In a nutshell: Offering comfortable rooms, welcoming staff, and a wonderful infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the Hyatt Regency Cartagena made for a lovely stay, even during COVID-19. I really enjoyed their Kokau Restaurant as well. The hotel’s oceanfront location in Bocagrande is a quick taxi ride from the historic district and walled city, allowing you to enjoy everything Cartagena has to offer.
After spending four nights in Colombia’s capital high in the Andes, I hopped on a cheap Viva Air Colombia flight for a change of scenery. Cartagena has a completely different vibe than Bogota. The biggest similarity between my time in the two cities is that I stayed with Hyatt Hotels in both instances.
Booking and Applying a Suite Upgrade
Bocagrande, the district with most of the high-rise hotels and condos, has several chain hotel options. In addition to the Hyatt Regency Cartagena, there are at least two IHG options and two Hilton options. There is only one other World of Hyatt option in Cartagena, an SLH property in La Ciudad Amurallada (The Walled City): the Movich Cartagena De Indias.
The Hyatt Regency is sometimes a decent value as an Award Category 3 hotel. However, Hyatt was offering an excellent promotional rate of $78.40 U.S. dollars per night. There’s no way I’m going to spend points when I’m getting less than 1 cent per point. The total came to ~$245 for 3 nights after taxes, excluding the couple restaurant charges I made. I also applied a suite night award since I’ll have more than I can likely use this year. This ended up ultimately getting me into an Ocean View Regency Suite.
Arrival and First Impressions
My time at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena got off to a great start well of advance of when I arrived in the city. After realizing that I’d need to be COVID-19 tested before I headed back to the United States, I emailed the hotel asking about testing facilities in the city. The hotel provided a response in less than a day, detailing three different testing locations and the time it would take to get results. This was extremely helpful, as it let me travel to Colombia without worry over this issue. It now appears that the hotel has arranged for on-property COVID-19 testing through May 31, 2021, something that was not available at the beginning of February.
I also took the hotel up on a private transportation option ahead of time for ~$11 USD (roughly twice the cost of a taxi). They had a driver waiting, although I did struggle to find him, as my phone would not connect to the Cartagena Airport WiFi. The hotel is about 10-15 minutes from the airport.
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena was taking COVID-19 precautions, just like I’d experienced at the Grand Hyatt Bogota. They scan your temperature when you arrive, and most other times you enter. The staff at the door were friendly and directed me upstairs to the front desk, which is located on the 12th floor. You have to transfer elevators to get to the rooms.
Check-in took a little while, mainly because there were multiple other parties checking in and only two front desk staff. The agent who assisted me was friendly and provided some details about the property and some of the changes to their facilities during COVID-19.
I hurried up and dropped my bags in my room, heading back down for a late dinner at the Kokaú Restaurant. Ceviche and a mojito hit the spot after an afternoon of travel.
Ocean View Regency Suite
Suite upgrades really are the best. Sure, the space isn’t always needed, but there are other aspects that are appreciated, such as a much nicer bathroom or far better views. The Hyatt Regency Cartagena had bumped me up another tier from their standard Junior Suite to a one-bedroom Ocean View Regency Suite. The exact room was 2402, at the end of the hall, facing the Caribbean Sea. The suite opens into the living and dining area, which has plenty of seating, a dining table, and a desk.
I immediately recognized one of the pieces featured by the wall art. I’d seen it just a couple days prior at the Museo de Oro in Bogotá.
Off to the side of the entry is a half bathroom. The Ocean View Regency Suite is definitely a room type where you could enjoy comfortably with a group of family or friends without them infringing on your personal space in the bedroom.
The Juan Valdez in-room coffee is a step down from the Nespresso pods at the Grand Hyatt Bogota. This is an opinion based solely on my two experiences at Juan Valdez locations (both of which were pretty poor) and the newfound knowledge that nearly all of the best coffee grown in Colombia is exported.
The Ocean View Regency Suite is a true one-bedroom suite with a separate bedroom. Like the living area, it’s very nicely appointed. Views from both the bedroom and living room are out over the Caribbean Sea.
The bedroom offers a rather large walk-in closet. So much space gone to waste for me. I’ve truly unpacked maybe twice on vacation.
The suite bathroom is large as well, with a double sink, large tub, rain shower, and separate toilet room. All the amenities were wrapped in plastic, including the towels. Part of the COVID-19 measures.
I enjoyed the room much of my first full day, for better or for worse. It’s always my goal to get out and explore as much as I can, but work can’t be avoided at times, sadly. At least I had a very comfortable space for my work day!
Hyatt Regency Cartagena Dining
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena offers a few different dining options. During the morning, you can enjoy the Kokaú Restaurant for breakfast on the 11th floor. During the evening, a separate section of the restaurant opens for dinner and drinks. With two-story corner views of the ocean and Bocagrande, the latter is the nicer setting.
I only dined once at the Kokaú Restaurant, but the ceviche that I ordered was excellent. The staff are also friendly and attentive. Prices are also excellent, from the perspective of an American’s budget. Most starters and entrees cost $8-$18 USD.
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena managed to produce the best cocktail I’ve ever enjoyed! I came back just for one of these my final night. The “Mah Dho Nna” is a mix of gin, ginger syrup, peppermint, and lemon juice.
Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena was generally good all three mornings. The “breakfast included” menu is a bit different than the regular menu, but there are still several options. I ordered either the eggs and potatoes or arepas each day. You’re also served fruit, coffee, and bread. I enjoyed the outdoor dining area the most, as the temperature was perfect in the upper 70s in the morning.
During the middle of the day, you can enjoy the Amacagua Lounge and Grill. You can either sit inside near the coffee kiosk or out on the patio near the outdoor bar. I had lunch here the first day while I was (mostly) holed up to work. Pork or tuna baos weren’t what I expected in Colombia, but they were still pretty good.
The outdoor terrace and bar (closed during my stay) offer views of the interior bay of Cartagena. You can also see the prominent hill where the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa is situated. I highly recommend visiting, as it offers excellent views of Cartagena.
The “Coffee Experience”
The Amacagua Coffee Experience is a kiosk located on the 11th floor. There were four different coffee preparation techniques on display. It usually wasn’t staffed, but a waiter would often pass through every few minutes and you could order from him.
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena offered me a free coffee and pastry as a welcome gift, which I used on my final day. I went with the Kyoto slow-drip cold brew on ice and an alfajore, something I hadn’t had since a visit to Argentina in 2018.
Regency Club During COVID-19
The Regency Club at the Hyatt was open from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. each day while I was there. I’m not sure if those are the typical hours, but this was the only time it was staffed and open to guests, unlike some hotel clubs where you can use your room key to access anytime. I’d venture a guess that this is their COVID-19 protocol.
Unlike pre-pandemic days where you could pick what you wanted from the buffet at your leisure, all the food had to be plated by the lounge attendants. Both nights I visited the Regency Club there were a selection of small bites, plus a few dessert options. You could also enjoy a glass of wine. A couple plates of finger food made for a decent dinner two of the evenings, although I did head out and enjoy a restaurant in La Ciudad Amurallada one evening instead.
Pool Deck and Fitness Center
The infinity pool looking out over the Caribbean Sea at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena is fantastic. As you might imagine, it was quite popular, even during the pandemic. The pool deck was too crowded for my liking the first afternoon I ventured down, so I made plans to enjoy it first thing the following morning. It is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily.
Sadly, the largest of the pools was drained and walled off, which might explain why the others were so busy. There didn’t seem to be a ton of guests at the hotel in early February, but there were enough to crowd the pool.
The pool deck provided excellent views of the rest of the strip of condos and hotels in Bocagrande. Cartagena unfortunately doesn’t have much of a beach, and the waves outside the little constructed coves are rough. I was told multiple times that I should visit Playa Blanca, about an hour outside the city, which is supposedly very lovely.
The hotel also has an excellent fitness center which I took advantage of during my stay. Like other hotels during COVID-19, there were wipes and sanitizer provided.
Other Hotel Features
The hotel front desk was super helpful with the one major need I had: obtaining a COVID-19 test to return to the U.S. After reviewing the information provided earlier by email, I asked their help in setting up a testing appointment at the closest clinic in Bocagrande. The agent called the clinic, confirmed that I did not need an appointment and could walk-in anytime. Ten minutes later I was traveling by taxi to the clinic, and 10 minutes after that I was headed back to the Hyatt Regency. Couldn’t have been easier.
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena offers the “Camp Hyatt” kids program, which I did not expect. I’m not sure what at the program offers here, although I’ve read about one family who has enjoyed using it for date time during vacation.
Sitting right on the sea, the hotel offers easy access to the “beach” (of sorts). It’s certainly not the nicest, but I did take a nice jog one evening on the sand.
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena is also adjacent to a shopping mall. This is super useful when one forgets flip flops.
What can I say ahead of my post detailing all three days in Cartagena? Although the Hyatt is nice, you definitely want to get out and explore. I started things off at the old hilltop fortress overlooking the walled city and Bocagrande in the distance. You can see the Hyatt Regency…of the two tallest hotels, it’s the one on the right.
I enjoyed exploring the Getsemani neighborhood before moving on into the walled city itself. I definitely suggest trying an arepa (or three) and wandering some of the side streets to enjoy the murals.
La Ciudad Amurallada (the Walled City), colonial-era Cartagena de Indias is the main feature. I wandered the streets literally for hours, enjoying the beauty and charm of the old houses and churches. My only complaint about the entire experience is that you’ll be routinely accosted by street vendors. The lack of tourism during COVID-19 has likely made the more desperate. At last I hope my experience was worse than normal. I got very good at saying no.
The Walled City is a short taxi ride from the Hyatt Regency, and taxis are plentiful. It’s easy to find one after walking no more than a few blocks. I think I was charged 10,000 to 15,000 Colombian pesos ($3-4 USD) per trip.
Hyatt Regency Cartagena Review: Final Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena. Hyatt Globalist status allowed me to stretch an already cheap stay into excellent value with free breakfast and “dinner” in the Regency Club two of the nights. The staff are friendly and welcoming, the rooms comfortable, and the facilities excellent. Although the hotel felt a bit empty during COVID-19, there were more guests than I encountered while in Bogota just a few days prior, and enough to make the hotel’s awesome infinity pool feel a bit crowded.