This was my second stay at the Hilton Cartagena – the last time I was here was in July 2014 (my review of the Hilton Cartagena from 2014).
The hotel is clearly past its prime – it’s an old building but maintenance keeps adding ab layer of paint. It still sits pretty at the end of the Bocagrande peninsula. The Colombian Peso has devalued by one third since my last visits and room rates have come down a bit but still top out at $300 for holiday weekends but drop into $149 for weekdays. There is a lot more English to be heard from other guests than before. Especially the Executive Lounge gets almost 90% English speaking guests now.
Checking was was easy but there are long lines at reception downstairs reception. The staff is somewhat friendly and fluent in English but time moves extra slow in Cartagena. You need to be extra patient.
I asked about a suite upgrade at check-in and before anyone could check I was told the hotel is sold out. It was rather strange since pool and breakfast proved completely empty the first two days. So I kept on prodding and called back a few times and asked friendly if an upgrade might be available for a portion of the four night stay.
To my surprise an upgrade to a corner room was available for the last two nights.
The initial room we got was appointed well and of good size. It was almost the same room and view I got last time. However given the many mildew issues the hotel has (with the extra humid in Cartagena) the room smelled – it was really bad and switching off the AC was not an option.
Usually I get used to smells but not during those two nights.
Otherwise the room was working well with a good pressure rain shower and a rather quiet AC. The mattresses were too soft but at least a bit better than at the Hilton Bogota (Review).
The corner room (it wasn’t a real suite) was much bigger that we got for the last two nights. It had a gorgeous view towards the Bocagrande lagoon and the Bocagrande skyline. The room was airy and did not smell. The best part was the huge patio – easily as big as the whole room and with no floor above us.
The downside was that the room was pretty bright in the morning as early as the sunrise. It was great to see that the AC was really quiet and would keep a 70 degree temperature even with the glazing sun.
The Internet itself was capped at 2MBit in the hotel per device and was very stable – not horrible but I wished for a Premium Internet.
The Executive Lounge had basic snacks all day and alcoholic drinks and warm appetizers from 6-8pm. The quality is just ok but the staff very friendly – which helped.
The breakfast area is huge and has a big selection of items – the downside the quality is very average. Espresso drinks are included though and the staff tried their best to not have the huge area become a complete zoo in the morning.
We did like the many pools the hotel offers. It’s a huge area with several pools at different depths and a water slide.
The hotel used to have a kids club with a dedicated animation. This does not exist anymore – rather it is a game room with attendants that watch out for the kids. It’s a more hands off care but the (Spanish speaking) staff and as extremely friendly and kind.
There is a beach right behind the hotel but it’s not the best water quality and the constant stream of salesmen and saleswomen makes it a less than pleasant experience. The better beaches are about 15 minutes walk from the Hilton on the other side of Bocagrande.
In sum this is a typical Hilton property geared towards families. It shares many pros and cons (including the obnoxious Hilton towel police) with its brethren the Hilton Aruba and the Hilton Waikiki beach.
I loved how the staff was so friendly (though slow in general). Cash Points is a great deal and prices for food are very reasonable at the hotel so the value is fantastic – much better than at the Hilton Aruba or Hilton Waikiki Beach.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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