “lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror”.
Tourism to Colombia has steadily increased along with the improved security situation. In 2017, four million foreign tourists visited Colombia – an increase of over 650% since 2007!
Nowhere on earth is completely safe to travel, but we felt quite safe during our visit to Colombia. We encountered a couple of ‘characters’ on the streets of Cartagena (as you would in any major city in the world), but they were harmless.
In general, we found the areas we visited in Colombia felt safe & well policed. Best of all, the Colombian people were very friendly and helpful.
We are happy to share our Colombia travel experiences with you. Please keep in mind the decision to travel to any destination rests solely with each individual traveler.
When to Visit Colombia with Kids
The first step in planning a holiday to Colombia with kids is deciding the best time to go. If, like us, you are limited to school holidays, you’ll probably be planning your Colombia travel during Christmas or spring break. As luck would have it, these months are the best time to visit Colombia.
We live in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and we start dreaming of flying to warmer destinations when the snow starts to fly. Hot, sunny weather along the Caribbean coast of Colombia makes it a perfect destination for a winter family vacation.
The best time to visit Cartagena and area is between December and April. The high season is between December and February. The humidity drops during the dry season making the consistently warm temperatures of 75-88F (25-31C) much more pleasant.
If you can visit Colombia with kids at other times of the year, you will enjoy fewer crowds and lower prices, but higher humidity and rainfall. The rainy season doesn’t sound too bad actually. The rain is rarely an all-day affair and days tend to be sunny in the morning with clouds and rain later in the day.
We visited Colombia in December and it was sunny and warm the entire time. The only rain we encountered was during our Ciudad Perdida trek, where it’s common for late day showers in the jungle of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
How Long to Travel in Colombia
We started looking at Colombia as a destination for a family holiday a few years ago. We were overwhelmed by the number of places we wanted to visit. It became clear we couldn’t see all of Colombia in a single visit.
For our first visit to Colombia we decided to visit Cartagena and the Caribbean coastal region.
Coming up with the best Colombia itinerary with kids will depend entirely on how much time you have and the needs of each member of the family. We love to be active outdoors when we travel, but our kids also need an element of downtime to just play and be silly kids.
Within our 3-week Colombia itinerary with kids, we tried to fit in all the places and activities we wanted to see, with ample beach time for the kids.
We also offer suggestions below on how to reduce our three-week Colombia itinerary with kids to a two-week Colombia itinerary or a 10-day Colombia itinerary.
Getting Around Colombia with Kids
In general, we prefer to rent a car on our active, outdoor vacations. It gives us the freedom to easily drive outside of cities to national parks, trail heads, etc.
Despite having a very active, outdoor itinerary, we didn’t rent a car in Colombia as our hiking plans were all part of organized tours. We were able to explore Colombia’s Caribbean region quite easily without our own car.
We had originally planned to take buses from place-to-place. In the end most of our Colombia travel was by private transfers. You simply can’t beat the ease and convenience of having your own driver pick you up and drive you door-to-door. This luxury makes it more expensive than public transit but given this is Colombia, the expense isn’t really that bad.
One of our vacation home rental hosts was able to arrange private transfers for us at a decent discount to what we saw online. If you prefer to arrange your travel prior to departure, you can book private transfers in advance for most routes throughout the region.
If private transfers seem a bit pricey, don’t worry as the Cartagena – Caribbean coast region is well served by public buses. Visit Busbud.com to see the schedules and prices for all the major Cartagena bus companies.
Chances are that you’ll need to take a taxi from the bus stations to your hotel. Taxis are plentiful and affordable within Colombia.
What about car seats for travel around Colombia with kids?
We didn’t want to lug our heavy convertible car seats from home all around Colombia. After researching our options, we chose to bring these travel-friendly mifold seats. Despite their compact size, they still meet the child restraint standards for the country of sale. Please read the mifold webpage for guidance on international travel.
For more, read our post about travel with car seats on our Baby Can Travel blog.
Credit cards are not widely accepted in Colombia. Learn more about Using Credit Cards in Colombia.
Where to Stay in Colombia with Kids
There are a lot of variables in the decision about where to stay when you travel with kids: cost, location, number of bedrooms, kitchen, laundry facilities, etc.
