Review: Hilton Cartagena Hotel

Introduction
Review: Avianca Domestic Lounge Bogota Airport
Review: Hilton Cartagena Hotel
Review: Sofitel Cartagena Hotel
Review: Avianca Lounge Cartagena Airport
Review: W Bogota Hotel
Review: LAN Lounge Bogota Airport
Review: Element Miami Airport


As I explained in the introduction post, we spent the first night at the Hilton Cartagena, given that the Sofitel was sold out for that night. Our rate at the Hilton Cartagena was a reasonable $140 per night. While that’s not cheap, it’s also not bad by American standards.

For what it’s worth, this is a Category 6 HHonors property, meaning a free night here costs anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 HHonors points per night. I value Hilton points at ~0.4 cents each, so in our case paying cash represented a better value than redeeming points, when you factor in the number of points we earned for our stay.

The Hilton is located about 15 minutes from Cartagena Airport, and it’s more of a beach resort than a city hotel.

As we pulled up to the hotel we were directed to reception by the friendly bellmen. I can’t figure out whether the hotel is 20 years past its prime, channeling coastal Florida decor, or a bit of both, but it does feel a bit more shabby than it does chic.

The lobby is two stories high and open, with plenty of lobby seating.

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Hilton Cartagena lobby

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Hilton Cartagena lobby

The decor in the lobby simply doesn’t match, in my opinion. They clearly tried to spruce things up with some modern furniture, but it just ends up looking weird against the dated backdrop of the rest of the lobby.

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Hilton Cartagena lobby

I had to wait for about 10 minutes before I was helped at reception, and then the check-in process took another 10 minutes. It really does blow my mind how inefficient the check-in process is in some countries. Fortunately the associate was friendly, thanked me for being a Diamond member, etc.

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Hilton Cartagena reception

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Hilton Cartagena Diamond club lounge benefits

We were assigned an oceanview room on the 6th floor, room 650. The hallways are quite bright, and we had an easy time finding our room.

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Hilton Cartagena hallway

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Hilton Cartagena room entrance

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Hilton Cartagena floorplan

I was pleasantly surprised by the room, given that the rest of the hotel is quite dated. Our oceanview room featured an entryway, with closets on the right and the bathroom on the left.

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Hilton Cartagena king room

The first thing I noticed about the room was that it mostly had bare floors. While it’s perhaps not the nicest looking surface aesthetically, as a germaphobe I sort of love that, since presumably it’s easier to clean.

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Hilton Cartagena king room

I also appreciated that the bed had six pillows. As is the norm at Hilton, I didn’t find the mattress to be great, but it wasn’t terrible either. I have no clue why Hilton doesn’t create a desirable brand standard mattress.

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Hilton Cartagena king room

Opposite the bed was the TV, along with a desk with a rolling chair.

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Hilton Cartagena king room desk

Then over by the window were two chairs facing into the room.

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Hilton Cartagena king room sitting area

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Hilton Cartagena king room sitting area

Back towards the front of the room near the closet was the minibar and single-cup coffee machine.

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Hilton Cartagena king room coffee & tea

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Hilton Cartagena king room minibar

The bathroom was pretty standard for a Hilton — it featured a sink, toilet, and walk-in shower.

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Hilton Cartagena king room bathroom

Toiletries were provided by Peter Thomas Roth (not to be confused with Peter Thomas from Real Housewives of Atlanta).

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Hilton Cartagena king room toiletries

The shower featured both a rainforest head as well as a handheld one. Unfortunately the handheld one was basically broken, as water was leaking out of it.

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Hilton Cartagena king room shower

The views from the room were beautiful, though I was sad about the lack of a balcony. That’s sort of an essential feature of any oceanview room, in my opinion.

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Hilton Cartagena oceanview king room

I should note that I’ve read a lot of complaints about the wifi here in the past, though I had no issues. No, it wasn’t super fast, but it wasn’t terrible either.

Upon dropping stuff off in our room we headed up to the club lounge, located at the far end of the 10th floor.

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge entrance

The lounge is on the small side, though didn’t seem to be overcrowded. There were about five tables, and then a few other types of seating.

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge

There was also a small business center with two computers.

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge business center

The food selection in the evening was pretty abysmal. Perhaps not by US standards, but by international standards it was disappointing.

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge evening snacks

In addition to self serve beer and wine, there was also a coffee machine.

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge coffee station

The food spread consisted of fresh veggies, thinly sliced wraps, several types of bread, dessert, and two hot options.

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge evening snacks

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge evening snacks

The two hot options were pizza and some sort of unlabeled meatballs.

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge evening snacks

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Hilton Cartagena executive lounge evening snacks

While the food spread wasn’t great, the decor was the depressing part of the lounge. You had an amazing view, but unfortunately the lounge felt more like the lobby of a funeral home than a place you’d want to spend any time in at a beach resort.

In the morning we accidentally had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. I thought I had recalled the associate at check-in say that Diamond members could have breakfast in the restaurant or lounge. As it turned out, I was confusing it with the hotel I had stayed at prior to that. So we ended up paying for breakfast, though it was only about $10 per person, so wasn’t bad (I love prices in Colombia!).

The restaurant was casual and had a bit of character.

