Cartagena, advertised as the â€śCapital del adulto mayorâ€ť (senior citizen capital) was once a beach resort for the moneyed elite, but now shows evidence both of its glorious past and of its present-day disrepair. What was once a trendy beach getaway for Chileâ€™s jet-setting upper crust is more akin to a town of ruins and crumbling fortunes. The absence of new development and of a tourism office betrays the fact that the city hasnâ€™t grown in decades, and the locals living and working here are fairly reserved and almost cold, like theyâ€™ve all seen better days.
The town has two beaches, the tiny Playa Chica, which is clean and lined with a walkway leading to restaurants and shops, and the Playa Grande, which extends the neighboring towns along the coast. Though itâ€™s a fairly safe town for most of the year, in the summer, the town is flooded with a rougher breed of drug-toting tourists from Santiago and it becomes exponentially more dangerous.
There is no shortage of accommodation here, though much of it is unpublicized and hard to find in guidebooks or on the internet. Residenciales, it seems are in every other house in the hills and near the beach. Residencial San Fernando, for instance, is cheap, clean, and near the central plaza, though the rooms are bare-bones and hot water isnâ€™t available 24-hours. Casa Blanca Hotel is a fancier option, situated in a captivating old Spanish-style compound on a hill with 24-hour reception and rooms with pretty views.
In terms of food, Restaurant La Ola serves pricier dishes, but since the food is average, itâ€™s clear that youâ€™re paying for the view, which is fantastic. It is also next to a set of relatively new cabanas (altosdelmarina.cl). For a cheaper option, try some of the restaurants along the terraza for lunch menus that feature fresh Chilean seafood dishes. Clariso Odilia Reyes Delgado, located near the central plaza, also offers inexpensive food and is a good place to take an once.
Clariso Odilia Reyes Delgado
Av. Cartagena 190
Residencial San Fernando
Av. Cartagena # 60
Phone: 08 909 6000
Rooms with shared or private bath, with or without kitchen access, special prices for senior citizens and groups or businesses.
La Ola Restaurant
Av. La Marina 102