Our personal travel experience shows that vacation home rentals (like Airbnb or VRBO) are typically the best choice for families. We find that everyone gets a better sleep in their own bed in their own room, and well rested kids are happy kids.
Going to restaurants three meals a day with kids is exhausting, so we love having a kitchen to prepare our own meals. Having a washer & dryer is also a huge benefit, especially in a hot & sweaty country like Colombia. You’ll find a great selection of vacation home rentals around Cartagena.
But, we often stay at hotels as well. We typically don’t sleep as well in hotels, but they often have more convenient locations. And to be honest, our kids love the novelty of a free buffet breakfast!
There is a wide selection of family-friendly Cartagena hotels and in the surrounding Caribbean region.
We ended up spending 8 nights in vacation home rentals, 6 nights at an island resort and 4 nights in Cartagena hotels.
Colombia Itinerary with Kids – Caribbean Coast Region
This Colombia itinerary with kids allowed us to see the much of the Caribbean coast, with a focus on the best outdoor activities around Cartagena. We spent plenty of time on the beach, enjoying the tropical beauty of the world-famous Caribbean Sea.
Our family spent time hiking in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains and wandering the incredible colonial streets of Cartagena.
We ate delicious Colombian food at every opportunity. We even managed to knock an item off our bucket list by hiking to Ciudad Perdida (and yes, it is possible with kids!).
Here is our 3-week Colombia itinerary with kids:
- Days 1-2: Rodadero, Santa Marta
- Days 3-8: Trek to Ciudad Perdida (the “Lost City”)
- Days 9-10: Rodadero & Tayrona National Park
- Days 11-13: Minca
- Days 14-15: Cartagena
- Days 16-21: Isla Mucura (Islas de San Bernardo)
- Days 22-23: Cartagena
3 Week Colombia Itinerary with Kids
We loved spending 3 weeks around Cartagena, Colombia with our kids. Our 23-day itinerary gave us enough time to explore Cartagena and the surrounding Caribbean coastal region. We found some of the best things to do in Colombia with kids.
Days 1-2: Rodadero, Santa Marta with Kids
We arrived in Rodadero after a short flight from Bogota. Rodadero is a small, yet vibrant beach resort suburb of the much larger city of Santa Marta. It’s beautiful beaches and proximity to Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park make it a very popular place for Colombians to vacation.
One thing we’ve learned about travel is that it is so much fun to be on vacation with locals who are also on vacation!
We checked into our oceanfront Rodadero vacation home rental early afternoon. It was a little far away from town center, but we were instantly blown away by the beautiful vistas of the Caribbean Sea through the floor-to-ceiling windows. We had a small lunch before heading down to enjoy the pool.
For our first full day in Rodadero, we walked a few minutes to the nearby beach, Playa Salguero. The water was warm, the sand was soft and it was one of the cleanest public beaches we’ve ever visited.
We were lucky enough to be there on a weekday, so it wasn’t very crowded and there were no beach vendors around to disturb us. As the kids played in the sand, we sat there smiling, knowing we were in a tropical paradise and that the trip had just begun.
Read more on our time in Rodadero, Santa Marta with kids.
Days 3-8: Trek to Ciudad Perdida with Kids
We became aware of the Ciudad Perdida hike (the “Lost City” hike) a few years ago and we instantly added it to our bucket list. Ciudad Perdida sits over 3,600 feet above sea level, on a mountainside ridge in the lush jungle of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was founded around 800 AD (650 years earlier than Machu Picchu) and was rediscovered in the early 1970’s.
The Lost City trek is 13.9 miles (22.3km) each direction (27.8 miles total) and must be done with a licensed tour company. Licensed tour companies typically offer group tours to the Lost City over 3 nights/4 days. We figured that we would have hike to the Lost City without kids or wait until they were old enough to keep up with the group.
We originally planned to get an vacation home rental in Rodadero for a week and us parents would take turns trekking to Ciudad Perdida, while the other parent stayed behind with the kids.
But then Magic Tour Colombia offered us a better solution; a private 6-day tour with our kids.
