STAY CARTAGENA: HOTEL NOI CARTAGENA 1860
Sometimes, I find my hotel before I even book my flights. Because I read travel magazines, travel blogs and follow travel influencers, I am constantly bookmarking places to stay. However, the Cartagena trip was such a last minute getaway that I absolutely had just a few hours (across a few days) to pick a place to stay. I realize that the more I travel, the less anxious I am about having everything lined up perfectly well in advance. Me from 5 years ago would have had a mini panic attack. What if all the good hotels were booked up? What if all that was left were horrible hotels far from the city center? What if, what if? But instead now I think, hmm, what small gem may I discover- if all the more known hotels are booked up, you have no choice but to get creative and to give a chance to what could be a hidden gem.
And that’s almost, almost how I discovered Hotel Noi Cartagena 1860. As with most big cities, a quick google or TripAdvisor search would lead you to the bigger, more popular, more known hotels. Sometimes, they are popular because they belong to a large global chain (Hilton, Sofitel, Hyatt etc). Sometimes, they are popular because they are super affordable and accessible for the masses. But there’s is often little correlation between most popular and best experience. Popularity may be a good guide but it doesn’t tell you everything you need to know especially as we are all individuals with individual likes and dislikes, with individual preferences and priorities.
So let me share a little about Hotel Noi and how it lived up or didn’t live up to my expectations:
LOCATION: Most of the time when visiting a city, you want to be as central as possible. However, if that city is vibrant; hustle and bustle; filled with tourists and party goers, you may want just a little distance. Hotel Noi offers that, a comfortable 8-10minute walk from the center, the hotel is located at the edge of the Old town. On the rooftop you can see just how close to the edge it is, with the ocean on one side (including views of the modern high rises of Cartagena) and on the other side, views of the historic and colonial Old Town. Reddish brown rooftops and colorful bougainvilleas that line and surround so very many homes. If you’re also looking to capture the beauty of Old Town, I have to say there is not a better location. First, it’s a lot less frequented so you don’t have to compete with pedestrian or tourist traffic when taking pictures. Also, because of the way the streets are, even during the day with harsh sunlight, there’s always some good shade for the best pictures.
HOTEL DECOR: A massive wooden door sits by the quiet main street (interestingly enough, not a lot of car traffic). Even as a guest, you have to knock to be let in. You walk into a cool and cosy reception area, with a living area that feels more like visiting your wealthy aunt’s home than a hotel lobby. The lobby looks further in, to a courtyard and breakfast area. There are also stairs and an elevator that take you up to your room. The courtyard reminded me of Moroccan Riads, although I later found out that courtyards like these are quite common to Cartagena design. These courtyards are often at the center of the hotel, and you look up to see open skies surrounded by the hotel rooms and balconies above.
FOOD: I always talk about hotel food- not because I rely on it but because usually at some point in your trip, you may very well need to be fed on premises. for me, that’s often in the form of breakfast or a late night snack. breakfast was excellent and filling. We mostly ordered A la Carte. Our room rate included breakfast so this wasn’t extra. However, I have to say that because Hotel Noi is a small hotel (likely no more than 15 rooms), food service felt more like a bed and breakfast. No massive spread and the kitchen closed rather early as well.
AMENITIES: The rooftop pool is small but adequate for a hotel this size. There is also a pool bar (interestingly wasn’t open for service when we were there) but the true highlight had to be the views and being able to feel like being smack dab in the middle of the Old and the New, with the ocean breeze, ocean smells and wave sounds in the air.
OVERALL: Highly recommended. Make sure to request a room with a view. I was able to check out a few rooms in the center of hotel that had smaller windows and limited light. They were still very nice, but might feel claustrophobic after a few days.