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Hilton Cartagena Las Chivas Restaurant

The breakfast spread was very good, with all kinds of bread, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, etc.

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Hilton Cartagena Las Chivas Restaurant breakfast buffet

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Hilton Cartagena Las Chivas Restaurant breakfast buffet

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Hilton Cartagena Las Chivas Restaurant breakfast buffet

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Hilton Cartagena Las Chivas Restaurant breakfast buffet

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Hilton Cartagena Las Chivas Restaurant breakfast buffet

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Hilton Cartagena Las Chivas Restaurant breakfast buffet

Unfortunately I didn’t really have a chance to check out the pool or gym. We landed in the evening, went into town for dinner, and had to check out by 8AM so we could go on our tour. From there we checked straight into the Sofitel.

The location of the hotel is a bit off, unless you want to sit on the beach. Frankly you’ll find nicer beaches than in Cartagena, so I can’t imagine wanting to go here as a beach destination. There’s nothing in the immediate area otherwise, and it’s about a 10-15 minute taxi ride into the old town. Ultimately that’s not a big deal, especially given how cheap taxis in Cartagena are.

I found the service at the hotel to be pretty bad, though. I had to ask three different staff members before they could tell me where an ATM was. Bizarrely the hotel doesn’t have one, and the nearest one is in a shady, dark area, a couple of blocks from the hotel.

Also, we couldn’t find the restaurant when we were looking for breakfast, and I had to ask four times before I got someone who directed us to the right place. Most staff members spoke good English, so I don’t think it was the language which was the problem.

Hilton Cartagena bottom line

For someone looking to earn or redeem points in Cartagena, the Hilton is a fine option. When we first booked our trip I was wanting us to stay there the whole time, so I could earn points and we could get status benefits. And the hotel was fine — overall it was a bit better than I was expecting, actually.

However, after staying at the Sofitel, I can’t even begin to say how much better it was. Unfortunately it was also significantly more expensive.

So while this is a fine hotel, I can’t imagine returning after having stayed at the Sofitel. Stay tuned for that…

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About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. I’ve stayed in hilton cartagena last year in 5 rooms. The room you got is a standart room, not even in the executive tower. As I was a gold member last year they gave me a HUGE room in the executive tower, with a very large bathroom and a small living room. Did they say the room was an upgrade?
    Since I became diamond with Hilton I got no good upgrades what so ever

  2. Your article brought back pleasant memories from when my husband and I stayed there for 2 weeks, 5 years ago for a work thing. It looks like it hasn’t changed a bit.

  3. You need to listen to your commenters more. When you posted about your trip in advance the unanimous consensus was to not stay in the Hilton and to stay in the old town instead. Even the Sofitel is kind of bland compared to some of the non chain boutique hotels.

  4. The Hilton is in Laguito, adjacent to Bocagrande. It’s not the walled city, but it’s a good location in it’s own right, often preferred by knowledgable visitors over the somewhat over-touristed and generally very expensive ciudad amurallada.

    There are lots of restaurants in Bocagrande, as this is ground zero in Cartagena for Colombian tourists on vacation. I recommend the area for anyone who wants to hang out with a local Colombian crowd, rather than the cruise ship and tour package tourists from North America and Europe you will find in over-abundance inside the walls.

  5. The whole place looks ugly to be honest.
    Hiltons are a mixed bag. I hope the Sofitel was much better.

  6. From what I remember, I was pretty impressed with the place and enjoyed the beach there. But then again, the last time I stayed there was in 1982–well before the cruise ship circuit, when there were not that many tourists there and you really couldn’t survive there without knowing Spanish (fortunately my travel companion spoke it). And, Ben, before you were you?

  7. I stayed there for 4 nights in April as a Diamond. My view was “City View”– they added on a “Club Tower” but I believe all of that tower faces the city, not the ocean. So you need to decide if you prefer a huge room and huge bathroom, a very nice room, vs. Oceanview standard sized hotel room.
    I found the Exec Lounge to be quite acceptable– fantastic view, very quiet (yes, almost funeral home like as you describe it– but that also meant quiet and relaxing). Server offered wine very consistently– I had to turn down 3rd or 4th (!) glass of wine a few times.
    Rates for early April were $82 a night on a 30% promo flash sale.
    And using it just as a hotel to stay at before going to your Sofitel, so you missed the pool and gym? Yikes. These are the reasons to stay at the Hilton. One of the best and biggest pools I’ve seen at a city hotel. Decent waiters too.
    Gym is quite good, not amazing but a very good “real” gym with plenty of equipment. Tennis courts are excellent and even playing with the tennis pro with a lesson is very reasonable. Totally recommend the leisure activities at the Hilton Cartagena.
    As a Diamond I did get free breakfast at the restaurant in April. Did you confirm that you have to pay? In fact, the agent in the lounge recommended the downstairs restaurant as having better choice, so I ate there most mornings. On my last day I did eat in the lounge and it was fine but nothing special.

  8. Hey Lucky,
    Your trip report and travel style is definitely different with Ford in tow, and I mean that in a good way. I find that I’m more open to other experiences and/or rates with Susan or an associate accompanying me. I would never have considered Colombia before reading this review, and will do so now. Cheers – Jimmy

  9. Yes, there’s no way you should have paid for the breakfast in the restaurant. It’s your right as a gold or diamond member. You got duped!

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