This was perfect! A private Lost City tour removed our concerns about the kids being too slow for the group. By adding two extra days, the daily hiking distances were well within our kid’s known hiking capabilities.
As for our kids? They loved it! It’s a few months since we did the Lost City trek and they are already asking to go on another multi-day hike somewhere.
We provide a lot more details on the Ciudad Perdida hike in our posts Hiking Ciudad Perdida with Kids and Ciudad Perdida Trek – Tips for 2020.
(NOTE: Our Ciudad Perdida tour was not sponsored by Magic Tour Colombia – we paid our full way).
We have an entire post full of all our best tips for hiking with kids and this one with all the best hiking gear for kids.
Days 9-10: Rodadero & Tayrona National Park
Our kids are great hikers, but we knew after 6 days of trekking through mountains to-and-from Ciudad Perdida that they’d deserve some quality beach time. This time we rented a central Rodadero vacation home rental located right on Playa El Rodadero, the main beach in town.
Playa El Rodadero is another beautiful beach along the Caribbean Sea. Given it’s central to town, it was much busier than Playa Salguero, but it was a ton of fun. Our kids quickly made friends with some local kids and played for hours in the sand and surf.
Central Rodadero is a lot of fun as well. It’s a resort town, so it’s jam packed with great restaurants, street vendors and shopping. It’s small enough you can walk everywhere, but taxis are virtually everywhere if you need to go further afield.
Rodadero is also a great base for day trips to Tayrona National Park. On our last full day in Rodadero we teamed up with Magic Tour Colombia to review their day trip to Playa del Cabo San Juan.
After a comfortable bus ride to Tayrona National Park, we hiked through the jungle along the scenic shoreline of the Caribbean Sea to Cabo San Juan beach. The kids were so excited to see several groups of monkeys along the way, while we enjoyed the scenic hike to a beautiful beach.
Read more on our day trip to Cabo San Juan, Tayrona National Park with Kids.
Days 11-13: Minca
Minca is a fun little backpacker town located in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s a relative newcomer to the Colombian travel scene, so it’s still in the early stages of its tourist development (which is both good and bad).
Our 50-minute private transfer from Rodadero to Minca was mostly along a very scenic mountain road. Minca is so small that it only has two main roads, but it is bursting with restaurants, tour companies and shopping.
No surprise, we spent our two full days in Minca hiking the beautiful countryside. Our first day we enjoyed a beautiful hike to La Calendaria, a small cocoa and coffee farm. We joined a short cocoa tour which was interactive enough to be interesting for the kids. We all got to try tasting the cocoa at its many stages of production.
Swimming under waterfalls is one of the best things to do in Minca, and there are several to choose from. Pozo Azul is the most popular waterfall in Minca, but we like to avoid crowds so we opted to hike to the Marinka Waterfalls. It’s a beautiful natural setting and there are good facilities to ensure your visit is an enjoyable one.
Get more details of our time in Minca, Colombia with Kids.
Days 14-15: Cartagena
Our 5-hour private transfer from Minca to Cartagena was a comfortable, enjoyable ride along the Caribbean coastline. We stayed at a Cartagena hotel in the trendy Getsemani district, just a few minutes outside the historic colonial Old Town.
We spent our first full day in Cartagena aimlessly wandering the labyrinth of streets within Old Town Cartagena. It’s so much fun to put Google Maps away and simply wander the streets of colonial Cartagena, allowing yourself to get lost.
The buildings are charming and there’s great street entertainment. There’s also plenty of shopping and the food options are virtually endless.
For more information on our visit, read our Visiting Cartagena with Kids post.
Days 16-21: Isla Mucura (Islas de San Bernardo)
The Rosario Islands are the closest islands to Cartagena and are therefore the most popular. We wanted to spend our Christmas week relaxing on a tropical island, so we looked a little further afield. We found the Islas de San Bernardo, which our Colombia Lonely Planet described as, “a little oasis of rest and relaxation”.
The Islas de San Bernardo are a set of nine coral islands in the Caribbean Sea southwest of Cartagena. They are easily reached by a 2-hour speedboat trip from Cartagena. Isla Tintipan is the biggest island, while Isla Mucura is smaller, but has more tourist infrastructure. We spent 6 nights in a beachside hut on stilts at the quirky Dahlandia resort.
