The Old City, the Palace of the Inquisition, and Museums
You'll first see the exterior of Castillo de Felipe de Barajas, which is a Spanish fort from the 1600's. Next, you'll visit Las Bovedas the boutiques housed in the old dungeons. You'll then explore the walled Old City on a walking tour. This Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and boasts narrow cobblestone streets and bridges. At the Palacio de la Inquisicion, you'll note the colonial Baroque architecture as well as those weapons of torture in the museum housed within. Next, you'll visit San Claver Church (circa 1600's), dedicated to Saint Peter Claver (the first canonized saint in the Western Hemisphere as well as the Patron Saint of Slaves). You'll then visit the Navy Museum of the Caribbean before a shopping jaunt at Pierino Gallo. On this particular tour, refreshments and a folk show come with the deal.
Price: Adults expect to pay from $50 to $60 for 3 to 4 hour tours.
Booking Advice: This tour is rated as moderate in terms of physical exercise. If you just want to see the Old City via a cruise line excursion, these will cost around $40. The Old City in Cartagena generates much attention;thus, you'll find it on the agenda of several combination tours that average from $40 (Old City only tours) to $129 (Old City in combination & with other perks... such as a carriage ride). Bottom line in Cartagena? The shuttle trip to the taxi area is free, and taxis cost about $20 one way to get to the Old City. For 4 people, this would mean $10 for transportation round trip. You'll find that museums such as the Inquisition and the Museum of Gold are free. Save yourself some money, in other words, and organize an “On Your Own Tour” with 3 other friends!
Inner Bay Cruise Tours
These tours tend to be thematic (i.e., cruise on a “Spanish Galleon” with pirate panache, or guided tours that point out the area's history without the costumes). Regardless, the cruise portion will last an hour or two along the Inner Bay, and you'll see the exterior of the Walled Old City, colonial houses, and the Castillo de San Felipe. Pricier cruise tours will point out a second fort for the money, an tour of Castillo de San Felipe, and a shopping visit to Pierino Gallo. Regardless of which tour you choose, you'll be seeing a lovely city with a wealth of maritime history while aboard a boat.
Price: Adults expect to pay from $50 to $70, depending upon the length (2 hours or 4 hours) and agenda of the tours.
Booking Advice: As mentioned, for 4 people, round trip cab fare to town and back is about $10 apiece, and Cartagena has some remarkable (and free) museums. As described here, though, these cruise line tours range from easy to moderate on scales of physical exertion. Those considered moderately taxing usually involve walking through a museum. Cruise line prices appear to compete well with 3rd party vendors.
The Mud Bath at El Totumo Volcano
You'll see the San Felipe Fortress en route to the mud bath experience in the volcano mud, which is considered to have healing powers.
Price: Adults expect to pay around $50 for this 4 hour adventure through the cruise lines.
Booking Advice: This cruise line excursion is rated as physically arduous because it does involve climbing so “rickety” stairs. For this excursion, you are likely to be SOOO much better off booking through a reputable 3rd party vendor online, or through your hotel if you are staying in Cartagena for a while. Based on our research and upon past guest reviews, a 3rd party vendor will charge you at least 20 USD less than the cruise lines for a mud bath at El Totumo, and that price includes transportation and a fish lunch at a local restaurant! For more information, you may want to check out http://www.colombiaecotravel.com/unique-eco-experiences-in-colombia/day-trips-in-colombia/volcan-de-lodo-el-totumo-colombia-day-trip/
La Popa Monastery, the Gold Museum, and Shopping
Visit the La Popa Monastery (circa 1600's), where you'll see the chapel, the Statue of the Virgin, and the ornate gold leaf main altar, then have shopping time at Las Bovedas (dungeons) boutiques. You'll then tour the Gold Museum before shopping time at Pierino Gallo.
Price: Adults expect to pay around $50 for this 4 hour tour through the cruise line.
Booking Advice: This tour is rated as easy in terms of physical exertion, however, we understand that in depth tours of the monastery do involve some stairs. Cruise line prices for a tour (per se) appear to be competitive with online 3rd party vendors. That said, 4 adults in a taxi to split up costs are going to spend around $10 for transportation, and the Gold Museum is reportedly free.
Mangrove Canoe Tours
These tours begin after you've traveled to La Boquilla, on the eastern side of Cartagena & right by the mangrove area. Your canoe trip takes you through the waterway tunnels and across a shallow lake. No one will promise that you'll see wildlife, but it certainly isn't uncommon to spot waterfowl and mangrove crabs. Some of the more expensive tours include beach time by a hotel or shopping.
Price: Adults expect to pay from $35 to $72 for 3 to 4 hour tours.
Booking Advice: This tour via the cruise lines actually seems to be quite competitive with online 3rd party vendors. It is rated as moderately physically taxing.