We spent most of our time lounging around on the beach and playing in the comfortably warm turquoise water. There wasn’t much choice actually as there’s not a lot to do on the island. But we were happy and content; we had earned this downtime.
We did manage to muster up enough energy to join a couple of tours. The first was an amazing nighttime boat trip to a lagoon where you can swim with bioluminescent plankton, which light up the water as you swim through them – a pretty amazing experience!
We also joined a daytime snorkeling to enjoy some of the local tropical fish swimming around beautiful coral reefs. This tour took us past Santa Cruz del Islote, a tiny fisherman’s village which is one of the most densely populated islands on earth.
Read more about our relaxing Colombian Caribbean island getaway at Dahlandia on Isla Mucura.
Days 22-23: Cartagena
After factoring in travel time back from the Islas de San Bernardo, we really only had one full day to enjoy Cartagena before heading home.
We spent the morning at the 16th century fortress, Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. The area just outside the fortress was a bit sketchy, so we’d recommend you take a cab. The fortress is one of Cartagena’s most visited attractions, so we got there right at opening and it wasn’t crowded at all.
Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas is a huge, imposing structure looming over the city below. Being there early in the day allowed the kids to run around and jump off stuff. They climbed on cannons and explored the labyrinth of tunnels throughout the fort – the both loved it! The city views from the top are really good as well.
In the afternoon, we aimlessly wandered around the Getsemani neighborhood, where we once again got a hotel. We loved the colorful umbrellas and flags which hang overhead on many of the streets. Getsemani has some of the best street art we’ve seen anywhere. Like the colonial Old town, Getsemani is a pleasure to simply wander and explore.
Recommended 2-Week Colombia Itinerary with Kids
If you don’t have three full weeks to spend around Cartagena, here is our suggested 14-day Colombia itinerary. We recognize most families won’t want to do the 6-day trek to Ciudad Perdida, so we’ve removed it from the shorter itineraries.
Days 1-3: Rodadero, Santa Marta
Fly into the Santa Marta Airport. Spend a few days on the beach and enjoying the vibrant resort town of Rodadero. Be sure to spend one day taking a day trip to Tayrona National Park.
Days 4-6: Minca
Take a short private transfer to the small backpacker community of Minca. Enjoy exploring the beautiful surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.
Days 7-8: Cartagena
A private transfer to Cartagena will eat up much of one day. Spend your full day in Cartagena enjoying its star attraction, the Old Town.
Days 9-12: Isla Mucura (Islas de San Bernardo)
We spent six nights on Isla Mucura, but most guests at our hotel stayed only 2-3 nights. Given it’s a 2-hour speed boat ride each way, staying 4 nights will give you three full days of beach time. Be sure to see the bioluminescent plankton!
Days 13-14: Cartagena
Branch out from the Old Town and visit some of the other highlights of Cartagena. The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas and the Getsemani neighborhood are a must.
Recommended 10-Day Colombia Itinerary with Kids
Many people will want to spend a full week around Cartagena. Including the surrounding weekends, here is our recommended 10-day Cartagena itinerary with kids:
Days 1-3: Rodadero, Santa Marta
Fly into the Santa Marta Airport. Spend a few days on the beach and enjoying the vibrant resort town of Rodadero. Spend one day taking a day trip to the Tayrona National Park.
Days 4-6: Minca
Take a short private transfer to the small backpacker community of Minca. Enjoy exploring the beautiful surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.
Days 7-10: Cartagena
Rather than go all the way to the Islas de San Bernardo, stay three nights in Cartagena and take a day trip out to the Rosario Islands.
What to Pack for Colombia
If you’ve visited our blog before, you know our trips are usually pretty active. We always try to be as prepared for the weather as possible and plan to be outside exploring nature, rain or shine.
For traveling to Colombia with kids, we knew we’d mostly need shorts, hats, t-shirts and swimming suits. Our time in the hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains made things a little more complex. We needed serious hiking gear and some warmer clothing for the cold nights sleeping outside.
See our full packing list for Cartagena here (coming soon).
Going to Colombia with smaller kids? See our Colombia with a Toddler post on our Baby Can Travel website.
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